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2024 Kia EV6 First Drive: The New Electric Benchmark

The first chance that any car gets to make an impression is with its styling. Long before reviewers start trying to get rear tires to break loose, or bury themselves ten menus deep in touchscreens to surmise a car’s real capabilities, we appraise its sheet metal for a glint of insight into the design briefs or – deeper still – its true purpose. At this, the all-new 2023 Kia EV6 — the company’s first electric-only model — got me excited long before I’d slid into the driver’s seat.

Just look at it. It visually sits somewhere between a crossover and a wagon, but no matter how you appraise it, it’s stunning.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Kia has built electric cars in the past with the EV Niro and Soul, but this is the company’s first clean-sheet design. It’s part of why the EV6 can afford to be so bold. Based on the E-GMP EV architecture shared with sister company Hyundai – and used on new Hyundai Ioniq 5 – the EV6 is not just Kia’s latest offering to electric car shoppers, it’s a statement of intent to critics, consumers, and competitors alike that they can electrify with the best of the legacy and new-wave automakers, and look good doing it.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

After I’d pulled myself away from the heckeblende tail lights and double-scalloped hood to surmise its spec sheet, it turns out the EV6 makes a solid statement on paper, too. Kia will offer it with three different drivetrains: The “Light” base model trim punches out 167 HP to solely the rear wheels, whereas the higher tier “Wind” and “GT-Line” trims can be optioned with either a single 225 HP motor driving the rear wheels, or a pair of AC synchronous motors — one at the front and one at the rear — putting out a combined 320 HP and a more-than-respectable 446 foot-pounds of torque.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Base buyers will find themselves with a 58 kWh battery rated at 232 miles of range, while the higher-trim Wind and GT-Line are rated at up to 310 miles on a single charge of their 77.4 kWh power pack. Additionally, Kia’s fast-charging system can add over two hundred miles of range in 18 minutes assuming you can locate a 350 kW charger, which will help reduce travel times drastically when 310 miles alone just won’t quite cut it. A port at the rear offers an alternative way to use power, providing a 110V outlet capable of delivering up to 1,900 watts with an adapter, though you can’t – yet – plug the EV6 directly into a home’s breaker board to overcome outages.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Pricing is competitive for the electric car market. Kia comes within extremely close range of nearly every competitor it hopes to put a shot across the bow of: the EV6 starts at $40,900 (plus $1,215 destination fee) for the Light trim, climbing to $55,900 for the fully-loaded twin-motor GT-Line AWD. Unlike with the Ioniq 5, Kia will sell the EV6 in all 50 states from the get-go.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

No matter which trim buyers choose, they end up with a roomy vehicle that neatly straddles the line between wagon and crossover. With 50.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, and a Telluride-length wheelbase of 114.2″, it has the size of a crossover, but – with its 60.8″ height, excellent forward visibility thanks to its low hoodline, and car-like seating position – it feels like driving a wagon. Buyers also get neatly integrated, dual 12.3 inch screens that serve as the instrument cluster and the infotainment and navigation displays. CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard, albeit only with wired connectivity. Wireless charging, however, is standard from the base model up.

Kia

More impressive than comfort, though, is the suite of safety features on the EV6, which comes standard with Kia’s unobtrusive yet phenomenally helpful Drive Wise assist package. Navigation-assisted cruise that automatically slows down on sharp corners, one of the best lane keep systems on the market, and stop-and-go traffic cruise control are all standard from the base Light trim level.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Buyers moving up to the GT-Line trim get standard blind-spot cameras that display via the instrument cluster on turn signal activation, as well as 360 degree parking cameras. In its fully-optioned form, it’s almost difficult to drive the EV6 dangerously thanks to how comprehensive and well-integrated the Drive Wise system is.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

But I’ve found that with a lot of the EV market’s current offerings it is nearly impossible to glean how a car will actually behave from the numbers on the page, or the features in the cabin. ICE cars all have some familiar traits I’ve learned — a turbocharger’s tsunami of torque when it spools, a V8’s earthmoving grunt at low RPM — but this early into the days of electrification it’s hard to surmise just how any given car will feel simply by glancing at some numbers. To help me learn just what the EV6 is made of, Kia tossed me the fobs to a pair of GT-Lines and set me loose in wine country.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

And in the AWD, fully-loaded GT Line with Sport mode engaged, acceleration is downright stunning in true EV party-trick form, with .75 maximum G’s upon launch. What’s more impressive, though, is how well-composed the EV6 stays after it pulls off the line. As I continued to push the EV6 well past where a typical crossover should stay composed, it actually felt enjoyable to drive.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

There’s hardly any body roll to speak of, and the AWD does an excellent job scrambling for maximum grip, allocating power to the corners that need it most without hesitation. The electronic power steering is sharp and, combined with the extremely strong regenerative braking, helps move the 4,600 pound wagon around like it weighs a fraction as much.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Switching back to “Normal” or “Eco” modes, though, with their less-harsh regenerative braking mode engaged, makes it a vastly more sedate, comfortable crossover. In Eco, the acceleration becomes downright leisurely and efficient, thanks to a novel electric front motor clutch that allows the drive unit on the front axle to disengage when not needed. Additionally, despite the lack of body roll and general composure I found at the limit earlier in my drive, the suspension remains one of the most comfortable I’ve found at this price point when meandering through the hills of Northern California on the 101.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Road and tire noise is minimal, and that comfortable, car-like seating position makes eating miles a cinch. With the driver-assist package engaged, it’s a pleasure cruise, especially ensconced in the vegan artificial leather the GT-Line is equipped with.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Unfortunately, despite my joy at finding the EV6 had both poise and comfort in motion, I had a few gripes with the ergonomics of the interior. The 12.3″ main screen is a touch-activated unit, and while it’s integrated beautifully in the dash, it is simply too far from the driver to be easily used while driving. The center console holds the capacitive-touch panel that activates seat and steering climate controls, and while it’s easier to reach, it’s also incredibly easy to bump accidentally with the palm of your hand while trying to adjust the climate control panel directly above it.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

The Meridian sound system that the GT-Line is equipped with trails behind many other branded audio systems on the market, with a disappointing top end and minimal bass. And at a lanky 6’2″, I found my head a bit uncomfortably close to the roofline, which made the EV6 feel a lot less roomy than I’d expect for a car of this size.

