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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2018 Mazda CX-9 vs. Volkswagen Atlas

      Taking the temperature of the large three-row crossover

    The three-row full-size crossover has taken the place of large SUVs as the vehicle of choice for growing families. Crossovers offer the tall ride height and large space, but not at the cost of fuel economy and ride quality. Recently, I spent a week in the 2018 Mazda CX-9 and Volkswagen Atlas. These two models could not be any different; one is focused on providing driving enjoyment, while the other is concerned about providing enough space for cargo and passengers. Trying to determine which one was the best would prove to be a difficult task.

    Exterior

    There is no contest between these two when it comes to design as the CX-9 blows the Atlas out of the water. The overall look balances aggressive and elegance traits. For the front, Mazda has angled the clip to give off a sporting profile while a large grille and a set of slim headlights accentuate this. Move around to the side and you’ll notice the CX-9 has quite a long front end and the rear roof pillars are angled slightly forward. These design cues help make the CX-9 look slightly smaller than it actually is.

    Someone once described a Volkswagen vehicle as “looking like a bit of a square, but a posh square.” That’s how I would sum up the Atlas’ design; it is basically a box on wheels. There are some nice touches such as the LED headlights that come standard on all models and chunky fenders. The 18-inch alloy wheels that come with the SE w/Technology look somewhat small on the Atlas, but that is likely due to the large size of the vehicle.

    Interior

    The Atlas’ interior very much follows the ideals of the exterior, which are uncomplicated and utilitarian. While it does fall flat when compared to the CX-9’s luxury design, Volkswagen nails the ergonomics. Most of the controls are within easy reach of driver and passenger. One touch that I really like is the climate control slightly angled upward. Not only does this make it easier to reach, but you can quickly glance down to see the current settings. There is only a small amount of soft-touch material used throughout the Atlas’ interior, the rest being made up of hard plastics. While that is slightly disappointing as other crossovers are adding more soft-touch materials, Volkswagen knows that kids are quite rough to vehicles.

    If there is one benefit to Volkswagen’s plain styling on the outside, it is the massive interior. I haven’t been in such a spacious three-row crossover since the last GM Lambda I drove. Beginning with the third-row, I found that my 5’9” frame actually fit with only my knees just touching the rear of the second-row. Moving the second row slightly forward allows for a little more legroom. Getting in and out of the third-row is very easy as the second-row tilts and moves forward, providing a wide space. This particular tester came with a second-row bench seat. A set of captain chairs are available as an option on SE and above. Sitting back here felt like I was in a limousine with abundant head and legroom. The seats slide and recline which allows passengers to find that right position. The only downside to both rear rows is there isn’t enough padding for long trips. For the front seat, the driver gets a ten-way power seat while the passenger makes do with only a power recline and manual adjustments. No complaints about comfort as the Atlas’ front seats had the right amount of padding and firmness for any trip length.

    The cargo area is quite huge. With all seats up, the Atlas offers 20.6 cubic feet of space. This increases to 55.5 cubic feet when the third-row is folded and 96.8 cubic feet with both rows folded. Only the new Chevrolet Traverse beats the Atlas with measurements of 23, 58.1, and 98.2 cubic feet.

    As a way to differentiate itself from other automakers, Mazda is trying to become more premium. This is clearly evident in the CX-9’s interior. The dash is beautiful with contouring used throughout, and a mixture of brushed aluminum and soft-touch plastics with a grain texture. If I were to cover up the Mazda badge on the steering wheel and ask you to identify the brand, you might think it was from a German automaker. Ergonomics aren’t quite as good as the Atlas as you have to reach for certain controls like those for the climate system.

    The CX-9’s front seats don’t feel quite as spacious when compared to the Atlas with a narrow cockpit and the rakish exterior are to blame. Still, most drivers should be able to find a position that works. The seats themselves have a sporting edge with increased side bolstering and firm cushions. I found the seats to be quite comfortable and didn’t have issues of not having enough support. Moving to the second row, Mazda only offers a bench seat configuration. This is disappointing considering all of the CX-9’s competitors offer captain chairs as an option. There is more than enough legroom for most passengers, but those six-feet and above will find headroom to be a bit tight. Getting into the third-row is slightly tough. Like the Atlas, the CX-9’s second row slides and tilts to allow access. But space is noticeably smaller and does require some gymnastics to pass through. Once seated, I found it to be quite cramped with little head and legroom. This is best reserved for small kids.

