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Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ: this bargain pocket rocket is all the sports car you’ll ever need and then some

After all the forum fights and magazine banter, what do you think when you imagine the Subaru BRZ? Tearing up back roads and race tracks? Hype beast influencers in overpriced streetwear posted outside the boba joint? What about the hotheaded kid thinking they’re Ken Gushi slamming into a wall and ruining insurance rates for prospective buyers? The Subaru BRZ and its Toyota twin mean many things to many people and have amassed a vivid reputation as an affordable driver’s car. But forget the endless stereotypes behind every Toyobaru and ponder this.

Sports cars were always a bone thrown our way whenever business was booming or when companies needed a four-wheeled hype person for the brand. Now more than ever, they’re an endangered species, constantly coming and going and inflaming our anxiety over a future without any real driver’s cars left. Thankfully, the Subaru BRZ is here, brandishing its pure intentions in the least offensive way possible in an age where cars are gradually getting more… Beige. And I don’t mean color. The current BRZ is not merely a good sports car for the modern era. It’s driving excellence and all the sports car you’ll ever need.

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Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Price and specs

Note that we’re looking at our loaner from the perspective of the recently updated 2024 model, as pricing will be adjusted to reflect the most recent updates. A goodie bag of added standard safety equipment inflated pricing out of being a sub-$30,000 car. But let’s face it. Destination, taxes, and annoying markup meant these were never sub-$30,000 cars, anyway. Thankfully, all BRZs across all trims and model years are pretty much mechanically identical, so that should make your window shopping a little easier.

Base price (2024):$31,315
As-tested price (2024):$33,815
Engine:2.4-liter flat-four
Transmission:6-speed manual
Drivetrain:rear-wheel drive
Power:228 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
Torque:184 pound-feet @ 3,700 rpm
Redline:7,400 rpm
Weight:2,815 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:5.4 seconds
¼-mile:13.9 seconds @ 101 mph
MPG:20 city, 27 highway, 22 combined
Observed MPG:28.7
Fuel Capacity:13.2 gallons

(Author’s Note: Performance numbers reflected in Car and Driver’s review from January 2022. Our press loaner is a straggler from 2022, but pricing has been adjusted to reflect the equivalent 2024 car.)

BRZ exterior design

This second generation of Subaru BRZ wowed its fanbase with a premium and aggressive redesign, conjuring visions of cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars more. Everything from the steeply swept-back headlights to the fender vents screams honest-to-goodness sports car, while the profile stays true to the long-nose, short-deck formula that makes legendary sports car designs of old so iconic. 

If you find this overall design unattractive, you should be condemned to a lifetime behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage (uh, duh, I’m still going to link that). Count your blessings we even have cars that look like this in such a price range. 

Any foibles with the BRZ stem from Subaru’s tweaks to differentiate it from its Toyota counterpart and better suit the Subaru design language. The lack of a decklid spoiler that this car desperately needs and the quirky hexagonal smile are apparently what makes a Subaru a Subaru. However, shoutout to the World Rally Blue Pearl paint, a redeeming quality that’s never done justice in photos or press material. This is an upscale color that anyone with functioning eyeballs would enjoy, even against the dark, hazy fog of an autumn evening in Monterey.

What’s hot?A refreshing palette cleanser for what good driver inputs are
– Potent engine drastically improves speed and acceleration
Lightning fast on even the tightest of roads
Shocking comfort and compliance over the worst pavement
Easily beats its EPA mileage figures
More than practical enough for everyday use

BRZ pricing breakdown

Fascinating! The cheap budget sports car is priced cheap for buyers on a budget. Pricing on 2024 models reportedly begins at $31,315 for the base Premium, which includes a $1,050 destination charge. Shoot for a Limited like ours, and the price jumps to $33,815, which gifts your less-than-frugal spending with suede interior accents, heated seats, larger 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, an upgraded audio system, and cornering headlights.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The recent price increase does afford Subaru’s EyeSight safety systems as standard on all models, including manual transmission-equipped cars. Now wannabe tofu delivery drivers can enjoy the extra watchful eyes of adaptive cruise control, collision prevention, lane departure warning, and lead car start warning. A new high-performance tS model also enters the lineup at $36,465 rocking a blue-accented interior, Brembo brakes, and retuned dampers by Hitachi.

As for options, there aren’t many. At least not in the way of performance or amenity-altering packages. What you see on any trim of BRZ is what you get, with the only main option being your choice of an automatic transmission on Limited cars for $950. Prior model years offered automatics on both Premium and Limited trims.

BRZ interior and tech

As expected for the price range the Subaru BRZ is pretty sparse compared to today’s crop of sport compacts and sports cars. It’s almost like a Lotus Elise to their Bentley Continental. But in all seriousness, there’s everything you need and little of what you don’t. The interior is a modernized evolution of the previous car, with a flat dashboard that’s great for resting stuff (or mounting aftermarket gauge pods) on road trips. The lower portion of the passenger side just above the glove box could’ve been a neat shelf, but oh well. 

The digital cluster that switches between a circular and bar-style tach in Track mode is a fantastic touch and can display heaps of performance and trip info. But the real star is the 8-inch touchscreen, leaps and bounds ahead in quality and functionality than any head unit to have come in BRZs before. It’s quick to your touch, runs Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay without a hitch, and is well-integrated instead of resembling some tacked-on afterthought from Circuit City. Also included on our Limited tester was blind spot monitoring, adaptive cornering lights, and a six-speaker stereo that bumps quite hard for what it is.

Again, note that 2024 models include the aforementioned suite of EyeSight tech as standard, even with manual transmissions, a first for the BRZ. So add adaptive cruise and the litany of safety warnings. So new buyers can finally drive more at ease on their way to the hillclimb route. Even so, the BRZ is not a complicated car, as much of its cost goes towards handling and driving involvement first and foremost. But how has that affected its ability to be used as just a normal car? Surprisingly, not much at all.

The tiniest grand tourer

Deceptively accommodating

I knew the Subaru BRZ would be exemplary in the twisties. That’s not news. Ultimate enjoyment is what it was bred for. But a day in Los Angeles and hundreds of miles traversing the BRZ’s antithesis, the American freeway system, highlighted a hidden side to the BRZ I never knew existed.

It’s just a damn fine car. Like, a car car. Just a car. You can use it as a normal-ass car with minimal compromises. Who would’ve thought? Not me. Not when a majority of the BRZs and 86s I’ve experienced have been purpose-built for performance and modified to high hell. But there’s a lot to get jiggy with in a stock BRZ.

The interior, even if you’re a six-and-a-half-foot walking tree like this one 86/BRZ fanatic friend of mine, is plenty spacious. Seats are comfortable enough for my journey up the coast, with supportive bolstering that’s not intrusive and heated seats that comically range from “eh, kind of warm” to “WELCOME TO HELL.” The trunk swallowed two large backpacks and a medium-ish duffle bag with ease, and anything extra my adventuring buddy or I needed was able to be shoehorned in the gaps. Worst case scenario, the rear seats, useless to anyone over the age of 8, make for secure luggage shelves. Visibility was top-notch, and the digital gauges and touchscreen were within easy reach and perfectly legible in the dead of night or midday.

These traits make for an excellent everyday commuter in the dense concrete jungle of LA. Tight parking garages, battered side streets, and narrow alleys were no problem for something this small. However, the low-slung ride means you’ll still have to take the steepest driveways at an angle. God help you if you’re on coilovers.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The pride of Japan versus American highways

Most impressive was the BRZ’s highway manners cruising up Route 1 and 101 from LA to Monterey chasing GRIDLIFE Laguna. The EPA rates our manual-equipped tester at 27 mpg on the highway. That’s a little pessimistic. Set our cruise control to 75, and my friend and I saw an easy 30 to 32 mpg for most of our highway journey and averaged over 28 mpg during our entire press loan. In cities and towns, I was seeing around 21 to 22, also besting the EPA estimate of 20 mpg. Trips to the gas station won’t be as frequent as you think.

This runt tracks straight on its factory alignment, making highway excursions less of a chore, and its sound-deadening is commendable enough if not anything to write home about. Ride quality was the true standout on California pavement, however. Expansion joints, potholes, and gravel were no match for unfathomably compliant suspension tuning in such an inexpensive, short-wheelbase performance vehicle. Dare I say this is the world’s smallest grand tourer? It’s that livable in stock form.

Like many great split-personality cars, its dulled edge almost makes you forget just how potent of a performer it is. And this the Subaru BRZ is as distilled of an experience as modern sports cars come.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

An example of driving excellence

Say it with me. It’s quick.

Subaru heard your cries about the last car’s motor. They said, “Shut the hell up, we’re working on it.”

