ROAD TEST: ISUZU AXIOM

Tooling around L.A. in Isuzu's new midsize SUV, the Axiom, I was thinking just one thing: this automotive category is overcrowded. It's hard to tell Isuzu's entry from the others.

DUDE RANCH: INTEL OUTSIDE

Tom Moore and his wife, Krista, live in the wilderness outside Seattle. So when it comes to vacations, you'd think they might opt for something other than the rustic outdoors.

BEAUTY: HAND CREAMS

Ole Henriksen's Hands Forward With SPF 15 and scented with soothing rosemary, this rich cream not only softens, it includes a mushroom derivative that helps fade brown spots, and lemon and orange extracts to stimulate cell turnover.$18; olehenriksen.com.Elizabeth W Hand and Body Cream Gently scented with such florals as hyacinth and violet, it's as beautifully packaged as the rest of the company's product line.

ROAD TEST: VOLVO S40

Who says luxury doesn't come cheap? Certainly not Volvo. The new $25,000 S40 is urbane, with exterior design cues yanked from the company's top-tier S80, and sleek interior aluminum accents.

ROAD TEST: MITSUBISHI LANCER

Some cars seem to have no purpose other than to impart sheer delight to the driver. The Lancer Evolution RS is just such a car. You wouldn't know it from the outside: the design has all the personality of an entry-level econo-box.

A VINEYARD OF ONE'S OWN

For the past six years Orrin Devinsky has been making "perfectly drinkable" wine in a Short Hills, N.J., garage. Now Devinsky, a physician and director of New York University's Epilepsy Center, thinks he's ready to join the ranks of Napa Valley's elite.

ROAD TEST: BEETLE ON STEROIDS

In German, Volkswagen means "people's car." I don't know many folks who can afford VW's new $66,000 luxury sedan, the Phaeton. But if I did, I know that once they drive it, they'd want to own one.

ROAD TEST: PONTIAC GTO

When the GTO first hit the road 40 years ago, it was General Motors' answer to the Ferrari. The all-new GTO reminds me of a guy with a stellar six-pack stomach and buff pecs, but who hides them under cheapo sweats.

ROAD TEST: KIA AMANTI

Get this. I'm standing at a restaurant valet parking with my boss as my car is brought round. "Oh, you driving the new Mercedes?" he asks. "Yeah," I say. "Come take a look." He ogles the elegant front end.

DINING: CONFIDENTIAL KITCHEN

The worst table at a restaurant used to be the one right next to the kitchen. But now, many diners are booking months ahead for special tables that offer a ringside view of top chefs in action.

ROAD TEST: LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO

It's hard to spin heads in Beverly Hills, land of flash and beauty. So imagine my surprise when scores of people did double-takes at my screaming yellow Gallardo as I cruised along Rodeo Drive.

Road Test: Mazda3

When I hopped into the Mazda3, I was expecting a squishy ride from a standard Asian import. Instead this hatchback felt more German than Japanese. Even the styling's a departure, with sporty lines, flared fenders and a muscular build.

Travel: For Body And Mind

Bored with that age-defying facial and hot-rock massage? No worries--spas across the nation are constantly cooking up new treatments to keep you beautiful and your wallet lighter.

Dessert: Oldies But Sweeties

Forget lavender mousse and pomegranate sorbet--what serious diners want for dessert these days is nostalgia on a plate. And top restaurants across the country are regressing fast.

Road Test: Audi Rs6

A quick glance and Audi's new RS6 looks just like another vanilla sedan. But take it for a romp and it's an entirely different story. Armed with a stunning 450-horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 biturbo engine, it doesn't just turn eyes, it yanks them out of their sockets.

Road Test: Toyota Solara

There's no hiding this car's bulbous tush. It's a problem with which I have personal experience, and it doesn't look good on me or the car. There's no doubt this coupe's new look is derivative of the Lexus SC430, Toyota's prestige-brand sport coupe, and I don't like that rear end either.

Getaways: Beyond Minibars

Any hotel can offer amenities like Lilliputian soap; tip sheet found places that go beyond the evening pillow mint.Hotel Triton, San Francisco--The "So Hip It Hurts" package includes your choice of tattoo or piercing, plus a deluxe room.

Road Test: Bmw 530I

OK, I know how this sounds: BMW's all-new 530i is the first car to truly blend luxury and performance. Right. But before you write a letter to the editor, let me say that of all the cars I've tested (and that would be hundreds) I've never before driven a car that doesn't compromise on one of these attributes.

Road Test: Toyota Prius

There's something so reverse-snobby about tooling around L.A. in a gas-electric hybrid car, it made me feel... superior! I chugged up winding canyon roads, idled in traffic, waited in line at the drive-through bank--and still got 50mpg!

Funky Towns

Art in a Power PlantLondon: Design Grows Out of the Gritty East EndIf you're looking for cutting-edge design in London, look east. Such formerly sketchy neighborhoods as Shoreditch and Bethnal Green have, over the past few years, attracted adventuresome artists and designers.

Road Test: Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai's Sonata is hardly a heart-stopping design statement. Its predictable four-door styling is a staple on nearly every Asian sedan. But external beauty can be overrated.

Travel: Got A Ticket To Drive

You could hop in the family minivan, tour the countryside and call it a driving vacation. Or you could jump into a sports car and whip around hairpin turns like Jeff Gordon.

Food: We Want S'more!

When was the last time you had a s'more? Back in the Girl Scouts or on a family camping trip? Now gourmet versions of the gooey chocolate-marshmallow-and-graham-cracker concoction have become a trendy do-it-yourself dessert at high-end restaurants.Shutters On The Beach, Santa Monica, Calif.

Road Test: Toyota Scion

Toyota says it created its new Scion model for Gen Y, but I'd drive one in a heartbeat. The Scion xA, a sporty hatchback with room for five and priced under $13,000, is so stylish and practical that it's likely to appeal to the over-30 crowd as well. (OK, also to this member of the just-over-40 set.) That's bad news for Toyota--we all know that nothing kills a hip new product quicker than an old codger praising it as practical.But it's possible the Scion will cut across the generation gap.

Road Test: Mercedes E55 Amg

When I tapped the gas on the Mercedes E55 AMG, I felt like a superhero. The big V-8 has torque coming out the yin-yang (516 pound-feet), making it the fastest street-legal Mercedes ever.

A Pocket Rocket

Acura's RSX Type-S sits low on the ground and feels like a little cruise missile. On a recent test run, I was surprised that this diminutive rocket's engine was able to muster an admirable 200 horsepower from a tiny two-liter engine.

Environment: Congratulations! It's A Baby Condor!

It's been nearly 100 years since a condor chick was hatched in the Grand Canyon. After a precariously close call with extinction caused by lead poisoning--only 22 wild birds remained in the early 1980s--the condor is poised to make a comeback.

Road Test: Bmw 760Li

Money can't buy happiness. But at least it can buy a hot set of wheels, and that's enough for me. BMW's new 760Li is so quietly luxurious, I expected a butler to pop out of the console.

ROAD TEST: LEXUS ES 300

Some journalists are hard-hitting. I'm just hard hit. While testing the ES 300 on a traffic-clogged L.A. freeway, I was rear-ended by a heavy sedan going 30mph.

ROAD TEST: CIVIC EX

It's got zero snob appeal. But who cares? The new Civic EX has all the character you need to scoot around town. It's small--but not scary small--so parking in tight spaces and making quick lane changes in rush-hour traffic are equally fun.

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