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Do not for a single second expect that Audi’s approach of keeping tech out of the way means stripping away all the digital whiz-bangery for an analog-only experience (sorry analog purists, keep lobbying). Instead they’ve taken two approaches: simplify the experience or get tech out of the way so you can focus on what you’re doing — driving or being driven.

Let’s start with the interior design. Audi designers want those who enter the A8 to feel welcomed with open arms, and once the door closes, surrounded in a comfortable embrace. On placing one’s posterior in the A8’s noticeably comfortable leather seats, your attention shifts to the cleanliness of the lines and comfortable balance of materials. It’s the antithesis of many upper-echelon luxury cars that sometimes that on the appearance of a ‘mood-board smorgasbord.’ Instead you are presented with a well-appointed, minimalistic collection of matching textures and tones, that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern downtown apartment’s interior. To my eye, the most pleasing interior combination was the Sarder Brown leather with the natural Ash timber inlays, an elegant grey-brown color reminiscent of dark coffee.

However, If you are really insistent on more expected interior combos, such as walnut panelling with warm leather tones, they’re offered, but aren’t as sharp as the more modern tonal options. The ‘classic’ tones almost feel like the interior designers acquiescence to past sales date rather than completeness of Audi’s vision. Do yourself a favor, go Sarder Brown.

There are distinct horizontal layers within the cabin that wraps around from the front console to the doors. It’s not just easy on the eyes, each band denotes function. Where possible, functionality has been consolidated into touch screens or multifunction buttons, often hidden from view, including the air vents that are covered when not in use. What appears as a wide, flowing piano-black panel, upon start-up, reveals two large touch screens. All the things in this black layer are made for interaction: vehicular function, environment and personal setting controls.

The topmost screen delivers media, navigational and vehicle setting, and the display below it contains all environment controls, seat settings and other comfort options. A nice progression from the previous A8, with most functions inside the A8 placed within reach and in a logical flow. Screens, buttons and panels are all tightly fitted in the cockpit, and the finish feels truly bespoke.

The A8 flaunts the second generation of Virtual Cockpit Plus. With higher resolution, faster processing and a smoother scrolling display, the digital experience now extends to the rest of the cabin with the media center and environmental controls integrated into one system.

While there has been much gnashing of teeth about the removal of physical buttons and replacing them with screens, after having driven the A8 for a day, you quickly become accustomed to the layout of the screens and methods of interaction. For the most part, I got into a rhythm of how to interact with the touch screen, save several moments while driving, trying to find seat functions that had been available as physical buttons in the previous generation A8. The latest generation of MMI — Audi’s infotainment, navigation and communication system — works much the same way as any other touch screen does, including the ability for users to customize the displays by moving icons around on the screen as you would on any modern smart device. Engaging with it feels incredibly familiar, just like using your smart phone.

Acknowledging that while physical controllers allow a user to reach and initiate a function from muscle memory, albeit a single use function, digital screen versions of controllers require a different kind interaction to allow users to stay focused on the road. Audi found that users quickly grew accustomed to operating the display through their peripheral vision using function color association — each function has a color assigned to it that is consistent through all Audi vehicles.

Audi’s interior designers are so confident, or perhaps deeply enamored by the aesthetic simplicity that screens offer, that they would have sucked in every single button and switch into this system were it not for pesky regulations that required they keep a certain number of functions as ‘real’ buttons. While the display surfaces are a designer’s dream in simplifying the interior, in part they were an inevitable requirements, due to the ever-growing number of features and controls being added to each new generation of vehicle.

However, using a single digit to push buttons is so 2023 — natural writing recognition and voice commands are the way of the future. Hence the A8 features natural handwriting recognition, where you can write entire destinations onto the touch screen, a leap forward from the start-stop individual character input of previous systems. Alternatively, you can talk to your A8 using its onboard voice recognition to help you in a multitude of ways, from easy tasks like changing temperature settings to finding a coffee shop, you’ll even get fed the top three Yelp reviews to ensure you pick the right spot.