And so they have. Because this FA24 flat-four is a skittish, leash-tugging sweetheart. Aside from making some disconcertingly agricultural noises, especially low in the rev range, it’s surprisingly smooth and oh-so willing to zing right up to its redline. 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet feels a hell of a lot more potent in this car than those numbers suggest, and it’s more of a mind twist to learn how these second-gen cars are starting to punch above their weight.

The added grunt and near-elimination of the infamous torque dip equate to magazine test numbers that are consistently within a stone’s throw from more powerful turbo-four and V6 pony cars. The BRZ rewards you with short gearing that not only aids acceleration but also encourages you to enjoy the art of rowing gears. Screw the old stereotypes because the new BRZ is genuinely quick. It’s quick. I’ve driven Porsches, AMG GTs, and Corvette ZR1s and have ridden in Model S Plaids, so say this with me. The current Subaru BRZ with its FA24 is quick.

It’s a shame this spritely powertrain is neutered by one of the most intrusive fuel cuts. It stops the party if you edge just a smidge too far past the redline, which is easy to do with such short gears and a quick-revving engine and doesn’t seem to restore power until somewhere above 7,100 rpm. What. Horse. Shit. Why such a harsh cut was implemented baffles me. But it’s the BRZ/86 platform, after all, so it’s nothing a tune can’t fix. Hard rev limiter, anyone?

Decent powertrain. Impressive, even. Now Subaru, please resolve the on-track oiling issues. No, I will not elaborate. You know well enough.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

With beauty and grace

From the countryside back roads behind the Monterey hills to harrowing downhill canyons of Malibu, the BRZ makes short work of them all. There’s no real drive mode aside from Track, which cuts out stability and traction control. Just slot this tinker toy in gear, drop the hammer, and disappear beyond the apexes, a daunting feat made brainless by this well-balanced machine.

It darts. It dives. Despite its seemingly relaxed factory alignment, it attacks corners with an eagerness and tenacity that’d have Cayman-killers like an Integra Type S on high alert on your average touge. And that supple ride I adored so much means you can still haul ass around the most tattered bends and hold the line without upsetting the chassis or shattering your spine.

The brakes were decent. The firm pedal and strong performance inspired confidence on the tightest of asphalt ribbons high in the hills, but the sheer speed you can carry so nonchalantly quickly produced the all-too-familiar aroma of burning pads at the end of a particular Malibu canyon. Track rats may want to consider more resilient pads and fluid or jump ship to the tS and its larger Brembos. 

The steering, although a step back in weighting from the deliciously hefty and natural rack of the previous-gen cars, is Porsche precise. I’m never making second guesses in the corners. Never having to adjust. The only steering corrections made were when trying to let the rear end stretch its legs a little, but against the stereotypes, it was a task that proved to be trickier at slower canyon speeds with my Limited tester’s Michelin summer rubber. Still, that level of capability paired with such beauty and grace makes you feel like a real hero. There’s a fluidity in the way this car moves that’s hard to match, resulting in one of the most confidence-inspiring and rewarding cars to hustle.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
What’s not?Abysmal fuel cut at redline
Groaning engine noises
Infamous on-track reliability concerns are always looming
More standard features mean a higher price tag for 2024
Rear seats are little more than an extra storage shelf (see how hard I’m nitpicking here?)
The Toyota GR86 exists

The Ghost of Akina lives on, with or without a Toyota badge

Halfway through our loan, with that blue pearl paint glistening under the NorCal sun that had just unsheathed itself from the clouds, I already knew everything I wanted to say about the BRZ. The review had written itself by the time the car arrived for the second day of GRIDLIFE Laguna, yet I was dreading the moment I had to give it back. It’s such a sweetheart on any occasion.

But despite all it gets right, you can’t help but feel that the BRZ gets its toes stepped on by its more youthful twin, the Toyota GR86. The suspension is tuned to favor rotation on track, and many find the GR’s simpler mug and the available lip spoiler to be the “proper” look, all for a marginally lower price. But I suppose if you’re a die-hard Subaru loyalist or find the more mature appeal of the BRZ to be your jam, that’s also fine. Either way, you’ll have the privilege of piloting one of the best driver’s cars ever made, and that’s no hyperbole.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Few cars nowadays cater as fervently to enthusiasts as the Subaru BRZ without soiling their merits as possible tofu delivery vehicles. One moment, you’re meandering around town, smashing potholes and darting through alleyways easily and efficiently. The next, you’re Keiichi Tsuchiya showing Max Orido how it’s done on the Gunsai Touge on some episode of Best Motoring. That type of euphoria should be celebrated! Because in an age of increased borification, who doesn’t love a genuine, tactile, old-fashioned, row-your-own, free-breathing, rear-drive, lightweight pocket rocket of a sports car?

Not this guy. I’ll take a tS in World Rally Pearl, please.

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2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: Chevy’s mini Raptor can haul serious ass on the King of the Hammers course

Welcome to Johnson Valley, home of rocks, rattlesnakes, and the legendary King of the Hammers off-road racecourse. Last year, Johnson Valley also played host to the gnarliest dynamic vehicle launch of my automotive career, when Ford brought media out for a day of technical rock crawling, high-speed whoop running, lakebed autocross, and straight-up jumping (on purpose) in the absolutely manic Bronco Raptor. And today, it’s the perfect setting for Chevrolet to pull out the stops in a bit of one-upmanship by debuting the new Colorado ZR2 Bison, the Chevy Colorado’s most hardcore off-roading package. In fact, Chevy unveiled an entirely new “Bison Family” at Johnson Valley including the Silverado’s Light Duty and Heavy Duty variants. But for a real King of the Hammers experience, a Colorado jam-packed with goodies from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) definitely takes the cake.

I showed up to Johnson Valley with plenty of experience driving a “base” Colorado ZR2 on the Vegas to Reno off-road racecourse earlier this year. Over that three-day adventure,  I somehow planted enough seeds of confidence among Chevy’s PR and engineering teams that they planned a one-on-one afternoon for me and GM’s Engineering Group Manager Tim Demetrio to take a Bison even further off the beaten path and hopefully find some Raptor-style ripping and rock crawling to fully reveal the new truck’s impressive off-roading capabilities.

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2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Price and Specs

Price is currently unknown as this is an especially new, fresh-off-the-drawing-board model that we’ve had the privilege of reviewing. However, do expect it to sticker at a healthy increase over the non-Bison ZR2’s $48,295, further detailed in our pricing breakdown. In the interim, please enjoy the specs we were given, juiced up with extra off-road-centric figures for your sand-kicking pleasure. 

Base price:TBA
As-test price:TBA; Couldn’t tell ya!
Engine:High-Output 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-four
Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:RWD/4Hi/4Lo with electronically locking front and rear differentials
Power:310 horsepower
Torque:430 pound-feet
Weight:5,265 pounds
Tow rating:5,500 pounds
Max payload:1,050 pounds
Tires:LT315/70R17 Mud-Terrains (35” OD)
Approach angle:38.2°
Departure angle:26.0°
Breakover angle:26.9°
MPG:TBA; Worse than the base ZR2, I bet.
Fuel Capacity:21 gallons

ZR2 Bison Exterior Design

The Colorado received a ground-up redesign for the third generation, seemingly taking plenty of styling and engineering cues from the Toyota Tacoma. Boxy, angular headlights up front transition to a square body with subtle fender flares on lower-spec trucks and more aggressive details on the ZR2 and Bison. The entire lineup comes only in the most popular crew cab with a short bed configuration, which unfortunately renders long beds and extra cabs extinct.

Spotting a Bison from afar, versus a base ZR2, requires 20:20 vision. Up close, the steel bumpers and 17-inch wheels from AEV stand out as slightly more off-road-focused. An additional 1.5 inches of ride height over the ZR2’s 3.0-inch lift contributes to a bolder stance that the 35-inch mud-terrain tires only enhance.

What’s hot?– Sublime Multimatic suspension with new hydraulic jounce control bumpers
– Improved tech with trick four-wheeling drive modes
– Ventilated seats!

ZR2 Bison Pricing Breakdown

The full Bison package adds a set of Multimatic’s hydraulic jounce control bumpers (more on those later) to complement the spectacular Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers that already make the ZR2 an impressively specced pickup from the factory. AEV then contributes the steel bumpers, hot-stamped boron-steel skid plates, and rock sliders to protect the truck from the toughest trails. Those 35-inch tires are Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud-Terrains mounted on beadlock-capable wheels that measure a half-inch wider than the ZR2’s.

Chevrolet plans to announce pricing for the Bison closer to the start of production, but we know that the 2023 ZR2 stickered for an impressive $48,295, and adding the Bison package to the Silverado ZR2 ran about $8,000. However, the Colorado’s full spec sheet tacks on more than the Silverado received, mostly in the form of tires and those hydraulic jouncers, so expect the Colorado Bison to slot in just shy of $60,000 — critically, a step below Ford’s pricing for the F-150 and Bronco Raptors that start in the high-$60,000 range, and in line with the Ranger Raptor that starts at a smidge above $55,000. Avoiding that level of sticker shock clearly fits into the plan, since nearly half of Colorado ZR2 buyers count as conquest customers switching to Chevrolet for the first time.