    Cargo area is another weak point to the CX-9. With both back seats up, there is only 14.4 cubic feet. This puts it behind most of the competition aside from the GMC Acadia which has 12.8. It doesn’t get any better when the seats are folded. With the third-row down, the CX-9 has 38.2 cubic feet. Fold down the second-row and it expands to 71.2 cubic feet. To use the GMC Acadia again, it offers 41.7 cubic feet when the third-row is folded and rises to 79 with both rows. Keep in mind, the Acadia is about six inches shorter than the CX-9.

    Infotainment

    All CX-9’s come equipped with the Mazda Connect infotainment system. The base Sport comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, while the Touring and above use a larger 8-inch screen. A rotary knob and set of redundant buttons on the center console control the system. Using Mazda Connect is a bit of a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look a bit dated with the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Trying to use the touchscreen is an exercise in frustration as it is not easy to tell which parts are touch-enabled and not. On the upside, moving around Mazda Connect is a breeze when using the knob and buttons. Currently, Mazda doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. Thankfully, this is being remedied with the 2019 model as Touring models and above will come with both.

    For the Atlas, Volkswagen offers three different systems. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard on the S. Moving up to either the SE, SE w/Technology, or SEL nets you an 8-inch screen. The top line SEL Premium adds navigation to the 8-inch system. All of the systems feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The current Volkswagen system is one of the easiest to use thanks in part to intuitive menu structure and quick responses. Moving through menus or presets is easy as the system reacts to the swiping gesture like you would do on your smartphone. There are a couple of downsides to the Volkswagen system. One is there is no haptic feedback when pressing the shortcut buttons on either side of the screen. Also, the glass surface becomes littered with fingerprints very quickly. 

    I did have an issue with the system when trying to use Apple CarPlay. At times, applications such as Spotify would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to get the apps unfrozen until I shut the vehicle off. After resetting my iPhone, this problem went away. This leaves me wondering how much of this problem was with my phone and not the infotainment system.

    Powertrain

    Both of these crossovers are equipped with turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The CX-9 has a 2.5L producing either 227 or 250 (on premium fuel) horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The Atlas has a 2.0L producing 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. An optional 3.6L V6 with 276 horsepower is available for the Atlas. For the Mazda, power is routed to a six-speed automatic and the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The Volkswagen makes do with an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive only. If you want AWD, you need the V6.

    Thanks to its higher torque figure, the CX-9 leaves the Atlas in the dust. There is barely any lag coming from the turbo-four. Instead, it delivers a linear throttle response and a steady stream of power.  NVH levels are noticeably quieter than the Atlas’ turbo-four. The six-speed automatic delivers seamless shifts and is quick to downshift when you need extra power such as merging.

    The turbo-four in the Atlas seems slightly overwhelmed at first. When leaving a stop, I found that there was a fair amount of turbo-lag. This is only exacerbated if the stop-start system is turned on. Once the turbo was spooling, the four-cylinder did a surprising job of moving the 4,222 pound Atlas with no issue. Stab the throttle and the engine comes into life, delivering a smooth and constant stream of power. The eight-speed automatic provided quick and smooth shifts, although it was sometimes hesitant to downshift when more power was called for.

    Fuel Economy

    Both of these models are close in fuel economy. EPA says the CX-9 AWD should return 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined, while the Atlas 2.0T will get 22/26/24. During the week, the CX-9 returned 22.5 mpg in mostly city driving and the Atlas got 27.3 mpg with a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. The eight-speed transmission in the Atlas makes a huge difference.

    Ride & Handling

    The CX-9 is clearly the driver’s choice. On a winding road, the crossover feels quite nimble thanks to a well-tuned suspension. There is a slight amount of body roll due to the tall ride height, but nothing that will sway your confidence. Steering has some heft when turning and feels quite responsive. Despite the firm suspension, the CX-9’s ride is supple enough to iron out most bumps. Only large imperfections and bumps would make their way inside. Barely any wind and road noise made it inside the cabin.

    The Atlas isn’t far behind in handling. Volkswagen’s suspension turning helps keep body roll in check and makes the crossover feel smaller than it actually is. The only weak point is the steering which feels somewhat light when turning. Ride quality is slightly better than the CX-9 as Atlas feels like riding on a magic carpet when driving on bumpy roads. Some of this can be attributed to smaller wheels. There is slightly more wind noise coming inside the cabin.