Starting from the moment you step out of your home, Audi wants to be your complete end-to-end travel concierge. For example, locating a coffee house is but the first step — once you’ve identified the ideal purveyor of ground beans, to ensure you get that caffeine hit as soon as possible, Audi has a slew of systems to get you there faster. Your A8 is fed real-time traffic light information, telling you the speed you need to take to make each light (within the limit of the law of-course), or if it’s about to change.

There are seven cities in the US that already have connected smart lights — including, Vegas, Palo Alto, Washington DC— based on municipality, with more coming online. Then as you approach your coffeeshop, your A8 will help you find parking via parking search assistance, and perfectly park via Park Assist if your driver has the day off. It doesn’t stop there either. Using the myAudi app, there is continued direction if you need to walk to your destination if it’s within a mall, ensuring a continuity of experience from vehicle to final caffeination destination.

Getting there, in the back of the Audi A8 provides its own focused experience. First, the space in the back is capacious. There’s no way you’ll be bruising your knees on the back of the front seats, in fact there’s enough room to comfortably stretch out. It’s without reserve, a first-class space. The rear seats have multidirectional adjustments, and the in-seat massagers have been updated with additional massage nodes for both the front and rear seats. I already consider Audi to deliver best-in-class seat massagers, and the updated systems in the A8 continue this tradition. To further enhance your comfort, an air-quality package for ionization and aromatization is available, as are heated center and door armrests to further enhance comfort.

Passengers in the back can use either a removable remote in the folding handset, or the fixed center console that replaces the middle rear seat in the 4-seat package, to control the environment in the rear. Controlling all the expected features, such as temperature, seats and infotainment system, with the addition of a neat new directional lighting feature. Namely, a Matrix LED in the ceiling that allows you to select exactly where the light will fall and how widely it is cast, great for ensuring your personal wellness book is perfectly lit as your feet are pampered in the heated massaging footrest. Both are optional features, but it’s BYO wellness book.

To further provide you with a space away from it all, blinds for the rear, side windows are available, as is dual-pane acoustic glass. Naturally.

However, if the space in the back is going to be more about productivity as you shuttle between board meetings, then you’ll likely appreciate the folding productivity tables and utilize the large and brightly lit displays behind the front seats.

The designers and engineers behind the A8 are understanding more than ever the myriad of ways we want to use our cars, and the A8 provides a vision into how they are fulfilling our needs, while ensuring we do it in a safe, efficient, helpful and peaceful manner. Time will prove out whether Audi’s level of visible technology is the right balance, especially having sucked all the physical buttons into screens, but out of the gate, it’s not horrible.

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2023 Audi S5 Coupe And S4 Sedan First Drive: Seriously Smooth

2023 Audi S5 Coupe and S4 Sedan First Drive: Seriously Smooth

By now, Audi knows the formula for making attainable performance cars like the 2023 S5 Coupe and 2023 S4 Sedan. Take the A-series vehicles on which they’re based, glam up the exterior and interior, drop in a more powerful engine, and you end up with a rewarding driver’s car that doesn’t break the bank. In the process, you find yourself in the midst of a growing segment of enthusiasts’ wheels.

Just as Audi has its S line division, Mercedes has its Mercedes-AMG and BMW has its M Sport teams. All offer a taste of their most extreme road-legal sports models, but with fewer compromises in a vehicle that has to be usable everyday (and even with the family along for the ride). For the 2023 S4, pricing kicks off at $50,900; in the case of the S5 Coupe, it’s $54,600.

There are plenty of visual clues that you’re driving an S4 or S5 Coupe, rather than their A4 and A5 cousins. LED lights front and rear, special S model quad tailpipes, and new fascia and rear diffuser designs all help differentiate from the regular cars. On top of that, Audi throws lashings of its “All-Optic” trim, an aluminum-effect finish for the grille, mirrors, and bumpers. The result is still fairly restrained – especially in comparison to the especially aggressive front of the Mercedes-AMG C43 – but handsome nonetheless, and Audi’s designs have a tendency to age particularly gracefully.

Under the different body styles lurks the same core engine. It’s a 3.0-liter V6 TFSI, with a new twin-scroll turbocharger mounted inside the V, as opposed to the twin-turbochargers which flanked older versions of the engine. Thanks to that, the use of aluminum for the crankcase and pistons, and various other tweaks, Audi’s engineers have trimmed 31 pounds from the powertrain.