ZR2 Bison Interior and Tech

Redesigning the Colorado for a third generation included a desperately needed step up for the trucks’ interior and technology. For the first time, an 11.3-inch touchscreen crowning the dash includes Google Built-In as well as Wireless Apple CarPlay, while the four-wheel-drive controls move to piano keys and knobs located close to the gear shifter and, therefore, the driver’s right hand. 

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The Colorado’s front seats can fit taller drivers with ease, though the rear bench feels tight even with the front seats scooted fairly far forward. Four-legged friends will no doubt enjoy the rear ergonomics, but the relative lack of real liveable space makes the decision to skip an extra cab and long bed configuration all the more confusing. But most importantly, the Bison package includes ventilated seats, which all desert rats know as the greatest piece of automotive engineering ever and what the standard ZR2 surprisingly lacked.

The most hardcore Colorado possible

A race-ready powerhouse

Significant updates to the exterior, interior, and tech should help the entire Colorado lineup stand up to competition from Toyota’s Tacoma and Ford’s Ranger. But really, the whole point of hitting Johnson Valley in a Bison was to show off what’s going on beneath the skin (some of which is easily visible, to be fair). The off-roading goodies arrive hot off years of testing by Chevrolet’s factory efforts with Chad Hall Racing at the full calendar of events including King of the Hammers, but also the Mint 400, Vegas to Reno, and more. 

Chasing Chad Hall himself across Nevada from behind the wheel of a base ZR2 showed off the difference (other than race tires) between the ZR2 and Bison, but now the time has arrived for Demetrio to take me out in Johnson Valley and prove it. We left the rest of the group behind a bit surreptitiously, but once out of view behind a small hill, Demetrio gave me the go-ahead and I tipped deep into throttle. The High-Output version of Chevy’s new-ish 2.7-liter inline-four takes a minute to build turbo boost before unleashing all 430 lb-ft of torque. But really, when it comes to off-road in the slippery stuff, instantaneous response may only lead to wheelspin, anyway.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once up into the powerband, though, I trusted the Bison with a loose hand on the reins and my faith in that magical suspension setup and its revised mounting points. Sure enough, after charging over whoops and blasting up rutted washes, this version of the Colorado takes comfort and confidence to a new level despite me doing my darnedest to slide around and apply plenty of countersteer. Catching air under the front and rear axles never bottomed out the DSSV dampers. Not once. Or at least, as Demetrio explained, it never felt that way. 

A proper chassis for a proper performance vehicle

The hydraulic jounce bumpers create that illusion by absorbing and dissipating impacts that more traditional rubber bump stops would absorb and then rebound back into the chassis. Of course, the 35s serve as the first and most important part of the entire suspension system, but the Multimatics help to control any perceived weight and balance concerns that bigger tires and more lift might otherwise create.

The resulting combination of trophy truck speed and nimble handling at the limits of traction also helps explain why Chevy ditched the diesel engine option for the new Colorado. The new gas four-banger puts out more torque, but in the desert, the diesel’s cast-iron block would have messed up the ZR2 and Bison’s front-to-rear weight balance. Instead, I can now click into two-wheel drive and lock the rear diff, which most manufacturers won’t allow, to produce some real hooning fun.

Fishtailing around as fast as possible never matches the sheer pace possible in 4-Auto or 4-Hi, though, and Demetrio and I only had so much time out on our own. After showing off the Colorado’s high-speed abilities, he also wanted to take me on some more hardcore rock crawling that the Bison’s additional armoring and bigger tires make possible. We ended up entirely over a far ridge, searching for the best route home while hopping over rocks and clambering up bouldered trails that, to my eye, looked more suitable for side-by-sides. And yet, once again the Bison just kept chugging along even as I truly tested the rock sliders and skid plates with some bangs and scrapes. 

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Supreme confidence down Chocolate Thunder

Fear no boulders

Eventually, we wound up at the top of a KoH segment known as Chocolate Thunder (children, these off-roaders, I swear) and Demetrio explained how the Colorado’s new Terrain drive mode makes the most of an electronically assisted brake booster to create ideal one-pedal driving. Playing friendly, I switched over into Terrain mode and inched down the technical trail, occasionally using the front camera to help with visibility over the Colorado’s square hood (which might just be my least favorite part of the trucks, actually).

At points where I expected a wheel (or two) to lift off or lose traction after my experience with a ZR2, the Bison simply stayed put. That kind of articulation in a truck with independent front suspension and a leaf spring solid rear axle simply boggles the mind. Once again, the third gen’s revised suspension mounting points prove their worth. I still prefer two-foot driving while rock crawling, and can admit to leaving a bit more boron on the rocks of Chocolate Thunder. But once we got underway, I never felt anything near the kind of trepidation that crept in looking down from the top of the trail.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Baja Blastin’

Time to rejoin the group. Lost in our fun, we might even be running late. No problem. Pop out of Terrain mode and back into Baja, and it’s time to find the fastest way back to home base. Demetrio keeps telling me to push harder and stop slowing down for those whoops, how once during testing he saw the underside of a truck’s front diff while chasing another development engineer across the desert. Now we’re both laughing, the off-road children ourselves, amazed at how much punishment the Bison can take—without dishing it out on the driver or passenger. This truck rollicks like a bucking Bronco. Wait, no, a bucking Mustang. Dammit, like something that’s not a Ford product name!

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Almost back to the group, I pepper Demetrio with a few questions of my own. Why no disconnecting sway bars, as on the Bronco or Jeep’s Gladiator and Wrangler? Well, other than added cost, the ZR2 and Bison both get locking front diffs that make a bigger difference while rock-crawling with a leaf spring rear axle than a sway-bar disconnect might. And how about some paddle shifters to keep that 2.7L in the power band? A grimace and not-so-subtle “no comment” in response, so I blame the bean counters here, though at least Demetrio’s team recalibrated Baja mode after my incessant complaining about weird shifting throughout the Vegas to Reno ZR2 drive. Should I truly take credit? Who knows, but it’s always nice to think someone, anyone, maybe in a blue moon, ever listens to us journalists.

What’s not?– Only available as a crew cab w/ short bed
– Competitive pricing is still expected to be fairly steep
– Not the prettiest tool in Chevy’s shed, even if it is the sharpest

Off-road god mode without sacrificing on-road dynamics

Throughout our time at top speed or rock crawling, Demetrio never flinches. He believes in the Bison, and I’d like to think he even enjoyed some time watching me wheel around Johnson Valley somewhere near the absolute limit. But, perhaps as impressive as the off-roading capability the ZR2 delivers and the Bison package only enhances, somehow the most hardcore of Colorados still sacrifice little for on-road dynamics.

Sure, adding 35-inch tires without regearing the final drive ratio cuts a bit into even the High-Output engine’s low-end grunt. But out on the asphalt, those 430 pound-feet make for plenty of pep while daily driving. The glory of the Multimatics is how well the spool valves can fine-tune fluid flow for stability on the road as much as off, resulting in noticeably less body roll and chassis flex than the taller Bronco Raptor on its 37-inch tires.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And where the Braptor’s proportions peak in absurdity, with the rear hatch opened to reveal a tiny little cargo compartment, the Bison still comes with a truck bed (albeit a relatively small one). So buyers looking for a truck to daily drive, rip around the desert, or serve as the base for an overlanding build should be satisfied. What the new Tacoma TRD Pro or Ranger Raptor might have to say next year remains a mystery and exact pricing is obviously a big question mark. But, for now, the ZR2 Bison charges into uncharted territory in a class and segment all to its own.

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2023 Toyota Prius XLE

2023 Toyota Prius XLE review: a handsome hybrid that’s shockingly fun to drive

“YOU DRIVE A TOYOTA PRIUS!? HA, WHAT A LOSER,” exclaims everyone who watched a little too much Top Gear in 2005. But here you stand, grown and matured, ready to tackle the 9-to-5. And it is you who shall have the last laugh. Or will you?

The 2023 Toyota Prius XLE is indeed as pedestrian as econoboxes come and always will be. The shape. The stigma. The acceleration. You can get a Toyota Prius in almost any color, but its personality was always never more than beige. It has never garnered much respect over the years despite all it has done over the years to polish its image and be the best damn everyday economy car money can buy, but no amount of gas mileage or interior space was enough. Not for enthusiasts nor for Dirty Mike and The Boys. But those who have welcomed it into their hearts and homes love it for a reason. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a new Prius.

So here we are. The Toyota Prius has gradually been honing its skills and changed threads every few years to get with the times to divisive reception, but this new one? Oh-ho, this new Prius. Toyota may have just struck gold thanks to some stints at the gym and a trip to its tailor, and now it’s here to ask the haters who are laughing now.

