Adrenaline Injection

By Derek Price

The Toyota GR Corolla is a testament to automotive alchemy, transforming the traditionally staid Corolla into a fire-breathing hot hatch that will leave enthusiasts grinning from ear to ear.

After a week behind the wheel of the Premium trim, it’s clear that Toyota’s GAZOO Racing division has created something truly special.

At the heart of this pocket rocket is a turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine that defies expectations. Despite its diminutive size, this powerplant churns out a whopping 300 horsepower and 273 pound feet of torque, figures that would have been impressive in a V8 not too long ago. The low-end grunt is particularly astonishing, with boost coming on strong and early, catapulting the GR Corolla forward with startling urgency.

Paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, the GR Corolla delivers a visceral, engaging driving experience that’s becoming increasingly rare in today’s automotive landscape.

The shifter action is precise and satisfying, with well-defined gates that make rowing through the gears a joy. An automatic option is not available, thank goodness. It would undoubtedly dilute the raw, connected feel that makes this hot hatch so special.

The 2024 Toyota GR Corolla’s subtle yet aggressive styling belies its potent performance capabilities, making it the ultimate sleeper hot hatch.

On twisty backroads, the GR Corolla comes alive. Its rally-derived all-wheel-drive system, which can split power between the front and rear axles in various configurations, provides tenacious grip and allows for impressive cornering speeds. The steering is direct and communicative, giving you the confidence to push harder with each successive bend.

Visually, the GR Corolla strikes a balance between aggression and subtlety. In the neutral gray paint of my tester, it doesn’t scream for attention like some of its more extroverted rivals. Instead, it’s a sleeper that will surprise unsuspecting sports car drivers at stoplights.

Functional vents and a subtle rear spoiler hint at its performance potential without crossing into boy-racer territory.
Inside, the GR Corolla is more focused on function than luxury. The supportive sport seats hold you firmly in place during spirited driving, and the digital gauge cluster provides all the necessary performance information at a glance.

While not as plush as some competitors, the interior feels well-built and purposeful.

Surprisingly, the GR Corolla isn’t as punishing in daily driving as one might expect from such a performance-focused machine. The ride is firm but not brittle, and road noise is kept reasonably in check. That said, it wouldn’t be my first choice for long highway slogs or if comfort is your top priority.

While not luxurious, the GR Corolla’s focused interior puts all necessary controls at the driver’s fingertips, with supportive seats ready for both spirited drives and daily commutes.

Fuel economy, rated at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, is respectable given the performance on tap. However, enthusiastic driving will quickly see those numbers plummet.

At $42,132 as tested, the GR Corolla Premium represents strong value in the hot hatch segment. It undercuts some European rivals while offering comparable (or superior) performance. Standard features are generous, including a premium audio system and advanced driver aids.

The GR Corolla isn’t without faults. Some interior plastics feel a bit cheap, and the infotainment system, while improved, still lags behind the best in the class. Rear seat space is also tight, a reminder of the Corolla’s compact roots.

But these are minor quibbles in the face of the GR Corolla’s overwhelming charm. It’s a car that makes you seek out the long way home, that begs to be driven hard, and that proves Toyota can still build thrilling driver’s cars when it puts its mind to it.

For enthusiasts lamenting the demise of affordable performance cars, the GR Corolla is a beacon of hope. It’s a hot hatch that punches well above its weight, delivering supercar-rivaling thrills in a practical, relatively affordable package.

The fact that it wears a Corolla badge makes it all the more remarkable.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Toyota GR Corolla Premium ($39,920). Options: Special color ($425), carpet floor mats ($289), door sill protectors ($179), frameless HomeLink mirror ($175), cargo net ($49). Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $42,132
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length: 173.6 in.
Width: 72.8 in.
Height: 58.2 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter three cylinder (300 hp, 273 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 21 city, 28 highway


Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 6
Handling: 9
Ride: 6
Comfort: 3
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?

It offers blistering performance, rally-bred all-wheel-drive grip, and surprising daily usability in a package that won’t break the bank.

Posted in Toyota

Rugged Practicality

By Derek Price

The 2024 Honda Passport is a study in pragmatism, a vehicle that, for the most part, eschews frills in favor of sheer usefulness.

Refreshed for the new model year with updated styling, improved off-road chops and a more versatile interior, this midsize SUV is tailor-made for weekend warriors who prioritize cargo space and reliability above all else.

Slip behind the wheel and the Passport immediately impresses with its cavernous interior. With over 50 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row, this Honda can swallow gear for even the most ambitious adventures.

The rear load floor is low and flat, making it a breeze to load bulky items. For those who frequently haul messy cargo, the Passport’s durable floor covering is a welcome touch.

On the road, the Passport’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is a smooth and willing companion. With 280 horsepower on tap, this Honda has no trouble merging onto highways or passing slower traffic. The nine-speed automatic transmission delivers seamless shifts, making the most of the engine’s ample power.

However, that potent V6 comes with a notable thirst for fuel. During my week of mixed driving, I averaged just over 20 mpg, a figure that trails more efficient four-cylinder rivals. For buyers who rack up serious miles, the Passport’s fuel economy could prove a significant long-term expense.

Rugged styling updates give the 2024 Honda Passport a more adventurous look, hinting at its off-road potential and spacious, utilitarian interior.

Honda has tuned the Passport’s suspension for a firm, controlled ride that errs more towards capability than outright comfort. While the ride never felt harsh, it didn’t quite soak up imperfections with the supple refinement of some competitors.

The upside is confident handling for a vehicle of this size, with minimal body lean in corners and a planted feel on the highway.

