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    2021 Volkswagen Arteon Decides To Freshen Up

    Subtitle Changes Outside, Major Changes Inside 

    Volkswagen unveiled an updated 2021 Arteon tonight. Now you might be thinking this is a quick turn around as the Arteon has been on sale in the U.S. for only a year. But you need to keep in mind that Volkswagen has been selling the Arteon in Europe since 2018, so a refresh was in the cards.
    Changes for the exterior are subtile with a more prominent grille, new lighting, updated Volkswagen badging, and new choices for paint and wheels. The interior is a bit more dramatic with updated dash featuring revised air vents and climate control system with touch controls. A new steering wheel with touch controls, improved materials, and the 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit becoming standard on all Arteons finishes off the changes.
    Power for the U.S. will remain the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic that routes power to either the front or Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel drive system.
    There are some versions we'll be missing out on such as a new Shooting Brake (aka wagon), a 315 horsepower R model, and a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
    No word on pricing, but you'll be able to pick up a 2021 Arteon at your Volkswagen dealer sometime in November.
    Source: Volkswagen
    Press Release is on Page 2

    2021 Volkswagen Arteon world premiere

    Jun 23, 2020
    Brand halo is updated inside and out—a new front end impresses with sharpened design elements and available illuminated grille, while inside, a new cockpit offers greater levels of refinement Digital Cockpit standard across lineup European offering includes new Arteon Shooting Brake, as well as plug-in hybrid (160 kW / 218 PS) and Volkswagen R-developed performance (235 kW / 320 PS) powertrains Herndon, VA — The Arteon is Volkswagen’s Gran Turismo—marrying the sleek design of a premium coupe to the space of a midsize sedan. For 2021, Volkswagen is introducing an extensive product line update to the brand halo, including sharpened design elements, interior refinements, and intelligent comfort systems. In Europe, Volkswagen is enhancing the product line with a second version—the new Arteon Shooting Brake—alongside new powertrain options including a plug-in hybrid drivetrain generating 160 kW (218 PS) and Arteon R versions with 235 kW (320 PS).
    For 2021, the U.S. market Volkswagen Arteon features a simplified trim lineup—SE, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line.
    The refreshed Arteon features a refined front end with sharpened design elements. The long, wide hood stretches across the entire front profile to the wheelarches to form the shoulder section. At the front it reaches far down into the grille, emphasizing the ample width of the Arteon with its crossbars. It’s not just avant-garde, it’s also aerodynamic—with a drag coefficient of a mere 0.265.
    For the first time, the Arteon can also be configured with an illuminated grille. On midrange models, new LED daytime running lights (DRLs) connect to form a central light bar in the grille, surrounding the new Volkswagen logo and using light as the new chrome. Consequently, the Arteon has been given a new and unmistakable daytime and night-time lighting signature.
    The lower section of the front profile, the front apron, has also been modified. Up to now, this area featured four chrome bars. These have now been transformed into three significantly more striking chrome bars. The outer and bottom segments of the front apron are always the same color as the vehicle’s paintwork (except the lateral air intake grilles). How the equipment scopes differ: the SE trim now has two additional, separate air intake openings in front of the front wheels, as well as a chrome bar that has been integrated above the front spoiler. In contrast, the R-Line features one larger, continuous, bottom air intake above the front spoiler that is surrounded by a C-shaped section on the outside in front of the front wheels, which has been painted in the main vehicle color.
    As drawn, the character line runs around the entire car. It visually presses the body’s volume downward to the ground, giving it a dynamic appearance. The character line starts in the radiator grille at the front and runs smoothly across the silhouette up to the tail light clusters. At the rear it transforms into a sharp undercut that visually reduces the Arteon’s height and carries the strong shoulder section towards the rear. At the rear, the VW badge and Arteon lettering have been redesigned.
    Three new colors are added for model year 2021—Oryx White, Kings Red Metallic, and Lapiz Blue.
    On the inside, Arteon has been equipped with a redesigned cockpit that has been refined to match the model’s exclusive nature. Volkswagen’s interior designers have redesigned the entire dash panel—consisting of surfaces, air outlets, and trims—the center console, including infotainment section and air-conditioning control, and the top sections of the door trims. The fabrics and leather in the vehicle interior have also been upgraded.
    At the dash panel’s top-most level, new leatherette surfaces stand out by having been refined are more pronounced with decorative seams to visually build a bridge to Volkswagen’s luxury-class SUV, the Touareg. On the second level, new aluminum décor graces base models, while midrange models offer translucent aluminum décor with 30-color ambient lighting The air outlets, stretching up to the third dash panel level, have been redesigned and also fully integrated here.
    A new generation of multifunction steering wheels featuring digital touch surfaces are used in the Arteon. In combination with the Travel Assist system (see below), the steering wheel rim additionally features touch-sensitive surfaces which, once Travel Assist has been activated, detect whether the driver has at least one hand on the steering wheel for safety reasons.
    The temperature can now be set intuitively via a touchslider for the optional three-zone Climatronic® automatic climate control. The same applies to the blower function in the manual mode. Seat heating, windscreen and window defrosting functions as well as other air conditioner regulations are also controlled using new touch-sensitive surfaces in the center console.
    The Arteon is equipped with the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, which allows the driver to configure the instrument display. The graphics of the 10.25-inch display are clear and of a high quality. The driver can quickly and easily switch between three basic layouts using a View button on the multifunction steering wheel.
    Arteon adopts the all-new MIB3 infotainment system, integrated in a clearly visible and easy-to-reach position above the new air-conditioning controls. All models come standard with the 8.0-inch Discover Media system with navigation. MIB3 offers natural voice control, multi-phone pairing that can easily switch between devices, and wireless App-Connect. Wireless charging is also new for 2021.
    Volkswagen is also offering a newly developed, high-end sound system made by audio specialists harman/kardon for the very first time. It has been specifically geared towards the Arteon product line. The system uses a 700-watt, 16-channel Ethernet amplifier to power a total of twelve high-performance loudspeakers. One loudspeaker acts as the center speaker in the newly designed dash panel while another operates as a subwoofer in the trunk. The remaining treble, mid-range, and bass loudspeakers have been arranged in the doors. The infotainment system coordinates the individual sound control of the harman/kardon sound system which also provides pre-configured settings, such as Pure, Chill out, Live and Energy.
    The Arteon is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI® engine, making 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The power is taken to the front wheels via a standard eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic® shifting; 4Motion all-wheel drive is available on SEL R-Line models and standard on SEL Premium R-Line models.

    Review: 2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD

    The crossover from Planet Nine

    Nearly two years ago, I drove the then all-new Hyundai Kona crossover at a press event. It was a unique looking vehicle that was entering the growing subcompact crossover class. Out of the three Hyundai vehicles I drove, the Kona impressed me most with its performance and value for money. But if there is something I have learned over eight years with reviewing vehicles, is that I can’t take first impressions as final. It has been a long wait, but I finally got my hands on a 2020 Kona Ultimate AWD. Let’s see if my first impression can still hold up.
    The Outer Limits (of Exterior Design)
    You may be forgiven for thinking that the Kona has just arrived in a UFO from Planet Nine due to its shape. But Hyundai knew they needed to make a splash in what is becoming a very competitive class. Designers took some influence from the Jeep Cherokee with a rounded front end and the front lights being separated into daytime lights and headlights. Another design trait is the slit that sits between the grille and hood cutline. Finishing off the look is body cladding running along the lower edge and a bright green paint color only available on the turbo engine models. It may seem like an odd mashup of ideas, but it works surprisingly well.
    A Conventional Interior
    Some will be disappointed that Hyundai didn’t continue the wacky design for the Kona’s interior. But having an interior that is user friendly will always pull ahead of interesting design. That isn’t to say Hyundai hasn’t added some special touches such as vent surrounds and seat stitching matching the exterior color. Hard plastics are used throughout, but they don’t feel hollow or cheap when you run your hand across.
    There is a fair amount of space for those sitting upfront. Comfort is ok for short trips, but I found myself wanting more thigh support on longer trips. In the back, there is a large amount of headroom for most passengers. Legroom is a different story as tall people will find their knees pressed against the front seats. Cargo space is another area where the Kona is lacking. With the rear seats up, the Kona’s cargo area measures 19.2 cubic feet - about 0.1 cubic feet more than the Toyota C-HR. Fold them down and space increases to 45.8. This trails the likes of the Chevrolet Trax, Nissan Kicks, and Honda HR-V.
    The One To Still Be Beaten (Infotainment-wise)
    The Kona Ultimate comes equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen featuring Hyundai’s infotainment system. This system has consistently been one of my favorites as Hyundai nails the basics - simple interface, blazing-fast performance, and having features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. My only complaint is that the design is starting to look dated when compared to other automakers and their updated infotainment. 
    Turbo Power!
    Two powertrains are available in the Kona. SE, SEL, and SEL Plus use the 2.0L four-cylinder offering 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic. Limited and Ultimate come with the turbocharged 1.6L four producing 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet. This is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Front or all-wheel drive is available for either engine.
    Zippy is the word to describe the performance of the turbo engine. The Kona easily accelerates away from a stop and has no issue with passing a slower vehicle. The dual-clutch transmission seems to stumble when leaving a stop, but does get itself together at higher speeds. I also found the transmission is slow to react when your floor the throttle, taking a few milliseconds to downshift.
    EPA fuel economy figures for the 1.6T with AWD are 26 City/29 Highway/27 Combined. My average for the week landed around 26.7 mpg, mostly due to cold weather during the week I had the Kona.
    Woah, This Crossover Handles
    If you wanted a subcompact crossover that handled decently, your choices were either the Mazda CX-3 or Toyota C-HR. The Kona enters the ring as the third choice, and possibly the best. On the backroads, the Kona feels quite agile and has almost no body roll. If I was to nitpick, the steering doesn’t have as much feel as you’ll find in the CX-3. But it feels noticeably better than the C-HR. Ride quality is impressive with most bumps being isolated from passengers sitting inside. Not too much wind and road noise come inside.
    Possibly the Best Subcompact Crossover At the Moment
    Hyundai has a very compelling package in the Kona. There is an excellent performance from the turbocharged engine, impressive driving dynamics, easy to use infotainment system, and a long list of standard equipment. There are some drawbacks with the small cargo area and rear legroom topping the list. If you need the space, a Honda HR-V would be my first pick. The dual-clutch transmission still needs a bit more work to iron out the hesitation issues I experienced. 
    That first impression I had still stands and moves the Kona not only being the best in the class at the moment, but also onto a very rarefied list; a vehicle I would considering buying.
    How I Would Configure A Kona: The only reason I see buying the Ultimate is for the adaptive cruise control as most of the other safety equipment such as blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, and forward collision avoidance are available on other models. So if I wanted the Turbo engine, then I would step down to the Limited at $26,100. For those who think that is a tad expensive still should consider the SEL Plus as it comes very well equipped for $23,950. You do sacrifice the turbo engine for the 2.0L four-cylinder which is fine if your planning to drive mostly around town. Add an additional $1,400 for all-wheel drive.
    Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Kona, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
    Year: 2020
    Make: Hyundai
    Model: Kona
    Trim: Ultimate
    Engine: 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC 16-Valve GDI Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/29/27
    Curb Weight: 3,276 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
    Base Price: $29,150
    As Tested Price: $ 30,380 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge)
    Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00

    Spying: The Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Exists!