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2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Author’s Note: This review was made possible thanks to Turo and the generous owner, who agreed to allow us to rent this vehicle for review purposes. Check out the app or site to see what rides are available in your area! 

Prius price and specs

In a world of astronomical price increases and rampant inflation, the Prius remains grounded in the ever-shrinking realm of affordability. This time, it does so with an extensive list of standard features and worthwhile upgrades over the outgoing generation, not least of which is a significantly more powerful hybrid powertrain with a larger two-liter gasoline engine and a heap of standard driving safety assists. Our vehicle was a 2023 model from Turo, but the equivalent 2024 XLE bases at  $31,095. 

Base price (2024):$31,095
As-tested price (2024):$33,925
Engine:2.0-liter inline-four + 2 AC electric motors
Drivetrain:front-wheel drive
Power:194 horsepower
Torque:139 pound-feet (engine only, total system not rated)
Redline:N/A (no tachometer!)
Weight:approx. 3,200 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:7.1 seconds
¼-mile:15.5 seconds @ 92 mph
MPG:52 city,  52 highway, 52 combined
Observed MPG:50.3 mpg
Fuel Capacity:11.3 gallons

(Author’s Note: Performance numbers reflected in Car and Driver’s review from December 2022)

Prius exterior design

Glow-up of the century

Don’t deny it. The new Prius is hot! Still an egg, yes. But it’s a smoking pistol compared to the car it replaced and the cars it rivals. More interesting than a Corolla. More understated than an Elantra. Yet, it’s sleeker and more aerodynamic than them all. Less goofy cues and proportions than an Ioniq Hybrid. Gone are the angular Gundam slashes that adorned the awkwardly shaped body of the last Prius, and in its place are smooth lines, soft creases, and a seemingly elongated nose complementing the short decklid. 

The rear lights are comprised of a single light bar, while the front angular C-shaped headlights are perhaps the sharpest lines on the Prius and arguably its most attractive feature. Further enhancing the sporty appeal of Toyota’s reborn hybrid hatchback is an upward sweeping side skirt that screams tuner car body kit.

2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

A slippery little snake

Of course, the still-eggy silhouette of the Toyota Prius will forever be a staple of its design and an integral key to its efficiency, and the current generation rocks more than just a prettier face. 

Smoothened lines, grill shutters, and rounded edges contribute to the 0.29 drag coefficient or 0.27 with the lower trim levels’ smoother wheels, which are actually up from the previous car’s slipperier 0.24. This is likely due to the new Prius’ newfound inch of extra width and higher-trim wheel that value style over outright economy.

What’s hot?– The same fuel miser it always was
– Actually quick and dynamic-ish!?
– As maneuverable as even smaller cars
– Rapid-fire touchscreen response
– Abundance of storage nooks in the cabin
– Audio system engineer deserves head pats

Prius pricing breakdown

Prius pricing for current 2024 models starts as low as $27,650 for a stripper LE and rockets as high as nearly $43,000 for a loaded Prime plug-in XSE Premium. A 2024 equivalent for our non-plug-in XLE loaner will ring in towards the lower end of the spectrum, with the dual moonroofs and enlarged 12.3-inch touchscreen bringing the total to roughly $34,000 before taxes and fees. Other add-ons like a digital key, as is a smorgasbord of $300 to $450 carpet and all-weather floor mat packages, are available. Our XLE tester came standard with dual-zone climate and heated seats. However, higher trims offer heated rear seats and digital rearview mirrors as part of smaller options packages priced at a few hundred dollars. Solar charging is available on Prime plug-ins as part of its exclusive option packages, and Toyota’s AWD-e is available on standard Prius hybrids for $1,400. 

Not too bad, given how inflation has affected other vehicles far more significantly. Pricing is on par with what a Prius Four Touring cost in 2016, albeit with stronger performance, similar efficiency, and a much more attractive look inside and out. 

Prius interior and tech

As tech-savvy as always

Our Prius XLE came equipped with a lovably clear and ultra-fast-responding 12.3-inch touchscreen that handled nearly everything from stereo controls to vehicle settings, although a physical volume knob and power button are appreciated. I just wish it wasn’t on the damn passenger side. Seriously, why there? I’m right here, not there. At least the screen is big, bright, and quick to respond.

Besides a bit of confusion digging through the menus to set up CarPlay, the screen worked flawlessly. Bluetooth connection was quick to sort itself out on every start-up, and while wireless CarPlay does drain your battery, it’s nowhere near as taxing as other cars I’ve experienced. And if your battery is still a concern, the wireless charger is there to come in clutch with spring-loaded grips to keep your phone from flopping around over bumps. And it actually charges, too, unlike older Toyota wireless chargers where I found they just kept your phone held at a certain charge. 

Toyota’s Safety Sense systems are also standard, with blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise with lane-centering, and even a mild brake assist that leans into your hybrid system’s brake regen to help you slow down when it detects stopped traffic in the distance. It won’t fully stop and will flash a warning if you get too close, but it’s a nice little helper around town.

2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Faux luxury

And to think all of this comes wrapped up in a package that’s just as attractive as the outside. Dare I say you could probably slap on some wood paneling here and call it a new Lexus CT200h? It’s cozy and modern, like an overpriced luxury apartment.

Regardless of screen size, it’s saddled atop the dash right in the peripherals of the driver, as is the digital gauge cluster, which sits high but rather far down the long dashboard. And I mean a long dashboard (see gallery below). They are brilliantly lit and wonderfully crisp, like a 4K TV, and even the animation of sliding between screens and menus appears to be in 60 FPS, evoking thoughts of cars that cost multiples more. Even some Mercedes products don’t have screens this nice. But for those who admonish the overuse of screens, the hard buttons for the climate controls are a nice complement. There’s also no shortage of storage cubbies throughout the cabin, including the cheeky #HIDDENCOMPARTMENT bin beneath the climate controls. Clever, aside from the very obvious latch to open it.

The glass roof doesn’t open, but it does let an appreciable amount of light in for an even airier feel for the already-expansive greenhouse. Best of all, it’s tinted well enough that it blocks heat and UV quite well. Of course, if it’s still not enough, roll-up shades are stored in the center bar dividing the glass panels. The dashboard lightbar above the climate controls and soft white LED interior lighting are a fun touch for adding a splash of color and modernity to this frugal front-driver, and the optional gray interior would spur that theme further. I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone. It’s perhaps a little too youthful and videogamey in here. But it sure is nice to decompress after a long day of complaining on social media and shopping at Trader Joe’s. 

2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Yep, the new Prius is still an NPC car

A coddling egg

But you certainly won’t complain about how the new Prius goes about its daily business. Ever heard jokes about NPC (non-playable character) cars? The new Prius is the definitive NPC car, and I mean that in the most positive and inoffensive manner possible. This car is a lovely and unbothersome place to eat up the many miles loaded into that minuscule gas tank. Like, damn near 600 miles out of 11.3 gallons, not including the full-EV stints you may accomplish. I hope you can remember what side the tank is on.

The seats are reasonably plush and supportive for a budget-minded car, and the expanses of glass yield impressive visibility everywhere but the rear quarter views. Back there, thick pillars and a lack of sizable quarter glass force you to rely more on the blind-spot monitor, which softly beeps when it detects you are signaling into a pesky hidden car.

2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Another nitpick inside would be that the glass roof impedes headroom, forcing my six-foot-plus friend to readjust his seating position. The spare tire kit protrudes upward into the hatch space, wiping away what could be feet of space had it not been for the annoyingly intrusive styrofoam tray of just-in-case-the-universe-hates-you tire sealant. Additionally, the digital gauges, while legible, are a tad small and in an awkward place far along the dashboard, which means some drivers who like their steering wheels a bit high, like me, may have their view partially obstructed. There’s always a catch with modern car interiors, isn’t there? At least everything else is as comfortable and ergonomic as can be for the price point.

The engine is a little droney, as Priuses have always been, but I’m happy to report it’s easy to drown out with the standard eight-speaker stereo that genuinely bumps when cranked up without sounding cheap or tinny. What an appropriate stereo to blast Eurobeat out of if Toyota didn’t wire it to the most inappropriate car for Eurobeat. I imagine the optional JBL system must be a certified banger. And for such a small cabin, there’s an abundance of chargers, including the wireless charger, ports beneath the climate controls, and USB-C ports for the rear occupants mounted on the otherwise minimal center console stand. Because charging matters more to your rear occupants than air conditioning. 

Drives as easily as it looks

Once you’re off, it’s immediately apparent how quick and light the steering is, meaning parking lot maneuvers are brainless. The Prius further buffs its maneuverability with a tight turning radius spanning parking spaces wide. Anyone who feels like pushing that turning circle will get an audible slap on the wrist from the handy (and perhaps a bit too overreactive) front parking sensors.