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

Victoria Scott / SlashGear

As a result, the EV6 is an easily recommended must-test for a prospective EV shopper. It seamlessly combines the best attributes of a crossover and a wagon in one of the most attractive cars of the decade thus far, and does so at a price point that is extremely competitive. For Kia, it seems, the first time putting electric first is the charm.

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2024 Kia Telluride First Look: Family Suv Meets Premium Flexibility

2024 Kia Telluride first look: Family SUV meets premium flexibility

Kia has been quietly building a reputation for some of the best ways to carry a family around, but the 2023 Kia Telluride is more keen to shout about it. The three-row SUV was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show this week, promising both design and functionality specifically tailored to the US market.

That market loves big SUVs and it needs to transport up to eight people at a time, and the 2023 Telluride checks off both those boxes. In spending some time with the new Kia in Detroit this week, we discovered there’s more to the Telluride than just another midsize SUV.

It’s a bold design, one which Kia itself isn’t afraid to describe as “boxy” in fact. That may not be a word car designers might typically like to have attached to their vehicles, but it’s a sign that the 2023 Telluride is all about practicality first. That’s not to say it isn’t stylish in its own way.

From the front, the big grinning grille and unusually rimmed headlamps leave it more memorable than many SUVs of the class. Kia isn’t stinting on branding, either, with both its own badge and the Telluride name writ out large across the hood. From the side, there are hints of Bentley Bentayga to the rear three-quarters.

The back is as squared-off as the front, the hockey-stick rear lamps brackets that only serve to emphasize the width of the SUV. Again, that’s with good reason: Kia is underscoring that this is a practical vehicle with easy load-space.

Inside, though, practicality hasn’t forced out comfort. The Telluride’s dashboard is wide and simplistic, with pleasant open-pore wood and brushed silver metallic trim. The switchgear feels solid and well-made, while the aesthetic could easily be mistaken for that of a car in the premium segment above. An optional 10.25-inch widescreen display sits atop the dash, while the steering wheel’s crisp buttons do nothing to dilute the luxury feel.

Usable space is, again, the status quo. Easily-dropped seats in the second and third rows, plenty of grab-handles and storage nooks, and a general feel of airiness. Head deep into the options list and you can add things like heating and ventilation for the first and second row seating, as well as a useful broadcast system that pipes the driver’s voice through to those in the back.

Whichever you choose, you get a 3.8-liter V6 GDI engine, which Kia rates for 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and with 262 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is plenty of active safety tech. We’re particularly pleased to see that blind spot collision assistance and smart cruise control are standard, regardless of whether you opt for the Telluride LX, EX, S, or SX trims.

Kia has, deservedly, built a reputation over the past few years for family cars with personality. The 2023 Telluride arrives to bring more style and interest than, say, a Sedona to the school pick-up, with a healthy level of standard equipment and a keen focus on what buyers in this category want. The only thing left to find out is just how much it will cost, when the new Telluride arrives in dealerships later this year.

The Best Electric Guitars Under $500 Of 2023

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Written By Julian Vittorio

Updated Apr 28, 2023 11:57 AM

Thanks to the instrument’s rich history, decades of design and development, and the prevalence of high-quality CNC machining, it’s never been easier to find an electric guitar under $500. Unlike the budget guitars of years past—which often suffered from issues with durability, tuning stability and overall playability—approachable electric guitars today are built to precise standards and designed for comfort and reliability above all else. Whether you’re looking for an affordable way to build your existing guitar collection or you’re shopping for a beginner-level instrument, a sub-$500 electric guitar is a great way to get very close to the sound and feel of the pro-level instruments after which they’re modeled while spending less than half the money. In this article, we’ll dive into the best electric guitars under $500 currently available and detail what sets them apart from the crowd.

How we chose the best electric guitars under $500

When selecting the best electric guitars under $500, we combined personal musical and production experiences, as well as the opinion of trusted peers, published critics, and online user impressions. We also considered a handful of criteria when compiling our list, beginning with the sound of a guitar, so we selected products that are capable of delivering some of the most versatile and well-known tones from popular music throughout history. In the case of purely electric guitars, the tone is dictated largely by the pickup configuration, while the acoustic-electric guitar’s body and pickups both contribute equally to its sound performance.

The design and materials of an electric guitar in general play a significant role in the overall playability of the instrument, so we aimed to select electric guitars with woods, finishes, and designs that are easy to play and comfortable to hold. But great instruments are becoming more affordable every day, so we made sure to select instruments that offer the best price-to-performance ratios available, whether as a standalone guitar or as a part of a bundle. Finally, brand reputation goes a long way in determining whether an electric guitar is likely to satisfy its users. Manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, and Martin have decades of experience under their belts, and their sub-$500 instruments are designed specifically to emulate their more expensive guitars at a friendlier price.

Related: Best guitar tuners

The best electric guitars under $500: Reviews & Recommendations

Why it made the cut: The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster pulls off the clarity, responsiveness, and unmistakable twang of a vintage Tele at a wallet-friendly price.

