2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor - Automobile Magazine
Probably the most amazing truck in the world.

As cool as the Raptor was when it debuted last year, there wasn’t a whole lot to appreciate under the hood. Massive suspension modifications were enough to make the Raptor a hit among the niche set of off-roaders that wants to go fast in the sand but doesn’t really want to build their own trucks. If you’ve never experienced a lifted truck with a properly dialed-in suspension, the Raptor is probably the most amazing truck in the world. But it came with a boat anchor for an engine.

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First Drive: 2011 Subaru WRX STI Sedan

First Drive: 2011 Subaru WRX STI Sedan
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Sedan - First Drive Review - Automobile Magazine
The sedan is back.

During the economic nightmare that was 2009, carmakers watched their sales slide off a cliff — all carmakers but one that is: Subaru. Instead of plunging sales, 2009 marked the third consecutive year of Subaru sales growth; giving it a record market share in the process. So far in 2010, Subaru has done even better. For 2011, Subaru hopes to keep the momentum going, with updates to its performance side of the brand — the WRX and STI.

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First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid - First Drive - Automobile Magazine
The homebrew hybrid.

Hyundai’s corporate work ethic and frugality have resulted in a strong emphasis on developing and manufacturing key components in-house. By avoiding the hybrid technology used in the Sonata Hybrid’s chief competitors-the Ford Fusion, the Nissan Altima, and the Toyota Camry-the company has smartly dodged the licensing fees of patented technology and tapped existing hardware for its first gasoline/electric car.

Photo Gallery: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – First Drive – Automobile Magazine

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2011 Jaguar XJ

2011 Jaguar XJ
2011 Jaguar XJ - Automobile Magazine
About as good as it gets for a large luxury sedan.

The styling of the 2011 Jaguar XJ doesn’t excite me, but I also don’t find it offensive. Get behind the wheel, though, and the XJ elicits strong emotions. The 470-hp supercharged V-8 is so smooth and so authoritative. As usual, though, Jaguar’s expertise in chassis tuning is what really shines. Steering and handling are confident while the ride is comfortable. Surrounded by a band of lovely dark wood, the cabin combines old-school luxury with modern style. Even with the dark cloud of Jaguar reliability hanging around, it’s easy to understand why someone would own this dynamic hero.

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2010 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR

2010 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR
2010 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR - Editor's Notebook - Automobile Magazine
This Altima SR is far more mature than its predecessors.

Very mixed feelings about this car. On the one hand, it’s hard not to really like something this pretty – it’s a convincing Infiniti G37 knockoff – and this quick. And believe me, it is quick. The six-speed manual transmission is well worth the $2330, as it wakes up the ol’ VQ and turns a well-mannered family car into a snorting, rorting beast capable of some very impressive second-gear pulls. There’s more cause for celebration inside, where, despite some tacky faux leather and brushed aluminum trim, this Altima SR is far more mature than its predecessors. The small color screen on the non-navigation-equipped stereo unit is also a nice touch.

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Comparison: 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD vs 2010 Audi S4

Comparison: 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD vs 2010 Audi S4
2010 Acura TL SH-AWD vs 2010 Audi S4 - Sedan and Sports Coupe Comparison - Automobile Magazine
Torque-vectoring has trickled down to grown-up short sedans like the Audi S4 and the Acura TL-SH AWD, proving that adulthood has never been so much fun.

Growing up doesn’t have to suck the fun out of driving. You don’t have to sell your soul — and your Mitsubishi Lancer Evo — and buy a life-sucking, automatic-transmission, front-wheel-drive sled just because you landed a real job and produced offspring. These two luxury sedans appear grown up to the outside world, but when no one is looking, the cars can bring out your inner juvenile delinquent. You probably never thought of the Acura TL SH-AWD and the Audi S4 on the same day, much less in the same sentence. But this duo is remarkably similar in base price, power, and weight. And significantly, they both use torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive systems to ensure that they don’t sacrifice one iota of the corner-carving thrills you’ve grown to love. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the two cars that will change your perception of all-wheel-drive luxury sedans.

Photo Gallery: 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD vs 2010 Audi S4 – Sedan and Sports Coupe Comparison – Automobile Magazine

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First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon

First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon - First Drive - Automobile Magazine
The refusenik

Some people refuse to get with the program. They will not go with the flow. Ignoring trends, they do-and buy-what they want. When it comes to cars, no group swims against a stronger tide than the people who buy station wagons. So while the arrival of a new Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon is an absolute non-event for the vast majority of America’s new-car buyers, for one tiny, independent-minded group of traditionalists, it is no doubt a reassuring symbol of constancy in a fast-changing world.

Photo Gallery: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon – First Drive – Automobile Magazine

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