It’s good for 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque, comfortably up from the old S4 and S5. The new turbocharger system means torque arrives much faster than in the old S4 and S5, too, with almost 200 Nm (around 147 lb-ft.) more off the line.There’s also a new 8-speed tiptronic transmission, similar to the gearbox you’ll find in the RS 7, though – likely to the dismay of some purists – no manual option.

According to Audi’s Anthony Garbis, program manager for the A4, A5, Q5, and R8, there just is the demand for them. “Worldwide, people who are buying performance cars are buying automatic,” he points out, “because they’re faster.” On paper, the S4 and S5 Coupe will do 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds, Audi says, and on to a limited top speed of 155 mph.

As you’d expect, quattro all-wheel drive is standard, with a 40:60 front to rear bias. Tick the box for the S sport package, and you get sport adaptive damping suspension and a second-generation sport rear-differential. That, Audi says, is quicker to shift power between the rear wheels depending on which has the most grip.

Speaking of grip, Audi is also pitching the 2023 S4 and S5 Coupe as the best at braking in their class. That comes courtesy of 6-piston front calipers as standard, clamping down on 13.8-inch discs. If you coughed up the $2,500 for the S sport package, the brake calipers get a red finish.

On the road, and in Comfort mode – selectable with Audi’s drive mode buttons, along with Eco, Dynamic, and the driver-customizable Individual settings – you could almost mistake either car for their regular siblings. Still, there are plenty of differences in the cabin to make things clear. Alcantara door panels and a flat-bottom sport steering wheel with shift paddles are standard, as are carbon inlays on the dashboard. S line sport seats with 12-way power adjustment and massage are also standard, both easy on the eye with their diamond quilted leather, and pleasingly supportive in the corners.

They’re heated, too, though not ventilated. If you want cooling you’ll need the Warm Weather package, an $800 option that changes the leather too, but also switches the interior to the regular sport seats. A heated steering wheel is $200.

The option I suspect most will check is the $2,600 Navigation package. That upgrades the driver instrumentation to Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit, with a new S model display that puts engine speed front and center. There’s also an 8.3-inch center display and a touchpad integrated into the MMI control wheel, for sketching out letters and numbers to enter addresses. You should probably also consider the $950 Bang & Olufsen audio system on the S5 Coupe – it’s standard on the S4 – which sounds great.

Audi introduces a little more engine noise into the cabin with a fancy resonating system, but I’d not argue with even greater growl from the powertrain overall. Switch into Dynamic mode, and the soundtrack is still a little muted, only really rousing itself when you’re above 3,500 rpm. Turbo lag, as Audi promised with its shortened compressor runs, was minimal; the 3.0 TFSI won’t quite convince you it’s naturally-aspirated, but neither will it – or the transmission – leave you twiddling your thumbs while you wait for the power to arrive.

Steering is precise and, combined with the quattro AWD, there’s never a sense of uncertainty as to where you’re pointing either car. Dynamic steering is a $1,150 option, adjusting the steering ratio according to speed, driving style, and other factors. In the latter portion of our drive, an unexpected dust storm in the mountains around Palm Springs sent showers of debris into the road, but the S5 proved capably nimble at dodging chunks of rock while still clinging to the asphalt.

The brakes in both S4 and S5 Coupe are certainly strong. There’s a fraction of squish at the very top of the pedal travel, but that uncertainty swiftly gives way to seatbelt-testing levels of stopping power. It can take a few miles before you’re quite used to the way Audi’s 6-piston setup kicks in, but once you’ve dialed in your foot it leaves you with no shortage of confidence. Push foolishly hard in corners and you can provoke understeer, but it’s easy to modulate with the crisp steering and tenacious AWD.

Of the two cars, the 2023 S5 Coupe arguably has more of a sense of occasion. The body-style doesn’t hurt there, but it’s about more than just losing the rear doors. The S5’s bulging hood – Audi calls it a “power dome” – is a persistent visual reminder that you’re driving something special. Inside, the fairly high rear roofline means space in the back seats is decent; it also gives the cabin an airiness that those who find many two-doors claustrophobic will appreciate.