Specs

Pickups: 2 x single-coil Alnico

Scale Length: 25.5 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Pine body

Pros

Timeless and versatile single-coil electric tone

Comfortable modern C-shaped neck profile

Stylish hardware and wood finish

Cons

Relatively heavy, weighing an average of 9 pounds

Gloss neck finish may feel “sticky” to some players

Frets may require edge filing out of the box

The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is one of the best guitars under $500 currently available, boasting a build quality and finish that prove you don’t have to spend a fortune to find an instrument that sounds, feels, and looks fantastic. It’s built from a sturdy and rather heavy combination of pine and maple and comes in two distinct polyurethane body finish options (white blonde or butterscotch blonde) paired with a black pickguard to closely emulate the look of Fender’s legendary “black guard” Telecasters from the early 1950s. The guitar’s two single-coil Alnico pickups gracefully deliver Fender’s timeless palette of warm and woody tones at the neck coupled with a bright and snappy bridge sound, and its modern C-shaped neck features a 9.5-inch radius to maximize comfort and ease of playability.

Overall, Fender’s quality control of the Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is excellent, but its price point corresponds to a relative lack of attention to some small finishing details. While any guitar can benefit from a professional setup to ensure that it performs at its best, small issues like sharp, unfinished fret edges and high string action may make a setup more or less a necessity for this Telecaster straight out of the box. Some players may also find its glossy neck finish a bit too grippy, but this is mostly a matter of personal preference and shouldn’t affect playability for the majority of guitarists. Still, if you’re open to a bit of initial maintenance and setup, the Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is built to sound and feel nearly identical to more expensive models like the Fender Player Telecaster, making it a fantastic way to enjoy one of music history’s most versatile and ubiquitous instruments on a budget. If a Stratocaster is more your style, consider the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster by Fender from the same product line.

Best acoustic-electric: Little Martin LX1E

Why it made the cut: The Little Martin LX1E is a convenient travel-sized acoustic guitar built from durable laminate wood and equipped with a built-in pickup for amplification.

Specs

Pickups: 1 x Fishman Sonitone piezo pickup

Scale Length: 23 inches

Materials: Birch laminate neck, Spruce top, Mahogany laminate back and sides

Pros

Rugged medium-density fibreboard construction

Spruce top delivers powerful projection in spite of its small size

Includes a padded gig bag for easy transport

Cons

The small body delivers less low-end than full-sized acoustics

Recessed truss rod requires a special tool for adjustment

Built-in tuner is sometimes slow to respond

The Little Martin LX1E’s compact frame, impressive unplugged volume, and easy-to-use electronics make it one of the best acoustic-electric guitars available under $500. As the most affordable acoustic-electric model in the legendary Martin company’s product line, the LX1E is a short-scale travel-friendly instrument composed primarily of a tough wooden fibreboard that’s as cost-effective as it is durable. The guitar features the same traditional solid spruce top found on the best full-sized acoustic guitars, like the Martin D-10E and D-18, which gives the LX1E outsize volume and projection performance for its relatively shallow body. A single 1/4-inch jack and a built-in Fishman pickup allow players to connect the guitar to any PA or amplifier and enjoy clearer and fuller amplified sound than can be achieved with a microphone. 

Like other Martin guitars, the Little Martin LX1E comes with a non-standard truss rod, so you’ll need to purchase a specific wrench to make neck adjustments. Because of its small dimensions, the LX1E also lacks some of the round and open low-end resonance that’s typical of standard-sized acoustic guitars. Though its unplugged sound is bright and woody with plenty of projection, amplifying the LX1E by plugging it in is the best way for players to enjoy a more traditional and full bass response from the guitar. If you have a bit more to spend, the slightly larger body cavity and solid back and sides of the Martin 000Jr-10E deliver a similar unplugged sound with some added low-end presence. But if you’re on a budget, the Little Martin LX1E offers some of the best sound and performance available anywhere in the sub-$500 range.

Why it made the cut: This short-scale bass from Squier has a classic and stylish design that’s comfortable to play and delivers a rich low-end thump that’s ideal for a wide range of musical styles.

Specs

Pickups: 1 x Alnico split single-coil

Scale Length: 30 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Nato body

Pros

Punchy single-coil pickup delivers timeless and versatile bass tones

Short 30-inch scale is comfortable for smaller players

Bone nut offers greater sustain and tuning stability than plastic

Cons

Requires a setup out of the box for optimal performance

Single pickup provides limited tone-shaping options

Prone to low-volume electrical hum in certain situations

The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is one of the best bass guitars under $500 thanks to its combination of superb build quality, punchy tone, and easy-to-play design. Its single split-coil pickup configuration is similar to that of the legendary Fender Precision Bass, delivering a comparable tonal range that’s appropriate for almost every musical style from rock to R&B. Like other basses in the Mustang product line, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang is a short-scale instrument, measuring in at 30 inches from nut to bridge. This smaller scale, combined with the neck’s C-shaped profile, gives the bass an accessible guitar-like feel in the hands that makes it easier to play than standard full-sized basses, especially for players with smaller hands. Despite its small size, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass offers up plenty of beefy low-end and defined attack with excellent sustain and tuning stability thanks to its real bone nut and string-through bridge design.

Like other instruments in this price tier, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass will perform and feel its best if it’s given a proper initial setup. This may involve neck and bridge adjustments, fret filing, and other small considerations that are overlooked on the production line. The bass may also be prone to buzzing audibly when players’ hands aren’t in contact with the strings, which may catch new owners off guard despite being a fairly common occurrence in the world of electric guitars. All in all, the Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is an incredible option for a punchy and straightforward tone, but If you’re looking for a wider palette of sound options, the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass is a solid, similarly priced alternative to consider.

Best beginner: Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Pack

Why it made the cut: The Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack is built around a dual-humbucker Les Paul Special-II electric guitar and includes all the accessories a beginner needs to get started.

