Good Life

For well-heeled TV lovers, the newest frontier in channel-surfing is moving from the couch to the patio. Manufacturers are coming out with sleek-looking sets that you can watch and keep outdoors, whether on a yacht, a beachside veranda or at a ski chalet. "It's an extension of the outdoor-living concept," says Dale Potts, chairman of Mirage Outdoor Concepts. "It's happening all over the world--in Sweden, Portugal, South Korea.

Food: Highbrow Pub Crawl

So your palate has graduated from canned beer and pizza to goat-cheese crustini and a creamy microbrew. For the grown-up pub experience, try one of our favorite gastropubs.

Road Test: Audi A3

If you're the kind of woman--or man--who buys jewelry in the diamond district instead of at Tiffany, then the A3 is your kind of car. That's because it offers the expected luxury of the Audi brand for the price of bargain wheels.

She's one cool cat

Let's be real. In the rarefied air where $100,000-plus automobiles live, all are resplendent in over-the-top luxury. And so it is with this cat's new flagship sedan, the Portfolio, the seventh-generation XJ.

A real good sport

The Guinness Book of World Records says the Miata is the best-selling roadster in history. With this spectacularly engineered third-generation MX-5 (don't call it a Miata anymore), the record holder is in no danger of being left behind.

Zippity doo dah

A funny thing happened on my test drive of the redesigned Passat: people noticed. In the supermarket parking lot, a couple asked me about the car and nodded approvingly.

Drink Me, I'm 'Fun'

The wine was a thin rose in an Art Nouveau bottle with a label that was a triumph of lithography; it had spires and monks and troubadours and blondes in wimples on it...

ROAD TEST | 2006 9-7X

Saab owners like their cars quirky, with a center-console-mounted ignition, acrobatic flipping cup holders and a gnome shape. So what happens if General Motors, owner of Saab, decides to morph the car into a big, honkin' SUV?

ROAD TEST: PONTIAC G6 GTP COUPE

Think American muscle cars are too bold, loud, twitchy and obnoxious? Then size up the G6 GTP coupe. Though not technically a muscle car, it has its share of beefcake traits.

Daily Dining: If It's Tuesday...

Can't decide which night is best to visit your favorite restaurant? It may not be Friday or Saturday. Try these Los Angeles eateries, which serve up specialties only on certain evenings.WINE LOVERS' SUNDAYS: Boa (310-899-4466).

Not Up To Speed

Think "minivan" and you usually get a ride that's unsexy, decidedly unhip and suburban, right? But what if that minivan--oops, I mean crossover vehicle--was made by Mercedes-Benz.

Adventure: The Need For Speed

So your junior Danica wants to be a race-car driver? She's got a lot to learn before she nails the driving test at 16. Start her off with one of these karting classes for kids.

ROAD TEST: 2005 NISSAN X-TERRA

Nissan marketers recently asked a test group to give one word that best describes the X-Terra. The most common answer: yellow. It's not that the car looks like a banana; it was just one of the first colors introduced on the value-priced SUV when it arrived in showrooms five years ago.

ROAD TEST: SUBARU B9 TRIBECA

I pull in to the swank Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. There's a Bentley parked in front of me. A Maserati convertible next to it. Ho-hum, just another day in the hotel's showroom--I mean parking lot.

THE GOOD LIFE

HOTELS: MAY I SHINE YOUR SHOES?The word butler still conjures up visions of a Wodehousean gentleman in coattails, effortlessly managing every detail of an English country estate.

ROAD TEST: VW JETTA 2.5

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I chose a Jetta as my first car out of college. It embodied all that was divine about being young: it looked way cool, was spry and roomy enough to ferry around my posse.

TRAVEL: TAMALES IN PARADISE

Santa Barbara, Calif., between the sapphire blue Pacific and tall, rocky Santa Ynez mountains, is the West Coast's most romantic hideaway. You can stroll on the sand, walk under palm trees or watch dolphins in the water.

ROAD TEST: MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE GT

This fourth-generation Eclipse was assembled in Normal, Ill., but there's nothing ordinary about this little sports coupe. It just might be the best example of a fresh-out-of-the-box performance car; it's got power, a sports suspension and looks every bit like a pimped-up ride.

THE TIP SHEET

Movies on the MoveBy Ramin SetoodehWhat's showing on your next flight? Who cares. These days, more travelers are taking off with portable DVD players--8 million units were sold worldwide last year, up from 3 million in 2003, reports the market-research firm In-Stat.

ROAD TEST: ISUZU ASCENDER

The car industry may be moving in the direction of smaller crossovers and compact SUVs. But how do big families get around these days? Check out the new seven-seat Ascender, comfy as a living room and large enough to haul the company softball team.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

What the... well, I never swear. But a few laps around the California Speedway in the Carrera GT, and I was cussing like Chris Rock. It wasn't at the car, per se.

ROAD TEST: PONTIAC GXP

Pontiac's Grand Prix GXP isn't your typical family-vacation trickster--which makes it the perfect choice for your summer ride. Starting with the exterior, I love its purposeful pinched nose, the big racing wing over the trunk and the beefy 18-inch shiny Alcoa-chromed wheels.

ROAD TEST: NISSAN 350Z

Pssst. Wanna buy a Porsche, cheap? Well, you can't. But if you long for that taut, honed Porsche steering and lag-free acceleration and can't handle the payments, check out Nissan's 35th Anniversary edition Z, which sells for half the price of a 911 Carrera.

The Tip Sheet

TECHNOLOGYSafe Cars Of The FutureWhen it comes to cars, many people will gladly pay extra for premium sound systems and plush leather seats. But when offered additional safety features, buyers frequently opt to save a few bucks.

ROAD TEST: MERCEDES CLS500

On a typical day in Los Angeles, where I live, I spot at least one celebrity, a dozen surgery-enhanced starlet wanna-bes and tons of freshly minted exotic cars.

FAMILY TRAVEL: WHERE WILD THINGS ROAM

On a recent vacation Shari Belafonte, the actress and daughter of crooner Harry, fell asleep to the sound of roaring lions. Four big cats, kept in an enclosure just yards from her elevated bungalow, were preparing for an evening meal.

TECHNOLOGY: SAFE CARS OF THE FUTURE

When it comes to cars, Americans will gladly pay extra for premium sound systems and plush leather seats. But when offered additional safety features, buyers frequently opt to save a few bucks.

ROAD TEST: MAZDA 6-S

Silver cars are ubiquitous these days, but Mazda is betting you might actually want a little color. And not a timid green or beige, but the loud shades you find in a box of crayons.

ROAD TEST: FERRARI 612 SCAGLIETTI

Mother's Day may be over, but I'm still the coolest mom in the state. That's according to my 10-year-old son, Graydon. He nearly passed out when I pulled into the carpool lane driving the sleek new Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.

ROAD TEST: ACCORD

Maybe you remember when the Accord debuted back in the'70s? It was the car everyone short on cash wanted--a little sporty, kinda roomy and really reliable.

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