    Hyundai's Upcoming Pickup Begins To Come Into Focus

    The Hyundai Santa Cruz has been talked about off and on since its debut as a concept in 2015. But it seems the truck is finally coming to fruition as some new spy shots reveal.
    Compared to the concept which was an extended cab, Hyundai is using a crew cab layout. The bed is quite short, possibly around four to five feet being our guess. Up front, the Santa Cruz gets the same front end treatment as the refreshed 2021 Santa Fe - wider front grille and new headlight treatment.
    Following in the footsteps of the Honda Ridgeline, the Santa Fe will be based on a unibody platform. In this case, the Santa Fe. This likely means power will come from either the 2.4L four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque or turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 235 hp and 260 lb-ft. Our money is on the latter engine. 
    Expect more details to come out on the Santa Cruz before its launch next year.
    Source: Autoblog, Car and Driver

    2021 Lexus IS Wants To Play Spot the Difference

    Yes, this is a new model.

    It isn't a good sign when a fair number of automotive writers (myself included) looks at a new vehicle and wonders, what's different? That is the case with the new 2021 Lexus IS which was unveiled last night.
    The exterior for the most part is unchanged from the current IS. The only changes we can spot include,
    a new "three-dimensional" version of the Spindle Grille spilt headlight arrangement has been dropped for a new single headlight setup more prominent shoulder line 18-inch wheels are standard on the IS, while 19-inch BBS wheels are optional for F-Sport versions full-width LED taillight bar that seamlessly integrates with the rear lights grows in length and width by 1.2-inches, and is 0.2-inches lower in ride height Not much has changed with the IS' interior aside from new 8 and 10-inch infotainment systems finally getting touchscreens, along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa intergration.
    The engine lineup is unchanged with the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder (badged as IS 300) with 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque serving as the base. Next is a detuned version of 3.5L V6 with 260 hp and 236 lb-ft for the IS 300 AWD. Completing the lineup is the regular 3.5L V6 pumping 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet for the IS 350. RWD models get an eight-speed automatic, while AWD models make do with a six-speed automatic.
    So what has changed for the 2021 IS? It is all under the skin. The suspension has been reworked with lighter a-arms, coil springs, and stabilizer bar. There is also a new Dynamic Handling Package for F-Sport models. This includes adaptive dampers and a Torsen limited-slip differential (only for RWD models).
    No word on pricing, but expect to see the 2021 IS arrive at Lexus dealers sometime in late fall.
    Source: Lexus
    Press Release is on Page 2
    New 2021 IS first Lexus to debut Lexus Driving Signature Tested and developed at new technical center in Shimoyama, Japan Driving performance enhanced through rigidity, chassis and suspension enhancements New Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 offers enhanced standard safety features New multimedia system with available 10.3-inch touchscreen PLANO, Texas (June 15, 2020) – Writing yet another chapter in the book of compact luxury sports sedans, the new 2021 Lexus IS was unveiled today via a unique and engaging online virtual reveal. Since its debut nearly 20 years ago in the U.S., the IS has thrived on creating exhilarating driving performance in the form of a true rear-wheel-drive luxury sports sedan. The IS has served as a whetstone to help sharpen Lexus driving performance across the lineup but, more directly, it has forged indelible bonds between driver and machine that reach into the hundreds of thousands. It’s no wonder the IS has earned worldwide adoration for its extraordinary driving performance.
    There may be no greater fan of IS than Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who notes the vehicle’s special place in his heart during the introduction to the Art of Lexus book, where he credits the IS as “The car that really taught me what performance driving was, and it was the moment when my love affair with Lexus began.”
    The new 2021 IS, which is expected to arrive in dealerships in late fall of this year, looks to expand upon the legacy it has carved out in the compact luxury sports car segment over the previous two decades. Truly a global vehicle, it will be available for sale in approximately 40 countries around the world, including the US, Japan, and other countries in Asia.
    The Lexus Driving Signature Lives at Shimoyama
    From day one, the IS has left a lasting impression in the compact luxury sports sedan segment, where dynamic capability and driving performance are mandatory attributes. The 2021 IS looks to further cement the bond between driver and vehicle by providing an enhanced linear driving characteristic that provides clear and direct feedback to the driver. In order to achieve this objective, Lexus engineers needed the proper tool with which to hone the vehicle’s skills.
    Enter the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama. More than merely a new test facility, this asphalt track signals a change in Lexus’ product development course and speaks to the brand’s commitment to its human-centered nature.
    Since Lexus launched, the tactile feel, behavior, and execution for each model has been driven by the vision and efforts of the Chief Engineer. Moving forward, the efforts of the CE will be focused on elevating the vehicles to a new standard of performance and handling as developed by Lexus International President Koji Sato and Chief Branding officer Akio Toyoda. The ultimate goal is to deliver a new generation of Lexus vehicles that is more balanced, refined in control, and confident than ever before. Linear steering, brake responses, and optimized handling with exceptional ride quality is the result of heightened focus on tuning of the chassis and its interactions with the control surfaces through diligent evaluation at a test facility unlike any other.
    By establishing a uniform Lexus Driving Signature across the entire lineup, the hope is to continue propelling the brand’s evolution and reinforce its identity in the luxury space. This cultural shift within Lexus product development builds on the learnings and improvements seen on the F brand cars, and the latest models of the flagship vehicles (LC, LS, LX) that involve an “Always On” philosophy for continual, running enhancement. Over the past 30 years, Lexus has been defined by the detail-oriented and thoughtful nature of its products. The latest IS represents the first step down a path that has evolved into a uniquely Lexus tarmac testbed that will affect the trajectory of every Lexus product that comes next.
    “What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation,” said Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi of Lexus International. “We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control.”
    Opened in 2019, the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture is near Lexus’s global headquarters. Its country road test course is inspired by Lexus’s many years of experience driving on Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife, famous throughout the world for its grueling driving conditions. Much like the IS itself, Nürburgring is near and dear to Akio Toyoda’s heart since it played a key role in his quest to become a master driver. The 3.3-mile test course at Shimoyama is designed to take advantage of the local topography, and it features a nearly 250-foot change in elevation, a wide range of curves and corners, and multiple types of road surfaces. Developing the new IS in such a severe driving environment made it possible to infuse an ever-higher dimension of vehicle performance.
    Maturation of Driving Performance
    With a new tool at its disposal, Chief Engineer Kobayashi’s team worked tirelessly to make the new IS the best to date. The Lexus philosophy of continuously improving meant no stone was left unturned. Countless test hours at the Shimoyama track and other test facilities were conducted on various road surfaces and conditions to identify ways to increase responsiveness and reduce unnecessary movement from unsprung mass. The “relentless pursuit of perfection” has always been a guiding philosophy for the brand, but also at stake is the mission to create a uniform Lexus Driving Signature, and that objective begins with the new IS.
    One of the first things engineers targeted was enhancing body rigidity. This was done in key areas such as reinforcing the radiator side supports, increasing the number of front-side-member weld points, and optimizing reinforcement structures from the C-pillars to the sides of the roof. The increased rigidity not only helps reduce unwanted noise and vibration, but it also helps improve riding comfort and driving performance with enhanced response to steering input.
    For the first time, the new IS will be available with larger 19-inch wheels to improve cornering force and provide a greater contact patch with the road. Engineers revised the suspension layout and front pickup points to help accommodate the larger tire-and-wheel package. Overall two different 19-inch wheels are available on F SPORT models, including a unique BBS wheel specific to the F SPORTs equipped with the Dynamic Handling Package. Standard 18-inch wheels will replace the outgoing 17-inch wheels on all other models.
    Taking a cue from the Lexus LFA supercar, engineers took rigidity enhancements one step further by employing lighter weight hub bolts to secure each wheel to the new IS. The use of hub bolts allows for improved fastening strength and therefore an increase to rigidity to further enhance braking and handling. What’s more, the move to hub bolts sheds approximately 2 pounds of total unsprung weight. The new bolts also feature a black coating so as not to draw any attention away from the attractive new wheel designs.
    Complementing the enhancements to overall rigidity, multiple refinements were made to the suspension setup. For starters, engineers targeted a reduction in unsprung weight. The new IS features coil springs that are 20 percent lighter than the outgoing model. New A-arms are employed as well that feature a forged aluminum material versus the outgoing steel composition, resulting in an 18 percent weight reduction. Engineers also opted for a new material for the suspension stabilizer bar to optimize the diameter and thickness to provide a 17 percent weight reduction.
    With unsprung weight reduced, engineers equipped the IS with new swing-valve shock absorbers equipped with ultralow-velocity valves in their pistons to manage oil flow in response to the most minor of road irregularities. Even when the stroke speed of the shock absorbers is low, the new velocity valves provide excellent responsiveness to apply appropriate damping force on all varieties of road surfaces. The result is consistently even ride quality. New bound stoppers are also employed to help manage the sprung weight more effectively for enhanced ride comfort.
    Fast, Fun, Ferocious – Putting the “F” in F SPORT
    The IS F SPORT lineup is restructured in the 2021 model year, as F SPORTs will only be offered on the IS 350 powered by the 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. F SPORT features a host of visual and performance cues that immediately set it apart, including a unique front bumper with functional aerodynamic enhancements, rear bumper, grille surround, rear lip spoiler, rocker molding and more. Along with F SPORT 19-inch wheels, a unique center cap and larger rear tires for added performance (265/35R19), they are also equipped with a cool air intake with sound generator and an F SPORT exhaust and diffuser. In addition, unique F SPORT badges adorn the sides and rear of the vehicle as well.
    Inside the new IS, stainless-steel scuff plates adorn the door sills. Eyes are immediately drawn to the stylish F SPORT front seats, especially when dressed in the available new Circuit Red option. The front seats also offer standard heated and ventilated functions. A heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with unique center ornament, perforated leather-wrapped shifter and F SPORT combination instrumentation meter await the driver, as do unique F SPORT accelerator pedal, brake pedal and footrest. The distinctive front seats offer available two-way power adjustable lumbar support as well as four-way adjustable headrests. Unique F SPORT door accents are highlighted with black geometric film window switch surrounds. Active Sound Control has been improved to further enhance the exhilarating performance notes of the V6 engine while reducing unpleasant tones.
    F SPORT models can be further augmented with the addition of a Dynamic Handling Package (DHP) that includes Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). For 2021, engineers have optimized the damping force of the AVS system to help enhance performance. In addition, the DHP also includes lighter 19-inch forged alloy BBS wheels finished in matte black. Not only are they impressive looking, the 19-inch BBS wheels are approximately 4 pounds lighter per wheel compared to the standard 19-inch F SPORT wheel.
    The RWD F SPORT models with the DHP are equipped with a Torsen® limited slip differential (LSD) that improves handling and performance thanks to enhanced traction when cornering or exiting turns. The LSD helps maintain straight-line stability as well. F SPORT models equipped with the DHP also feature drive select mode Sport S+, which provides advanced engine and transmission mapping to enhance performance. Sport S+ also adjusts the amount of EPS steering assist and damping force to deliver sportier handling to match the updated powertrain settings. Custom Mode is available on DHP models, offering multiple combinations for powertrain (Normal/Eco/Power), chassis (Normal/Sport) and air conditioner (Normal/Eco).
    F SPORT models equipped with the DHP receive a unique carbon-fiber rear spoiler and side-view mirror caps, center console knee pad with contrast stitching, and a Lexus Card Key.
    Athletically Inclined & Designed
    The bold new exterior styling of the 2021 IS not only aims for a provocative design, but its athletic silhouette is also meant to signify the agile changes that have taken place below the sheet metal. Overall, the new IS evokes lower, wider proportions. It is slightly wider, with muscular fenders that extend to enhance and accommodate the larger available 19-inch wheels and larger diameter tires. The wide and low form nods to the inherently high level of driving performance the IS possesses, but the sleek lines are also complemented with overtly aggressive sharpness carved into the side and shoulder character lines.
    2021 IS Specifications