Specs 

Pickups: 2 x open-coil humbuckers

Scale Length: 24.75 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Alder body

Pros

Includes gig bag, amplifier, strap, cable, and more

Dual humbucker configuration offers a variety of tones

Comfortable 24.75-inch scale suitable for beginners

Cons

Small 10-watt amp limits tonal options

Quality control of components necessitates initial adjustments

Barebones accessories may lack long-term durability

Assembling all the mandatory accessories for an electric guitar can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to begin. This all-inclusive Player Pack from Epiphone includes everything you need to hit the ground running—including an amplifier, cable, strap, gig bag, and tuner—making it one of the best values on the market for beginning guitarists. The Epiphone Player Pack is built around the Les Paul Special-II, a solid body electric guitar with a dual-humbucker pickup configuration capable of a wide range of sounds suitable for rhythm and lead guitar. Like the Gibson Les Paul after which it’s modeled, the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II features a 24.75-inch scale that’s a little easier to play than the more common 25.5-inch scale found on guitars like the Fender Telecaster. This, combined with the neck’s flat 12-inch radius, make the Les Paul Special-II perfect for playing chords, basic lead lines, and getting acquainted with the instrument overall.

The star of this bundle is definitely the guitar itself—while the inclusion of an amp and cable presents a great value, the low price point of the bundle is reflected in the limited durability and overall quality control of the accessories included. For example, the 10-watt amplifier features a relatively small 6-inch speaker that’s great for basic practice but lacks the detail, volume, and tonal range of more substantial designs. Other components—like the cable, strap, and gig bag—aren’t as durable as other options on the market, but they should hold up fine to light use. In short, the Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack is an absolute steal for any beginning guitarist, but expect to need to upgrade the amplifier, cable, and other accessories down the line if you want to continue growing your relationship and developing your performance with the instrument.

Why it made the cut: The Donner DST-100R is an incredibly affordable budget electric guitar that’s capable of a wide range of sounds and comes with a ton of extras.

Specs 

Pickups: 2 x single-coil, 1 x humbucker

Scale Length: 25.5 inches

Materials: Maple neck, Basswood body

Pros

Stratocaster-style electronics offer a range of classic guitar tones

Amplifier, cable, and other essentials included

Easy-to-play C-shaped neck with satin finish

Cons

Budget-level build quality affects longevity

Issues like jagged frets make some initial user setup mandatory

Tuner, amp, and other accessories have limited functionality

If you’re shopping for an electric guitar below $200, the Donner DST-100R is one of the better budget values currently available on the market. Consisting of a Stratocaster-style electric guitar bundled with an amplifier, gig bag, tuner, capo, and more, the DST-100R offers a good balance of sound, value, and functionality that will be adequate for most players who are starting from scratch. The guitar itself is built from solid basswood and features two single-coil pickups and a humbucker in the bridge position, giving users access to five different tonal variations suitable for a variety of musical styles. The DST-100R’s C-shaped maple neck features a smooth satin finish that’s comfortable to play and conducive to rapid movements and quick fretting.

The Donner DST-100R offers good build quality and machining overall, but the durability and finish of the components make it more of an instrument to start with and graduate from than anything else. It suffers from a few issues commonly found at this price point like unfiled fret ends, but some users have reported quality control issues like cold solder joints and loose connections as well, which would make a setup all but mandatory. Critical accessories, like the amplifier and tuner, offer a barebones user experience that should suffice for learning, but you’ll definitely want to upgrade them for anything other than simple practice use.

Things to consider when buying one of the best electric guitars under $500 What size of guitar do you need?

Not all electric guitars are the same size, so it’s a good idea to consider and compare the arm length and hand size of the prospective player to the scale length and neck profile of the guitar before making a purchase. The measurement from a guitar’s nut to its bridge is known as its scale length, with the most common electric guitar scale being 25.5 inches. Gibson and Epiphone guitars like the Les Paul Special-II have a 24.75-inch scale length, which makes them a little more compact and requires less reach while playing. Scale length differences are even more pronounced in electric bass guitars, where the most common length is 34 inches. For this list, we picked the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass as the best bass guitar under $500 in part thanks to its shorter and easier-to-play 30-inch scale.

Do you need to purchase accessories?

Electric guitars require amplification to function properly, so you’ll need to factor in the extra cost of at least an amplifier and a cable when buying a guitar under $500. Some electric guitars, such as the Les Paul Special-II, come in a bundle with everything you need to get started. Opting for an electric guitar bundle can be a cost-effective way to stay within your budget but the quality and durability of the accessories usually pale in comparison to more expensive piecemeal items.

Related: Universal Audio guitar pedal comparison: Which amp emulator is right for you?

What style of music will you be playing?

Every type of electric guitar has its own unique sound. For most pop, rock, and R&B-based styles, a classic solid-body electric guitar like the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster will cover nearly all the bases. If you’re aiming to play pop, folk, or country styles of music, an acoustic-electric guitar like the Little Martin LX1E may be a better choice thanks to its bright, shimmery tone that’s perfect for strumming. Electric bass guitars are arguably the most versatile option since they offer a sound that’s appropriate for almost every musical style, but they’re very different in function and musical role than a standard guitar.

FAQs Q: How much do electric guitars cost?

Electric guitars can cost anywhere from around $100 up to the tens of thousands of dollars for vintage and collector-grade instruments. Thanks to the reliability and quality of modern machining, low- to mid-tier instruments are much better today than they were even a couple of decades ago, so it’s not hard to find a guitar under $500 that will sound great and last for years.

Q: Do electric guitars need amps?

While you can certainly play an electric guitar unplugged, electric guitars need amps to be heard at any volume louder than human speech. Acoustic-electric guitars are the exception to this rule, since they’re usually designed to produce moderate sound levels without the need for an amplifier.

Q: Do acoustic-electric guitars sound different?

Apart from nontraditional designs, the vast majority of acoustic-electric guitars sound identical to normal acoustic guitars when unplugged. When amplified, acoustic-electric guitars have a unique sound that’s usually bright, clear, and somewhat compressed.

Q: Do electric guitars have batteries?

Most electric guitars don’t have batteries due to being equipped with passive pickups, which are powered by the guitar’s connection to an amplifier. However, the piezoelectric pickups found in most acoustic-electric guitars are active designs that require a battery to produce sufficient electrical signal.

Q: What are the three types of electric guitars?