    Value

    It would be unfair to directly compare these two crossovers due to the large gap in price. Instead, I will be comparing them with the other’s similar trim.

    The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE with Technology begins at $35,690 for the 2.0T FWD. With destination, my test car came to $36,615, The Technology adds a lot of desirable features such as three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, and lane departure alert. The Mazda CX-9 Touring is slightly less expensive at $35,995 with destination and matches the Atlas on standard features, including all of the safety kit. But we’re giving the Atlas the slight edge as you do get more space for not that much more money.

    Over at the CX-9, the Grand Touring AWD begins at $42,270. With a couple of options including the Soul Red paint, the as-tested price came to $43,905. The comparable Atlas V6 SEL with 4Motion is only $30 more expensive when you factor in destination. Both come closely matched in terms of equipment with the only differences being the Grand Touring has navigation, while the SEL comes with a panoramic sunroof. This one is a draw as it will come down whether space or luxury is more important to you.

    Verdict

    Coming in second is the Mazda CX-9. It may have the sharpest exterior in the class, a premium interior that could embarrass some luxury cars, and pleasing driving characteristics. But ultimately, the CX-9 falls down on the key thing buyers want; space. It trails most everyone in passenger and cargo space. That is ultimately the price you pay for all of the positives listed. 

    For a first attempt, Volkswagen knocked it out of the park with the Atlas. It is a bit sluggish when leaving a stop and doesn’t have as luxurious of an interior as the CX-9. But Volkswagen gave the Atlas one of the largest interiors of the class, a chassis that balances a smooth ride with excellent body control, impressive fuel economy, and a price that won’t break the bank.

    Both of these crossovers are impressive and worthy of being at the top of the consideration list. But at the end of the day, the Atlas does the three-row crossover better than the CX-9.

    Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2018
    Make: Mazda
    Model: CX-9
    Trim: Grand Touring AWD
    Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 227 @ 5,000 (Regular), 250 @ 5,000 (Premium)
    Torque @ RPM: 310 @ 2,000 rpm
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/23
    Curb Weight: 4,361 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
    Base Price: $42,470
    As Tested Price: $43,905 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Soul Red Metallic - $595.00
    Cargo Mat - $100.00

    Year: 2018
    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Atlas
    Trim: 2.0T SE w/Technology
    Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve TSI Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 235 @ 4,500
    Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,600
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/26/24
    Curb Weight: 4,222 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Chattanooga, TN
    Base Price: $35,690
    As Tested Price: $36,615 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)

    Options: N/A



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    27mpg combined is pretty impressive for a vehicle that large (the Atlas), though I wonder how the performance and MPG would suffer had it been the AWD model.

     

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    2 hours ago, frogger said:

    27mpg combined is pretty impressive for a vehicle that large (the Atlas), though I wonder how the performance and MPG would suffer had it been the AWD model.

     

    I can tell you fuel economy would take a major hit - EPA figures are 17 City/23 Highway/19 Combined

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    31 minutes ago, William Maley said:

    I can tell you fuel economy would take a major hit - EPA figures are 17 City/23 Highway/19 Combined

    WOW for AWD that really is a hit. Thank you

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    Wow, surprised to see the Atlas get the nod. 

     

    While not an enthusiast vehicle, it nails the mission statement buyers in this segment demand. If they just gave us the same turbo-V6 it gets in China, the thing would be near perfect. The old N/A VR6 has just reached the end of it's lifespan.

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    Fantastic write-up. 

    The Mazda is an excellent vehicle, but for the mission statement of a large crossover, the Atlas is just a better vehicle all around.  I view the CX-9 the same way I view the Infiniti QX70, a sportier crossover best for singles or DINKs. 

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    14 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    Fantastic write-up. 

    The Mazda is an excellent vehicle, but for the mission statement of a large crossover, the Atlas is just a better vehicle all around.  I view the CX-9 the same way I view the Infiniti QX70, a sportier crossover best for singles or DINKs. 

    I somewhat disagree.  CX-9 while compromised on space vs Atlas or Pilot still has plenty of space for a family of four (my family is family of four so I speak from experience).

    Personally, Atlas might be very practical but I just can't get past the ugly and boring exterior.  I would rather have Pilot or Ascent if I needed something with more room than CX-9. 

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    7 minutes ago, ykX said:

    I somewhat disagree.  CX-9 while compromised on space vs Atlas or Pilot still has plenty of space for a family of four (my family is family of four so I speak from experience).

