To help members understand the latest automotive technology so they can purchase vehicles that best suit their needs, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center (ARC) began testing and reviewing vehicles over a decade ago
For the 2023 edition, we include testing and ranking cars and light trucks with the latest technology, including having at least one advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) feature. In addition to vehicle evaluation, the guide covers a number of pertinent automotive topics in detail—for example, the latest advanced safety features, how to properly maintain your vehicle, and new vehicles coming to market in the next few years.
The iX, BMW’s first all-electric SUV, is an impressive vehicle. It delivers dramatic styling, performance, comfort, and technological sophistication in spades. An example of the latter: The iX makes extensive use of carbon fiber–reinforced plastic in its frame. About the size of the X5, the iX looks more substantial, largely because of its bold, hunky shape (including its somewhat polarizing grille).
Equipped with two electric motors (516 hp), the iX’s drivetrain supplies plenty of power, including abundant low-end torque. The steering provides ample feedback, and the optional adaptive air suspension nicely balances a compliant ride with responsive, sporty handling. Smooth regenerative and traditional friction braking deliver strong stopping power. All-wheel drive is standard.
The iX’s cabin features plenty of space front and rear, plus interior storage compartments and cargo room aplenty. Both the exterior and interior materials and fit and finish are first-rate. The iX’s EPA-estimated range is high (324 miles), as is its fuel efficiency (86 MPGe).
Prospective buyers should be prepared to pay handsomely for this largesse, however. The iX’s starting MSRP is $84,100, and that number rises quickly with options, of which there are plenty. Other negatives worth noting: an unintuitive infotainment system, poor rear visibility, and annoying glare from reflective interior controls and instrumentation. Finally, some ADAS features (adaptive cruise control, for example) are extra-cost options, not standard.
The EQS 580, the electric equivalent of Mercedes-
Benz’s iconic S-Class sedan, is an impressive car that
demonstrates the automaker’s level of commitment to an
The EQS is Mercedes’ first model from its all-electric EQ sub
brand. The 580, with 2 electric motors and all-wheel drive, sits
in the middle of the EQS lineup, above the 450+ single-motor
version and below the AMG EQS. It overflows with all the luxurious
appointments, in-car tech, and ADAS features typical of the brand
and that any buyer shelling out $140,000 has a right to expect.
Not everyone is on board with the EQS exterior styling, but
there’s no disagreement about its performance capabilities. Its
efficient drivetrain produces excellent acceleration and power,
with lots of low-end torque, although overall handling and
drivability fall below that of the S-Class sedan. The ride quality is
comfortable, smooth, and silent; hardly any road noise enters the
cabin. MPGe ratings are good, and the overall EV range is a strong
The Rivian R1T is an innovatively designed, versatile
electric pickup with lots of power and many clever
features. Our test truck came with a powerful and responsive quadmotor
setup - a single motor per wheel - good for more than 800 hp
and 4-wheel drive.
The R1T’s cabin provides plenty of room for passengers. The
steering has a good overall feel, and the adaptable air suspension
delivers a comfortable ride - rare among pickups. Unique features
include Camp Mode, Pet Comfort Mode, and Soft Sand Mode. An
excellent lineup of ADAS features is standard. Road and drivetrain
noise intrude into the cabin, however.
The EV range is good - more than 300 miles if you’re not towing
a heavy load - but the large, 135-kWh battery requires long Level 2
charging times. Clever features include a gear tunnel between the
cabin and bed, suitable for snowboards, camping gear, and the like;
an automated, camera-based security system; a power-retractable
tonneau cover; and a good-size front trunk. The auto self-leveling
suspension provides a level camping surface atop uneven terrain.
The R1T’s enormous 16-inch infotainment screen can prove
distracting, however. And, oddly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
connectivity are unavailable. We also noticed a fair amount of
squeaks and rattles during our testing, indicative of early buildquality
issues. Finally, the panoramic sunroof has no shade option,
and rear visibility could be better.
The iX, BMW’s first all-electric SUV, is an impressive
vehicle. It delivers dramatic styling, performance,
comfort, and technological sophistication in spades. An example
of the latter: The iX makes extensive use of carbon fiber - reinforced
plastic in its frame. About the size of the X5, the iX looks more
substantial, largely because of its bold, hunky shape (including its
somewhat polarizing grille).