The three types of electric guitar design are solid body, semi-hollow, and hollow body constructions. Solid-body guitars like the Fender Telecaster are the most commonly found type of electric guitar and offer good sustain with minimal potential for producing feedback. Semi-hollow guitars typically incorporate hollow chambers and solid inner blocks of wood to produce a warmer and rounder sound than a solid body guitar. Hollow body guitars are popular for traditional styles of music including jazz thanks to their unique and woody resonance.

Final thoughts on the best electric guitars under $500

For our money, the best electric guitar under $500 overall is the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster, thanks to its vintage looks, timeless sound, and great build quality. The Squier by Fender Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is fantastic for the same reasons and it’s much smaller and easier to play than a standard-sized bass guitar. If folk music is more your thing, the Little Martin LX1E is one of the best acoustic-electric guitars under $500 due to its travel-sized frame and loud volume projection. To save money on accessories, consider an all-in-one beginner package like the Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Pack or the Donner Electric Guitar DST-100R, which both feature solid-body electric guitars bundled with an amplifier, cable, strap, and more.

Related: Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster review

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

2024 Ford Gt First Drive: When Brute

2024 Ford GT First Drive: When brute-force and beauty collide

There are few moments in life so memorable that they burn deep into every single fiber of your body. For me, one such moment came the first time my index finger pushed up against the 2023 Ford GT’s ignition start button. Two years after the GT’s shock unveil at the 2024 North American International Auto Show, the build-up of anticipation until I was behind the wheel and seated inches in front of the mid-mounted 647 horsepower, 550 lb-ft of torque twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine could’ve gone one of two ways. As the hardly-tamed beast roared to life, would the GT live up to its supercar promise?

To understand the new GT properly, you first have to go back. Far further into the history books than this car’s unexpected Detroit reveal, and all the way to the 1960s and the original Ford GT40. A Le Mans winning middle-finger from the American automaker to its European rivals, it earned a place in the history books, and how. Ford resurrected the name in 2004 with the first-generation GT, making just over 4,000 of a car that clung so closely to the original’s appearance that it bordered on the pastiche.

Nobody could accuse this, the second-generation GT of being retro. Sharing nothing with the first-gen car but its name and a few aesthetic cues, its inspiration isn’t so much in design or engineering as it is ethos. Just as the original GT40 was intended to coax the best of American ingenuity into a racetrack-storming Ferrari-squasher, the 2023 GT pits the pinnacle of 21st technology up against a classic nameplate for a thoroughly modern, no-compromise supercar.

Jab that milled metal starter button, and all your senses are assaulted at once. This moment for me was existential. I took a deep breath to allow everything to soak in, knowing that I’ve spent my entire career – and especially the past week – preparing for it.

Existentiality doesn’t get you far on the track, though, so the practical rushes in to replace it. Normally, I’d start with adjusting the seats but in the GT they’re fixed to the carbon fiber tub. Instead, the pedal box extends forward or back, the equivalent of wearing a suit that’s been tailored just for you. With curb weight at the forefront of their collective mind, the engineers bypassed the electric motors you’d expect to find making the adjustment in a “luxury” supercar, opting instead for a simple pull-cord mechanism.

That efficiency carries over to adjusting the steering wheel. It’s a two-step process: a lever under the steering column allows for forward and back movement, and then once it’s where you want it, a lever on the right allows for finer tilt adjustments. The bottom of the wheel itself is flat and, short of the paddle shifters, every single control – including the left and right blinkers – lives on its compact body. According to Christopher Svennson, design director for Ford Motor Company America, the whole thing was “modeled after a racing wheel,” where the primary focus is keeping the driver’s hands in place.

It’s one small detail, but it’s an example of the degree of obsessive consideration Ford paid to every aspect of the new GT’s design. Weight cuts are another instance, the engineers having considered the possibility of paring back everything they could in the chase for minimal mass, yet discovering in the end that sometimes it pays to add weight in order to maximize performance in the end. Indeed, just opting for minimal weight ironically slowed the GT down.

“The adjustable ride height adds weight to the car. It also makes the car faster,” Jamal Hameedi, Ford Performance Chief Engineer explained to me. “We studied deleting the system saving significant weight and the car was slower, so a lot of these features, while they add weight to the car, they also make it faster. This is one feature where on a system level, moving the seat is lighter than having to move the steering column that much, as well as moving the pedal box. But again, that was critical enabler to get that frontal area down.”

The most important control on the wheel is up on the left, an aluminum cog that switches through the drive modes. Each mode changes both the car’s driving dynamics, and the appearance and information shown on the fully digital instrumentation. It’s actually the 10.1-inch panel from the Lincoln Continental, but that’s where the similarities end.

“We toiled hours and hours and hours on this display,” Hameedi told me, “to the point where I got so tired showing up to these meetings, I never want to see another digital display just because we spent so much time on it.” While the engineers could have added every bell and whistle and turned it into what Hameedi refered to as a “video game”, that’s absolutely not what Ford wanted to do. Instead, they took the minimalist approach, with only the most pertinent information making it to the surface for each of the five drive modes: Normal, Wet, Sport, Track, and V-Max.

“V-Max is interesting because we came up with the mode, we never intended to have a V-Max mode,” Hameedi revealed. “I think this is kind of a nod to the engineers over a beer or two… wouldn’t it be cool to put the car in low ride height but not deploy the wing, to have the lowest drag setting. Just like the nose lift, it didn’t cost anything more, it didn’t add any weight to the car, but we’re using the tools and the features on the car to create a new configuration.”

In V-Max mode, speed is prominently placed in the center with critical temperatures and engine data on the right of the display. In track mode, there’s an oversized gear indicator for the seven-speed PowerShift dual-clutch transmission. While out on the track, though I mainly stayed in 3rd and 4th gear, I did notice that even when unwinding out of a tight turn, with my eyes focused down the straight or searching for the corner, it was nonetheless easy to see the display out of my peripheral vision. Making it even easier, Ford put gear shift notification lights into the top of the steering wheel, a row of colored LEDs that come on when you switch to manual shifting.