    Personally, Atlas might be very practical but I just can't get past the ugly and boring exterior.  I would rather have Pilot or Ascent if I needed something with more room than CX-9. 

    I didn't say they were identical... just that the CX-9 is less roomy than most others in its class and has more of an emphasis on sport.   Someone buying one of these to haul the rugrats around usually is going for the most cubic feet per dollar.  For that, there is the Atlas, the Pilot, and the Traverse. 

    On looks alone, the CX-9 every day and twice on Sundays. 

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    8 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    I didn't say they were identical... just that the CX-9 is less roomy than most others in its class and has more of an emphasis on sport.   Someone buying one of these to haul the rugrats around usually is going for the most cubic feet per dollar.  For that, there is the Atlas, the Pilot, and the Traverse. 

    On looks alone, the CX-9 every day and twice on Sundays. 

    Sure. CX-9 is compromised in terms of space but after I drove one I got hooked and I think it will be my wife's next vehicle.  But I love driving (so does my wife to some extent). Most of the people I know will go just for practicality or the badge. 

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    22 minutes ago, ykX said:

    I somewhat disagree.  CX-9 while compromised on space vs Atlas or Pilot still has plenty of space for a family of four (my family is family of four so I speak from experience).

    Personally, Atlas might be very practical but I just can't get past the ugly and boring exterior.  I would rather have Pilot or Ascent if I needed something with more room than CX-9. 

    LOL, I find the Mazda to be butt ugly and trying to hard to look like the rest of Mazda ugly car family. Rather take an Atlas that truly looks more SUV like and deal with a boring look but more functionality.

    3 minutes ago, ykX said:

    Sure. CX-9 is compromised in terms of space but after I drove one I got hooked and I think it will be my wife's next vehicle.  But I love driving (so does my wife to some extent). Most of the people I know will go just for practicality or the badge. 

    Not ture, I love to drive and love performance as to why I own a Trailblazer SS. While not the best on interior space, it looks like a traditional SUV and drives like a Corvette out of hell. 😈

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    I'm fairly certain.... no... super certain... that the CX-9 will beat a TBSS the moment a corner is involved.  The TBSS was fast for its day, but it was never a renowned handling vehicle. 

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    23 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    I'm fairly certain.... no... super certain... that the CX-9 will beat a TBSS the moment a corner is involved.  The TBSS was fast for its day, but it was never a renowned handling vehicle. 

    That would be a fun drive comparison.  Unless they drastically updated the driving characteristics from the 2018 model year that I had for 2 weeks, I would say in comparison to the one I drove on my 25 wedding anniversary, that no my TBSS beats it. I doubt the CX9 could handle what I have done in the 130 -150mph range of my SS.

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    My SO likes the CX-9 more than most CUV's because it is  stylish and smallish for a 3 row CUV, but then she is 5'0" and we don't have 3 kids..  I wonder how it compares to the 2019 Sorrento V6.

     

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    2 hours ago, dfelt said:

    That would be a fun drive comparison.  Unless they drastically updated the driving characteristics from the 2018 model year that I had for 2 weeks, I would say in comparison to the one I drove on my 25 wedding anniversary, that no my TBSS beats it. I doubt the CX9 could handle what I have done in the 130 -150mph range of my SS.

    Just no... let it go.  There is no way a live axle, 15 year old, body on frame SUV is going to out-handle a brand new, unibody crossover with independent suspension and an advanced computer controlled AWD system.  Even just the center of gravity is going to be a giant disadvantage on the TBSS if nothing else not to mention weight. 

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    Apples and oranges; can't really compare old SUVs from the last decade with their cheesy plastic interiors to new CUVs.

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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    What's funny about it Cubical-aka-Moltar ?  It looks better, it is RWD/AWD with longitudinal engine...  it certainly has more macho presence than the ninny Envision.

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    7 minutes ago, ocnblu said:

    What's funny about it Cubical-aka-Moltar ?  It looks better, it is RWD/AWD with longitudinal engine...  it certainly has more macho presence than the ninny Envision.

    Most Rainiers now are rusty old used SUVs, nothing 'macho' about that...

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    I agree with this write-up. The Mazda is the better car if you viewed every day as it’s own occasion. 

     

    But the VW is flat out the better 3 row family crossover.