    Starting at the front of the new IS, a newly designed spindle grille features a three-dimensional, polyhedral structure that originates from the foremost tip of the grille to emphasize a sense of presence. On F SPORT models, block forms based on a spindle motif combine with a mesh pattern to achieve a sporty impression. F SPORT models also feature a grille-bottom air intake that allows air to flow through to assist in cooling the brakes, a design inspired by the RC F.  Standard IS models feature a new grille that includes mini spindles within its design. This intricate pattern required six different types of cutting tools in order to create the mold.
    New slender headlamps are fitted on the IS that feature daytime running lights with a sharp L-shape signature that runs across the lateral axis just above the newly developed compact and lightweight lamp units. These new headlamps help contribute to expressing a low center of gravity through low-positioned areas around the grille, and they are matched by lowered side character lines that carry all the way through to the rear of trunk. Available triple-beam LED headlights are also redesigned to complement the low-profile hood.
    New rocker panels accent the side profile of the new IS with a design that kicks up in the rear, featuring a sharper overall contour that carries into the muscular shoulders over the rear wheel wells. Gently sloped rear-quarter pillars, which help form a firm cabin silhouette that wraps around from the sides, contrast with the rear fenders to further enhance the aggressive look.
    Moving toward the back of the IS, lines of the rear fenders blend into the extended, lowered rear deck to create a low stance that enhances the wider hips. The three-dimensional form of the rear deck design is created with a stamping technology called press-in mold construction. No question eyes will be drawn most immediately to the L-shaped blade-style lightbar that spans across the rear of the vehicle.
    There are five new exterior colors available on the 2021 IS, including Iridium, Cloudburst Gray, Matador Red Mica, Infrared*, and Grecian Water. These new colors will be added to other popular exterior options that include Ultra White, Eminent White Pearl, Atomic Silver, Caviar and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0*.
    *Colors unique to F SPORT models, includes a premium paint charge of $595
    Bask in Cabin Comfort
    Luxury and performance are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and yet the two live in harmony in the new IS. The interior features standard NuLuxe®-trimmed seating, with 10-way power driver and 8-way power adjustable front passenger seats, a dual-zone automatic climate control system with touch-sensitive controls, an available power moonroof, and SmartAccess with push button start.
    New trim adorns each door in F SPORT models with a graphic pattern of embossed intersecting lines, representing a new form of Lexus decorative expression and Takumi craftsmanship. Decorative ornamentation is finished for the first time in Black Metallic paint, Black Geometic Film, or the unique Ash ornamentation exclusive to F SPORT models equipped with the Dynamic Handling Package. Piano Black accents also can be found on surface elements for cabin atmosphere that is both dignified and sporty. Standard NuLuxe interior color options include Black, Glazed Caramel and Rioja Red. On F SPORT packages the options include Black, Circuit Red, and two-tone White/Black, while the F SPORT Dynamic Handling Package is available in Black or Circuit Red interior.
    The IS features a standard 8-inch touchscreen nearly 3 inches closer to the driver for easy access to the controls. An expansive new 10.3-inch touchscreen is available on vehicles equipped with navigation or Mark Levinson with navigation. The new multimedia system features Apple CarPlay® compatibility, Android Auto™ compatibility, and Amazon Alexa integration.
    With Apple CarPlay compatibility, customers can access the familiar interface from their iPhone through the vehicle’s multimedia display. Simply connect an iPhone to get directions, make calls, send and receive message via Siri®, all hands free, and get access to favorite apps like Spotify, Audible® and Apple podcasts. With Android Auto, Android users can seamlessly cast their device’s interface onto the vehicle’s multimedia display, play music via apps such as Spotify® and Pandora®, send messages through a range of commonly used apps like WhatsApp®, navigate with Google Maps™, and request information—all with just the sound of your voice—through the Google Assistant™.  With Lexus+Alexa integration, you can bring all the convenience of Amazon Alexa on the road. Just ask Alexa for the same access to information and the thousands of skills available with Alexa at home. Listen to audiobooks, play favorite music, make lists, check the weather, get news briefings, and much more. Users can also control compatible smart-home devices such as lighting, thermostat and security systems. Offering added in-vehicle convenience, Alexa even syncs to the navigation system to provide on-the-go recommendations.
    The available Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System is also enhanced, with the previous system expanding from 15 speakers with 835 watts of power to a 17-speaker system with a new amplifier offering an impressive 1,800 watts. The new Mark Levinson system aimed to reduce interference, improve output (aided by the addition of two speakers), and improve overall sound quality with new EQ tuning. Rear surround speakers have been changed to tweeter/mid-range combination Unity speakers. The audio amplifier has enhanced Quantum Logic Surround for playback of compressed sound sources and to provide a 7.1 surround sound listening experience.
    Drivetrains and Powertrains
    Although, for some, the IS can only be viewed as a rear-wheel-drive compact sports sedan, others reside in climates where all-wheel-drive is a necessity. Fortunately, the 2021 IS will be available in both rear- and all-wheel drive options, and there are three distinct powertrain options available depending upon the grade.
    The rear-wheel drive IS 300 features a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and intercooled inline four-cylinder engine. The 2.0-liter engine is updated for 2021, featuring an adaptive transmission control that helps determines the most appropriate gear for each driving situation based on driver input to achieve linear response. Rated to deliver 241 horsepower, the stout four-cylinder also produces a solid 258 lb-ft of torque across a flat torque range from 1,650 rpm all the way up to 4,400 rpm. It’s not only powerful, it’s efficient, too, thanks to a sophisticated Variable Valve Timing intelligent – Wide (VVTi-W) system which allows the engine to switch between the Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles to maximize efficiency. It comes equipped with an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission. It integrates an advanced G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) system that monitors multiple performance parameters to determine the optimum gear selection.
    For added traction in cold-weather climates, the IS 300 is also available with all-wheel drive. The IS 300 AWD is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 260 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The electronically controlled all-wheel drive system is designed to help enhance traction and grip by automatically varying front-to-rear torque distribution. On dry roads it maintains a 30:70 front-to-rear torque split for maximum performance, but it’s capable of sending as much as 50 percent of the power to the front wheels in certain conditions.
    For buyers who crave maximum power, there’s the IS 350 in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The rear-wheel drive model uses the same eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission found in the IS 300 RWD, while the AWD version sends power through a six-speed automatic. If there’s any question about the performance-minded nature of each vehicle, look no further than their 0-60 times, as the IS 350 RWD covers the ground in 5.6 seconds while the IS 350 AWD goes from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. 
    Enhanced Lexus Safety System+
    The standard Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+) found on the new IS receives additions for 2021 in the form of the new LSS+ 2.5. A number of key features that are part of the Lexus Safety System+ have been enhanced, along with the addition of a few key features.
    For starters, the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which include Frontal Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection and Bicyclist Detection, features an enhancement to the single-lens camera and millimeter-wave radar elements to expand the response range. By enhancing the radar and camera capabilities it is now possible for the system to help detect not only the vehicle ahead but also a preceding bicyclist in daytime and even a preceding pedestrian in daytime and low-light conditions. At intersections, the system has improved recognition of an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn and may activate typical PCS functions if needed. Additional PCS functions include Emergency Steering Assist (ESA), which is designed to assist steering within the vehicle’s lane as cued by the driver.
    All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) can be activated above 30 mph and is designed to perform vehicle-to-vehicle distance controls down to 0 mph and can resume from a stop. DRCC also includes a new feature that allows for smooth overtaking of slower vehicles. If traveling behind a vehicle traveling slower than the preset speed, once the driver engages the turn signal the system will provide an initial increase in acceleration in preparation for changing lanes; after changing lanes, the vehicle will continue acceleration until it reaches the original preset driving speed.
    Lane Departure Alert is designed to help notify the driver if it senses the vehicle is leaving the lane without engaging a turn signal via steering wheel vibrations or audible alert. When DRCC is set and engaged, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) is designed to provide slight steering force to help steer to the center of the lane to assist the driver with staying in the lane using lane markers or a preceding vehicle. LTA alerts the driver with a visual warning and either an audible alert or steering wheel vibration. In the new IS, the lane recognition performance, which makes LTA possible, has been improved with enhanced recognition of line and road edge, lateral G performance, and enhanced control and stability after lane change.
    Additional LSS+ 2.5 features include Intelligent High Beams, which detects preceding or oncoming vehicles and automatically switches between high beam and low beam headlights. Road Sign Assist (RSA) is designed to acquire certain road sign information using a camera and navigation maps and displays them on the multi-information display (MID). With DRCC engaged and activated, RSA can also adjust speed up to the posted speed limit if driving slower or down to the posted speed limit if driving faster than posted.
    To help IS drivers change lanes with confidence, the standard Blind Spot Monitor is designed to help detect and warn you of vehicles approaching or positioned in the adjacent lanes. Standard Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) can offer added peace of mind by helping to detect vehicles approaching from either side while backing out with a visual and audible warning.