Inside, the Passport’s cabin prioritizes function over luxury. The materials are hardy and well-screwed together, but some of the plastics feel a bit hard and utilitarian compared to more upscale rivals.

Still, everything operates with a reassuring heft, and the controls are laid out with intuitive simplicity. This is an interior built to withstand years of abuse from muddy boots and soggy camping gear.

The Passport’s standard equipment roster is generous, with even the base EX-L model offering features like leather upholstery, a power moonroof and a full suite of driver assistance technologies. However, the lack of a more basic, affordable trim level may turn off buyers who don’t need or want all the bells and whistles.

The 2024 Honda Passport’s cabin focuses on functionality and durability, with ample cargo space and well-built, if not overtly luxurious, materials.

For those seeking maximum off-road capability, the TrailSport model adds rugged hardware like an off-road tuned suspension and all-terrain tires.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to push the TrailSport to its limits, its extra wheel travel and standard all-wheel drive should make it a formidable companion for modest off-grid excursions.

Ultimately, the 2024 Honda Passport is a vehicle for pragmatists, those who prioritize dependability, utility and resale value over coddling luxury or pulse-quickening performance.

It’s not the most refined or fuel-efficient option in its class, but its spacious interior, strong reliability record and solid driving dynamics make it a compelling choice for adventurous families.

Including the destination charges, pricing starts at $43,295 for the well-equipped EX-L and tops out at $49,365 for the more upscale Black Edition. The Transport occupies the middle rung of the Passport ladder at $45,895.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Honda Passport AWD Trailsport ($44,500). Options: Sonic gray paint ($455). Price as tested (including $1,375 destination charge): $46,330
Wheelbase: 110.9 in.
Length: 189.1 in.
Width: 78.6 in.
Height: 72.2 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (280 hp, 262 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19 city, 24 highway


Style: 9
Performance: 8
Price: 7
Handling: 9
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Why buy it?

It offers a winning combination of versatility, capability and reliability, making it an ideal choice for active families who prioritize practicality over pampering.

Posted in Honda

Smooth Operator

By Derek Price

The Lexus RX has long been a favorite among luxury crossover buyers, and for 2024 it continues to prioritize the traits that have made it a winner.

With a striking Copper Crest paint job and aggressive styling, my RX 500h tester certainly turned heads. But after spending some time behind the wheel, I couldn’t help but wonder if the F Sport treatment was more of a mismatch than a perfect pairing.

Under the hood, the 500h packs a punch with a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and electric motors that deliver a combined 366 horsepower. The powertrain is smooth and responsive, offering ample acceleration when needed.

However, the sportier suspension tuning and massive 21-inch wheels of the F Sport Performance model detract from the RX’s traditional strengths of comfort and refinement.

That’s not to say the RX isn’t a pleasant place to spend time. The cabin is a sanctuary of luxury, with high-quality materials and excellent build quality. My tester’s black leather interior with dark graphite aluminum accents felt both modern and inviting.

The 2024 Lexus RX’s bold styling turns heads, but its aggressive looks belie the crossover’s emphasis on comfort and isolation over athleticism.

The available 14-inch infotainment screen is a standout feature, with intuitive controls and crisp graphics that make navigating the system a breeze. Lexus has finally hit the mark with its technology interface.
Other notable features on my test vehicle included the expansive panorama glass roof, which bathes the interior in natural light, and the Panoramic View Monitor that provides a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings.

These touches elevate the driving experience and make maneuvering the RX in tight spaces a stress-free affair.

On the road, the RX 500h showcases the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship and engineering. The hybrid powertrain delivers seamless power while returning an impressive 27 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Passenger space is generous, with ample headroom and legroom for rear-seat occupants. Cargo capacity is similarly accommodating, aided by the conveniences of a low liftover height and available power folding rear seats. For families and empty-nesters alike, the RX’s versatile interior is well-suited to the rigors of daily life.

A focus on craftsmanship and intuitive tech define the 2024 Lexus RX’s plush, well-appointed cabin.

On the safety front, the RX impresses with its standard Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 suite of driver aids. Features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist provide welcome peace of mind.

The available Digital Key and Advanced Park systems showcase Lexus’ commitment to convenience and cutting-edge tech.

However, the RX’s plethora of available features quickly inflate its price tag. While the base model represents strong value, the higher trims can approach six-figure territory with options. At that point, the RX faces stiff competition from sportier European rivals that offer more engaging dynamics and premium badges.

Yet for many buyers, the Lexus RX’s unimpeachable reputation for reliability and resale value will trump any concessions to driving excitement.

This is a crossover that excels as a hassle-free, long-term ownership proposition. Its greatest strength lies not in pulse-quickening performance, but in its ability to effortlessly integrate into owners’ lives with minimal fuss.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD ($62,450). Options: AC outlet ($550), cold area package ($250), convenience package ($1,670), heated and ventilated rear seats ($1,230), premium LED headlamps ($1,565), panorama glass roof ($500), 14-inch interface ($1,105), premium paint ($595), kick sensor and tow package ($870). Price as tested (including $1,350 destination charge): $72,135
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 192.5 in.
Width: 75.6 in.
Height: 67.32 in.
Power: 2.4-liter turbo engine plus electric motors (366 total system horsepower)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 27 city, 28 highway


Style: 8
Performance: 7
Price: 5
Handling: 6
Ride: 8
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Why buy it?

With its serene ride, premium cabin, and reputation for dependability, it’s a refined choice for buyers prioritizing fuss-free luxury and long-term value over sporty dynamics.

Posted in Lexus