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    14 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    Just no... let it go.  There is no way a live axle, 15 year old, body on frame SUV is going to out-handle a brand new, unibody crossover with independent suspension and an advanced computer controlled AWD system.  Even just the center of gravity is going to be a giant disadvantage on the TBSS if nothing else not to mention weight. 

    Yes, from an engineering standpoint all the box's are ticked and it does beat my TBSS. Take driving experience into consideration and I still would put it up against a CX9 and in most cases unless it is another well experienced professional driver would win.

    But your point is valid and I do agree with it from that standpoint.

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    13 hours ago, ocnblu said:

    What's funny about it Cubical-aka-Moltar ?  It looks better, it is RWD/AWD with longitudinal engine...  it certainly has more macho presence than the ninny Envision.

    For it's day when new, not a bad looking SUV, but the Envision wins hands down as the better looking ute.

    See the source image

    See the source image

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    In the Ranier's time, off the top of my head, give me a 2007 4Runner Limited...
    In the Envision's time, give me almost any other ~45K two row CUV released in the last two years.

     

     

     

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    I don't need a 3rd row, so for the price, styling, features and broad range of trim levels, for a midsize, I'll stick with (surprise) Jeep Grand Cherokee.   

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    16 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    I don't need a 3rd row, so for the price, styling, features and broad range of trim levels, for a midsize, I'll stick with (surprise) Jeep Grand Cherokee.   

    We only occasionally use third row for short trips (kids friends, or if we going somewhere close with parents) so a tight third row not a huge problem for us.  But if we didn't need third row I think Grand Cherokee would be a strong contender for us.

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    • By William Maley
      The Toyota Tundra holds the title of being the oldest full-size truck, coming in at thirteen years without any sort of redesign. On one hand, this makes the Tundra a very reliable and dependable truck. On the other hand, the Tundra isn’t able to fully compete with the likes GM, Ram, or Ford with their more modern designs and hardware. But there is one exception to this where the Tundra can be a good alternative to the Detroit Three, and it comes in the form of the TRD Pro.
      Color can do a lot to a vehicle such as making an older model look modern or highlighting some of the polarizing elements of a design. This Army Green paint, which is new on all TRD Pros for 2020 makes the Tundra look younger and a bit more aggressive.  Inside, you can tell that the Tundra is getting up there in age. The design hasn’t changed much and material quality cannot even compare to the likes of GM and Ram’s trucks. But I like the large buttons and knobs for various controls. Not only does it make it easier to find, but it means you can have a set of gloves on and easily control various aspects. One key improvement for 2020 is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto being added to the Tundra’s Entune system, which gives drivers another choice in their infotainment choices. The Crewmax model seen here is huge. Step into the back seat and you might think you entered a limo with an endless amount of head and legroom on offer. I do wish the seats had a little bit more padding. Only one engine is available on the 2020 Tundra; a 5.7L V8 with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This is teamed with a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. This engine provides plenty of thrust and provides an engine burble that you might expect from one of the Detroit three’s V8 trucks. The automatic is very smooth when changing gear and seems to where it needs to be in any situation. The downside to this V8 is fuel economy. The EPA says TRD Pro CrewMax will return 13 City/17 Highway/14 Combined. I saw an average of 14.2 mpg during my week of a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. Maybe a couple more gears for the automatic could improve this. Toyota has kitted the Tundra TRD Pro with some serious off-road chops; Fox internal bypass dampers for all four corners, TRD springs that increase wheel travel, and a set of Michelin LTX off-road tires. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try it off-road. But other reviewers who have taken it off the beaten path report the TRD Pro is very capable.  