    Rumorpile: 2021 Mazda3 Gets Some New Engine Options

    This isn't the Mazdspeed3 you're looking for

    2021 is going to be a very interesting year for the Mazda3 as two more engines become available.
    According to separate reports from Jalopnik and Hagerty, Mazda will be dropping in the turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder found in the 6, CX-5, and CX-9. The engine produces 227 horsepower on regular or 250 on premium. Like other Mazda models with this engine, the 3 will have it paired only with a six-speed automatic. Both reports say the engine will have AWD as standard. According to Hagerty's source, the engine will be available on a new trim called Premium Plus - likely taking the top spot in the 3's trim lineup. The source also confirmed this engine will not mean the return of the Mazdaspeed name for a hot variant. 
    The other engine is a 2.0L four-cylinder that Jalopnik reports is only for the sedan. Hagerty believes this engine is the SkyActiv-G used in the previous-generation 3, not the SkyActiv-X with its compression-ignition system.
    Not surprisingly, Mazda said they "“have not announced any details for the 2021 Mazda3," when asked about this.
    Source: Hagerty, Jalopnik

    Rumorpile: Nissan Giving Up On Vans

    NV possibly now means "Never Vanning"

    Nearly a decade ago, Nissan launched an ambitious assault on the U.S. commercial van market with the launch of their NV vans. It started with the Titan-dervived, body-on-frame NV1500/2500/3500 vans. This was followed by the unibody NV200 van, which was for a time the "Taxi of Tommorow" in New York City. But Nissan is reportedly throwing in the towel.
    Automotive News has learned from a source that it will end production of their commercial vans. No time frame was given.
    "We don't want to go more in the business of vans in the U.S. We will exit," said the source.
    Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman declined to comment about the future of the commercial vans, only saying in a statement that the automaker " is considering a number of opportunities to streamline the product portfolio and drive efficiencies within our manufacturing operations."
    When the NV lineup was launched in 2009, Nissan was hoping to steal away sales from the Detroit Three. At the time, Ford and GM had 97 percent of the large van segment. The NV was positioned as being a more modern option compared to the Ford E-Series and Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana. It was more comfortable with adjustable seats, taller ceiling for easier access to the cargo area, and pre-drilled holes in the body to allow owners to add interior racks easily. But Nissan wasn't able to make decent inroads into this market, only achieving around an eight percent share in the marketplace.
    What was the NV's downfall?
    Brand Loyalty to the American brands Using a modified Titan platform for the larger vans comprised them in urban areas with their extended front nose, and cargo capacity. "A third of the vehicle is dedicated to the engine and passenger compartment instead of cargo. The van takes up more real estate for the same amount of cargo space," explained Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions. NV200 Taxis were dinged by taxi companies poor ride quality, difficulty entering/exiting the van for elderly passengers, and increasing maintenance costs. Proved to a be a difficult sale to fleet buyers due to the automaker lacking the numerous combinations of light-trucks that the Detroit three can offer. Trucks and vans work hand in hand to attract sales in the commercial market. "Chevrolet and Ford can be everything to everybody," said Tyler Slade, operating partner at Tim Dahle Nissan Southtowne in Salt Lake City. "When we went to some of these fleet companies, it didn't make sense for them to have trucks from Ford and vans from Nissan." Add in $2.8 billion in cuts that the company is planning to stay afloat and COVID-19, and the death knell was coming sooner than later for the NV family.
    If Nissan does go forward with dropping the NV family, this will be a major blow to about a forth of Nissan dealers in the U.S. They made various investments such as installing heavy-duty lifts capable of lifting fully-loaded vans and having a dedicated sales staff to handle specific fleet issues.
    "Dealers now have serious concerns about their investments in commercial vehicles," said Slade.
    There is also the question as to whether Nissan may try again. Automotive News notes that in the new business strategy outlined last month, Nissan is wanting more global cooperation with its alliance partner Renault. The French automaker already has a number of vans in its lineup and is quite successful in various markets. Nissan already sells a version of the Renault Traffic, called the NV300 in Europe.
    But getting a Renault van into the U.S. as a Nissan will be difficult and costly in terms of homologation. Also, Nissan would still need to figure out how to appeal to larger fleet buyers that go with Ford or GM.
    Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required), The Drive
    Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears

    Review: 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec

    Acura starts to find itself again

    For the past decade, Acura has felt lost at sea. Not sure of what it wanted to be as a brand. This was shown by mixed messaging in their lineup as they weren’t sure to focus on luxury, technology, or sport. This muddled mess of identities would cause a fair amount of issues. But in the past couple of years, Acura started to get its act together thanks in part to new leadership. The first fruits of their efforts came last year in the form of the third-generation RDX. 
    It has been over two years since I last drove an Acura, so when the opportunity for an RDX A-Spec landed on my desk, I took it with both hands. It was time to see what Acura has been up to and if they’re taking a step in the right direction. 
    You Want Presence? You Got It!
    The RDX is the first production model to feature Acura’s newest design language and its no shrinking violet. The front end draws your attention with a large trapezoidal grille paired with a massive Acura emblem. Sitting on either side is Acura’s Jewel-Eye LED headlights that add a distinctive touch. My A-Spec tester takes it further with distinctive front and rear bumpers, 20-inch alloy wheels finished in black, and a special Apex Blue Pearl color that is only available on this trim. This crossover garnered a lot of looks during the week I had, something I hadn’t experience in quite some time.
    Cozy, Polarizing Interior
    The RDX’s interior captures the feeling of being in a sports car with a symmetrical dashboard design that cocoons the front passengers. A rotary drive-mode selector found in the center stack echos the design found in the NSX supercar. While it does emphasize the sporty nature of the vehicle, the position of the knob does make the climate controls a bit hard to reach. A-Spec models have some special touches such as red contrast stitching, a suede panel on the passenger side of the dashboard, and new trim for the instrument cluster that help it stand out. Material and build quality are quite close to some competitors from Germany.
    A set of sport seats with increased bolstering and power adjustments come standard on the A-Spec. I found them to be quite comfortable for any trip length and were able to hold me if I decided to be a bit enthusiastic. Back seat passengers will be plenty comfortable with an abundance of head and legroom. I would have like to see the back seat be able to slide forward and back to offer more comfort. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 29.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 58.9 when folded. There’s also a little storage nook under the cargo floor to stash valuables.
    Intuitive Infotainment?
    Acura’s previous infotainment system drew a lot of ire from people. The dual-screen layout was confusing as some functions were split between the two screens such as changing the audio input. Not helping was the two different control methods for this setup; touchscreen for the bottom portion and a controller for the top screen. Thankfully, Acura has introduced a new infotainment system for the RDX. A large 10.2-inch screen sits on top of the dash and is controlled by a touchpad on the center console. Seeing the touchpad for the first time sent chills down my spine as I thought back to my frustrating experiences with Lexus’ Touchpad Controller. But Acura says this controller is much easier and logical to use than competitors. Okay, challenge accepted.
    Acura’s touchpad controller is slightly different from Lexus’ setup as it is mapped to the screen. So if you want to access the navigation, you tap that part of the pad that corresponds to the screen. This removes the dragging of the finger across the touchpad to get it to the selection you want. This seems quite logical on paper, but I found to be somewhat frustrating. It took me a few days to mind-meld with the system as I was still used to dragging my finger across the touchpad to select various functions. This made simple tasks such as changing presets or moving around in Apple CarPlay very tough.
    There is also a smaller touchpad that controls a small section of the screen. This allows you to scroll through three menus - audio, navigation, and clock. This would prove to be the most frustrating aspect of this system as it didn’t always recognize whenever I scroll down on the touchpad to move to another screen.
    Thankfully, Acura has left a number of physical controls for the audio and climate systems. I’m glad that some luxury automakers aren’t falling into the trap.
    Powertrain Goes Back To Its Roots
    The RDX has always found itself with a different powertrain throughout its various generations. The first version used a turbo-four engine, while the second-generation moved to a V6. For the third-generation, Acura went back to the RDX’s roots and settled on another turbo-four engine. The 2.0L engine punches out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 10-speed automatic and either front or my tester’s Super-Handling all-wheel drive system.
    The turbo-four is quite a potent engine with little turbo lag when leaving a stop and a seemingly endless amount of power for any situation. The ten-speed automatic is very smooth and quick when upshifting. But it does stumble somewhat when you need a quick shot of speed. 
    I did notice that the 2.0L turbo isn’t a quiet engine when traveling on the expressway, going above 2,000 rpm when traveling at 70 mph. This may explain the slightly disappointing 21.7 mpg average I got during the week. EPA fuel economy figures for the A-Spec SH-AWD are 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. The standard RDX models see a small bump in their EPA fuel economy figures.
    Capable Driver
    Acura is no stranger to building a crossover that is good to drive, the larger MDX crossover is a prime example. But the RDX A-Spec takes that a step further. This version gets a slightly stiffer suspension setup which negates a fair amount of body roll on a winding road. The steering firms up nicely when pushed through corners. When going through the daily grind, the RDX A-Spec will let in a few more bumps and road imperfections due to its suspension tuning. Road and wind noise are kept to very minimal levels.
    Welcome Back Acura
    The 2020 RDX shows that Acura is starting to figure out what it wants to be; a brand that offers something playful in the class. The RDX certainly has the qualities with a bold exterior, punchy turbo-four, and a surprising chassis that offers sporty handling and a mostly-comfortable ride. The slightly-confounding infotainment system and poor fuel economy figures do sour it a bit. But the RDX is a very compelling alternative to many compact luxury crossovers.
    It does give me hope that Acura is figuring out who it wants to be and excited to see what comes down the road such as the new TLX.
    How I Would Configure An RDX: For me, I would basically take the exact RDX tester seen here. That will set me back $47,195 after adding destination and $400.00 paint option. Everyone else should look at the Technology package that will get you most of the safety equipment that is part of Acurawatch, along with a 12-speaker ELS audio system, navigation, and parking sensors. It will not break the bank at $41,000 for FWD or $43,000 for AWD.
    Disclaimer: Acura Provided the RDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
    Year: 2020
    Make: Acura
    Model: RDX
    Trim: A-Spec
    Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VTEC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: 10-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 272 @ 6,500
    Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,600 - 4,500
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23
    Curb Weight: 4,015 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: East Liberty, Ohio
    Base Price: $45,800
    As Tested Price: $47,195 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
    Premium Exterior Color - $400.00