Audi’s pitch with the S4 and S5 Coupe is that core S line buyers are pointedly loyal, to the point that they won’t even consider the C43 and BMW 340i alternatives out there. Those who are more open-minded will probably find the C43 sedan and coupe a little more raucous, compared to the Audi’s crisp, teutonic efficiency in how they put power down and pivot through the corners. The 340i sedan is the only one to offer a manual gearbox, and a darn good one it is too. That alone might be sufficient to send you to your nearest BMW dealer.

NOW READ: 2023 Audi Sport RS3 First Drive: A 174mph demon

Still, I can easily see why Audi fans would appreciate the 2023 S4 and S5 Coupe. They’re fast and easy to drive; practical enough to be your everyday car, but with enough special sauce to set them apart in the parking lot. Neither BMW or Mercedes quite delivers the combination of active safety and driver assistance aids that Audi does, either. True, the upcoming RS 5 will overshadow the performance of each with its 450 HP V6, but it’ll also demand seriously deep pockets and may well sacrifice a little comfort in the process.

The 2023 S5 and S5 Coupe request no such compromises. Indeed, you could say they offer the best of both worlds, performance and practicality. It’s proven to be a winning formula elsewhere in Audi’s line-up, and nothing about these new cars suggest that streak is likely to change.

Thriving In Your First Years As A Teacher

It is a universal truth that early career teachers are overwhelmed. Between classroom management issues, lesson plans, and grading, we’re oftentimes drowning. With all the pressure to simply survive our first few years of teaching, doing anything else in the name of improvement may seem impossible. As a second-year teacher, I have days when I find myself treating life’s necessities, like sleeping, as if they were optional activities.

We want to become better teachers, but it can be exhausting. These are low-stress, realistic, and enjoyable ideas that you can use to squeeze being a better educator into your hectic new teacher life.

Developing as a Teacher in the Early Years

Write reflectively: Simply by writing about your classroom experiences, you’re already developing yourself as an educator. Writing is widely recognized as a tool to alleviate stress and manage anxiety. It’s important for teachers to write as a way to vent about stressful days, grow from mistakes, and appreciate successes. Challenge yourself to write for 10 minutes each day. I don’t pressure myself to write well—I just write. Whether you invest in a journal or start a blog, the act of writing is worth your time.

Record things you want to change: Create a document specifically designed to record your mistakes and plans for improvement. Whenever a lesson plan goes awry, jot down a note about how to make it better in the future. My own document is entitled “Things to Do Better for Next Year” and includes notes about remaking assessments, adjusting my grading categories, and other fixes that will make my next classroom experience better. Not only does this give you guidance for future lessons, but you now have a comprehensive list of items to accomplish over the summer.

Observe other teachers: New teachers are often required to observe veterans, but we shouldn’t stop there. Even after you fulfill your observation obligations, make time to email different teachers in your building that you admire and let them know you want to stop by their classrooms to see them in action. Most teachers will be glad to work with you and to talk afterward about your thoughts and observations. We get better at teaching when we talk productively about our practice.

Learn a new skill: Making time in your life to learn about something you’re interested in can help remind you what your students encounter every day in your classroom: As much as it can be exciting to learn something new, it’s also scary. It’s important that we regularly look for chances to experience life the way our students do, so that we can be empathetic to their situation. For me, it was learning how to sing. After months of voice lessons, I auditioned for the local theater’s summer musical and made the ensemble cast.

Take charge of your PD: There are many ways you can be proactive in your professional development (PD). Social media websites like Twitter and Pinterest provide an entire network of teachers seeking discussions and other opportunities to connect. On Twitter, the National Councils of Teachers of English hosted an educational chat on mentor texts where I learned about using New Sentences from The New York Times as a tool to help students analyze literature.

A simple way to take control of your PD is to read books on pedagogy. Ask a few of your coworkers to join you and start an informal PD book club. Any teacher would benefit from reading The Growth Mindset Coach by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley. This book provides an excellent month-by-month guide on how to create an atmosphere of improvement in your classroom.