What I can report is the changes to the suspension makes for a surprisingly comfortable ride. This suspension does mean you will experience a fair amount of body roll when cornering, but that is to be expected with a truck like this. My Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax starts at $52,780. With some accessories and destination, the price climbs $55,020. The Tundra is getting long in the tooth as evidenced by the interior and poor fuel economy from the V8 engine. But the TRD Pro helps freshen the Tundra a bit and makes a compelling option for those who plan on spending more time off the beaten path. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Tundra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Tundra
      Trim: TRD Pro CrewMax
      Engine: 5.7L DOHC 32-Valve i-FORCE V8
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/17/14
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, TX 
      Base Price: $52,780
      As Tested Price: $55,020 (Includes $1,495.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Chrome Tube Steps - $535.00
      Stainless Steel Door Edge Guard - $140.00
      Door Sill Protector - $70.00
    • By William Maley
      When I was driving the 2020 Lexus GS in late February, rumors were flying around that the model would be discontinued at the end of the model year. There was some credence to this rumor as sales had been falling and Lexus hasn’t been updating the model to keep it somewhat up to date with competitors. It would sometime later that we learned that the GS would be going away at the end. So this is the last look at a sedan that I liked at the beginning but now have some mixed feelings.
      Not much has changed in the overall design of the GS since our last review in 2018. The F-Sport has its tweaks such as a mesh grille insert, more aggressive bumpers, and dual-spoke wheels. I still find this sedan very striking, especially in this bright blue. The interior is much the same as the 2013 and 2017 models I have driven. Plus points are high-quality materials, very comfortable front seats, and an easy to read instrument cluster. Downsides are the very dated infotainment system and confounding controller for it; and tall transmission tunnel that eats into rear legroom. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in many Lexus and Toyota vehicles. In the GS, it produces 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. My test vehicle came with the optional all-wheel drive system, which means a six-speed automatic is standard. Sticking with rear-wheel drive gets you the eight-speed. The performance of the V6 doesn’t really wow as it once did. 0-60 takes around six seconds for the AWD version, which is unremarkable as other competitors can do the same in around five seconds or less. Not helping is the six-speed automatic which limits the flexibility of the engine. The pluses to the V6 are minimal NVH levels and silky smooth power delivery. The EPA says the GS 350 AWD will return 19 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I saw an average of 22 mpg during my week. The GS surprised me as to how it well handled in the corners, especially in the F-Sport trim. That continues here as the GS 350 F-Sport AWD shows off minimal body roll and sharp steering. You do miss out on some of the trick features on the RWD model such as limited-slip differential and variable gear-ratio steering, but you’re likely not to notice it. What is a bit surprising is the GS F-Sport’s ride quality. Those expecting more bumps to disrupt the ride will be surprised as the GS glides over them like it was nothing. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Previously, the GS 350 F-Sport would have been my recommendation for a luxury midsize sedan with a sporting edge. Now, it is difficult for me to recommend the GS at all considering the age and how many competitors have moved forward. Right now, I would go with a BMW 5-Series as being the one for sport while the S90 takes the place of being something a bit different in the class. Still, if I had the opportunity to get my hands on the GS 350 F-Sport, I would do it. This is a prime example of do as I say, not as I do. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the GS 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: GS
      Trim: 350 F-Sport AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve VVT- V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 311 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/26/22
      Curb Weight: 3,891 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $54,505
      Author's Note: Unfortunately, I lost my copy of the window sticker for this particular test vehicle, hence why I don't have the as-tested price or option list for this review.

