The acute and subchronic effects of two dosages of a new serotonergic antidepressant, nefazodone, and those of the tricyclic imipramine were examined in a double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled study. Twenty-four healthy subjects from two age groups (12 adults and 12 elderly from both sexes) received the four treatments (nefazodone, 100 and 200 mg twice daily; imipramine, 50 mg twice daily; and placebo) for 7 days with a 7-day washout period. Measurements were performed after the morning doses on day 1 and day 7. These included a standard over-the-road highway driving test, a psychomotor test battery, and sleep latency tests. Blood samples were taken on both days and analyzed to determine concentrations of parent drugs and their major metabolites. The main results showed that the reference drug, imipramine, had a detrimental effect after a single dose on lateral position control in the driving test, primarily in the adult group, that diminished after repeated dosing. Minor impairment on psychomotor test performance was found with both days. On the other hand, a single administration of both doses of nefazodone did not impair highway driving performance (even showed some improvement) and had no or only minor effects on psychomotor performance. After repeated dosing, nefazodone 200 mg twice daily (but not the 100-mg dose) produced slight impairment of lateral position control; dose-related impairment of cognitive and memory functions was found. The effects of nefazodone were generally in the same direction in both age groups. Significant correlations were found between steady-state concentrations of nefazodone in plasma (200-mg, twice-daily condition) as well as imipramine, and reaction time changes in a memory scanning task. Neither drug appeared to induce daytime sleepiness as measured by the sleep latency tests. (J Clin Psychopharmacol 1995;15:30-40).