Another classic way to develop professionally is to find a nearby education conference and interact with other teachers. Listening to inspiring keynote speakers and being involved in breakout sessions is a great way to re-energize and learn. When I went to the Mid-America Association for Computers in Education conference in Manhattan, Kansas, I learned about single-point rubrics, using memes as short writing assignments, and the glorious design capabilities of Canva.

Be kind to yourself: Practicing self-care is essential to your continual improvement as a teacher. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you cannot be the teacher your students need. By making good choices that lead to a healthy mind and body, you’ll enable yourself to have a happier teaching experience.

Ways to accomplish this include eating healthy, exercising, and doing activities that you enjoy outside of education. Yes, grading is important, but so is spending time with family, watching that new show, and walking the dog. To keep my head above water, I do guided meditations each morning using an app on my phone. This calms me down and lets me start each day fresh.

When trying to be a better teacher, the key is to not be hard on yourself. Teaching is a tricky and time-consuming job. No one has perfected it yet, and you won’t be the first. While improvement should always be somewhere on your radar, it doesn’t need to be a massive overhaul of your livelihood. Try even just one of these ideas for self-improvement.

2023 Audi Tt Rs Review: The Best Luxury Sports Car For The Money

2023 Audi TT RS Review: The Best Luxury Sports Car For The Money

I’ve never been a fan of the Audi TT, the shape is too bulbous for my liking and I’ve found previous generations underpowered. So, it’s fair to say I approached the 2023 TT RS with trepidation. Could this most-potent of the TT family win me over with its balance of practicality and performance?

I spent a week driving it around town, getting groceries — the trunk will fit a family of three’s weekly groceries with room to spare — running errands, and even taking my daughter to daycare in it. Surprisingly it will fit a rear-facing car seat in the back, albeit getting baby in the back required some flexibility on my part, on par with that of a Cirque Du Soleil contortionist. And while the back seat was useable for the baby, no adult above five feet tall, and possessing legs, could possibly sit back there in comfort. Rear seat qualms aside, as the week went on the strangest thing happened.

The TT RS started to grow on me.

With its compact size, Quattro all-wheel drive, and 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-five, it is fantastically maneuverable around town. It burbles nicely when you start it up, but isn’t loud enough to get the neighbors complaining as you drive down the street.

Audi claims it can reach 0-60 mph in only 3.6 seconds, not bad for a car starting at $64,900, and while I didn’t time it myself, reaching 60 and beyond comes rapidly and it certainly felt that quick. In fact when you really push it to its limits it performs beautifully. Gripping tenaciously around corners, and growling in a pleasing way that lets other motorists know to make way.

While most gear changes were as smooth as butter in day-to-day driving, I did experience some lurching gear changes from the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox when increasing speed to overtake on the freeway, as it tried to work out what I was doing. On the whole, though, it was fairly refined. Mid-range torque wasn’t quite as urgently present when in fully automatic mode, I’d guess to provide the average driver with a more comfortable experience, so I often put the TT RS in Sport Dynamic Manual mode, making each gear long and forgiving.

It’s actually a very easy car to drive. Some sports cars feel overly challenging, edgy, temperamental, and frankly exhausting by the end of a long day. Conversely, Audi’s TT RS certainly feels powerful around town, or on a day-trip through the mountains, but it’s also refined, comfortable and downright civilized. There were only a few time where the suspension felt a little too stiff, and those moments were mostly the fault of local councils and their proliferation of potholes.

The infotainment system was also greatly improved over previous Audi cars I’ve driven, and I was pleased to find Apple CarPlay had been included. However, since there’s no touch-screen, working your way through the menu felt onerous and not dissimilar to trying to operate your home computer using only the tab key. Former Audi owners will be familiar with this kind of operation on previous version of MMI; those new to it may not be so accommodating.

The Bang & Olufsen sound system was excellent, and handled everything from the sunny vocals of the cast of La La Land (my daughter’s current favorite) to the throbbing bass of Underworld’s dance anthems. I often had the sound system cranked as the road noise was certainly discernible.

