Sunday, 05 February 2023
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

 

Some car models have many sides to their personality, catering to a variety of tastes. For example, alongside the more tame versions of Hyundai’s compact Elantra sedan, there’s a star that’s ready for its spotlight.

I’m referring to the Hyundai Elantra N, the performance-oriented ride that’s truly the gem of this lineup in terms of driving performance and overall design.

The Elantra N was introduced as a new model for 2022, and has carried over with little change for the 2023 model year. The N is for those driving enthusiasts who want some oomph under the hood and a vehicle built to tackle the open road (or a racetrack) with complete confidence. The powerful N brand is just one method Hyundai is using to grow its audience beyond those who want your typical day-to-day car or SUV options.

The Elantra N competes directly with sporty compact cars from brands including Honda, Volkswagen, Subaru and Toyota.

I recently spent some time behind the wheel of an Elantra N, and I’m back with a full report on this highly customizable hot rod.

Mazda has always aimed higher than its status.

While not officially a competitor in the luxury class, it has long designed its vehicles to look and perform at a level that will make people think of Mazda as a luxury-level purchase, even if the price is lower.

That applies to their smallest vehicles too, including the 2023 Mazda3, which is available as both a sedan and a hatchback.

There have been some updates to the engine lineup for 2023 to further improve drive quality, more tech features are standard, and there is an attractive new trim level offered called Carbon Edition — which I was recently able to test.

When you’re going against major players like the Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra and more, you have to come strong.

And to put it simply, Mazda’s compact sedan and hatchback options continue to deliver performance over and above their competition, while also maintaining a distinct looks advantage.

Lexus is a luxury brand that has long been a supporter of hybrid vehicles, and it recently unveiled its first fully electric vehicle, the RZ 450e.

In the middle of that spectrum of differently powered vehicles is the plug-in hybrid, which embraces a partial EV operation combined with a hybrid setup. Lexus is also pursuing this category, with their first-ever offering being the 2022 Lexus NX 450h+, a plug-in hybrid version of their popular compact SUV.

The 450h+ is part of the second generation of the NX line, which also includes ICE and standard hybrid versions. Plug-in hybrids can help ease worries about range anxiety among buyers, while also allowing them to begin their journey toward fully embracing a true EV.

The luxury battlefield is always intense, and that applies to the electrified/hybrid realm too. So Lexus knows it has to come strong to compete in this sector — where it’s battling brands like Audi, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and more.

I recently spent time in a 2022 NX 450h+ F Sport, and I’m back with a full report on the vehicle, which shares some technology with the nonluxury Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid.

While some car buyers are focused on large, roomy, family-friendly SUVs, there’s also plenty of people who just want a vehicle that’ll let you have a little fun — every single day.

That’s where sporty, rear-wheel drive coupes like the Subaru BRZ come into the picture. (Of note: It’s the only Subaru vehicle that doesn’t come in all-wheel drive)

Redesigned for the 2022 model year, this vehicle is the brainchild of both Subaru and Toyota, who offer near-twin versions of the vehicle (Toyota’s GR86 is the alternate version in this partnership).

This second version of the BRZ gets an updated interior, and some updated technology. But in the end, this is all about the driving experience, and a more powerful motor comes with the updated package.

There are lots of sports cars out there, but most vehicles that offer such a purely enjoyable driving experience are out of reach for the average buyer. The BRZ aims to change that.

I recently spent some time behind the wheel of a 2022 BRZ, and I’m back with a full report.

 
Electric cars are no longer the vehicles of the future. They are the vehicles of today, with seemingly every new vehicle announcement focusing on a new EV.

Volvo is one brand leading the charge in the EV landscape, having announced publicly a goal of selling only electric vehicles by the year 2030.

Volvo’s portfolio today includes the all-electric C40 Recharge – a compact crossover model that takes on competitors such as Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen’s ID.4, Audi’s Q4 e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQA, and Tesla’s Model Y.

The C40 Recharge competes in a segment that focuses on offering extended range and luxury-light styling. Read on for a full breakdown of how it measures up.