    Rumorpile: GM Joins the Electric Van Fray

    Your future delivery vehicle may be electric and from GM

    While the focus on the electric vehicles have been on the ultra plush and quick models from the likes of Tesla, Audi, and Jaguar, there is a lot of work being done for electric delivery vans. The combination of reduced maintenance, low fuel costs, and an abundance of torque to deal with heavy loads make them a perfect to do deliveries in urban areas. Rivian is the most-well known player here with plans to build out a fleet of electric vans for Amazon. Another player is ready to join the fight.
    Reuters reported yesterday that General Motors is working on a electric van for the commercial market. Five sources reveal that the van - codenamed BV1 - is expected to go into production late next year. It is expected to use Ultium battery technology that GM first talked about back in March. Utilizing this could solve one of the big issues with EVs, price. By switching Cobalt (expensive) for Aluminum (less expensive), GM says it will drop the cost of a battery to $100 per kilowatt-hour - making it around the same cost as regular gas powered van. Analysis done last year put the kilowatt-hour cost of a battery at $159. 
    One item still being debated internally is whether the van will be sold as Chevrolet, GMC, or a new brand. 
    When asked by Reuters, GM said it is “committed to an all-electric future and is implementing a multi-segment, scalable EV strategy to get there. At this time, we do not have any announcements to make regarding electric commercial vehicles.”
    GM isn't the only company getting on the electric van train. Ford has announced plans for an electric version of the Transit to launch in 2022, and British startup Arrival which has the backing of Hyundai, currently has an order of 10,000 vans from UPS.
    Source: Reuters

    Review: 2020 Volvo S60 and V60 Cross Country

    A Tale of Two 60s

    Rarely, do I get the chance to drive different versions of the same model. The fleet companies I work with scheduling vehicles do their best to serve up a smorgasbord of vehicles for me to experience. But from time to time, things happen where one vehicle in a run has to be swapped because it needs to go home or is required for an important event. It happened to be that the stars aligned in such a way that two Volvo 60 series models would be swapped for various vehicles in this go around. So I found myself with an S60 Momentum one week and a V60 Cross Country another week.
    A prime opportunity to experience two different takes on the same model.
    Design: Same and Different
    Both of the 60 models continue Volvo’s design of simple elegance. The smooth boxy shape is contrasted by the “Thor’s Hammer” lighting element in the headlights and a sloping beltline along the side. Compared to the larger S90, the S60 looks cleaner. This can be attributed to the rear where the license plate has been moved from the bumper to the trunk and a raised lip on the trunk lid. The optional 19-inch wheels fitted on my tester look somewhat out of place as it removes some of the understated look the sedan is trying to present.
    The V60 Cross Country certainly looks the part of an off-road wagon with a three-inch lift to the suspension, body cladding along the side, different grille color, and new wheel choices. Around back, Volvo takes some ideas from their crossovers with the tailgate being similar in design to XC40 and XC60, and the tall L-shaped headlights. Out of the two, I found myself liking the V60 Cross Country more than the S60.
    Inside Story
    The simple elegance philosophy continues inside for both the S60 and V60. The dash features a simplistic design with clean lines and minimal brightwork. Both vehicles feature some surprising interior touches such as wood trim and machined metal pieces. The S60 does falter slightly as some interior pieces are hard plastics with some texturing. This is due to the S60 being the base Momentum trim, higher trims swap this for soft-touch material.
    Both the S60 and V60 feature front seats that provide an excellent balance of support and comfort. Ten-way power adjustments allow any person to find a setting that fits them. I also like both models coming with the optional power thigh extender to make long drives more bearable. Rear seat space is a mixed bag as there is plenty of legroom in both models, but headroom is constrained in the S60 due to the sloping roofline. 
    In terms of cargo, the V60 Cross Country is the champ. Open the power liftgate and you’re greeted with 23.2 cubic feet. This can be expanded to 50.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The S60 trunk space is slightly disappointing, only offering 11.6 cubic feet. At least the rear seats can be folded down to increase load capacity.
    Non-Sensus-ical Infotainment
    All S60 and V60s come with a nine-inch screen featuring Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. A large screen oriented like a tablet to control most of the functions fits in line with the company’s minimalist approach. But using this system becomes quite infuriating. To start, Sensus takes over a minute to boot up whenever the vehicle is started. You’ll be able to tell since the system will not respond or respond slowly whenever an input is made during this. Thankfully, the system responds quickly once it fully boots up. This brings us to another problem with Sensus, its confounding menu system. Trying to do something simple such as increase fan speed or turn on/off a safety system means swiping into various screens and menus to find that button or slider.
    Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard and does make Sensus slightly easier to use. But I think some real improvements will come when the next version of Sensus comes out that will be based on Google’s Android platform. I’m also hoping for some more redundant controls such as a fan knob or temperature buttons.
    When Five equals Four
    Both models come equipped with the T5 engine. Before you start thinking that this means a turbocharged five-cylinder, T5 in current Volvos means a turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. Opting for the T5 on the S60 means you only get front-wheel drive - you’ll need to step to the twin-charged T6 or PHEV T8 for all-wheel drive. As for the Cross Country, it gets all-wheel drive as standard. 
    The T5 is a very potent engine as I found in my review of the XC40 last year and that still holds true for both 60 series models. No matter the situation such as needing to pass a slower truck or leave a stoplight, the turbo-four is eager to move the vehicle at an astonishing rate. The eight-speed automatic is smooth and delivers prompt shifts.
    On the Cross Country, Volvo has an Off-Road mode that turns on a low-speed function, hill descent control, and optimizes the steering to keep the vehicle moving through whatever muck. For most buyers, this mode will never be touched at all. But I found it to be very handy driving through unplowed roads.
    EPA fuel economy figures stand at 23 City/34 Highway/27 Combined for the S60 and 22/31/25 for the V60 Cross Country. I got an average of 24.7 for the S60 and 23.1 in the Cross Country on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving.
    A Smooth Ride Is Here, Provided You Have the Right Wheels
    As I mentioned earlier, the S60 I had came with a set of optional 19-inch wheels. This introduces a problem as the ride feels choppy. Over various bumps and imperfections, the S60 wasn’t able to smooth over a fair number of them. I assume going with the standard 18-inch wheels solves this issue somewhat, although some people report the ride is still rough on the smaller wheels. The V60 Cross Country also has a set of 19-inch wheels, but it is noticeably smoother over rough surfaces. Credit must be given to the higher ride height and softer suspension tuning. Wind and road noise are almost non-existent, making both perfect long-distance travelers.
    Handling is where the S60 redeems itself somewhat. The sedan shows little body and impressive grip when driven through a winding road. I do wish the steering had a little bit more weight, but that may be solved by moving to the R-Design or Polestar models. The Cross Country is a vehicle you want to push due to its softer suspension tuning.
    Two Good Models, But One Stands Tall
    The new 60 models are worthy successors to the models before it. An elegant design and mostly roomy interior pair nicely with the strong performance from the T5 engine. Sensus is the biggest stumbling block for both models, but a new version is around the corner which may solve some of the issues.
    Between the two, I found myself being more impressed with the V60 Cross Country. It has more character in its design compared to the S60 and the ride is much more comfortable. The almost $57,000 price-tag is a bit much, but with some smart optioning, you can make it much more reasonable. As for the S60, I did find it to be quite a decent steer. But the ride does need some work when on the larger wheels. Also, the Momentum can get quite expensive if you go overboard with options. My tester carried a nearly $46,000 price tag, three-grand more than the T5 versions of the R-Design and Inscription which come with some of the optional features as standard.
    The S60 and V60 Cross Country are excellent alternatives to the usual suspects, just be careful on the options.
    How I would configure them:
    There are two different ways I would go configuring an S60.
    Value: Start with the Momentum T5 at $36,050 and add Heated Front Seats & Steering Wheel ($750) and Premium Package ($2,050) to end up with a nicely equipped S60 at $39,845. You will miss out on some items such as the 360’ camera system, pilot assist, and Harman Kardon audio system, but that pushes the price to over $44,000. Sport: An R-Design T6 fits the bill here and comes with all-wheel drive as standard for a price of $48,045. Decide which metallic paint you would like ($645) or stick with the basic black. Add on the Advanced Package and Heated Rear Seats and Steering Wheel to end up with a final price tag of $51,645 for black or $52,290 for any of the metallic colors. For the V60 Cross Country, it would be similar to my test vehicle with most of the option packages and adding the Harman Kardon Premium Sound system ($800) to bring the final price to $52,795.
    Disclaimer: Volvo Provided the S60 and V60; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
    Year: 2020
    Make: Volvo
    Model: S60
    Trim: T5 Momentum
    Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Inline-Four
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 250 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,500
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/34/27
    Curb Weight: 3,657 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Ridgeville, SC 
    Base Price: $36,050
    As Tested Price: $46,249 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
    Advanced Package - $2,500.00
    Premium Package - $2,050.00
    Multimedia Package - $1,850.00
    19" 5-Spoke Cut Wheels - $800.00
    Heated Front Seats & Heated Steering Wheel Package - $750.00
    Pebble Grey Metallic - $645.00
    Linear Lime Deco Inlay and Interior High Level Illumination - $600.00
    Year: 2020
    Make: Volvo
    Model: V60
    Trim: Cross Country
    Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Inline-Four
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 250 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,500
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25
    Curb Weight: 4,202 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Gothenburg, Sweden
    Base Price: $45,100
    As Tested Price: $56,990 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
    Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound - $4,000.00
    Cross Country Pro Package - $2,800.00
    Advanced Package - $2,500.00
    Heated Front Seats & Heated Steering Wheel Package - $750.00
    Birch Light Metallic - $645.00
    Park Assist Pilot - $200.00