While I’m still not in love with the exterior design, it has definitely been beefed up and looks more aggressive than previous generations. The wheel arches are more angular and the front end looks menacing. While the Nardo Gray has become of a bit of a signature color for RS cars in particular, the paint felt quite flat and benign to my eyes. Were I building my own, I’d have opted for the Catalunya Red Metallic, Vegas Yellow, or even the Ara Blue Crystal.

Regardless, I got more than a few compliments on the exterior styling while parking around town. Interestingly, almost all of the compliments I received were from guys in their early 50s, so perhaps Audi has got their targeting spot on… and I’m just in the wrong demographic? Even so, having gone into the week with a healthy dose of skepticism I found myself thoroughly enjoying the TT RS and wishing I could keep it a little longer. Consider me a convert.

2023 Lexus Gs F First Drive

2023 Lexus GS F First Drive

The car we’re seated in will arrive in showrooms in December, and when it does, it will continue the industry trend towards upmarket, increasingly niche segments. For its part, the luxe Japanese automaker has largely avoided following in the footsteps of the big German three in that regard. In many ways, the GS F will look to make its own way as well, all 2,000 of them slated to arrive in America.

Seemingly every Mercedes, BMW, and Audi has a corresponding AMG, M, S or RS model. Not one to be left out of the party, Lexus has played the variant alphabet-soup-game too, with F-Sport models adding distinct aesthetic touches, but the true performance F models have been limited to three. These include the IS F, the brand’s halo in the LFA supercar, and most recently, the RC F Coupe. And now? We’ve got a day to evaluate number four.

“Shouldn’t be more than twenty-five minutes,” I say, looking down at the nav. In retrospect, the impressions formed in that first half-hour in the morning may have been more important than those on track. While the GS F is the performance variant, we honestly can’t see anyone walking out of a dealership thinking “I’m going to track this.” Thankfully, Lexus doesn’t either.

The 2023 Lexus GS F is slated to be priced at $85,380 after delivery. That’s priced, not starting. We make the distinction because the GS F comes loaded with features, and the only options are orange brake calipers, or the fancier Mark Levinson audio system (audiophiles and creamsicle lovers, rejoice). That’s it. Again, Lexus is deviating from the course laid by the Germans, who offer attractive starting prices, but bundle most content and the options you want into pricey add-on packages that add features only as you pry open the wallet further.

In actuality, the GS F is more on par with very well-equipped versions of the Audi S6, or BMW 550i M Sport. Which brings us back to the directive of this car.

“It’s meant to be a fast road car, but capable on the track,” says Yaguchi-san, Lexus Emeritus Chief Engineer. That, it very much is. The GS F’s 5.0-liter V8 is good for 467 hp and 389 lb.-ft.—tuned and rebalanced from the RC F—and paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Peak power will arrive at 7,100 rpm, just below the 7,300 rpm redline. With a manufacturer estimated 0-60 mph time of just 4.4 seconds, and a quarter-mile time clocking in around 12.8 seconds, that’s a lot of metal—4,000 pounds worth—going very fast. And it’s track-capable, thanks to a few tricks.

First, engineers nailed the suspension. On the road, the GS F is composed, comfortable, and sporty when you want it to be. On the track, the GS F benefits from a torque vectoring differential, standard on all models. Two planetary gear packs in the rear help distribute torque to the optimal wheel, meaning more power is automatically transferred to the inside wheel when entering a corner, and sent to the outside wheel on exit. And it really works, too. During our laps of the circuit, race instructors toggled through the various settings, of which there are several.

First, there are the drive modes. Eco does what most Eco modes do: taper back throttle inputs and reduce the air conditioning in the name of saving fuel. Around town, Eco is your friend. Next is Normal, the name really gives it away. A Sport mode taps into the powertrain’s capabilities a little further, but it’s the Sport Plus (S+) mode that makes the GS F happiest. Here, throttle is maximized—with the Active Sound Control helping you appreciate the V8 with “desirable sound notes” piped right into the cabin—and even the electric power steering is wound a little more tightly.

Couple the drive modes with the TVD system—which boasts Normal, Slalom, and Track modes—and the GS F is a hyper-specific, precisely-tuned machine. In addition to TVD, Lexus has outfitted its top GS with a “G-Force Artificial Intelligence” system that detects driver inputs, and adjusts the car to maximize performance. If you’re hard on the throttle, it’ll detect that and ready higher gears for quicker upshifts, for example.

