A frequent argument among automotive journalists involves the ideal time and place to review a new car, given the constraints of time, the elements, and budget. Some contend that cars should be evaluated in their intended environment. Others maintain that a battery of controlled roads and testing procedures provides the best results. There is some rationale to the quixotic fantasy of doing hot laps with a yours-for-the-week sports car, or saving junkyard trips for weekends of testing full-size pickups and SUVs. But such practices breed bad habits, for sometimes, the fantasy is over when Saturday’s Facebook hot topic and Sunday’s burnout champion turns out to be Monday morning’s pretty lousy highway cruiser.
The Lexus ES, the brand’s popular entry-level luxury sedan since its introduction nearly 23 years ago, is all-new for the 2013 model year, following the introduction of the latest Toyota Camry last year. Equally as important for the sixth-generation ES is the introduction of a hybrid option for the first time: the ES 300h. For Lexus, the brand that made the hybrid luxury vehicle a green commodity, some of its recent efforts (see: the recent fate of the HS250h) did not bear copious fruit. Is the market clamoring for an ES hybrid? Lexus recently invited Autosavant to sample both models at a regional event in northern New Jersey.
It’s safe to say there’s some baggage with Nissan’s attempts at mainstream minivans. The first and second-generation Quests, widely considered underpowered also-rans among people carriers, rode on a platform shared with the Mercury Villager. After a two-year hiatus, the nameplate returned on a bulbous, Nissan-specific van known for its otherworldly interior with center-mounted instruments and jarring exterior lines. For its idiosyncrasies, however, the Quest never rose to the top of the segment.
If it looks like a Mini, sounds like a Mini and drives like a Mini, is it truly a Mini? Last year, Autosavant tested this theory as implemented in the Mini Cooper S Countryman: the brand’s first true four-door crossover. Equipped with a six-speed manual, front-wheel drive and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the Countryman proved a capable defender of the brand, albeit stretched several sizes. But could it stand up to its competitors that offer all-wheel drive and turn the focus to technology?