    Rumorpile: New Document Reveals Possible C8 Powertrains

    Outputs ranging from 600 to 1,000 horsepower

    This week, Hagerty obtained a document from General Motors' executive director in charge of program management, Michelle Braun that says development on future car and truck programs has been paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But the document also mentions some intriguing information on upcoming powertrains for the C8 Corvette. Here are the details,
    Corvette Z06: 5.5L DOHC V8 known as the LT6 that will produce 650 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. No mention of any type of forced-induction. Corvette Gran Sport: 6.2L OHC V8 with a hybrid system that's expected to produce 600 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Corvette ZR1: Twin-Turbo 5.5L DOHC V8, dubbed LT7. Output is expected to be 850 horsepower and 800 pound-feet. Corvette Zora: The powerhouse of the C8, it will take the Twin-Turbo LT7 and augment with a hybrid system. This is expected to produce 1,000 horsepower and 975 pound-feet of torque. Hagerty's report says the rollout of the new engines will begin in 2022 with the LT6, but the COVID-19 outbreak may push the plans back.
    Source: Hagerty

    Quick Drive: 2020 Toyota Camry XLE V6

    Do V6 engines still have a place in midsize sedans?

    The landscape of midsize sedans was much different ten to fifteen years ago. All of them offered the choice of a four-cylinder and V6 engine. Today, it is a completely different story as most automakers that still offer a midsize sedan have dropped their V6 engines in favor of turbo-fours. But Toyota is bucking the trend by sticking with the V6 in the Camry. It seemed like a good time to ask whether or not there is a place for a V6 in the midsize class.
    The V6 in question is a 3.5L used in many Toyota and Lexus vehicles. In the Camry, output is rated at 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic routes power to the front wheels. This V6 is one of my favorites due to its combination of excellent acceleration off the line and smoothness that turbo-fours can only dream of. One gotcha you need to keep in mind that torque steer will pop up if you decide to mash on the accelerator. The eight-speed automatic is very smooth and quick to upshift but hesitates to downshift when you need more speed. This is likely due to programming in the transmission to improve fuel economy. EPA fuel economy figures for the Camry XLE V6 are 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 24 on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. The XSE and TRD V6s see a slight dip in fuel economy due to their performance ambitions. While the XLE can’t fully match the athleticism of the XSE I drove last year, it still can hold its own in the bends. The XLE has the added benefit of providing a smoother ride, as most bumps and road imperfections become mere ripples. Disappointingly, there is a fair amount of road and wind noise comes inside when driving on the freeway. A key difference between the XLE and the XSE I drove last year is the front end treatment. There is a larger lower grille and a different top grille design. I find this design to be a bit much and may scare a lot of people away. On the other hand, the new front does give Camry some needed presence on the road - something that couldn’t be said for previous-generation models. The XLE is surprisingly luxurious with quilted luxury upholstery for the seats and stitching on the dash. Although, a Mazda6 Signature is slightly more premium in terms of offering more luxurious trim pieces, whereas the Camry XLE uses a lot of piano black trim.  Comfort is one area that the Camry XLE excels in. The seats are quite cushy and offer plenty of support, no matter the distance of any trip. The back seat offers plenty of head and legroom. The Entune system may not have the sharp and modern graphics as some competitors, but it does have a simple interface and the ability to use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The XLE starts at $29,455 for the base four-cylinder, while the V6 will set you back $34,580. With a few options, my test XLE V6 carried an as-tested price of $37,824. That’s slightly more expensive than a Mazda6 Signature which offers a slightly more premium interior and better driving dynamics. But the Camry can counter with the smooth performance of the V6, comfortable ride, and its long-standing reputation for reliability. I came away really impressed with the Camry XLE, but also wondering how much longer Toyota will hold out. Despite all of the positives, the V6 is a very expensive proposition and most buyers will likely be happy with the four-cylinder. If I was to buy one, I would likely go for an XLE minus the options. Disclaimer: Toyota provided the Camry, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
    Year: 2020
    Make: Toyota
    Model: Camry
    Trim: XLE V6
    Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S Dual-Injection w/Dual VVT-i V6
    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
    Horsepower @ RPM: 301 @ 6,600
    Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26
    Curb Weight: 3,549 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
    Base Price: $34,050
    As Tested Price: $37,824 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)
    Driver Assist Package - $1,550.00
    Navigation Package - $1,040.00
    Carpet/Trunk Mat Set - $264.00

    Ford Executive Wants A Sequel To "Cash for Clunkers"

    Is this a good idea or not?

    The COVID-19 pandemic has basically brought most of the world to halt. Orders to stay at home, businesses either having workers to their work from home or closing down, and unemployment skyrocketing is causing the economy to crater. There are efforts to try and jump-start the economy such as $1,200 stimulus checks. But an executive at Ford wants to see a return of a "cash for clunkers" like program.
    “We think some level of stimulus somewhere on the other side of this would help not only the auto industry and our dealers, which are a huge part of our overall economy, but will help the customers as well,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service to Bloomberg.
    “Cash for clunkers was very effective at that time. It would be nice to think we could have something equally as effective for 2020 when we get out of this because it was a great program.”
    According to LaNeve, internal discussions are taking place at Ford about doing a similar program and there are plans to bring the Government in to these talks.
    When asked by Automotive News about this, Ford spokeswoman Rachel McCleery said, "The auto industry is America’s economic engine.We are encouraging Congress to look at a variety of ways to drive job creation, increase demand, support customers and provide long-term stability for the entire auto ecosystem."
    A brief refresher on the Cash for Clunkers program. In 2009, the U.S. Government introduced a billion initiative called the Car Allowance Rebate System, which gave a voucher worth between $2,900 and $4,500 to anyone replacing a vehicle newer than 1984. Their old vehicle would be taken away and disposed of. The program was nicknamed Cash for Clunkers.
    On the surface, the program was a success. Within first month, all of the funds were exhausted. This prompted the U.S. congress infuse an addition two billion into the program, which would be all gone within 17 days. But begin to look deeper and the results are mixed. In 2012, a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics described the program as being a bit of a wash,
    "...the effect of the program on auto purchases is almost completely reversed by as early as March 2010 — only seven months after the program ended.”
    Other studies have come to the same conclusion.
    There's also the question of how many perfectly good used cars were taken off the road due to the program.
    Source: Bloomberg via Automotive News (Subscription Required), The Drive, The Truth About Cars

    2021 Genesis G80 Packs New Styling, Two Turbo Engines

    This isn't the G80 we're used to

    Genesis unveiled their dramatically redesigned G80 last night and it is quite the looker.
    The updated mid-size sedan boasts new design traits that first appeared on the GV80 crossover such as a larger, pentagonal grille and quad head and taillights. The most striking part is towards the back where Genesis' designers have given it fastback shape - no, it doesn't make it hatchback before you even ask.
    Moving inside, the G80 finds a balance between poshness and simplicity. From the photos provided by Genesis, the G80 looks to be available with leather upholstery, open-pore wood, and metal trim. Two large screens are used for the instrument cluster and infotainment system. Thankfully, Genesis does provide a number of control options such as touchscreen for the infotainment system, a number of physical buttons and knobs for various systems, and a controller knob.
    Two turbocharged engines will be available for the G80 in the U.S. A 2.5L inline-four pumping out 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque will serve as the base engine. One rung up is a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 with 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Both come paired with an eight-speed automatic and the choice of rear or all-wheel drive.
    The new G80 went on sale today in South Korea and plans to ship it over to the U.S. sometime in the second-half of this year.
    Source: Genesis
    Press Release is on Page 2