As for the highways, the Prius eats interstates like its GR86 stablemate devours corners. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a car that hasn’t jittered over expansion joints or wandered at the site of ruts. This thing just tracks straight and glides over asphalt, its newfound horsepower making short work of passes where the old car would wheeze its way to barely inch up. Hold it at 75 mph on a flat stretch of road, and you’re humming along in full electric-only mode for as long as the battery says it can.

Its 587-mile cruising range can stretch beyond that if you can hold it in electric-only driving. Nowadays, I’m starting to grow weary of press car stints in vehicles that need a fill-up at least once a day. With the Prius, 260 miles of driving over three days in my care barely knocked the fuel gauge down to below half. Note that lower-trim Priuses feature a more economical and aerodynamic wheel-and-tire package that delivers a meaningful boost in mpg, ensuring easily attainable 600-mile ranges all day long. Huzzah!

The B mode on the shifter is not brake regen like I previously thought but actually a slight engine braking mode to rely less on regen when the battery is fully charged. Alternatively, the aforementioned mild brake assist leans into the regen when the car detects stopped traffic head, which is handy for urbanites who wish to have every ounce of juice available. An actual EV mode exists, but like prior Prius models, it’s solely for parking lot speeds and deactivates upon too much throttle input or when exceeding 25 mph. See Prius Prime for all your I-don’t-want-an-electric-car-copium. 

But Sport mode, however…

How the hypermiler got hyper-cool

Oh yeah. In case it wasn’t already clear, the new Prius is fun. And kind of fast? I think. Nah, it is. This is a quick car with a competent chassis that just so happens to get over 50 mpg everywhere it goes when you’re not making it groan and howl like a garbage disposal. Thanks for that, CVT. But other than the droney engine noise, this thing is fun. Get that. A cool Prius? I didn’t think I’d ever see the day.

So about Sport mode. The new Prius has it. And it sure is something.

2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

With Sport mode, throttle response and battery power ramp up and show you how far of a leap that 194 horsepower, two-liter hybrid powertrain is over the outgoing car’s measly 121 horsepower. Slam the throttle, and the electric powertrain whirs as the engine groans, their combined power thrusting you to 60 mph not far off the likes of the Fiat 500 Abarth, Ford Fiesta ST, Mk6 Golf GTI, or Scion FR-S/Toyota 86. This thing scoots! Or at least it scoots enough to piss off traction control from a stop. Don’t ask me how I know, wink, wink. But you won’t be pulling such antics in the last-generation car. 

Stoplight sprints are no longer a chore, and highway on-ramps are more of a pleasure than an obstacle, not only due to the power but also the Prius’ revamped chassis and steering that no longer wallow at the sight of a one-degree bend. Just as the Prius is surefooted and stable on interstate escapades, it’s a (kind of) playful and competent city runabout. No, it’s not a hot hatch. It’s not even lukewarm or even room temperature. It’s too numb for that, and the CVT is, well, a CVT. Not that the average Prius buyer cares. But finally, at long last, the Prius not only looks good but drives well enough, too. This is a likable driving experience.

What’s not?– Groany engine noises
– Tire repair kit interferes with trunk space
– Glass roof may hinder taller occupants
– Digital gauge cluster is small and in a stupid place
– Lower trims get more efficient wheel-tire packages
– Faces formidable competition from plug-ins, crossovers, and full EVs

The near-perfect daily driver for almost anyone 

Never thought I’d say this. But the Toyota Prius? Pretty damn cool nowadays. Unfortunately for Toyota, Dirty Mike’s posse has more options than ever. EVs and plug-ins are edging closer and closer to mainstream relevancy each day, with advancements bringing greater range, more practicality, and improved infrastructure, even if it’s marginal gains. Rivals like the Honda Insight and Hyundai Ioniq are also highly compelling choices from rapidly improving and maturing companies, meaning the Prius doesn’t stand alone as the king of this hill anymore.

But even so, the Prius still makes a case for itself with its own suite of upgrades at a good value that ensures newcomers and veteran fans alike will find something worthwhile. I certainly have. It’s loaded with tech, all of which works quite well. The improved performance is a hoot for getting errands knocked out quicker at the Albertson’s Grand Prix and for turning the tides of rush hour death matches in your favor. And it does it all while still getting over 50 miles to the freaking gallon. Five-zero! 

2023 Toyota Prius XLE
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The enthusiast who may snag one as a daily will greatly appreciate the improved dynamics and not paying a gazillion-bajillion dollars at the pump, while the average consumer will walk away from every commute unoffended by the maturity and composure the Prius now carries in spades. Those two attributes in tandem definitely make for a great car and a stellar consumer product. So who’s laughing now, Clarkson?

Now let’s urge Toyota to put a GR version into production.

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Integra Type S

2024 Acura Integra Type S review: the surprise knockout

The hype. The banter. Everything you’ve heard about this car, no matter how exaggerated or convoluted. Is it true? It must be. From the first couple miles of taking delivery for my most recent press stint, I knew the 2024 Acura Integra Type S was a knockout winner. I just didn’t anticipate it to be this good. And while it’s far from perfect – no car is perfect, not even close – the Type S is as close as most cars in this price bracket ever hope to be.

But! We spout this same nonsense repeatedly with every new sports compact to come out like each one is the Messiah of motoring. Purity this, engagement that. Yeah. A Toyota GR86 also does that for thousands less than anything in this segment of steroidal family haulers. But what’s it like to live with one? Is it worth the price premium over its peers, and does the facade of a tuxedoed-up Honda Civic Type R fade away like every other honeymoon phase?

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Integra Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Price and specs

Well, well, well. The gussied-up Civic is priced and performs like a gussied-up Civic. Nothing too surprising here, although some slight tinkering yields a five-horsepower bump. Queue the Donut Media “MORE POWAH, BABY” sound bite. Given its badge prestige over Honda and the added luxuries that come with it, the Integra is expectedly pricier, stickering at $6,000 over the equivalent Civic Type R and $5,000 more than a base Volkswagen Golf R.

Base price:$50,800
As-tested price:$53,785
Engine:2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Transmission:6-speed manual
Drivetrain:front-wheel drive
Power:320 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
Torque:310 pound-feet @ 2,600 to 4,000 rpm
Redline:7,000 rpm
Weight:3,219 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:5.1 seconds
¼-mile:13.7 seconds @ 105 mph
MPG:21 city, 28 highway, 24 combined
Observed MPG:26.4
Fuel Capacity:12.4 gallons

(Author’s Note: Performance numbers reflected in Car and Driver’s review from July 2023)

Integra Type S exterior design

Dressed as sharp as it drives

The face is an angular, chiseled exaggeration of the standard car, giving it a sort of “jawline” that even the Integra A-Spec and Civic Type R lack. The design language carries over to the rear bumper, with its not-egregiously in-your-face diffuser and the large, tri-tip active exhaust.

And the cherry on top, those hypnotizing, drool-worthy fender flares. No need to turn to TOM’S or StreetHunter Designs. Acura already did it for you. They match the body perfectly in a way we wish came on other Honda products. But keeping it a Type S exclusive just makes it feel all the more special. Every arch, vent, and body line meld into a “Goldilocks” design language that’s more aggressive than relatively tame German rivals but less gaudy and wannabe touring car than some Asian competitors. 

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

More than just a pretty face

We must also note that all that fancy-schmancy aero that the Type R and other sports compacts pride themselves on is still present in some form. It’s just sneakier about it. Because exposed wings and canards are for overgrown children and Porsche GT cars.

A wing? Bah! You have to be adulting at the in-laws’ house in an hour, and you can’t be caught driving something with a goofy wing.

But Acura has you and your judgemental family members covered. The underbelly is flat for improved airflow, while that diffuser actually works to cleanly evacuate the air. Within the enlarged jawlines of the Type-S’ mug are concealed canards that perform as they normally would in producing front downforce, except Acura keeps hidden from the prying eyes of tuner hype beasts. It’s undisclosed how much downforce, if any, is produced, but Acura does emphasize that lift is reduced dramatically, resulting in a significantly more stable ride at high speed.

What’s hot?– Tenacious handling and composure
– Actual steering feedback
– Hardly a sacrifice on the commute
– Shockingly spacious interior
– Upholds its mature luxury car identity
– Drop-dead gorgeous styling

Integra Type S pricing breakdown

Similar to the Civic Type R, not much goes into inflating the Integra Type S’ admittedly lofty price tag. It’s a $50,000 car. And after options, it’s, uh, yep. Still roughly a $50,000 car. 