The 15-inch front and 13.58-inch rear brake calipers help the 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports cut speed without drama after Jarama’s long straight, just before the circuit’s hard-right. Picking speed back up in Sport Plus is easy, power comes on fast, and shifts between gears are smooth. All of this is to say that the GS F will drop a few genuine grins on your face if you do find yourself on the track. But for those that just want a luxury sedan with performance at the ready when they want it, you’ll find quite a lot to like.

Alluring sheetmetal and handsome styling, make the GS F stand out: large air intakes, the infamous spindle grille, LED lights, attractive quad-exhaust pipes in the rear, there’s a lot that helps distinguish the GS F on the road. Inside, unreasonably comfy seats, a beautiful 12.3-inch screen with attractive graphics, and the best head up display we’ve seen yet—sharp, visible in direct sunlight and with bold readouts—make the interior as nice as any in the segment.

Interestingly, when we asked Lexus why they didn’t opt for an adaptive air suspension, they said that while the technology was interesting, it didn’t meet internal reliability standards in testing. If nothing else, the GS F can count on the automaker’s long reputation for quality and reliability.

In many respects, the 2023 Lexus GS F plays by its own rules. The German competitors all count on turbochargers, while the Lexus goes the classic route with a large, naturally-aspirated V8. The Germans have air suspensions, Lexus makes a pliant one and calls it a day. Mercedes, Audi, and BMW have several content packages, Lexus gives you a loaded model and charges you up front for some of it.

In many ways, the Lexus GS F stands alone. And for the 2,000 buyers that will opt for one, the combination of sportiness, style, comfort, and technology will leave them happy. The GS F feels genuinely special.

2023 Ford Bronco Sport First Drive Review: Shockingly Capable

2023 Ford Bronco Sport First Drive Review: Shockingly Capable

The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is an exciting proposition, but it’s easy to misjudge. Unlike its bigger Bronco 2-door and 4-door siblings, Bronco Sport sits on a modified platform shared with the Escape crossover. But where the Escape is tailor-made for urban cruising, the new Bronco Sport is skewed towards outdoorsy owners who enjoy an active – dare I say wilderness-embracing – lifestyle.

In fact, it only shares 70 to 80-percent of the Escape’s underpinnings. The Bronco Sport trims the wheelbase by 1.8-inches, compared to the Escape, while measuring 173-inches long. That’s almost the same length as a Jeep Compass, making it a suitably small SUV despite how it looks in photos.

It even shares the same engine choices with the Ford Escape. The Bronco Sport Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks series have a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine EcoBoost engine, with 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft of torque. This small engine packs quite a punch while still getting 25 mpg city, 28 highway, and a combined average of 26. I suspect this engine will be the lion’s share of sales for most buyers.

It took spending half of my drive time pushing the 1.5-liter on a paved road and then off-road, to instill an unexpected sense of confidence that the Bronco Sport is, despite my fears otherwise, no Escape. Even more surprising, I’m left with the suspicion that most of the time it’ll prove just as capable as the 2.0-liter engine.

That 2.0-liter turbo-4 is exclusively found in the Bronco Sport Badlands and First Edition, where it offers 245 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque. Expect 21 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway highway, and 23 combined. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission; unlike the manual option in the bigger Bronco, this is the Bronco Sport’s only gearbox.

Also exclusive to the Badlands and First Edition models are the steering-mounted paddle shifters. The two upper trims get additional coolers, too, for their transmission and the rear drivetrain. That, Ford says, should ensure better performance during more intense off-road sessions.

You’d be happy to know that all Bronco Sport models get all-wheel-drive as standard, though not every trim gets the same system. The base and mid-tier models borrow a similar AWD system to that of the Ford Escape, albeit with new software to maximize its off-road capabilities. Unlike in the Escape, the Bronco Sport’s flavor of the AWD system is more serious in transferring power to the ground, instead of muting the engine response to improve traction.