In Sport mode – which is more intended for road driving – the current gear remains prominent in the center, with the speedometer flanking it on the right. Finally, for Wet and Normal drive modes, current gear is pushed to the side, yielding its spotlight to the mph indicator. The overarching hockey-stick-style tach remains consistent through all the drive modes.

The rest of the cabin is near-brutalist in its simplicity. The dashboard itself is a narrow band that runs the width of the cabin, punctuated in the center with a 6.5-inch touchscreen running SYNC 3. It’s easily reached by both driver and passenger, and offers the same navigation, audio, and app suite you’d be familiar with from an Edge or Focus. Two USB ports are underneath, along with a tray roughly the width of an iPhone or Galaxy S8.

Plug in an Android device and mount it on the windshield, and Ford’s track app for the car will overlay driving and engine metrics on top of a first-person view for the camera. You’ll be able to share those results on social media, too, as if having access to a GT in the first place wasn’t bragging-rights enough.

Physical knobs control the HVAC system, again milled out of metal. However, keeping the cabin cool presented a problem, since there was virtually no room in the car to snake the ducting. Cleverly, the engineers integrated the necessary pipework directly inside the molding of the carbon fiber tub, eliminating additional parts and weight in the process.

Aerodynamics defined the shape of just about everything. The cockpit has an extreme front-to-rear taper, Svensson explained. To keep airflow adhering to the fuselage without becoming turbulent. The subsequent teardrop shape meant keeping the seats fixed – not to mention low down in the body – was the only option for maximum interior space. You’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you.

You won’t care, just like I didn’t, because the vista ahead of you is panoramically awesome. The A-pillar is almost non-existent, unlike in the first-gen GT, and taking one tight turn is all you’ll need to immediately appreciate the meticulous care that Ford put into this design. Back then, the A-pillar was an extruded aluminum section; now, it’s part of the integrated roll cage – composed of tubular high-strength steel – which is built into the upper cockpit. It meets both FIA and global road car safety requirements.

Why, you might be asking, would Ford want an integrated roll cage? It’s another example of that perverse “adding something to remove something” strategy in the same vein as the adjustable suspension. As Hameedi explains it, the roll cage helps to cut down on redundant structure for the GT racer. Without the integrated cage, the GT racing car would have to double-up: it would get both the structure of the road car, in addition to racing safety hardware. Early on in the development process, Ford made the conscious decision to only use the FIA certified roll cage as the basis of the roof, for all GT production vehicles. “It adds a little bit of weight to the road car,” Hameedi says, “but it makes the racing car much lighter.”

The result is around 3,000 pounds, and all of it worshiping at the twin-altar of aerodynamics and suspension. They’re “the two magical things about this car,” Hameedi says, and I can’t argue with him.

“We wanted to make the air flow,” Hameedi explains, “and everything else followed after that.” It starts with a front end inspired by the “keel-suspension” design found in Formula 1 and Le Mans cars. Like those racers, the GT uses unusually-long lower control arms to move the attachment points inboard, while the springs and dampers are packaged inside the car’s body and actuated by pushrods. This leaves gaping voids on either side of the radiator to move air through the body and generate downforce.

The GT’s pushrod-actuated inboard suspension, with its primary torsion bars and secondary coil springs, is fiendishly complex in turn. What it really boils down to is that, in Track mode, the car is nearly as low as the Le Mans-winning GT racer. Normal ride height offers 120mm ground clearance, while the low ride height is 70mm; the race car dips down to as low as 57mm. Since Le Mans drivers don’t have to worry about speed bumps, the road-going GT has a very useful nose-lift feature: hit a button and, in a fraction of a second, the front of the car pops up to 170mm.

It was Track mode I selected as I took my place in the pits at Utah Motorsports Campus. The 2.2 mile course at the former Miller Motorsports Park is punctuated with a wide variety of challenging turns, an excellent foil to test the GT’s promise of extreme stickiness on the asphalt. Then you plant your right foot, and any awareness of technology, engineering prowess, or wind tunnel shaping is blown from your brain.

The Ford GT is quick, of course. Purists may have decried the decision to go with a smaller-displacement twin-turbo V6 rather than a big, naturally-aspirated V8, but frankly the latter woudn’t have fit in the car. If it comes down to choice of compromising on “tradition” or not having the GT exist at all, I know what I’m choosing. Really, though, the V6 versus V8 argument is gloriously irrelevant.

0-60 mph comes… fast. Ridiculously fast. Ford is only saying “under 3.0 seconds” and wasn’t allowing any sort of time trial equipment to be used, but acceleration like a runaway cruise missile is more than sufficient to put numbers-on-paper out of your mind. At the same time, there’s a jump-jet howl from the turbochargers behind you. The GT doesn’t roar like a V8 might, it screams like an enraged banshee. As the LEDs on the wheel tick rapidly up to the redline the Valkyrie war-cry doesn’t stint; it’s almost a relief to snap the upshift paddle and feel the gearbox snick lag-free to the next ratio.

Then you’re back on the throttle, and the whoosh of the twin-turbos as they gulp that carefully-channeled air begins all over again. Before you know it, you’re stamping hard on the brake pedal and marveling as the carbon-ceramic brakes work in tandem with the active aero – the rear wing, which can crank up on two pleasingly-beefy looking pistons, flipping upright to act as an airbrake – to shed speed. No twitching, no jitter; no bucking side to side across the lane. Ford’s achingly-refined downforce system sees the underside of the GT act as a massive vacuum, sucking the front axle to the track and sending you hurtling around corners like a particle round CERN.

Yet this is no computer-tamed version of speed and performance. Everything about the GT is communicative, and it glories in its mechanics. The steering – electromechanical, naturally – is heavily-weighted, piping details of every twist and ripple of the road back to your hands. Every spray of gravel as you risk more and more aggressive turn-in sends a staccato hiss through the cabin, the GT’s minimal acoustic insulation holding little back.

