Feature Stories

First drive: 2018 Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence Hybrid in the UAE

First drive: 2018 Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence Hybrid in the UAE

Building a luxury car brand is hard. It’s even harder when you’re trying to reinvent an existing brand as a luxury contender. Volvo used to be a purveyor of safe automobiles, slightly premium in price due to their Swedish sourcing. Some thought that the Chinese buying out the carmaker would be a bad thing. But things couldn’t be better once Volvo left previous-keeper Ford’s shadow. Starting with the all-new XC90 a few years ago, Volvo’s offerings have become premium enough to compete with the best that Germany has to offer. When it was first launched here though, the XC90 only came in T6 guise,

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First drive: 2018 Fiat 500 Abarth 595 in the UAE

First drive: 2018 Fiat 500 Abarth 595 in the UAE

It’s not often that on-a-budget car enthusiasts in the GCC actually get what they ask for. But there are good times ahead. The next-gen Ford Focus is coming here, and with it an updated ST surely. There is a Honda Civic Type-R test car running around Dubai. And then there is this one — the Fiat 500-based Abarth 595. There is now an official Abarth showroom in Dubai, and we somehow snagged one for a brief drive around town.

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First drive: 2018 Infiniti QX30 in the UAE

First drive: 2018 Infiniti QX30 in the UAE

There was a time when “crossover” simply meant a vehicle that straddled two segments, like a lifted station-wagon or some such, for light-duty offroading such as gravel trails and beaches. It soon evolved into a massive segment filled with SUV-looking vehicles that were still light-duty offroaders at best. But Infiniti brings back the old formula with the Q30-based QX30. Ever seen those hatchbacks in dirt rallies? How cool would those be as a daily driver?

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Comparo: 2018 Toyota Camry Grande vs Honda Accord 2.0T Sport

Comparo: 2018 Toyota Camry Grande vs Honda Accord 2.0T Sport

Midsize sedans are increasingly being sidelined in the face of the crossover revolution. Many manufacturers are starting to give up on the segment, but there are two that have been consistently successful — the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Both have been launched in all-new forms for the 2018 model year, with launch events held at the same location in Dubai, and only a month apart, as if aligned by some cosmic intervention. These two stalwarts have undergone massive changes, with one bringing back the V6 and the other one going full turbo. Seeking to answer the “which is better”

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First drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz V-Class in the UAE

First drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz V-Class in the UAE

The minivan segment may be dying, but there are quite a few players trying to keep it alive. Honda, Chrysler and Kia offer the only mainstream ones in the GCC. Toyota does a jurassic-era fleet-spec one. BMW and Opel offer a couple of poorly-received ones. And then there is Mercedes-Benz, who have converted a commercial van into a luxury people-carrier, much like what Volkswagen did with their Transporter Multivan.

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First drive: 2018 Honda Accord in the UAE

First drive: 2018 Honda Accord in the UAE

The Honda Accord has been doing perennial battle with the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima. Somewhere along the way, the Accord gained a reputation for being a “bit more premium,” possibly due to higher pricing or because the other two started showing up in taxi fleets around the UAE. But while all previous Accords really were just direct rivals to the other two, the new-for-2018 Accord really does pull out all the stops, and finally justifies its rep as being a “bit more premium,” as we found out on our short drive.

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First drive: 2018 Ferrari Portofino in Italy

First drive: 2018 Ferrari Portofino in Italy

It seemed a no-brainer that Ferrari would launch the Portofino in the picturesque northern Italian fishing village after which it is was named. However, company execs say Portofino is a ghost town in winter – everything shuts down – so instead we find ourselves in Puglia, in the south eastern tip of Italy, for our maiden acquaintance with Maranello’s all-new drop-top that replaces the California T.

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First drive: 2018 MG RX5 and MG ZS in Oman

First drive: 2018 MG RX5 and MG ZS in Oman

Believe it or not, China’s state-owned SAIC is actually one of the biggest carmakers in the world, as they are wildly successful in their fast-growing home market. About a decade ago, they purchased MG Rover, turning the once-British maker of family cars, sports sedans and iconic sports cars into a mainstream maker of, well, family cars. MG’s first crossover was the GS, launched in the GCC a couple of years ago. They’ve now added to the portfolio with the RX5 and the ZS, both compact crossovers roughly the same size as the existing GS.

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First drive: 2018 Volvo XC40 in Italy

First drive: 2018 Volvo XC40 in Italy

Volvo is on a roll at the moment. Since it was taken over by Geely back in 2010, some skeptics thought it was the beginning of the end for the semi-premium Swedish car manufacturer. But since the launch of the XC90, Volvo has come back on the radar in a big way as a properly premium brand. After launching the impressive XC60 recently, the Swedes have taken on a new segment, the lucrative Compact SUV market, with the launch of the all-new Volvo XC40, currently dominated by the Germans.

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