Pricing starts at $50,800 before destination charges, with the only real options being $600 in fancy metallic paint, a $950 carbon fiber mini-duckbill spoiler, a $204 full-metal shift knob, and your choice of a $475 heated steering wheel or a $408 alcantara steering wheel. And of course, there’s your typical array of dealer-installed accessories, including floor mat packages, wheel locks, and different-colored badging. For a hair under $2,200, you can score, drum roll, the exact same style of wheels that are already on the car to begin with. Well, except, they’re bronze. So, if you have a blue car, you can build the world’s nicest Not-A-Subaru-WRX.

Platinum White paint, the carbon spoiler, a floor mat kit, and a $1,195 destination charge brought our tester to $53,785. For reference, that’s quite a jump from the Golf R and Type R and a significant leap from the GR Corolla and Elantra N. But stack it against peers from bonafide luxury marques, and the Type-S stands strong. Its base price slots slightly above lukewarm sports compacts like the BMW M235i Gran Coupe and Audi S3, on par with the CLA35 AMG, and well beneath firebreathers like the CLA45 AMG and Audi RS3.

But unlike all of those cars, the Teggy gets a six-speed stick as the one and only transmission. Winner: Acura.

Integra Type S interior and tech

Earning its luxury car status

Swallow any badge snobbery because Acura has been on a hot streak of well-designed products, and the little Integra is entry-level luxury done right. The interior is unmistakably an Integra, aside from the suede center inserts, which are a godsend in that they never get too hot or cold. The suede accents are always black, but you can choose red, black, or cream leather, depending on the exterior paint. Yes, Acura will bar you from making tasteless color combo choices.

Plenty of soft-touch materials are throughout, and the occasional pockets of hard plastic feel sturdy and tightly-snapped together. The interior brightwork does wonders to contrast with the red leather interior of our tester, and bits of red stitching in places like the shifter boot remind you that you’re driving something more than entry-level. And little nods to this car’s intentions are welcome, given you don’t get the full-metal knob as standard or the Civic’s supercar-worthy bucket seats. But given this car’s place in the Honda-Acura pantheon, the standard heated seats, which are still plenty supportive if a tad firm, are just fine. 

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

All the tech in the world except for one

Being a luxury item in today’s market means it comes standard with an arsenal of comfort goodies to make that 9-to-5 a little less painful. And when I say standard, I mean not a single option box is necessary to bask yourself in adaptive cruise control with lane following, collision detection, and blind spot monitoring. There’s even a heads-up display for speed and phone-integrated nav directions, which the Civic Type R does not offer. How generous of Acura.

The Integra also receives wireless CarPlay and Android Auto with wireless charging, which is great given that Acura and Honda decided not to include built-in nav in their otherwise simple and quick-responding 10.2” touchscreen. Weird. It’s a $50,000 car to start, and you’re pretty S.O.L. if you need a pointer in a place without cell service. During my mostly urban expedition, CarPlay was faultless, but damned are any drivers who’d need to punch in directions in the middle of the desert or high in the mountains. So, have that address loaded on Maps before you venture too far. Fail. 

But it’s okay. You can drown out the intrusive thoughts of why you’re only given a built-in compass with that banger of a 16-speaker ELS audio system, also a Type S exclusive. It helps you forget the bargain-bin decision to forgo any built-in nav and appreciate the rest of the mature and fairly opulent cabin, a beacon of Acura’s maturity. 

The Integra is a more civil Civic

It’s true! And don’t take that as insulting. The Integra is, as it always was, a slightly sportier, slightly nicer variant of the Honda Civic upon which it’s based. And the new Integra, Type S or not, wholeheartedly embraces that mantra and executes its mission gracefully. 

A commuter for cool dads

The adaptive suspension is tuned slightly softer than the Civic Type R, and while I can’t speak on the Type R’s ride quality without driving one, I can say the Type S is a friendly monster. Even on horrendous freeway expansion joints and tattered side streets, the Type S rides as cozily as possible, at least on its 19-inch wheels and thin sidewalls. The default drive mode, Sport, isn’t what I’d call harsh, but Comfort is almost indistinguishable from a regular Civic. Shut your brain off and forget the sportier exhaust and occasional hard impacts, and you’d be hard-pressed to believe this is anything more than a normal car, with a numbed throttle and steering light enough for one-finger parking lot maneuvers.

However, the significantly wider front track over a normie Teggy does result in a so-so turning circle. But thankfully, despite the widened track and muscular fenders, it’s still the perfect size for traversing the concrete jungle and fitting in most parking spaces. Even in the tightest, most crowded lots, there was no anxiety when dodging traffic, which deserves some praise given the cavernous inside.

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

With the sloping roofline, the rear seats may have questionable headroom, but legroom is as plentiful there as it is out front. There’s no center armrest, but the center seat has integrated cupholders as a half-baked apology. But it’s whatever when the rear seats can fold flat, expanding the already generous hatch space and turning the Type S into the world’s most awkwardly shaped cargo van. 

My only complaint is the meh fuel economy for a four-cylinder, even given its performance intent. Sure, it can get 28 mpg on the highway and probably well over 30 in the real world, and I managed a healthy 26 in mixed driving. But city mileage is a less-than-stellar 21 mpg, which will likely be less in reality without a light foot. At least the small tank means fill-ups are cheap, but they’ll also be frequent. 

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

A helpful hand and a watchful eye

And those safety tech goodies? Nearly flawless. Nearly. Adaptive cruise works like a charm and allows you to shift between fifth and sixth gear without deactivating. The self-steering for lane-following never ping-pongs and does a decent job at centering itself, but it sometimes likes to favor one side of the lane or another and hold itself there. Steering inputs are smooth and natural, and the car will flash a message on the dash, encouraging you to stay vigilant. Collision warning and blind spot monitoring are passive but grab your attention with an inoffensive tone when you’re too close to the car in front or signaling into somebody. 

Not bad when the performance model can nearly impersonate its doner car. Many sports compacts don’t know when to relent when it’s time to shut up and act normal, but the Integra impresses with its impossibly broad spread of talents. After half a day around in Comfort, you almost forget this car is every bit the canyon-carving giant killer of a track weapon its sibling is.

Type S must stand for “Super-radtacular-to-drive”

What did you expect? For the softened suspension to dull the Type S’ reflexes, or for the lack of wing to hamper its high-speed stability?

Nope. Nothing but good times and unrelenting handling chops. Over the mountains and through The Crest to driving nirvana we go. A few turns of the wheel at speed, and you see why the Honda-Acura twins have been nothing short of perennial favorites that know nothing beyond the pedestal they stand on, and their engine is part of that claim to fame. 

Integra Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Engine by the gods

The two-liter turbocharged K20C8 four-cylinder is how all turbo four-bangers should be. Sort of. It builds power all over the rev range, having enough torque to chug along at low revs in traffic yet not getting short-winded past its peak like many other engines like it. It’s effortless to wring out and slam right into that 7,000-rpm redline. It just pulls and pulls and pulls some more! Buttery smooth until you reach that upper echelon, and then the K20C8 buzzes just a tad to emphasize there’s something alive under the hood without being intrusive.

Gearing is snappy, making every bit of that 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet feel like this K-Series is punching above its weight. It’s fast fast. “Push you into your seat” fast. And made all the more delightful by that typical Honda trademark manual shifter. Short throws with crisp engagement make for something you want to shift mindlessly in traffic, even when you don’t need to. Disappointingly, the clutch is feather-light for commuting, but its engagement progression is perfectly linear, meaning you have to be a total dunce not to drive this smoothly.

The only real letdown is the exhaust, which, although it’s a bit louder than the Civic’s and belches out more subtle pops on full-throttle lifts, is still too quiet for how raucous the engine is. This is perhaps the only segment where the Hyundai N division takes an easy victory. But that’s okay. It’s an Asian sports compact. You won’t be short on aftermarket exhausts or any other go-fast add-ons.

Chassis by the Titans

In the mountains soaring high above LA and Malibu, the adaptive suspension remains supple, even in Sport+, with the steering gaining a decent amount of weight that’s appropriate for steady inputs without being artificially stiff. And best of all, there’s feedback.

What a novel concept! Steering feel! In a new car sold for 2024! Who would have thought steering that wriggles and kicks with road imperfections and lightens or stiffens per grip level would be a great idea? Not BMW, apparently. Ford used to. Kind of Hyundai. But Acura and Honda understood the assignment, for sure. There’s no better steering this side of a Cayman to command the motions of the well-sorted chassis.

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

The softened suspension remains adaptive and adjustable, except all modes are compliant and seldom upset by road imperfections. Sport+ can be a little harsh here and there, but the default Sport has proven to be the perfect middle ground anyway. Body motions are kept well in check with no severe crashes nor wallowing, and the not-so-racey seats of the Integra still do a decent job at holding you in place despite their unassuming appearance. Still, leather-wrapped versions of the Type R leather-wrapped buckets would’ve been a nice option. But most impressive has to be the way this car reacts to adjustments. 