 

As the appetite for SUVs continues to grow, lineups continue to expand. 

For Volkswagen, their latest entry slots in at the bottom of their lineup — a brand new subcompact SUV called the 2022 Volkswagen Taos.

It enters an expansive field of competitors including the Chevy Trailblazer, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks, Jeep Renegade, Toyota C-HR and more.

I recently spent some time behind the wheel of a 2022 VW Taos, and I”m back with a full report.

This two-row, 5-passenger SUV impresses by being roomier than many of its rivals in terms of rear seat comfort and overall cargo space, the inclusion of solid tech and safety innovations, and an enjoyable driving experience courtesy of its turbocharged power plant.

For the first time since June 2000, the ARCA Menards Series platform will race at the tight, banked quarter-mile Flat Rock Speedway when the ARCA Menards Series East takes to the track on May 20, 2023. 

The ARCA Menards Series raced at the track, affectionately known as The Level Pebble, 56 times from 1953 through 2000. The track’s first races were a pair of 250-lap events, run on the same day, both won by JulianPetty, his only two series victories. Other winners at Flat Rock Speedway over the years include Bob Hunter, Bill Lutz, Les Snow, Iggy Katona, Bobby Watson, Andy Hampton, Ramo Stott, Ron Hutcherson, A. Arnold, Moose Myers, Bill Green, Bill Kimmel, Jim Cushman, Marvin Smith, Bob Dotter, Lee Raymond, Bobby Jacks, Bill Venturini, Ed Hage, Bob Keselowski, Tracy Leslie, Dave Weltmeyer, Grant Adcox, Bobby Bowsher, Harold Fair, Jeremy Mayfield, Gary Bradberry, Andy Hillenburg, Joe Ruttman, Tim Steele, Frank Kimmel, and Bill Baird. Kimmel won the final race in 2000. 

Luxury SUV buyers have a bevy of strong options available today, but one name that’s always in the conversation is Audi.

For more than a century, the German automaker has delivered high-quality vehicles that can compete with the best that competitors such as BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Volvo, Cadillac and others have to offer.

In the world of SUVs, Audi’s smallest offering is the compact Q3, which I recently had the opportunity to test.

With elegant styling, responsive handling and a tech-savvy setup, it stands out in this class in many ways. It offers luxury car buyers a chance to break into the class without spending the big bucks required to take home larger Audi SUV options, which can cost up to twice as much.

Read on to learn more about how it measures up in a segment where anything less than excellence won’t be accepted.

Brittany Force put a big Bowtie stamp on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season in the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Force, driving the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac Chevrolet dragster, earned her second Top Fuel world championship in the season finale at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to become the fourth female in NHRA professional ranks to win multiple titles. 

"I want people to remember this day here in Pomona with this Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac team -- David Grubnic, Mac Savage, every single one of my guys," said Force, who also joined three-time champion Shirley Muldowney as the only female multiple titleholders in Top Fuel. "We have been working all season long, we never gave up, and then we struggled in the Countdown and we recovered when we needed to in Vegas and win it here today in Pomona.

“I have to thank every single one of my guys and our sponsors. We wouldn't be here without them today, and I'm just so proud of everybody. It just seems surreal right now. I can't believe it ended up this way.”

As the reinvention of their SUV lineup continues, Mazda continues to introduce impressive new models.

The latest is the 2023 Mazda CX-50, a compact crossover that will battle with leading competitors in the segment including the Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape.

And just to clarify, the CX-50 is different from the already existing CX-5, another compact crossover currently in the Mazda lineup (which may or may not continue to coexist in coming years). The CX-50 shares a platform with the smaller CX-30, and upcoming models in the pipeline that are anticipated include the larger CX-70 and CX-90.

While the introduction of these new vehicles brings in some new designs, what doesn’t change is the quality of what’s under the hood, and that’s the excellent Mazda power plants that made this brand stand out in a bevy of SUV competitors, especially for driving enthusiasts who want to enjoy their daily drive.

I recently tested a 2023 Mazda CX-50, and I’m back with a full report on how the new offering measures up to Mazda’s lofty standards.

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