Not that you’d want to tame the GT. After my all-too-brief time with the car on the track, a ride-along with one of Ford’s racing drivers underscored just how relentless the car can be. Yet even at its gory, howling best, the GT flatters: it wants to go fast, and it wants to help you go fast, and as long as you don’t do anything stupid the two of you can drive like little else on the market.

I hope, from the deepest depths of my envious soul, that those who buy the new Ford GT don’t just leave it in their museum-garage. It may be striking to the eye, not to mention – with a final production run capped at just 1,000 cars – rarer than the Lamborghini Aventador S, McLaren 720S, and Ferrari 458 it’s been compared to, but it would be a travesty not to see the fruits of Ford’s labors prove their worth on the track. With three-quarters already accounted for, and competition likely to be fierce among those who can afford the sticker and convince Ford that they’re suitable candidates for the remaining 250, I doubt I’ll ever see one in the wild. No matter. It’s a modern-day icon, a Le Mans-winning champion, and the halo car that puts Ford Performance on the map.

Photography by Chris Davies

I Rode An Electric Motorcycle For The First Time. Here’s What I Learned.

The Zero FX electric motorcycle is an exciting machine with a top speed of 85 miles per hour and enough acceleration to frighten yourself if you twist aggressively enough on the throttle.

But as a relative beginner to the motorcycle world, I didn’t ride it anywhere near its maximum speed when I had the chance to check it out for about a week in November. I’d never driven an electric motorcycle before, and a sense of curiosity coupled with pandemic-induced boredom urged me to try it out for rides in Manhattan (while another, very present feeling of caution urged me to do so carefully).

I’m not the only one hopping on a two-wheeler these days: Sales of new motorcycles and scooters are up by about 10 percent in the third quarter of this year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. That bump is a smaller version of a large surge in bicycle sales.

If you’re curious about climbing onto one—whether as an alternative to public transportation during COVID, for fun, or some combination of those reasons and others—here’s what I learned as a beginner on a fancy new electric motorcycle.

The Zero FX

A standard-issue gas-powered motorcycle requires that its rider shift gears by pulling in the clutch with your left hand and changing gears with your left foot.

But an electric motorcycle strips away that requirement. Because you don’t need to shift, operating it is a cognitively easier task for a beginner like me. The Zero FX I rode, like other electric bikes, is operated simply by rolling on the throttle in your right hand. The rear and front brake controls are in their usual spots—engaged using your right foot, and right hand, respectively.

Because you don’t need to shift, accelerating is an easy, linear experience—twist that throttle and zoom forward. That allows you to zip away from any cars that you think might be encroaching into your space, but it also means that you can scare yourself if you twist it too much. Also, it’s very quiet—it makes a whirring sound when you drive it, and when you’re sitting still with it turned on, it’s completely silent. It’s wise to stay ready with the horn to warn others that you’re there. The common motorcyclist phrase “loud pipes save lives” doesn’t apply here.

The bike was taller than I initially felt comfortable with—the seat height is 34.7 inches—and when I was on it, I could only touch the ground with my toes; its height made swinging a leg over it harder than I expected, and backing it into a parking spot was also a little challenging. But I found that my initial intimidation with the machine faded as I rode it around my neighborhood, and the fact that it felt maneuverable and easy to swerve around with helped me become more comfortable on it.

The Zero FX ZF7.2 starts at $11,295. Zero Motorcycles

If you’re thinking of buying an electric motorcycle, here’s what to keep in mind: You’re obviously going to need to charge it. If you have a garage or other easy way to park and plug it in, that’s a simple problem to solve. If you live in a city—and the Zero FX felt great for cruising around one—then you’re going to need to think carefully. I live in an apartment building and parked the bike on the street, so had no way to recharge, meaning that I had to rely on what was already in the battery for the time I borrowed it. While the model I was using has an integrated battery, the same bike comes with a modular configuration. That means you can remove the battery to bring it inside and then charge it—but it weighs 42 pounds. That’s rough if you live in a walk-up.

Bottom line if you’re thinking about an electric motorcycle: It’s a great option for a beginner, because you don’t need to worry about shifting, and it can be a great way to commute or run errands around the city or suburbs, too. The range on the model I had was 91 miles, making short trips easily accomplished for days on end between charges, but of course you’re not going to easily take it on a road trip. Plus, the starting price is steep: $11,295 for the non-modular version. And beyond the Zero offerings, another famous electric motorcycle comes from a classic brand: Harley Davidson’s LiveWire, which begins as $29,799.

Keep in mind, though, that starter internal-combustion motorcycles are so much cheaper—they might cost you somewhere around $4,000 (like for a Honda Monkey) or $4,600 (for a Honda Rebel) or more, depending on what you want.

Getting started

Of course, a dual-sport electric motorcycle is just one option out of a myriad of two-wheelers out there, and they come in different types: The basic categories include standard motorcycles, sport bikes, dirt bikes, and others.

Riders should follow the ATGATT protocol when on the bike: Wear “all the gear, all the time.” Roselle Chen

“Unlike cars, motorcycles are very individualistic,” Yu says. Besides the issues of ergonomics, what you need it for, and the relatively new electric-vs-gasoline question, there’s also a question of style and even the culture of where you live. That individualistic nature is “kinda the joy of it,” she says. That differentiates buying a bike from purchasing a simple car like a Toyota Corolla or Subaru Forester—you’re thinking more about comfort, capability, and image than you do with a four-wheel vehicle.

Last but definitely not least, she recommends taking a safety class, which can pave the way for getting your license. A good place to look for those is through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or the website for your state DMV. I took a basic class twice, so had plenty of time to learn in the relative safety of a small parking lot in Queens, New York. Those experiences helped me feel comfortable with the basics of operating a standard motorcycle like a Suzuki, but also jumping onto that zippy Zero when I had the chance.