    Design: Distinct and progressive design offers instantly-recognizable Genesis identity Technology: Next-generation, technology-enabled luxury seamlessly integrates with clients’ lifestyle, devices and preferences Safety: Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) leverage advancements in sensor technology, machine learning Performance: Brand-exclusive platform increases solidity, performance, fuel economy, luxury SEOUL, South Korea, March 30, 2020 – The all-new Genesis G80 made its digital world premiere today. It represents both the third generation of the brand’s executive sedan and a decade-plus of mid-luxury leadership from Genesis’ parent company.
    “The core of our brand lies within the G80,” said William Lee, Executive Vice President and Global Head of the Genesis Brand. “This segment represents where we started and we’re pleased that our newest offering achieves a perfect balance of discerning luxury and inspiring performance for our customers.”
    Athletic Elegance Elevated          
    The story of the G80 begins with the brand’s emblem which inspires the Crest Grille and Quad Lamps, the distinctive face of every Genesis.
    “The all-new G80 is the centerpiece of our lineup perfectly weighing athletic and elegant characteristics. This represents the clearest interpretation yet of the Genesis brand identity,” said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Genesis Design. “Our goal is to offer unique, design-inspired experiences for our customers.”
    The brand’s “Athletic Elegance” design philosophy produces variations in design through a carefully-considered balance between its namesake’s opposing characteristics. While other Genesis models lean more towards athleticism or elegance, the G80 is characterized by the perfect balance in between, as the core of the model range.
    The front view embodies a distinguished but modern look, featuring the Crest Grill and double-lined Quad Lamp signature design elements. The two line graphics extend beyond the limits of the headlamps, into the rear fenders and the taillamps, encompassing all sides of the vehicle.
    On the side, the Parabolic Line, which begins at the front Quad Lamp and gradually runs lower to the rear through the top of the door, is inspired by the elegant look of several venerable classic cars. This elegant line is counter-balanced by athletic “power lines” emphasizing the fender volume and the upfitted 20-inch wheels. In addition, the chrome trim beginning from behind the front wheels stretches out along the bottom of the door, crosses the side sills and swells upwards to the rear, strengthening forward visual motion.
    The rear view features a dramatic, tapered look – highlighted by a sloping decklid and rear Quad Lamps which visually link to those in front. Chrome decor at the top of the trunk stretches the full-width repeating the theme of the Genesis emblem, while the dual exhaust finishers reference the Crest Grill design.
    The Luxury of Space
    The interior design of the G80 responds to the changing times where dominance of technology and information is no longer considered a luxury experience. Based on the "Beauty of White Space” concept inspired by traditional Korean architecture, priority is placed on the careful balance of personal space with state-of-the-art technology. This allowed the design team to optimize the layout of needed controls with calming, luxurious surfaces.
    Visibility was enhanced by minimizing A-pillar thickness and rearview mirror dimensions, utilizing flag type side mirrors and reducing dashboard height. The resulting ‘panoramic view’ gives the driver a relaxed view of the road ahead and the sense of openness when seated.
    Dividing the steering wheel into lower and upper halves, Genesis distinguishes the upper (panoramic area) and lower part (control area) to optimize intuitive use of the vehicle as well as the view ahead.
    The steering wheel and sleek, thin air vents run across the passenger compartment splitting it into the panoramic area above and the control area below. The number of hard buttons and switches was intentionally kept to a minimum, both for aesthetic purposes and ease of use.
    In the panoramic area, a heads-up display, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 14.5-inch infotainment system display necessary information while driving.
    The control area is equipped with an intuitive suite of interfaces: a Genesis integrated controller for HVAC controls, a rotary-operated electronic shift dial and touch-and-write infotainment system.
    G80’s leading interior space has been further developed. Both headroom and legroom were increased by lowering the seating height of the second row, allowing for both more interior room and a more dramatic roofline. Completing the space, the G80 features leather seating and steering wheel surfaces, soft-touch fabrics and coatings as well as open pore wood trim finishes.
    Dynamic Luxury Begins with a Solid Foundation, Powertrain Innovations
    The G80's platform represents a brand-exclusive, third-generation, rear-wheel drive platform with a design that lowers the body and the center of gravity to secure a wider cabin and improved driving stability.
    “The all-new G80 brings all the existing strengths from the previous generations all the while upgrading the powertrain, platform and communication system with the state-of the art technologies,” said Albert Biermann, President, Head of Research & Development Division at Hyundai Motor Group. “It is a true, authentic Genesis.”
    The use of lighter weight materials was a distinct focus. Aluminum is used for about 19 percent of the body, reducing the weight by 110 kg (243 lbs) compared to the previous one, thus increasing fuel efficiency and performance.
    Engineered for world markets and customer needs, the G80 features three powertrains:
    2.5-liter turbocharged Inline-4: 304 PS (300 HP @ 5,800 rpm) and 43.0 kgf·m torque (311 lb.-ft. from 1,650 – 4,000 rpm) 3.5-liter turbocharged V6: 380 PS (375 HP @ 5,800 rpm) and 54.0 kgf·m torque (391 lb.-ft. from 1,300 – 4,500 rpm) Diesel 2.2-liter Inline-4: 210 PS, 45.0 kgf·m torque. (Not available in the U.S. market) The G80 features improved door sealing, new engine compartment sound insulation and resonant sound-reducing wheels to ensure indoor quietness and class-leading, low levels of noise (NVH). In addition, the Electronically Controlled Suspension with Road Preview, enhances ride quality by reducing road impacts using information supplied through the front camera.
    Advanced Safety
    In keeping with the brand’s safety platform, G80 applies standard active and passive safety systems, as part of a brand-level engineering commitment to passenger security. State-of-the-art, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) include:
    Highway Driving Assist II (HDA II): This system helps assist the driver in a wider variety of situations than before, including during lane change maneuvers when the turn signal is used, and when others merge in front of you. Smart Cruise Control with Machine Learning (SCC-ML): A world first, SCC-ML, as applied to the all-new Genesis GV80 SUV earlier this year, incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) within the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) feature that helps the car to independently learn the driving characteristics of - and assist - its driver. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA): This system may help automatically bring the G80 to a stop in certain situations where there is a risk of collision with an approaching vehicle detected on the left or right side of the intersection. G80 may also help detect potential collision risks in certain situations where a pedestrian is sensed in close proximity to the vehicle while in motion, for example. Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA): BCA is essentially a Blind Spot Monitor with active capabilities. BCA helps reduce the chance of potential impact with a moving vehicle and may alert the driver if a vehicle is detected in the driver’s blind-spot A complement of 10 air bags includes front and side airbags as well as a center airbag, between the front seat occupants, that helps prevent secondary contact between occupants in a side impact.
    In addition, the Genesis safety platform works to integrate communications between 40+ controllers in real time to help ensure the safest response in various scenarios.
    Next-Generation, Technology-Enabled Luxury
    The G80 offers a high level of convenience to drivers with a suite of new technology. Each new feature is focused on further and seamlessly integrating the G80 with its client’s lifestyle, devices and preferences. A selection of highlighted features include:
    The Remote Smart Parking Assistant (RSPA) provides remote drive/reverse functions that facilitate parking in narrow spaces, as well as perpendicular parking and parallel parking. This can be controlled within the car or outside, remotely via the key fob. The 12.3-inch 3D instrument cluster recognizes the driver's eyes and provides various driving information and can be converted to 2D depending on the driver's preference. The Genesis Integrated Controller allows users to set destinations or enter phone numbers by simply writing on the main control center instead of complicated keyboard input. A 14.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system links with the Genesis Integrated Controller to support Genesis Quick Guide and Valet mode. Valet mode is a function that enhances security so that users' personal information does not appear on infotainment screens when using a Valet parking service. Over-the-air, wireless updates to the navigation system. Phone connectivity including Android Auto and Apple Car Play. With an eye toward the senses, luxury-focused items include:
    The driver's seat is equipped with an ergo motion seat function featuring seven air cells which enables optimum seating for each driving mode and reduces fatigue via a stretching mode and automatic posture correction functions. Ambient mood lamps applied throughout the interior add a sense of calm to the passenger space in various colors. From a sound standpoint, Genesis has enhanced the engine's sound with its Active Sound Design (ASD), standard on all G80s equipped with gasoline engines, adding an additional level of customization. The Lexicon sound system allows passengers to enjoy the vivid sound effects of a concert, such as "Quantum Logic Surround Audience Mode/Stage Mode," adding to the joy of listening. The first row HVAC system allows the driver to adjust the heated/ventilated seats in the second row and the air conditioning mode/temperature independently of the first row, increasing the convenience for second row passengers. Marketplace
    The all-new G80 enters the marketplace on March 30th in South Korea and in the second half of the year in other markets, starting with North America.

    Detroit Auto Show Cancelled

    COVID-19 Concerns and the TCF Center being designated a field hospital are why

    The coronavirus has caused a number of auto shows to either be pushed back (New York) or cancelled (Geneva). Add another show to the list as the Detroit Free Press is reporting tonight at the Detroit Auto Show has been cancelled.
    In a memo that was sent to sponsors today, organizers of the show said that the TCF Center (formally known as Cobo Hall) has been designated as field hospital by Federal Emergency Management Administration [FEMA] for the next six months.
    "The health and welfare of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan is paramount. TCF Center is the ideal location for this important function at this critical and unprecedented time,” NAIAS executive director Rod Albert wrote in the memo obtained by the Free Press.
    The news was confirmed by ABC affiliate WXYZ after speaking with the chair of the 2020 show, Doug North.
    "The North American International Auto Show is officially canceled. TCF is working with FEMA to use the center to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak," said North.
    Ford and General Motors also confirmed the cancellation to The Detroit News.
    Michigan is becoming one of the hardest hit states with COVID-19. State officials announced today that there are 4,650 confirmed cases and 111 deaths linked to COVID-19. Wayne County, where the show takes place has the highest numbers of the state - 2,316 confirmed cases and 46 deaths.
    This was going to be a big year for the Detroit Auto Show with the move to the summer. Plans included rides and drives; an off-road course, and demonstration of autonomous vehicles.
    Source: Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, WXYZ

    Quick Drive: 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

    Does the sedan follow the groove laid down by the hatchback?

