Driven: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

The new Mazda CX-5 delivers sporty driving experience, rare in this compact-SUV segment | Bob Golfen
The new Mazda CX-5 delivers sporty driving experience, rare in this compact-SUV segment | Bob Golfen photos

Buyers shopping for compact SUVs have a whole lot to choose from in this highly competitive chunk of the automotive market. The trick here is for an automaker to deliver something that sets itself apart from the herd.

Mazda once again has taken its own road with the updated 2017 CX-5, which is distinctive not because of price, accommodations or utility, but because it drives and handles more like a sport sedan than an SUV. The ride might seem a bit firm and the steering might feel a trifle heavy for this segment, but the payback is an agile little ute that you can toss into corners and have fun with on a winding road. Continue reading

Driven: 2017 Lexus ES 300h sedan

The Lexus ES 300h provided  a quality road trip while getting 36 miles per gallon | Lexus photos
The Lexus ES 300h provided a quality high-speed road trip while getting 36 miles per gallon | Lexus photos

The drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas is long and tedious, with a few interesting segments and a handful of roadside attractions from another era filled with kitschy Western mementos.

The best way to endure the four-and-a-half-hour trip is in the most comfortable and luxurious car possible, one with supportive seats, plenty of driving features and an excellent audio system. It wouldn’t hurt if the chosen vehicle was also good on gas. Continue reading

Driven: 2017 GMC Acadia SLT-1 all-wheel-drive

The slimmed-down GMC Acadia gets improved fuel mileages with better drivability | GMC photos
The slimmed-down GMC Acadia gets improved fuel mileages with better drivability | GMC photos

The road from Phoenix to Durango, Colorado, is pretty long, but at least it passes by some quality Southwest scenery, such as Monument Valley, and some improbable landmarks, such as Four Corners, the only place in the U.S. where four states touch – Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

There’s also a place where you can pull off the road and see actual dinosaur tracks imbedded in the ancient stone surface, always with some random Navajo youngsters on hand to show you the way, for a fee. Continue reading

Driven: USAC sprint car, with bonus laps in a real Indy racer

Larry Crane at the wheel of an Edmonds print car on the high banks at Winchester, Indiana
Larry Crane at the wheel of an Edmunds print car on the high banks at Winchester, Indiana

‘Engage the dogs by squeezing the lock lever against the shifter and pulling it back. As soon as the push truck makes contact, watch the oil-pressure gauge. When the needle moves, hit the ignition switch and brace your neck for the acceleration.”

I did. It did. And we did. Continue reading

Driven: Ferrari F50, and my continuing education

Larry Crane rides as Paul Frere masters the Ferrari F50 at the Fiorano circuit
Larry Crane rides along and learns as Paul Frere turns masterful laps in the Ferrari F50 at the Fiorano circuit

A lap of Pista de Fiorano, Ferrari’s on-site testing facility for all production and F1 cars, lived in my head. My first laps there were in a 328GTB. I returned to experience the first Testarossa and again for the 512TR. Then, on the 50th anniversary of the marque, we were given the opportunity to try the F50. Continue reading

Driven: 1942 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Club Sedan

1942 Oldsmobile was the first car equipped with GM's revolutionary Hydra-Matic transmission | Nick Kurczewski photos
1942 Oldsmobile was the first car equipped with GM’s revolutionary Hydra-Matic transmission | Nick Kurczewski photos

For automotive purists, now might be the time to look away. That’s because standing right in front of you is the car that helped bring automatic shifting to the masses. While the sleek Art Deco exterior of this 1942 Oldsmobile is striking, it’s what connects car’s inline8-cylinder engine to the rear wheels that makes this truly an historic automobile. Continue reading

Driven: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid

Toyota went all out in enhancing the styling of the new Prius Prime | Bob Golfen photos
Toyota went all out in enhancing the styling of the new Prius Prime | Bob Golfen photos

Toyota pulled out all the stops in styling the all-new Prius Prime, creating something that seems like a cross between a space probe and a Lamborghini. That’s a good thing, raising its hipness quotient considerably and making the plug-in hybrid look as high-tech on the outside as it is underneath.

The Prius Prime is new for 2017 and is another effort by Toyota to market a plug-in car with the clean economy of a pure electric vehicle with the practicality of a hybrid. The last go-round for a plug-in Prius resulted in less-than-stellar reviews, most complaining that it seemed like a half-hearted effort that didn’t work all that well. Continue reading

Driven: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary Edition

The Jeep Wrangler feels right at home in the Arizona desert | Bob Golfen photos
The Jeep Wrangler feels right at home in the Arizona desert | Bob Golfen photos

The four-door Jeep Wrangler is such a brilliant product, combining the freedom and joy of the venerable CJ with the practicality of a crossover SUV. There are compromises in ride and convenience, but for many people, those are outweighed by the go-anywhere capability and rugged image of the Jeep.

With four doors, more-refined interiors and reasonably accommodating back seats, such Jeeps can pass as viable family transporters. The familiar two-door Wrangler would be fine for singles or couples, not so much for a foursome where the rear seat is more of an afterthought. Continue reading

Driven: Acura ILX Tech Plus

The Acura ILX is a premium but affordable sports sedan | Bob Golfen
The Acura ILX is a premium but affordable sports sedan | Bob Golfen photos

The Acura ILX is a satisfying sports sedan that doesn’t cost a boatload of money, but looks cool enough to garner admiring glances (especially from young guys in tuned Hondas) while providing practical, economical transportation.

Sadly, ILX falls victim to one of the most pernicious trends in today’s automobiles, the demise of the manual transmission. No more can you purchase the agile Acura sport compact with this most-engaging form of sports car driving, which seems to be going the way of carburetors and breaker points. Too bad, as a generation of millennials grows up not getting what it’s all about. Or caring, apparently. Continue reading

Driven: 2017 Honda Ridgeline and the long, slow goodbye

The Honda Ridgeline worked well for hauling boat supplies | William Hall photos
The Honda Ridgeline worked well for hauling boat supplies | William Hall photos

Classic Car News editor Larry Edsall and I both favor small pickup trucks as our daily drivers, though it is a segment that has nearly disappeared from current production. My 1999 Ranger is still running strong with 200,000 miles on its 2.5 Pinto-derived (I prefer to call it a “Formula Ford”) engine, its five-speed manual transmission (still with its original clutch, thankyouverymuch) and its full, seven-foot bed.

I have asked much of the old girl over the years, and she has rarely let me down. Alas, it’s Milwaukee-made Tower Automotive frame has started to succumb to terminal rust, and so we have begun the long, slow goodbye. Continue reading