Last month I had the chance to check out an electric motorcycle from Zero. Here’s a look at what it’s like to cruise around the block on it. (Note! Both the video and audio have been sped up more than twice as fast.) chúng tôi Rob Verger (@robverger) December 9, 2023

This story was originally published on December 9, 2023.

2024 Audi S3 First Drive: The Compact Sports Sedan Gets Fiercer

2024 Audi S3 First Drive: The compact sports sedan gets fiercer

You don’t have to put the 2023 Audi S3 next to its A4 sibling to see that, in fitting Halloween style, the resemblance is spooky. Audi’s feisty little sedan has been satisfying eager drivers wanting the punch of the company’s excellent turbocharged engines with the reassurance of its quattro all-wheel drive since 2013. Now, sitting – for the moment, at least – atop a mid-cycle refresh of the whole A3 range, it’s getting a little more expensive and a lot more personality.

The A3 line is an important one for Audi. With roughly 20,000 sales in the US annually, and 30-percent share of its class, it’s the top-seller int the A segment. More importantly, arguably, is that it’s the gateway to the Audi brand: almost three-quarters of buyers come from mainstream automakers.

Of the bunch, the S3 is the most entertaining – for now, at least – though all of the models are getting a refresh for the 2023 model year. The A3 sedan has a new grille flanked by Xenon or LED headlamps (opt for the latter if you want the dynamic swooshing rear turn signals that look so good on the A4 allroad) while the s-line body package is now standard on the Premium Plus car as well the the more expensive Prestige.

Audi’s excellent 2.0-liter engine with 186 horsepower and 221 lb-ft. of torque replaces the old 1.8, and the 2023 A4 donates much of its technology. That includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay options, the chance to have Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, and a 705 watt B&O audio system. Leather seats and a panoramic sunroof are standard.

In the A3 Sportback e-tron, meanwhile, there’s new signature lighting on the fascia and unique displays on the Virtual Cockpit. You still get a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain, good for 16 miles of all-electric driving and 380 miles of total range. That’s 83 mpge city/highway, or 34 mpg on gas alone.

The real gem of the line-up, though, is the 2023 S3. As with its siblings, the changes have been moderate – it’s only three years since the car was launched, after all – but it gets the same exterior A4-inspired design improvements as the A3 sedan. LED headlights are standard, as are quad tailpipes.

Throw in 19-inch wheels and some bright new paint options, including the eye-catching yellow from the TT, and you’ve got a car that does a better job of standing out than before. That continues inside, where you now find the Virtual Cockpit rather than the old car’s analog dials – on the Prestige, at least – complete with a Sport mode view that includes lap timer functionality and other software tweaks donated from the R8.

Best, though, are the optional S Sport seats. With their oversized bolsters and diamond stitching, they look more like bodyguards in Prada catsuits than chairs, but they’re deeply comfortable and supportive, particularly with their adjustable thigh support. Combined with the smattering of extra trim on the dashboard for the 2023 car, not to mention the flat-bottomed sports wheel, and the whole interior escapes the minimalist-bordering-on-spartan feel of the old S3.

What hasn’t changed is the engine. That’s still a 2.0-liter TFSI, with 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque. It’ll do 0-60 mph in 4.7, at least by Audi’s self-confessed conservative timings, with a 155 mph electronically-limited top speed. Transmission is still a six-speed DCT, and you of course get quattro all-wheel drive.

Indeed, it’s the quattro system where the changes have been made this time around. The S3 team raided the new TT and TTS, with fresh in-house software for the all-wheel drive system. Now, the Drive Select modes of Dynamic, Auto, Comfort, and Individual also affect how the quattro behaves: in Dynamic, for instance, more power gets pushed to the rear, and the S3 won’t be so quick to cut that power if you’re oversteering.

One of the charms of the original S3 was how usable its power was. You don’t have to be going at breakneck speeds – or fall foul of speed traps, for that matter – to coax some fun out of the car. Happily, that eagerness to please has been carried over to the 2023 S3.

In Comfort, you still get the expected smooth ride and surreptitious gear changes. Rear seat space may be less than the A4 – Audi says most A3 buyers are couples with no kids – but there’s still room for adults back there unless they’re unusually tall. In short, you get about 90-percent of the A4 experience.

I’m not going to tell you to ignore that, but I am going to suggest you save it for transporting your in-laws. The S3 is happiest in Dynamic mode, and so was I. Not only does it trigger the new quattro settings, but it automatically sets the transmission into Sport mode.

The result is a punchy little sports sedan that romps through corners and whizzes down straights. The TT and TTS’ influence is clear: the new S3 really does feel like a four-door version of Audi’s excellent coupes.

All that comes with a starting price of $42,900 for the S3 Premium Plus and $48,400 for the S3 Prestige. Maxed out, like the test car I drove, you’re looking at around $52k and change. Personally, I could live without the (excellent) B&O audio system but I’d struggle to give up the Virtual Cockpit (part of the $3k Technology package on the Premium Plus; standard on the Prestige) and the $1,450 S Sport seats. Figure on $1,500 if you want the Audi magnetic ride that’s part of the Dynamic package, and which also gets you fancier 19-inch wheels.

That’s not inexpensive, though it does undercut Mercedes’ AMG CLA45, which starts at $49,950. The Mercedes is more powerful, mind, with 375 HP.

NOW READ: 2023 Audi A4 Review

Things will change all over again come the arrival of the Audi RS3. Revealed in September, it’ll have a 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine paired with a 7-speed DCT and quattro all-wheel drive, and will be good for 400 HP and a 0-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds. Due in the Summer of 2023, pricing is yet to be confirmed, though it’ll undoubtedly be fairly niche and be stickered up accordingly.

Until we get to play with the RS3, is the S3 ample compensation? It certainly feels like it has moved out of the A4’s shadow and gained a personality of its own. If the old car was a capable but still fairly safe take on sporting luxury, the 2023 S3 loosens the reins some and is all the more entertaining for it.

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