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The past few months at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau has seen some midsize sedans make a second appearance. One has gone the eco-friendly route, another came with some added zip in its sporty model, and the last has undergone some significant changes. The three sedans in question are the Hyundai Sonata Eco, Toyota Camry XSE V6, and 2016 Mazda6.

 

Now if you want to know what we thought of these vehicles originally, you check out our reviews here.

 

2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport
2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring
2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

 

Next: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco


 

The current Hyundai Sonata is a bit head scratcher. When the new model was shown last year at the New York Auto Show, it looked like Hyundai dropped the ball. While the automaker had made a number of improvements in terms of the interior and the engine, the big item of the exterior design was somewhat forgotten. The sleek shape had been changed for something a bit more conservative. This has caused sales to slump and Hyundai to order a refresh a year sooner than expected.

 

But even with these problems, is there a Sonata model that can stand above the rest? As we found out earlier this year, it isn’t the Sonata Sport 2.0T as it has a number of problems with being sporty. Let’s see if the Hyundai Sonata Eco can do it.

 


2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco 5


What makes the Eco different from other Sonata models is under the hood. Hyundai employs a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 177 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Aside from this and an Eco badge on the trunk, it looks like the standard Sonata. But the Eco doesn’t drive like the standard model. With the torque arriving at 1,500 and continuing towards 4,500 rpm, this means the Eco’s has power readily available when you’re leaving a stop and continues onwards. Power comes on smoothly and linearly. The only downside to this powertrain is the dual-clutch transmission stumbles a bit due to slow shifts and occasional juddering. It should be noted that Hyundai has made some improvements to the DCT since we’ve driven the Sonata Eco, and the improvements are noticeable when we drove Tucson with this transmission.

 

The other difference between the Sonata Eco and other trims comes in the form of fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco at 28 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. This is slightly better than the standard Sonata with 25 City/37 Highway/29 Combined. My week of driving saw an average of 33.4 MPG, slightly above the combined figure.

 

In the ride and handling department, the Sonata Eco is quite a comfortable car as the suspension keeps most bumps from reaching the interior. Road and wind noise are kept to acceptable levels. Those who want a bit of sport should look towards the Mazda6 as it offers the driver a bit more information and enjoyment on the curves.

 

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco starts at $23,275, about $2,125 more than the base SE model. Considering what comes standard - a power drivers seat, backup camera, five-inch touchscreen radio, and a chrome front grille - the Eco is quite a good value. Our test Eco came with the optional tech package which adds $4,100 to the base price. But the package transforms the Eco into a handsomely loaded model with such features as blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, leather seats, heated front seats, and push-button start.

 

The Eco may be the best all-around trim in the Hyundai Sonata lineup. Not only does it offer impressive fuel economy for a midsize sedan, it comes well equipped and boasts a price tag that will not make you wonder if you spent too much. For many, it might be the right sedan.

 

 

Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata Eco, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2015
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata
Trim: Eco
Engine: 1.6L Turbocharged, Direct-Injected Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual Clutch, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 178 @ 5,500
Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/38/32
Curb Weight: 3,250 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
Base Price: $23,275
As Tested Price: $28,310 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
Tech Package - $4,100
Carpet Floor Mats - $125.00

 

Next: 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring


 

Small changes can make a big difference to a vehicle. No one is a bigger believer to this mantra than Mazda. A classic example is the CX-5. When it launched in 2013, the crossover drew me in with its sharp looks and impressive handling dynamics. But the 2.0L four-cylinder was a bit of a let down as it was a bit underpowered for the vehicle’s weight. Mazda went back and installed a larger 2.5L four-cylinder for the CX-5 and it made a world of difference in overall performance. So imagine taking this idea of making small changes and doing it to another vehicle. Mazda has done that with the 2016 Mazda sedan. Let see what the changes are and if they make the 6 an even better sedan.

 


2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring 5


The outside get some minor changes such as the grille slats draped in chrome and a longer chrome bar that runs underneath the grille. The big changes for the 2016 model are for the interior as Mazda has taken the interior from 3 and placed it into 6. The new dash brings forth improved materials to make it look and feel more premium, along with Mazda’s new infotainment system. This system is a massive improvement over the older one in terms of performance and overall usability. However, Mazda’s system has an odd problem with the navigation system as it shows you traveling on a different road a few hundred feet away than the one you are currently on. Now the system does correct itself, but it takes up to half a minute.