Along with their bigger engine, the Badlands and First Edition models get a unique torque-vectoring differential in their rear axle. The twin-clutch system can transfer up to 100-percent of available torque, as well as acting as a limited-slip and locking differential, by locking the transmission in first gear.

Key to its unexpected talents are the GOAT off-road driving modes. GOAT stands for Go Over Any Terrain, and Bronco Sport has no less than five driving modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand) in the base and mid-trim models, while the Badlands and First Edition models get two extra driving modes, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl. Ground clearance ranges from 7.9 to 8.8-inches, depending on the trim, while the Bronco Sport can wade through 17.7 to 23.6-inches of water, depending on tire size.

When I say this is novice-friendly, I don’t mean it as a snub: in fact, Ford has done its best to make taking the Bronco Sport off the asphalt as unintimidating as possible. The optional Trail Control is a good example of that, essentially an off-road version of cruise control. When engaged, Trail Control can max out at 20 mph going forward (or up to 6 mph in reverse) while the system handles the throttle and brakes. It allows you, the driver, to focus on steering the vehicle when climbing over mud ruts or dunes, and proved more than useful during my test drive along a very technical trail in the Hungry Valley Vehicular Recreation area.

Towards the end of our test drive, I drove the Bronco Sport First Edition off-of a 34-degree cliff and survived to tell the tale. While Ford didn’t let me drive it back up, one of Ford’s hotshot drivers scaled the Black Diamond-level hill ascension, and the SUV didn’t break a sweat.

As for the styling, there the Ford Bronco Sport surprised me again. Pictures don’t really do it justice, especially right next to the full-fat Bronco coming midway through next year. The compact footprint and upright design give it a rugged stance, while the step-up roof design is reminiscent of old Land Rover Defenders. It has iconic round headlamps, short front and rear overhangs, and flat body sides.

“Honesty and robustness were two keywords we kept in mind in designing the Bronco sport,” Brian Paik, Ford senior exterior designer, explained. “So even if Bronco sport is more compact, we wanted it to communicate off-road authenticity without trying too hard like other small SUVs in the market.”

Now, I know it and Ford knows it: most of the time, the Bronco Sport will live on the road, not the trail. Happily there it lives up to expectations of an easy-going daily driver. The interior has more combined legroom than a Mazda CX-30, Jeep Renegade, or Toyota RAV4 – despite having a shorter wheelbase than the Escape – while thanks to the step-up roofline, the Bronco Sport has more second-row headroom than virtually any other compact SUV in the market today.

It’s also impressively practical, and the cabin is brimming with thoughtful features. The trunk door has a separate opening glass hatch, handy when loading smaller items without lifting the entire door. THe Bronco Sport offers up to 32 cu-ft with the rear seats up, large enough to accommodate oversized beer coolers and camping gear – or a big family grocery shop.

The rear compartment is large enough to store up to two 27.5-inch mountain bikes, thanks mainly to that distinctive roof design. Lifting the back door reveals a pair of adjustable LED floodlights to make loading and unloading in the dark more manageable. The compartment also has carabiner straps, while the front seats have zippered seatback pockets for additional storage. You even get a handy bottle opener in the cargo area.

All trim models of Bronco Sport also get Ford Co-Pilot 360 with standard blind-spot warning, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision assistance with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and rear cross-traffic alert. The optional Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ throws in adaptive cruise control, navigation, lane centering, and evasive steering.

In my opinion, the most desirable trim is the Bronco Sport First Edition, though since it’s sold out as of my writing you’ll have to hope your nearest dealer stumbles across a spare. The First Edition essentially combines the capabilities of a Badlands with the interior of an Outer Banks; that means you get both the larger 2.0-liter engine, and a more refined cabin. It also gets unique wheels and some decal striping on the sides.

Consider me surprised. As it turns out, Ford’s 2023 Bronco Sport is not a softer version of its highly-anticipated Bronco sibling. Instead, it’s a smaller and modern interpretation of the original Bronco, pairing distinctive retro personality with strong capabilities both on and off-road, without sacrificing on the tech and creature comforts we expect from today’s small SUVs. Factor in pricing starting at under $30k, the Bronco Sport undercuts the competition with its potent mix of everyday drivability and competent off-road manners.

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