This thing hooks. And its ability to resist torque steer while on throttle, tuck deeper into a corner, and even get some tail wags at the hint of lift or trailbraking is intoxicating. Kudos to the dual-axis front suspension design and the hyper-aggressive front limited-slip diff. The Elantra N exhibited a similar degree of neutrality, but the Integra Type-S does it better with notably more outright grip, enabling it keep pace with a colleague in an Audi S3 loaner and its DCT and all-wheel drive buffs. 

Kudos once more to the 265-wide Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. For reference, that’s ten millimeters wider than the front tires of a non-Handing Package Mustang Dark Horse, which makes 180 more horsepower and tips in over 700 pounds more than the Teggy’s svelte 3,219 pounds. Acura loves to tout how it’s only marginally heavier than the Type R despite the added tech, but it’s also hundreds of pounds lighter than its German counterparts.

Brakes? No complaints. Four-piston Brembos biting down on 13.8-inch rotors work exactly as advertised. However, the pedal is somewhat soft in the first inch of travel, but that makes it easy to modulate, and the performance was purely confidence-inspiring and fade-free, even in some of Malibu’s tightest downhill passes. The two-piece rotors certainly look premium and likely contribute to weight savings and improved heat dissipation.

Integra Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
What’s not?– Okay-ish fuel economy and small tank make for frequent fuel stops
– No built-in nav for trekking far away roads
– No option for a more aggressive bucket seat
– Even this louder exhaust is still too quiet
– Numb, overly-light clutch pedal
– The Civic Type R exists

The greatest driver’s car I hope no one forgets

By now, you’ve surely noticed my nagging comparisons to the Type R. But that’s because the Teggy, as unfortunate as it’ll be, will always be forced to justify itself and its price tag when standing in the shadow of the Nürburgring front-wheel-drive record holder. How its bulging arches and understated demeanor will court fans is yet to be seen, but they must not let it fade into obscurity like so many other drivers cars in history.

Integra Type S
Image: Jeric Jaleco

I’m rarely left so hot and bothered by a car, but the Acura Integra Type S just beckons for another summer fling. Apparently, it does it for many people, just as its Honda counterpart has done for years. But if you stripped away the Acura’s rowdier twin and left this to stand alone as the flagship performance car for the street and the track, could it? Oh, I think it can. Easily. It rides nice, goes like hell, and turns, brakes, and feels like a real sports car should, all wrapped up in show-stopping sheet metal.

I wouldn’t say it’s outright better than a Type R. It’s just different, taking what that car does best and twisting it to better suit an identity befitting of Acura. And if mature performance with a splash of giddiness is your jam, then have at it. What more could you want?

A wing? Ugh. Okay. That’s fair.

Integra Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Hyundai Ioniq 5 Quarter View
Best CarsFeaturesReviews

The best electric cars we’ve driven in 2023

In a rapidly transforming automotive landscape, EVs are taking center stage. What kind of auto journos would be if we didn’t put forth the effort to sample the latest in electric cars? So, we personally tested some of the leading cars on the market to share with you our quick takes and short reviews on the best electric cars of 2023, breaking down their standout features and performance metrics.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

Ioniq 5 charging
Image: Hyundai

Starting price: $41,450

Horsepower: 168 to 320 hp

Torque: 258 to 446 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 101 to 114 mpge

Battery Capacity: 58 to 77.4 kWh

Range: 220 to 303 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet evaluated under new criteria

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 combines retro-futuristic styling with advanced driver aids and smooth, silent acceleration. It operates on an 800V electrical architecture, enabling blazing-fast charging, and it can travel up to 303 miles on a charge in its most generous configuration. While all-wheel drive is available, the most efficient and longest-range models are those with rear-wheel drive. The Ioniq 5 has a smooth ride and refined operation, and while it’s not the most powerful or exciting EV on the market, it’s certainly tuned for comfort and delivers on that promise.

Hyundai’s tech isn’t as fancy or flashy as others, but it gets the job done and makes interacting with the vehicle a pleasure. The EV comes standard with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, HD radio, SiriusXM, and more. Additionally, the Ioniq 5 earned a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS in 2022. As of this writing, it hasn’t yet been subjected to new crash-test standards for 2023.

Kia EV6

Kia EV6 rear quarter on display
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Alexander Migl

Starting price: $42,600

Horsepower: 167 to 576 hp

Torque: 258 to 545 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 79 to 117 mpge

Battery Capacity: 58 to 77.4 kWh

Range: 206 to 310 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet evaluated under new criteria

The Kia EV6 shares a platform and much of its underlying technology with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, though it presents unique styling and a hotter performance variant in the EV6 GT. The 800V architecture it features enables a 10 to 80 percent charge in as few as 18 minutes using the fastest chargers available. All configurations offer healthy acceleration, but the EV6 GT’s prowess rivals that of some supercars. At the same time, the SUV has engaging handling and can hold its own in corners. It’s a little tightly wound, but most will find the ride quality agreeable. 

Psst. To any speed junkies here, note it’s the only Korean EV available with that hotted-up, sports car-fighting powertrain option. Or at least it is until Hyundai drops the Ioniq 5 N on our shores. But until then, it’s an EV6 GT or bust!

Like Hyundai, Kia focuses on functionality over flashiness in its infotainment systems. It also offers two 12.3-inch screens, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 14 speakers, wireless charging, navigation, and more. It earned a Top Safety Pick in 2022, but the IIHS hasn’t yet smashed it in the newer, tougher side-crash tests.

Ford F-150 Lightning

F-150 Lightning in the dirt
Image: Ford

Starting price: $49,995

Horsepower: 452 to 580 hp

Torque: 775 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 66 to 70 mpge

Battery Capacity: 98 to 131 kWh

Range: 230 to 320 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? No

Ford wasn’t the first to market with an electric pickup, but it hit the market hard with the F-150 Lightning — a normal-looking, full-sized truck that is surprisingly capable and demonstrates decent range. Though it has raised prices and struggled to keep up with demand, Ford configured the truck to be as familiar as possible for everyday buyers, and the Lightning delivers on that goal. It offers fantastic interior space and comfort and plenty of available tech – including BlueCruise hands-free driving. Though its range extends to 320 miles, towing and hauling heavy loads has an outsized impact on the distance it can travel, but 66 to 70 mpge combined is still pretty darn good for what it is.

Ford’s excellent Sync infotainment system runs on a 12-inch touchscreen, and the truck comes standard with a 12-inch digital gauge cluster. Buyers can upgrade to a massive 15.5-inch display, and other options include wireless charging, HD radio, and SiriusXM radio. Though it missed out on a Top Safety Pick, the Lightning comes standard with a load of advanced safety kit, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keep assist, and more.

All said and done, it’s a fairly well-equipped and heavy-hitting product, even if it can get egregiously priced near the top of its trim levels. And sure. Although, it’s clearly not ideally sized for urban environments, don’t let a little girth deter you from an otherwise compelling product, especially if utility is a huge plus for you.

Mercedes-Benz EQS

Mercedes EQS quarter view
Image: Mercedes-Benz

Starting price: $104,400

Horsepower: 329 to 649 hp (751 hp w/ boost)

Torque: 417 to 700 lb-ft. (752 lb-ft. w/ boost)

Combined MPGe: 103 mpge

Battery Capacity: 108.4 kWh

Range: 277 to 350 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet tested

The Mercedes-Benz EQS is a flagship electric sedan from the luxury brand that offers futuristic tech, striking style, and an available AMG variant with breathtaking performance. No matter the powertrain choice, the car carries itself with authority and composure. It remains comfortable over various road surfaces and is surprisingly capable in the corners. At the same time, the interior remains quiet, and the car feels like an S-Class Mercedes at all times.

Mercedes offers a serious array of tech in the EQS, including standard 64-color ambient interior lighting, a 12.8-inch touchscreen, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The top configuration includes a massive and seriously impressive 56 inches of display, including an almost 18-inch touchscreen. The EQS comes standard with blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, pedestrian and cyclist detection, forward and rear automatic braking, and more.

Nissan Ariya

Nissan Ariya Front Fascia
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Kazya Kuruma

Starting price: $43,190

Horsepower: 214 to 389 hp

Torque: 221 to 442 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 87 to 101 mpge

Battery Capacity: 63 to 84 kWh

Range: 205 to 304 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet tested

Nissan had delays with its new EV, the Ariya, but it’s here for 2023 with a decent range and impressive horsepower. Acceleration feels solid, though the front-wheel drive model takes more than seven seconds to reach 60 mph. The all-wheel drive configuration is considerably quicker, making the run in 5.5 seconds, and the SUV manages itself well on the road. Braking and steering are confidence-inspiring, and the Ariya holds its own in the corners.

Nissan equips the Ariya with a standard 12.3-inch touchscreen running wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Wi-Fi hotspot, HD radio, Amazon Alexa capability, and much more also come standard. The Ariya has a solid list of standard safety equipment, though the IIHS hasn’t tested it yet. It’s equipped with blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warnings, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, a rearview camera, parking sensors, and driver attention warnings.