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      When I was driving the 2020 Lexus GS in late February, rumors were flying around that the model would be discontinued at the end of the model year. There was some credence to this rumor as sales had been falling and Lexus hasn’t been updating the model to keep it somewhat up to date with competitors. It would sometime later that we learned that the GS would be going away at the end. So this is the last look at a sedan that I liked at the beginning but now have some mixed feelings.
      Not much has changed in the overall design of the GS since our last review in 2018. The F-Sport has its tweaks such as a mesh grille insert, more aggressive bumpers, and dual-spoke wheels. I still find this sedan very striking, especially in this bright blue. The interior is much the same as the 2013 and 2017 models I have driven. Plus points are high-quality materials, very comfortable front seats, and an easy to read instrument cluster. Downsides are the very dated infotainment system and confounding controller for it; and tall transmission tunnel that eats into rear legroom. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in many Lexus and Toyota vehicles. In the GS, it produces 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. My test vehicle came with the optional all-wheel drive system, which means a six-speed automatic is standard. Sticking with rear-wheel drive gets you the eight-speed. The performance of the V6 doesn’t really wow as it once did. 0-60 takes around six seconds for the AWD version, which is unremarkable as other competitors can do the same in around five seconds or less. Not helping is the six-speed automatic which limits the flexibility of the engine. The pluses to the V6 are minimal NVH levels and silky smooth power delivery. The EPA says the GS 350 AWD will return 19 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I saw an average of 22 mpg during my week. The GS surprised me as to how it well handled in the corners, especially in the F-Sport trim. That continues here as the GS 350 F-Sport AWD shows off minimal body roll and sharp steering. You do miss out on some of the trick features on the RWD model such as limited-slip differential and variable gear-ratio steering, but you’re likely not to notice it. What is a bit surprising is the GS F-Sport’s ride quality. Those expecting more bumps to disrupt the ride will be surprised as the GS glides over them like it was nothing. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Previously, the GS 350 F-Sport would have been my recommendation for a luxury midsize sedan with a sporting edge. Now, it is difficult for me to recommend the GS at all considering the age and how many competitors have moved forward. Right now, I would go with a BMW 5-Series as being the one for sport while the S90 takes the place of being something a bit different in the class. Still, if I had the opportunity to get my hands on the GS 350 F-Sport, I would do it. This is a prime example of do as I say, not as I do. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the GS 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: GS
      Trim: 350 F-Sport AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve VVT- V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 311 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/26/22
      Curb Weight: 3,891 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $54,505
      Author's Note: Unfortunately, I lost my copy of the window sticker for this particular test vehicle, hence why I don't have the as-tested price or option list for this review.
    • By William Maley
      Last month in the rumorpile, we reported that Mazda would be launching two new engine options for the 2021 3; a turbocharged 2.5L four and 2.0L four. Today, Mazda comfirmed the rumors with the announcement of 2021 3.
      The turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is an engine we know quite well as it powers the CX-5, CX-9, and 6 sedan. Output is rated at 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet (or 250 hp and 320 lb-ft when running on 93 octane). It will come solely paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. This model will be positioned above the top-line Premium trim and adds such items as a heated steering wheel, enlarged exhaust tips, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels,
      As for the 2.0L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder, again its an engine we know from the last-generation 3 and CX-3. It produces a modest 155 hp and 150 lb-ft. This engine is only available on the sedan.
      We don't have any word on pricing, but we're guessing that 2.0L sedan will be around $20k to $21k. As for the turbo, expect base prices possibly between $28k to $32k. The 2.0L sedan arrives at dealers in August, while the turbo comes in towards the end of the year.
      Source: Mazda
      Press Release is on Page 2