 

One other change for the 2016 Mazda6 is the optional i-Eloop system. This is a regenerative braking system that recycles the kinetic energy that is moving the vehicle into electricity that is stored in a capacitor. The capacitor then feeds that power to various electronic components to help reduce the load on the alternator and improve fuel economy. Now Mazda says the system delivers up five percent better fuel economy. This shows in the 2016 Mazda6’s fuel economy numbers of 28 City/40 Highway/32 Combined, slightly better than the 26 City/38 Highway/30 Combined on the 2014 model. So does it make a difference? Most likely as my average for the week in the 2016 model was 31 MPG, three MPGs higher than the 2014 model.

 

Aside from all of these changes, the Mazda6 is still one of the best driving midsize sedans on sale. The 2.5L Skyactiv-G engine gets up to speed at a quick rate, while the six-speed automatic is one the fastest and smoothest shifting transmissions on sale. Mazda also hasn’t changed the fun-to-drive characteristics we loved in our original road test of the 6. One item we wished Mazda would work on is noise isolation. Road and wind noise were very apparent when driving the 6 on the expressway.

 

The 2016 Mazda6 shows the little changes can take a sedan that is considered by many to be one of best and make and make it that much more.

 

 

Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2016
Make: Mazda
Model: 6
Trim: Grand Touring
Engine: Skyactiv-G 2.5L DOHC Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Skyactiv-Drive Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/40/32
Curb Weight: 3,250 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan
Base Price: $30,195
As Tested Price: $33,395 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
GT Technology Package - $2,180
Door Sill Trim Plates - $125.00
Cargo Mat - $75.00

 

Next: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6


 

Can a Toyota Camry be sporty? Before you start writing comments saying no and telling me that I’m crazy, it is a legitimate question. Consider Toyota’s pledge a couple years ago where it pledged to make their vehicles more engaging. So far, Toyota’s vehicles have looked more exciting. In terms of making them more engaging with driving, it has been mixed. The Avalon Hybrid we thought was a good driving vehicle, while the Corolla S wasn’t. So with that in mind, let us see how the sportiest Camry, the new XSE fares.

 

The 2015 Camry went through a substantial refresh with most of body being changed - aside from the roof. It’s quite dramatic when compared to the previous model. The Camry XSE gets some unique tweaks to make it stand out further such as new mesh grille insert, 18-inch wheels, and dual-exhaust ports. The changes do make the Camry XSE stand out, but it also makes the XSE look like it's trying a bit too hard. Inside the XSE features a number of changes that we delved into our Camry Hybrid SE review including the revised dash with stitching. The only differences for the XSE is a set of faux-suede seats and red stitching. It would be nice if Toyota could do something more to differentiate the Camry XSE from other Camry models in the interior like some new trim pieces specific to the XSE.

 


2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 5


Power for the XSE comes in the form of a 2.5L four-cylinder as the base, with a 3.5L V6 as an option. Our XSE tester came with the optional V6 which packs 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet. No matter which engine you pick, a six-speed automatic comes standard. The V6 is quite the surprise as it pulls very strong through the rev range and will cause the front wheels to break loose if you aren’t careful with the accelerator. Toyota should also be given some credit for building one of the smoothest and quietest V6 engines on sale. The six-speed automatic shares the smooth characteristics of the engine. Fuel economy for the Camry V6 is rated at 21 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. I saw an average 24 MPG for the week.

 

Now Toyota has made a number of improvements to the XSE to make it sporty such as firmer shocks and springs, new bushings, and a revised ­electric power steering system. So does it make a noticeable improvement to the Camry’s handling? Somewhat. The changes to the suspension do help in terms of body control. But the steering feels a little-bit rubbery and doesn’t provide any increased weight from the standard Camry. At least the Camry XSE provides a somewhat smooth ride.

 

The big problem for the Camry XSE is the value proposition. The base price of the Camry XSE V6 starts at $31,370 and includes LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system and navigation; power seats, and dual-zone climate control. However, our test vehicle was fitted with a number of options such as blind-spot monitoring, a JBL audio system, radar cruise control, and lane-departure warning which caused our as-tested price to be $35,768. Considering what you get and how the model doesn’t live up to its sport pretensions, it makes us question whether or not the XSE is worth it.

 

While the XSE is a step in the right direction for in terms of making the Camry a bit more sporty, we think Toyota could have gone a little bit farther in this regard. Also, the value for money equation doesn’t quite work for the Camry XSE. It is a good effort, but Toyota needs to do a bit more work.