Genesis Electrified G80

Genesis Electrified G80
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Damian Oh

Starting price: $79,825

Horsepower: 365

Torque: 516 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 97 mpge

Battery Capacity: 87.2 kWh

Range: 282 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet evaluated under new criteria

Genesis took a tried-and-true approach with the Electrified G80, fitting batteries and an electric motor to the gas model’s body. The results are impressive: 365 horsepower, 282 miles of range, and all the luxury ride quality anyone could want. The car retains its flagship sedan feel, and the silent electric drivetrain offers strong acceleration and smooth operation. It’s not the most agile option around, but the car’s extreme level of comfort is a substantial consolation prize.

The Electrified G80 gets a 14.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 12 speakers, dual-zone automatic climate controls, a digital gauge cluster, and USB inputs. A 12.3-inch gauge cluster is available, along with wireless charging and an upgraded Lexicon audio system. The Electrified G80 earned a Top Safety Pick + in 2022 but hasn’t been subjected to the new, more intense side-crash tests. 

Cadillac Lyriq

Cadillac LYRIQ on China roads
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Dinkun Chen

Starting price: $58,590

Horsepower: 340 to 500 hp

Torque: 325 to 450 lb-ft.

Combined MPGe: 89 mpge

Battery Capacity: 102 kWh

Range: 307 to 312 miles

IIHS Top Safety Pick? Not yet tested

The Lyriq is Cadillac’s first EV, riding on GM’s advanced Ultium platform. And while not everyone on board Acceleramota seems to love it, there’s no denying what it has to offer GM fans. It offers up to 500 horsepower, and even the base configuration brings 340 ponies to the table. Acceleration isn’t exceptionally thrilling, but the SUV delivers refined power and good handling. It’s also every bit a Cadillac, bringing a smooth driving experience and a stable ride quality. The Lyriq’s one-pedal driving function works well, and standard braking feels solid.

The Lyriq’s dash is adorned with a massive array of screens, collectively spanning thirty-three inches, and equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, multiple USB ports, seven speakers, and more. Additionally, Cadillac includes ambient interior lighting, an AKG premium stereo, and a panoramic sunroof. Though it hasn’t been evaluated by the IIHS yet, the Lyriq comes standard with a vibrating safety alert seat, lane departure warnings, pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warnings. 

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Quick Take ReviewsReviews

2023 Volkswagen Golf R review: a timeless hot hatch for the aging car enthusiast

Volkswagen released the eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R in the United States in 2022, and both got interesting anniversary models for 2023. I grabbed a 2023 Volkswagen Golf R 20th Anniversary from a local dealer at a fair price and have spent the last two months putting it through its paces. The car is far from perfect, but its mix of interior space, all-wheel drive performance, and supreme hot-hatch cargo capacity put it over the top for me. 

That said, I would’ve picked up a GR Corolla for the right price. The Golf R is brutally quick and offers impressive performance tech, but it’s not as raw or entertaining to drive as the Corolla or the new Civic Type R. It’s better at hauling my kids and dog, but is it a better all-around car? Let’s get rolling and discover all the reasons why I think (hope) I made the right call. 

Golf R Snow Slalom
Image: Volkswagen

2023 Volkswagen Golf R price and trim levels

The Volkswagen Golf R starts at $44,740 and is on sale now. It comes in two trim levels – base and 20th Anniversary – but the latter is just an appearance change for the car. Though the R is offered in other body styles globally, America gets a hatch only, but it gets all the goodies without added-cost options. In this review, we tested the 2023 Golf R 20th Anniversary.

Available trim levels:

  • Base: $44,740
  • 20th Anniversary: $45,390

Exterior paint colors

  • Lapiz Blue Metallic
  • Deep Black Pearl
  • Pure White White

Interior colors

  • Titan black w/ blue stitching

Interior options

  • VW offers no interior options


  • VW offers no packages or upgrades other than accessories

They’re keeping it real simple over there at Wolfsburg, I see.

For reference, the Civic Type R is roughly on par at $44,890, while its tuxedo-clad sibling, the Integra Type-S, goes for $51,995. The GR Corolla starts far lower at $35,900, and the Hyundai Elantra N, which is a teeny smidge behind this pack in terms of speed but has similar tech and features, stickers for $32,900.

2023 Volkswagen Golf R interior and tech

While VW offers plaid cloth or leather in the GTI, the Golf R gets leather in both models. The 20th Anniversary adds carbon fiber trim to the dash and a blue “R” logo to the steering wheel but is otherwise identical, other than the fact that buyers pay more to delete the sunroof. Some have complained that the eighth-gen Golf R and GTI feel cheaper inside than their predecessors, which is largely accurate. There are more hard plastics and fewer physical controls than before, and that’s a hard pill to swallow at almost $50,000.

Interior space

  • Front seat legroom: 41.2 inches
  • Rear seat legroom: 35 inches
  • Front seat headroom: 38.5 inches
  • Rear seat headroom: 38.1 inches
  • Cargo space with back seats up: 19.9 cubic feet
  • Cargo space with back seats down: 34.5 cubic feet


  • Length: 168.9 inches
  • Width: 70.4 inches
  • Height: 57.7 inches

2023 Volkswagen Golf R engine and performance

The 2023 Golf R relies on VW’s workhorse EA888 four-cylinder engine, now in its fourth generation. The turbocharged 2.0-liter mill makes 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and sends it to all four wheels through a seven-speed DSG transmission. The car comes standard with a six-speed manual, but they’re harder to find and are down 15 pound-feet of torque on the DSG. I’ve been able to get close to Car and Driver’s tested zero-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, but the quickest times involve perfect conditions that I rarely have here in Maine.

In the handling department, Volkswagen improved the Golf R’s suspension and chassis, and the car comes standard with adaptive dampers. Large 14.1-inch front rotors bring everything to a stop and the car’s torque vectoring shifts torque between the wheels that need it the most.

The Golf R also includes several drive modes, such as “Race,” “Special,” and “Drift.” Even so, having a Drift mode is only really useful if the car actually drifts while using it. That’s not the case here, as the Golf R feels extremely reluctant to break traction in the so-called drifting mode.

Golf R Drifting
Image: Volkswagen

2023 Volkswagen Golf R design

Where some hot hatches opt to shout their performance from the rooftops, the Golf R is a more subtle affair. There are no loud scoops on the hood or massive spoilers other than one prominent wing on the rear hatch. I’d prefer a sunroof, but many have knocked VW’s for being leaky and loud, so perhaps I dodged a bullet with the 20th Anniversary’s slicktop design. The car rides on 19-inch wheels clad in summer rubber, and though the wheel design is the same, the 20th Anniversary’s are painted black. The only other indications that it’s different from a GTI or standard Golf are the R logos on the quarter panels and rear hatch.

The interior design is pleasing to the eye, but there are simply too many touch controls. I’ve adjusted to them after weeks of use, but they could be jarring for someone coming out of a more analog car. The front seats are deep, sporty, and supportive and offer prominent bolstering for secure seating during rowdy driving. Back-seat passengers enjoy more legroom than the Toyota GR Corolla, and the R has more cargo space than a Porsche Macan. Go figure.

Golf R front quarter view
Image: Chris Teague

2023 Volkswagen Golf R future

The Golf GTI and R are only two years old at this point, and despite VW’s EV saber-rattling, they’ll likely stick around with gas for at least a few more years. The cars are expected to get a facelift in 2025 or 2026 that brings more physical controls and other updates, but the Golf probably won’t shift to an all-electric, or even a hybrid design for that matter, in the next couple of years. That said, VW has long said that the GTI name would make the jump to electrification at some point, so it’s only a matter of time before we see an electrified hatchback on American soil. 

Golf R Wheels and Brakes
Image: Chris Teague

Additional FAQs

Is the Golf R worth the premium over a Golf GTI?

In my case, the answer was yes. The GTI (I owned a new one for over a year) fizzles out at a point, and that’s where the R shines the most. This is true with acceleration and overall grip, as the R’s trick all-wheel drive system helps it claw out of trouble much more confidently. 

Is a Golf R expensive to maintain?

Maintaining a Golf R is more expensive than driving something like a VW Jetta or Camry. Still, it’s not as tearjerking as trying to keep up with maintenance on a Porsche or more exotic car like a Lamborghini or Ferrari. 

Which Audi has the same powertrain as the Golf R?

The Audi S3 sedan has the same turbo-four and all-wheel drive system as the Golf R, all wrapped up in a sedan body instead of a hatch.

Is the Golf R faster than the GTI?

The Golf R has 75 more horsepower, and its all-wheel drive system helps put that power to the ground much more efficiently than the front-wheel drive GTI.

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