Equipped with two electric motors (516 hp), the iX’s drivetrain
supplies plenty of power, including abundant low-end torque. The
steering provides ample feedback, and the optional adaptive air
suspension nicely balances a compliant ride with responsive, sporty
handling. Smooth regenerative and traditional friction braking deliver
strong stopping power. All-wheel drive is standard.
The iX’s cabin features plenty of space front and rear, plus interior
storage compartments and cargo room aplenty. Both the exterior
and interior materials and fit and finish are first-rate. The iX’s EPAestimated
range is high (315 miles), as is its fuel efficiency (86 MPGe).
However, the infotainment system is nonintuitive and visibility to
the rear is poor. Additionally, some ADAS features (adaptive cruise
control, for example) are extra-cost options, not standard equipment.
Prospective buyers should be prepared to pay handsomely for this
largesse. The iX’s starting MSRP is $83,200, and that number rises
quickly with options, of which there are plenty. But, as the saying
goes, you get what you pay for, and in the rarefied realm of luxury
SUVs, the iX delivers the goods.
In 2022, Kia replaced its venerable Sedona minivan with
a new model, the Carnival. With handsome SUV-like
styling, a roomy, minivan-esque interior, and a pair of sliding side
doors for easy access, the Carnival does a nice job of straddling the
line between the 2 divergent body styles.
The Carnival’s comfortable cabin seats up to 8 passengers and
can haul nearly 87 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row.
As with all Kia models, there’s a long list of standard features and
available niceties, including, on our test vehicle, 3-zone automatic
climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and a rear-seat
Under the hood, the Carnival gets a strong V6 engine (versus
the trend toward turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engines by many
automakers). Fuel-economy numbers are just so-so, and there’s a bit
of throttle lag, but this powertrain has the muscle to tow trailers up
to 3,500 pounds.
On the road, the Carnival’s ride quality is a bit bumpy over bad
pavement, and steering feedback and braking effort feel less than
responsive. Nonetheless, a suite of standard advanced safety
features and a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty
make the Carnival a strong value proposition.
The Chevrolet Bolt, introduced in 2017, is a
no-nonsense, practical electric vehicle with many
admirable qualities. The Bolt has a powerful electric drivetrain and
smooth transmission, giving it quick acceleration and zippy lowend
torque. It’s also highly efficient, producing solid fuel-efficiency
numbers (120 MPGe combined) and a decent, 259-mile range.
Regenerative braking makes 1-pedal driving a convenient option.
The cabin has been upgraded, with comfortable front seats,
an intuitive infotainment interface (including Apple CarPlay and
Android Auto compatibility) and lots of standard ADAS and tech
features, such as LED headlights. Getting in and out of the front
seats is easy, and there’s plenty of legroom. Forward and side
visibility is good as well.
Some of the Bolt’s shortcomings are inevitable, given its size
limitations and price point—but other features could be improved.
For instance, in the performance department, the suspension feels
harsh over bumps, and the stiff tires are noisy and lack grip.
Behind-the-backseat cargo space is lacking, as is interior storage.
And unless they’re kids, backseat passengers will experience
tight accommodations and stiff, uncomfortable seats. Finally, the
transmission shift pattern is a bit quirky and DC fast-charging rates
The Camry, introduced in 1983, is typically the top-selling sedan
in the U.S. It’s generally among the 10 best-selling vehicles, and its
numerous strengths have helped it earn and maintain its elevated
Three things that make the Camry not only a desirable car but
also a very good value (the base nonhybrid’s price starts at just over
$26,000) are its efficient drivetrain; its smooth, comfortable ride; and
its abundance of space for passengers and cargo. The hybrid version,
with its fuel-sipping ways (up to 52 mpg combined) and smooth gaselectric
transitions, only increases its appeal.
Other positives are nicely improved exterior styling (particularly
the refreshed Nightshade edition we tested) and the standard Toyota
Safety Sense 2.5+ suite of advanced safety features (blind-spot
warning with rear cross-traffic warning still costs extra, though).
But a few of the Camry’s traits could stand some improvement.
The engine is noisy at full throttle, the infotainment system is
outdated, and the Camry lacks features found in some competitors
(e.g., heated and ventilated seats, backseat climate controls). Rear
visibility is compromised by a high rear deck and fixed rear head
restraints, and the rearview camera image isn’t sharp.
Finally, although many Camry owners couldn’t care less - their
loss - the Camry lacks any type of excitement or driver engagement.
It’s just not an interesting or fun car to drive.