 

 

Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry XSE, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2015
Make: Toyota
Model: Camry
Trim: XSE V6
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve w/Dual-VVTi V6
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 268 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 4,700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/25
Curb Weight: 3,480 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
Base Price: $31,370
As Tested Price: $35,768 (Includes $525.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
Entune Premium JBL Audio with Navigation - $805.00
Technology Package - $750.00
Blind Spot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert - $500.00
Remote Start - $499.00
Special Color (Ruby Flare Pearl) - $395.00
Four Seasons Floor Mat Package - $325.00
Illuminated Door Sills - $299.00


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Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

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Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

 

Can I be honest for a moment? Is there any midsize sedan that has passion? I would argue that the Mazda6 is the most passionate of the bunch since it has a distinctive look and is one of the best driving models in the class. (I can't say anything about reliability though since I only get vehicles for a week - Mazda, could you hand over a 6 for a few months? ;-)

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Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

 

Can I be honest for a moment? Is there any midsize sedan that has passion? I would argue that the Mazda6 is the most passionate of the bunch since it has a distinctive look and is one of the best driving models in the class. (I can't say anything about reliability though since I only get vehicles for a week - Mazda, could you hand over a 6 for a few months? ;-)

 

Point well made, :P Your right what mid size sedan that the masses can own really has any passion. It would be great to get one for a few months. I would submit the request to Mazda and see what they say. :D

So in your opinion how does these three stack up against what Ford, GM and Chrysler / Dodge has?

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Every time they redesign the Camry, it essentially catches up to the outgoing generation of midsizers. I've seen several 2015 Camries up close and the build quality and body complexity is where the class was in 2012-2013. That doesn't sound like a big stretch, but consider that the 2012 Camry was already a redesign, one that barely caught up to the 08-10 vehicles like the Malibu, Fusion, and Sonata both in interior and exterior design.

 

Having driven a 2014 SE V6 extensively, I know how much the underpinnings of the "new generation" Camry are lacking dynamically. The car sells on a Toyota reputation for quality and innovation that no longer exists. The V6 remains the best part of the car, but dates back to 2007. Surely if Toyota cared about its product, they could have designed two new engines since then.

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I Had a rental 2014.5 Camry SE 2.5 and was shocked at the abysmal interior quality and the fact it died right in my driveway with a low battery that couldn't start the car the following morning. Apparently this very rental car was to Toyota before for this exact issue and they couldn't find the problem. Luckily I had a battery charger on hand to get the car going and back to the rental agency. Inside the passenger side A-pilar molding plastic piece was coming apart due to a broken plastic clip, the center dash vents popped out onto my drink going over a set of hearty railroad tracks, the cloth seat material was some of the cheapest sand paper like crap i have ever sat in and actually caused a skin rash on the back of my legs on a long trip! That black and painted on fake silver was more appropriate for a 18k Corolla, not a 26K Camry! Haven't driven a new 2015 yet but several interior touch points still feel really cheap starting with the wafer thin headliner, the carryover garbage seat material and the flimsy cup holder divider which always pops out if you have an oversized drink in there.

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We had a 2014 Mazda 6, the first year of the 'current' gen model. 

 

When we got it there was a rattle in it.....took it to the dealership and they took care of it right away as a Technical Service Bulletin was out on in.  Other than that, 50,000+ miles later and not a single problem.

 

That was a huge relief coming off our our 2008 Saturn Vue before it, which had a remarkable list of things that broke or just weren't right that required well over 10 trips to the dealership (seriously, it was like 12 or 13 times we were back while still under warranty)