    The redesigned Corolla Hatchback brought back something that was missing in the Corolla for a number of years; being somewhat interesting. With more expressive styling and a new platform that improves driving dynamics, the model has started to shed its image of being bland. But would this continue with the redesigned Corolla sedan? To find out, I spent a week in the top-line Corolla XSE.
    The basic profile is unchanged from the previous Corolla sedan, but Toyota has done their best to make look a bit more exciting. On the XSE, this means a different front clip from other Corollas with the emblem moved to towards the cutline of the hood, a larger lower grille, and deep cuts for the bumper. The distinctive fang headlights are carried over from other Corollas. Around back, not much has changed aside from a new rear diffuser. The updated look does make the Corolla sedan have presence, but I prefer the hatchback in terms of overall looks. One item that is shared between the sedan and hatchback is the dashboard. As I noted in my Corolla Hatchback review, the dash features a layered design, faux stitching, and infotainment screen mounted on top - measuring either seven or eight inches depending on the trim. I like that Toyota is taking chances with the design, but also retaining the excellent ergonomics it’s  known for. My particular tester came with the larger eight-inch featuring the newest version of Entune. While I wish Toyota had done more to make the interface look more modern and feature colors that weren’t various shades of grey. But I cannot deny Toyota builds a system that anyone can quickly grasp thanks to the simple interface design, physical shortcut buttons to various features, and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Those with Android smartphones are left out in the cold. Those sitting up front will have no complaints about space, seat adjustment, or comfort. In the back, legroom is about average for the class. But headroom for taller passengers comes up a bit short, especially when you have the optional moonroof. Three powertrains are available in the Corolla; a 1.8L four in the L, LE, and XLE; 2.0L four for the SE and XSE; and a hybrid for the LE Hybrid.  The 2.0L produces 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet. The XSE only gets a CVT transmission, while the SE has the choice between the CVT and a six-speed manual. Performance is the same as with the Corolla SE I drove last year; decent around town and leaving stoplights, but really struggles when trying to get to higher speeds. A fair amount of engine noise does make it way inside when driving on the highway. EPA fuel economy figures for the Corolla XSE are 31 City/38 City/34 Highway - lower than the Corolla SE hatchback (32/41/35). My average for the week landed around 33.4 mpg on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. Handling is an improvement over the old Corolla as it feels slightly more lively with better control of body motions. But it cannot match the nimbleness of the hatchback. This likely comes down to the Corolla Hatchback being sold in the European market where a sportier ride is desired. The sedan sold in the U.S. is more attuned to providing a smooth ride. The Corolla XSE for the most part is able to smooth over most bumps and imperfections, but the 18-inch wheels does mean some bumps do make their way inside. Road and wind noise is kept to acceptable levels. There is one area that the Corolla XSE falters, value for money. With an as-tested price of $28,794, that puts you in the range of a well-equipped Mazda3 that not only offers more power, but has an interior that the Corolla cannot match. For only a couple grand less, a Kia Forte EX offers more equipment and a slightly larger back seat. Toyota has improved the Corolla sedan to a point where most of the blandness doesn’t exist. I would have liked to seen Toyota take some of the handling magic used on the hatchback and place it into the sedan. But Toyota knows most buyers don’t really care about this. By taking the strengths and wrapping it up in a package that stands out, it will mean more people may check out the Corolla. But I would recommend sticking with one of the lower trims as they offer a slightly better bang your for your buck. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Corolla, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
    Year: 2020
    Make: Toyota
    Model: Corolla
    Trim: XSE
    Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve, Dual VVT-i
    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
    Horsepower @ RPM: 169 @ 6,600
    Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,400
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 31/38/34
    Curb Weight: 3,150 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan
    Base Price: $25,450
    As Tested Price: $28,794 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
    Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation and JBL w/Clari-Fi - $1,715.00
    Adaptive Front Lighting System - $450.00
    Cargo Mat Package - $249.00

    GM's Upcoming Electric Onslaught

    11 Vehicles, New Platform and Battery Tech

    On Wednesday, General Motors invited a number of media to their tech center in Warren, MI for their EV Day event. The company is making a big bet on electric vehicles with 11 new vehicles rolling out by 2025, featuring a new electric modular platform and battery tech. Here's what we know.
    Third-Generation Electric Vehicle Platform
    Underpinning this massive push is GM's new third-generation EV platform (BEV3). The new platform was designed to provide flexibility for different vehicle types - ranging from compact cars to pickup trucks. Battery packs are designed to be mounted beneath the passenger compartment to allow for a lower center of gravity. This results in more passenger room and improved handling. The platform also allows for different drive configurations - front, rear, or all-wheel drive - depending on the vehicle.
    Ultium Battery Technology
    Providing the electric power for these new models is what GM calls Ultium batteries. Working together with its battery partner LG Chem, the Ultium batteries are large-format, pouch-style cells that can either be stacked vertically or horizontally in packs. This will allow more flexibility for engineers to design battery packs for vehicles.
    More important is the chemistry of the batteries. GM has reduced the amount Cobalt - an element used in the making of batteries that is becoming harder to find and expensive - by seventy percent. Instead, the batteries are using aluminum. This will hopefully bring down the price of the battery packs.
    Battery capacity will range from 50 to 200 kilowatt hours - giving a projected max range of 400 miles depending on the vehicle. Level II and DC fast-charging are both supported.
    The Vehicles
    At the event, GM had 10 vehicles on display and one shown via digital renderings. The current plan is to start launching the new models beginning later this year.
    Updated Chevrolet Bolt: The first vehicle to be launched in this offensive. It will get an updated interior with a more premium dash. Chevrolet Bolt EUV: The crossover-variant of the Bolt, it is about five-inches longer and rides on a wheelbase that has been stretched by three inches. An updated roofline reportedly eliminates the small front windows on the Bolt. The EUV will also be the first model outside of Cadillac to get Super Cruise. Chevrolet Midsize Crossover: About the same size as the Blazer, this model has an aggressive design and features a low roofline. A pair of 18-inch multimedia displays dominate the interior. Chevrolet Full-Size Truck: This was the model only shown in digital renderings according to those who were at the event. It will complement the Silverado and be aimed at those who want something to be used on a job site - not like the upcoming GMC Hummer Truck or Rivian which are aimed more at lifestyle folks. This model is expected to arrive in 2025. Buick Crossover and SUV: These two models didn't have a name and were wearing a design that was described by the Detroit Free Press as a "vaguely European look".  GMC Hummer Truck: This will only be available in a crew-cab configuration with a five-foot bed. The design will be utilitarian and boxy. Inside, two large screens will serve as the instrument cluster and infotainment system. Don't expect any leather as many of materials used inside will be made from recycled materials. The truck will also have removable roof panels (like the Jeep Wrangler, that can be stored in the front trunk. GMC Hummer SUV: Basically the same as the truck, albeit using a shorter wheelbase. Cadillac Lyriq: We have seen teasers of this model last year and Cadillac dropped another this week showing off the silhouette - reminding us some crossovers from Jaguar and Porsche. The vehicle is wide and rides on 23-inch wheels. Size-wise, it is similar to the XT5. The interior boasts a 34-inch-wide high-def screen and seating for four, though the production model may have seating for five. Cadillac Celestiq: A new four-door flagship sedan that has a long front end and a fastback rear according to those who saw the clay model. It will be hand-built and carry a six-figure pricetag. Cadillac Large SUV: About the size of an Escalade, it be complementary vehicle to it. The model will have a more traditional design than the other Cadillac EVs. Inside, it will boast large screens up front and three-rows of seating. Source: Roadshow, Detroit Free Press, The Drive, General Motors
    Press Release is on Page 2

    GM Reveals New Ultium Batteries and a Flexible Global Platform to Rapidly Grow its EV Portfolio
    WARREN, Mich. – Starting today, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is gathering hundreds of employees, dealers, investors, analysts, media and policymakers to share details of its strategy to grow the company’s electric vehicle (EV) sales quickly, efficiently and profitably.
    “Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “What we have done is build a multi-brand, multi-segment EV strategy with economies of scale that rival our full-size truck business with much less complexity and even more flexibility.”
    The heart of GM’s strategy is a modular propulsion system and a highly flexible, third-generation global EV platform powered by proprietary Ultium batteries. They will allow the company to compete for nearly every customer in the market today, whether they are looking for affordable transportation, a luxury experience, work trucks or a high-performance machine.
    “Thousands of GM scientists, engineers and designers are working to execute an historic reinvention of the company,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “They are on the cusp of delivering a profitable EV business that can satisfy millions of customers.”
    Ultium Batteries and Propulsion System Highlights
    GM’s new Ultium batteries are unique in the industry because the large-format, pouch-style cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. This allows engineers to optimize battery energy storage and layout for each vehicle design. Ultium energy options range from 50 to 200 kWh, which could enable a GM-estimated range up to 400 miles or more on a full charge with 0 to 60 mph acceleration as low as 3 seconds. Motors designed in-house will support front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and performance all-wheel drive applications. Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability while our truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability. GM’s flexible, modular approach to EV development will drive significant economies of scale and create new revenue opportunities, including: 
    Continuous Improvement in Battery Costs: GM’s joint venture with LG Chem will drive battery cell costs below $100/kWh. The cells use a proprietary low cobalt chemistry and ongoing technological and manufacturing breakthroughs will drive costs even lower. Flexibility: GM’s all-new global platform is flexible enough to build a wide range of trucks, SUVs, crossovers, cars and commercial vehicles with outstanding design, performance, packaging, range and affordability. Capital Efficiency: GM can spend less capital to scale its EV business because it is able to leverage existing property, including land, buildings, tools and production equipment such as body shops and paint shops. Complexity Reduction: The vehicle and propulsion systems were designed together to minimize complexity and part counts beyond today’s EVs, which are less complex than conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. For example, GM plans 19 different battery and drive unit configurations initially, compared with 550 internal combustion powertrain combinations available today. Rising Customer Acceptance: Third-party forecasters expect U.S. EV volumes to more than double from 2025 to 2030 to about 3 million units on average. GM believes volumes could be materially higher as more EVs are launched in popular segments, charging networks grow and the total cost of ownership to consumers continues to fall. New Sources of Revenue: By vertically integrating the manufacture of battery cells, the company can reach beyond its own fleet and license technology to others. The first generation of GM’s future EV program will be profitable. The initial programs will pave the way for further accretive growth. GM’s technology can be scaled to meet customer demand much higher than the more than 1 million global sales the company expects mid-decade.
    Upcoming Launches and Reveals
    Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick will all be launching new EVs starting this year. The next new Chevrolet EV will be a new version of the Bolt EV, launching in late 2020, followed by the 2022 Bolt EUV, launching Summer 2021. The Bolt EUV will be the first vehicle outside of the Cadillac brand to feature Super Cruise, the industry's first true hands-free driving technology for the highway, which GM will expand to 22 vehicles by 2023, including 10 by next year.
    The Cruise Origin, a self-driving, electric shared vehicle, shown to the public in January 2020 in San Francisco, was the first product revealed using GM’s third generation EV platform and Ultium batteries. Next will be the Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV in April. Details about its launch will be shared then. The reveal of the Ultium-powered GMC HUMMER EV will follow on May 20. Production is expected to begin in Fall 2021 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, GM’s first assembly plant 100 percent dedicated to EV production.

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