Car & Driver:
Audi. BMW. Mercedes. These are the popular brands people reflexively shop when looking for a luxury sedan. But what if you find them to be a bit boring or complacent? That's where the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia comes in. This luxury sedan newcomer isn't well-known, but once you see it, it's hard to ignore.
On the outside, the Giulia looks like nothing else on the road thanks to its taut styling and classic Alfa Romeo grille. The beauty is more than skin-deep, too. The underlying hardware is competitive, with the base Giulia and Giulia Ti receiving a lively 280-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels through a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
It's the top-of-the-line Giulia Quadrifoglio trim, however, that truly makes its presence known by aggressively gunning for top performance honors of the class. It comes outfitted with a powerful Ferrari-developed turbocharged V6 engine, weight-saving carbon fiber, articulating aerodynamics, and a whole host of other speed-enhancing features to win over the hearts and wallets of performance fans.
It's hard to overstate how much we like the 2018 Honda Civic. Equipped with the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, it's one of the best cars in its class for delivering both impressive acceleration and high fuel economy. Inside, it has plenty of room for passengers, clever storage solutions and more cargo space than most competitors in any body style. It also offers technology features that put some other compact cars to shame and safety ratings that are among the best.
Available as a sedan, coupe or hatchback, the Civic has a version for every niche, and all of them are good. Want more sauce? There's the sportier Civic Si, as well as the absolutely bananas Civic Type R. Just as impressive, neither one sacrifices the qualities we love about the standard variants.
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV offers a reason to take another look at this family SUV. While the regular Outlander lacks the comfort and refinement of its many competitors, the new PHEV model is one of the first vehicles to bring plug-in recharging capability to the SUV class.
Mitsubishi has sold the Outlander PHEV in other global markets for two years. Now it makes its debut in the United States. Starting at about $35,000 before applicable tax credits, the Outlander PHEV looks pretty much the same as its gas engine-only counterpart.
It's a different story under the hood, where a four-cylinder gas engine joins electric hybrid components. The engine and electric motor combination drives the front wheels, while a second electric motor drives the rear wheels. Sophisticated computer processing determines the best way to dole out power to all four wheels, although drivers can also manually engage a four-wheel-drive lock mode when desired.
Though the Nissan Leaf has received incremental changes over its lifetime, 2018 brings the most comprehensive rework of the car to date. The new car's styling is a complete departure from the previous Leaf, although under the skin the cars are very similar aside from the larger battery capacity and additional power.
The Leaf hasn't become more expensive in the bargain. In fact, the new car is actually less costly than the outgoing model when you factor in the differences in feature content. As such, it offers more range for the same price as other similar EVs, such as the Volkswagen e-Golf. Only the more expensive Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 offer more driving range.
Other advantages to the 2018 Leaf include its new e-pedal mode and a new suite of advanced driver assist features called ProPilot Assist. The e-pedal delivers stronger regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator, making it easier to slow the car appreciably without requiring you to apply the brake pedal.
If excellent utility and off-road ability are priorities for your next vehicle, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma should be high on your list. The wealth of available configurations means there's likely a Tacoma that fits your needs, and some of them provide an impressive degree of trail-busting capability.
Alongside those specialized off-road Tacomas with their knobby tires, upgraded suspension and off-road driving aids, there are street-oriented versions of the Tacoma, too. Notably, even the more luxurious trim levels share their siblings' lifted stance. It creates a high step-in height and a slightly unusual seating position, but it also means every Tacoma is at least a little adventure-ready.
Overall, we think the Tacoma hits the spot for what most midsize pickup shoppers are looking for.