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      View full article
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      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
    • By William Maley
      The 2018 Subaru Legacy finds itself in a difficult spot. Like other midsize sedans, the Legacy has been seeing its sales fall down as more buyers are trending towards trucks and utility vehicles. But Subaru is trying to stop the bleeding somewhat by introducing an updated Legacy with various improvements to the exterior and mechanical bits. Is it enough?
      Compared to the last Legacy I drove in 2015, the 2018 model has some minor changes. The front now comes with a wider grille, updated design for the headlights, and a new bumper. The 2.5i Sport adds blacked-out trim, fog lights, and a set of 18-inch wheels with painted inserts. This helps makes the very plain design stand-out slightly more. Subaru’s safe approach to design continues inside. There are only a couple of changes like a new steering wheel and updated controls for the climate system. While it lacks in overall excitement, the Legacy’s earns top marks in overall usability as controls are easy to find and reach. Material quality sees an improvement as Subaru has added more soft-touch plastics throughout. The Legacy’s interior feels quite spacious thanks in part to a large glass area and thin roof pillars. Those sitting in the front will find the seats to be a little too firm, but they do provide an excellent amount of support for any trip. The back seat has more than enough legroom for tall passengers. The same cannot be said for headroom as those over six-feet will find their heads touching the liner. Open up the trunk to find 15 cubic feet of space, slightly smaller than the Hyundai Sonata I reviewed a few weeks back. My Sport tester came with an 8-inch touchscreen featuring Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system. The system gains an upgraded processor to address complaints of Starlink being somewhat slow. It makes a big difference as the system starts up much faster and is more responsive when going to different functions. The system also earns points for being easy to use with large touchscreen tiles and shortcut buttons on either side. I did have an issue of Starlink not recognizing my iPhone 7 Plus. The system saw something was plugged into the USB port, but couldn’t figure out what it was. It took a reset of my phone and restarting the vehicle before it would work. After this, Starlink had no issues finding my phone and bringing up the CarPlay interface. Under the hood is a 2.5L boxer-four producing 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT and Symmetrical all-wheel drive. Around town, the engine is very responsive and gets up to speed a decent clip. On the highway, the 2.5 struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. A lot of the slowness can be attributed to the Legacy’s weight. My 2.5i Sport tips the scales at 3,538 pounds. This is 143 pounds heavier than a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE four-cylinder that I recently drove. The CVT Subaru uses is one of the best in the business. It doesn’t have the rubber-band issue - engine RPMs rise at a quick rate before falling during acceleration - and has been calibrated to have ‘steps’ to mimic a regular six-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy figures for the Legacy 2.5i are 25 City/34 Highway/29 Combined. I saw an average of 28.2 mpg on a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. Despite this model being badged as a ‘Sport’, the Legacy doesn’t fully live up to this. There is a fair amount body lean when cornering and the steering is a bit too light in terms of weight. At least the AWD system provides tenacious grip to keep you on the road. You would be forgiven if you thought the Legacy was a luxury sedan due to its ride quality. Most bumps and imperfections are soaked up by the suspension. This comes down to a new set of dampers being fitted for 2018. Another improvement comes in the form of noise isolation. Subaru has added more sound-insulating material and acoustic glass for the 2018 model. The end result is barely any tire of wind noise coming inside. Some engine whine does come inside during hard acceleration. Subaru still leads the pack when it comes to active safety. The optional EyeSight driver-assist suite uses stereo cameras to see the road ahead and feed that data to the adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking systems. The adaptive cruise control system is one of the best as the system is able to adjust the speed and distance in a very smooth manner whenever the system detects a vehicle in front.  The 2.5i Sport begins at $26,345. My tester came equipped with an option package that included the EyeSight suite, Blind-Spot Monitoring, Rear Active Braking, and Navigation for $2,095. That brings the as-tested price to $29,300. Taking into consideration the long list of standard equipment and the sporty touches, the Sport offers a lot of value. Subaru’s changes to the 2018 Legacy help improve what we would consider being a competent midsize sedan. There lies the problem with the Legacy. Unlike other manufacturers that have stepped their efforts in terms of design, features, and other elements to try and draw people back to midsize sedans, Subaru just did the basics and didn’t bring forth something compelling. Previously, you could argue that all-wheel drive was the Legacy’s trump card. But considering how many crossovers have that as an option, it just doesn’t work anymore. Subaru better have something special for the next-generation model due out in 2020 or we might have another casualty. Disclaimer: Subaru Provided the Legacy, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Subaru
      Model: Legacy
      Trim: 2.5i Sport
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC Boxer-Four
      Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,800
      Torque @ RPM: 174 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/29
      Curb Weight: 3,538 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lafayette, Indiana
      Base Price: $26,345
      As Tested Price: $29,300 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      EyeSight + Blind Spot Monitoring + Reverse Automatic Braking + High Beam Assist + Navigation - $2,095