      2021 MAZDA3 2.5 TURBO: REFINED PERFORMANCE
      TURBO ENGINE NOW AVAILABLE FOR MAZDA3 HATCHBACK AND SEDAN World Car Design of the Year winner adds enhanced performance Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine will deliver up to 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque on premium 93 octane fuel IRVINE, Calif. (July 8, 2020) – The launch of the fourth generation Mazda3 stirred emotions with its bold yet sophisticated styling. Renowned as the World Car Design of the Year, fans were captivated by its mature interpretation of Kodo design, but some asked for more power and Mazda listened. Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) today announces the addition of the turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine to the 2021 Mazda3 powertrain offering.
      Connected and engaging driving dynamics mean road trips are no longer just for special occasions. Each experience in the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo feels more pronounced and spirited. The Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine will deliver an impressive 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque with premium (93 octane) fuel or a solid 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with regular (87 octane) fuel. This engine is specifically calibrated to the Mazda3 so as to deliver the unique driving dynamics expected by our most passionate drivers. The evolution of Mazda’s turbo engine brings a sense of refinement befitting the brand’s recent updates to the i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) system. The high torque characteristic of the Skyactiv-G 2.5T paired with the predictive i-Activ AWD create harmony with the driver’s intentions — delivering greater responsiveness and confidence.
      The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo comes standard with Apple CarPlayTM and Android AutoTM, Mazda Connected Services with three-year trial and in-car Wi-Fi hot spot with six-months or 2GB trial, Bose® 12-speaker premium audio, 8.8-inch large center display with Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, two front USB inputs and Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry. Complementing the feel of refined performance, heated leather wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, frameless auto-dim rearview mirror and chrome finishes around the push button start and glove box are exclusive to the turbo offering. Other interior features include Mazda’s Active Driving Display head-up unit, power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leatherette seating, leather wrapped shift knob and aluminum speaker grilles. To encourage peace of mind, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo includes standard i-Activsense safety technologies such as Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go function, Smart Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert, Adaptive Front-lighting system and High Beam Control. Additional standard equipment include larger tailpipes, 18-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, gloss black heated door mirrors, “TURBO” badge on the trunk and on the engine cover, rearview camera, LED daytime running lights, automatic on/off LED signature headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a shark fin antenna. The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo sedan also features a gloss black front grille and sleek lower front bumper decoration.
      The new 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Package heightens the refined styling with a gloss black rear lip spoiler for the sedan while the hatchback is equipped with a gloss black rear roof spoiler and front air dam. Further supporting driving confidence, this top-tier package introduces all-new i-Activsense safety technologies. Rear Smart City Brake Support with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking will automatically apply the brakes when the vehicle is in reverse, if an obstacle or a crossing vehicle is detected. The 360° View Monitor with front and rear parking sensors is now available on the Mazda3 with high-definition digital clarity. A new convenience feature, Traffic Jam Assist enhances Mazda Radar Cruise Control by providing steering inputs at speeds under 40 mph. These advancements in safety technology build upon other features such as Mazda’s Active Driving Display and Adaptive Front-lighting System, which help the Mazda3 stand out among entry-level premium vehicles. The Premium Plus package includes leather seats, navigation and adds HomeLink to the frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror.
      Fans are encouraged to download the MyMazda mobile app to receive exclusive Mazda content as it becomes available (must have push notifications turned on), including the latest information on Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, which is expected to arrive in dealerships by the end of this year. For information on Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, please visit: https://www.mazdausa.com/vehicles/2021-mazda3-turbo.
      2021 MAZDA3: WELL-SUITED WITH ADDED POWERTRAINS
      Mazda Connected Services and in-car Wi-Fi hot spot standard across all models Available Skyactiv-G 2.0 joins Skyactiv-G 2.5 and Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine in Mazda3 offerings IRVINE, Calif. (July 8, 2020) – Following an impressive World Car Design of the Year win, the world’s best-selling Mazda is not resting on its laurels and will continue to find ways to enrich fan’s lives. Alongside the new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, two additional powertrains are now available. With many options, fans can find a Mazda3 that best fits their unique lifestyle. Today, Mazda North American Operations is announcing that the 2021 Mazda3 will go on sale in the fall of 2020.
      New for 2021, the Mazda3 2.0 sedan is equipped with the efficient Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter engine, rated to deliver 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque with front-wheel drive and standard with G-Vectoring Control Plus.
      Three-year trial of Mazda Connected Services, which allows the ability to monitor or control certain features of the vehicle through the MyMazda app and includes in-car Wi-Fi hot spot with six-months or 2GB trial are newly standard on all 2021 Mazda3 models. Standard exterior features include LED daytime lights, automatic on/off LED headlights, LED taillights, 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, matte finish front grille, rearview camera and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The stylish interior is standard with an 8.8-inch large center display, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, two USB inputs, AM/FM eight-speaker sound system with HD RadioTM, push button start, electronic parking brake and black cloth seats. Standard i-Activsense safety features comprise of Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go function, Smart Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, Driver Attention Alert and High Beam Control.
      The Mazda3 2.5S, available in both hatchback and sedan, will continue to offer the Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter engine capable of 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque and standard front-wheel drive. Apple CarPlayTM and Android AutoTM are standard on Mazda3 2.5S, in addition to all the features equipped on the Mazda3 2.0.
      The Mazda3 2.5S with Select Package is a new offering for the hatchback and remains available for the sedan. Along with available i-Activ all-wheel drive, this package adds more conveniences such as Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather steering wheel and shift knob, black leatherette seats, rear armrest with cup holders and door mirror turn signals. The Select Package also upgrades to 18-inch gray aluminum alloy wheels.
      Opening to more potentials, the Mazda3 2.5S with Preferred Package now adds a power moonroof. The Preferred Package consists of heated front seats, gloss black front grille, door mirrors with memory positioning and eight-way power driver seats with power lumbar support and seat memory. As part of this package, the interior and leatherette seats are available in either black or greige.
      Elevating to the Mazda3 2.5S with Premium Package brings the highest qualities to the hatchback and sedan. New for 2021, this package is enhanced with navigation, Bose® 12-speaker premium audio with aluminum speaker grilles, SiriusXM® that includes a three-month trial subscription and a shark fin antenna. Also included in this package is Active Driving Display, Adaptive Front-lighting System and paddle shifters. Leather seats complement the quality of the interior. Along with available black interior, the white interior option is exclusive to the sedan with the red interior option reserved for the hatchback. For the exterior, this package is equipped with 18-inch black finish aluminum alloy wheels and LED signature illumination headlights and taillights. Limited to the Premium package hatchback FWD, Mazda will continue to offer its Skyactiv-MT six-speed manual transmission.
      2021 Mazda3 pricing will be announced on a later date.

      View full article
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