Out of all the vehicles that I've had a chance to pilot this year, the 2015 Lexus GS 350 F Sport stands above all as my favorite. The perfect mix of style and performance, the GS 350 F Sport is a comfortable family car that's loaded with enough luxury and sport features to scratch just about any itch that this driver happens to have. I managed to spend an extended amount of time in the GS 350 F Sport - one loaned to me for a trip from Northern Illinois to Michigan and back - and by the end of my run, I'd determined that this is a car that I would like to own... and the family agrees.
As an unabashed fan of the Scion brand since its launch back in 2004, each new release has captured my interest. I'm a first-generation owner that took possession of a special-ordered 2005 Scion xB back in the summer of 2004. At the time, I was exactly the target market for the affordable, customizable ride - part of the "under 35" crowd that Toyota's Scion nameplate has always embraced. Having owned one model and driven many, one that escaped my hands on the wheel until recently was the Scion FR-S, and my first driving experience for that one came in the cockpit of the 2016 edition. The 2016 Scion FR-S is the latest U.S./Canada edition of the vehicle sold elsewhere as either the Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ.
When I placed my special-order for one of the very first 2005 Scion xB's delivered to the Midwest back in 2004, I was exactly the kind of buyer that Toyota was hoping would jump into their Scion brand. Launched a year prior with availability only in California, I first laid eyes on the iconic "box" on a trip to Las Vegas in the Fall of 2003 and was immediately enamored by the vehicle. My wife allowed me to indulge my ongoing KNIGHT RIDER fixation by ordering an xB in Black Sand Pearl, complete with all the red adornments that we could afford - from red racing pedals to red LED light bars under the dash and seats. There would be LED cupholders, along with multi-color LED cycling on the in-dash Pioneer stereo head - one that would power the custom Bazooka Tube in the trunk. 11 years and 160K miles later, that little xB is in a lot of ways like my R2-D2 - sure, there's better options out there, newer models available, and mine is essentially battered, beaten and somewhat broken in some places - but we've had a lot of adventures together, and I'm not ready to part with it just yet... though it's days are extremely numbered. Being a longtime Scion fan that was there in the beginning, I've always had my eye on their latest offerings every year at the Chicago Auto Show (and the special vehicles that they create for the SEMA Show), so it was exciting to be invited to join the Scion Team in Grand Rapids, Michigan to get up to speed on where the brand is at age 12, and to go hands-on with pre-production prototypes for the Scion iM and iA - both of which will go on-sale beginning September 1, 2015.
When it comes to the Minivan category, I have always been "that" guy - the "never-gonna-drive-one" sort that doesn't even consider the category when the occasion arises to purchase a new vehicle. Nearly six years and two kids into the parenting game, and we still do not own a Minivan - and in fact, it was indeed never considered during our purchasing excursions, neither my wife nor myself ever taking a test drive... until last year. My wife still has never been at the wheel of a Minivan, but I now have - numerous times, and with numerous models - but it didn't really start until I began sharing my love of cars as a regular feature on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine. Thing is, my view of the "Minivan" has been drastically changed over time, previously-skewed largely by the tacky models of the 1980s (the Plymouth Voyager, the horrid-looking Pontiac Trans Sport, Chevy Astro Van, etc.), and by marketing, including some that's fairly recent. I have to admit that... I've really enjoyed some of the Minivans that I've driven over this past year, and the latest is one that had previously hit me hard on the marketing-misfire note: The Toyota Sienna, aka "The Original Swagger Wagon."
It's a rare thing to have a vehicle from a press fleet for more than a week, but that's exactly what happened when a 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT arrived here at Rock Father HQ for review over the holidays. The extra time was beneficial both to the vehicle and our family for some real-world testing hauling people and stuff from Northern Illinois to Michigan and back. Marketed as a great value and exceptionally safe Crossover SUV for families looking for a lot of people capacity for a lower price, Mitsubishi has wisely focused on the Outlander's strong points, drawing attention away from some curiously-unexciting features on the design front. While my thoughts are split on this one, I can tell you this before we move any further: my kids love it.
When putting a new vehicle to the test, there's nothing better than experiencing it through a diverse array of conditions to get a true grasp on how it functions under real-world conditions. Attending the National Press Introduction of the all-new 2016 Kia Sorento last month in California, I had a chance to take two models of the new Sorento (AWD Turbocharged 4-cylinder, AWD V6) through multiple climates and altitudes through the legendary Sierra Nevada mountain range, out through the plains and into the Nevada desert. What the Sorento delivered was an impressive and powerful combination of style, performance and comfort that rivals all other competitors in the increasingly crowded crossover class, warranting a serious look for families that are ready to rock the road.