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      The 2018 Subaru Legacy finds itself in a difficult spot. Like other midsize sedans, the Legacy has been seeing its sales fall down as more buyers are trending towards trucks and utility vehicles. But Subaru is trying to stop the bleeding somewhat by introducing an updated Legacy with various improvements to the exterior and mechanical bits. Is it enough?
      Compared to the last Legacy I drove in 2015, the 2018 model has some minor changes. The front now comes with a wider grille, updated design for the headlights, and a new bumper. The 2.5i Sport adds blacked-out trim, fog lights, and a set of 18-inch wheels with painted inserts. This helps makes the very plain design stand-out slightly more. Subaru’s safe approach to design continues inside. There are only a couple of changes like a new steering wheel and updated controls for the climate system. While it lacks in overall excitement, the Legacy’s earns top marks in overall usability as controls are easy to find and reach. Material quality sees an improvement as Subaru has added more soft-touch plastics throughout. The Legacy’s interior feels quite spacious thanks in part to a large glass area and thin roof pillars. Those sitting in the front will find the seats to be a little too firm, but they do provide an excellent amount of support for any trip. The back seat has more than enough legroom for tall passengers. The same cannot be said for headroom as those over six-feet will find their heads touching the liner. Open up the trunk to find 15 cubic feet of space, slightly smaller than the Hyundai Sonata I reviewed a few weeks back. My Sport tester came with an 8-inch touchscreen featuring Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system. The system gains an upgraded processor to address complaints of Starlink being somewhat slow. It makes a big difference as the system starts up much faster and is more responsive when going to different functions. The system also earns points for being easy to use with large touchscreen tiles and shortcut buttons on either side. I did have an issue of Starlink not recognizing my iPhone 7 Plus. The system saw something was plugged into the USB port, but couldn’t figure out what it was. It took a reset of my phone and restarting the vehicle before it would work. After this, Starlink had no issues finding my phone and bringing up the CarPlay interface. Under the hood is a 2.5L boxer-four producing 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT and Symmetrical all-wheel drive. Around town, the engine is very responsive and gets up to speed a decent clip. On the highway, the 2.5 struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. A lot of the slowness can be attributed to the Legacy’s weight. My 2.5i Sport tips the scales at 3,538 pounds. This is 143 pounds heavier than a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE four-cylinder that I recently drove. The CVT Subaru uses is one of the best in the business. It doesn’t have the rubber-band issue - engine RPMs rise at a quick rate before falling during acceleration - and has been calibrated to have ‘steps’ to mimic a regular six-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy figures for the Legacy 2.5i are 25 City/34 Highway/29 Combined. I saw an average of 28.2 mpg on a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. Despite this model being badged as a ‘Sport’, the Legacy doesn’t fully live up to this. There is a fair amount body lean when cornering and the steering is a bit too light in terms of weight. At least the AWD system provides tenacious grip to keep you on the road. You would be forgiven if you thought the Legacy was a luxury sedan due to its ride quality. Most bumps and imperfections are soaked up by the suspension. This comes down to a new set of dampers being fitted for 2018. Another improvement comes in the form of noise isolation. Subaru has added more sound-insulating material and acoustic glass for the 2018 model. The end result is barely any tire of wind noise coming inside. Some engine whine does come inside during hard acceleration. Subaru still leads the pack when it comes to active safety. The optional EyeSight driver-assist suite uses stereo cameras to see the road ahead and feed that data to the adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking systems. The adaptive cruise control system is one of the best as the system is able to adjust the speed and distance in a very smooth manner whenever the system detects a vehicle in front.  The 2.5i Sport begins at $26,345. My tester came equipped with an option package that included the EyeSight suite, Blind-Spot Monitoring, Rear Active Braking, and Navigation for $2,095. That brings the as-tested price to $29,300. Taking into consideration the long list of standard equipment and the sporty touches, the Sport offers a lot of value. Subaru’s changes to the 2018 Legacy help improve what we would consider being a competent midsize sedan. There lies the problem with the Legacy. Unlike other manufacturers that have stepped their efforts in terms of design, features, and other elements to try and draw people back to midsize sedans, Subaru just did the basics and didn’t bring forth something compelling. Previously, you could argue that all-wheel drive was the Legacy’s trump card. But considering how many crossovers have that as an option, it just doesn’t work anymore. Subaru better have something special for the next-generation model due out in 2020 or we might have another casualty. Disclaimer: Subaru Provided the Legacy, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Subaru
      Model: Legacy
      Trim: 2.5i Sport
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC Boxer-Four
      Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,800
      Torque @ RPM: 174 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/29
      Curb Weight: 3,538 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lafayette, Indiana
      Base Price: $26,345
      As Tested Price: $29,300 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      EyeSight + Blind Spot Monitoring + Reverse Automatic Braking + High Beam Assist + Navigation - $2,095
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