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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT Blacktop

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For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it.

  • I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels.
  • The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option.
  • The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined.
  • Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines.
  • The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts.
  • Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue. 
  • As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined.
  • One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels.
  • Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward.
  • The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car.
  • Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better.

Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2016
Make: Dodge
Model: Challenger
Trim: SXT Plus
Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350
Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23
Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
Base Price: $26,995
As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00
Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00
Sound Group II - $795.00
Blacktop Package - $695.00
Super Track Pak - $695.00
UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00


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10 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

No thanks. V8 or bust in this segment. Especially in the Chally.

Agreed.

I actually think the small turbo mills are more enticing than the V6's. Just something about them that I like more than torqueless V6's...

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And to this I say: Meh. V8s are overrated.

Yes, they make a good noise. Yes, they offer more in the way of straight-line speed. But so what?

I can claim ownership of both a fourth-gen Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, a Dodge Challenger and a late-model Ford Mustang. None of those cars were equipped with their optional V8s; they were all lowly V6 models.

But that doesn't mean they were any less fun.

Actually, what you give up in raw grunt you earn back in handling (it's especially true for the Mustang). And, personally, I relish good handling over a V8's thump since I find myself traveling more on Kentucky's curvy backroads versus our interstate highways or bypasses. However, for the times I have traveled on straighter blacktop, I've always found the V6 to be adequate.

Then there's the money you save on the purchase price and, obviously, on insurance costs and at the gas pump.

I guess what you do lose and never gain back is image. But, you know, I could care less about my car giving some mediocre middle-aged bald spot a hard-on between traffic lights. I didn't buy my car for someone else to enjoy -- selfishly, it's for me and me alone.

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Not in those older generations you don't gain handling capabilities back with their skinny tires and soft suspensions.

"that doesn't mean they were any less fun" - Yes. Yes it does mean they are less fun! lol

 

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7 hours ago, ccap41 said:

Not in those older generations you don't gain handling capabilities back with their skinny tires and soft suspensions.

"that doesn't mean they were any less fun" - Yes. Yes it does mean they are less fun! lol

Certainly, you do realize you've just made an argument here that's about as watertight as the Titanic.

Skinny tires? My fourth-gen, six-banger Camaro and Firebird were both equipped with the same exact 16-inch wheels and tires as the Z28 and Trans Am, respectively, for 1998.

(Only SS and WS6 models had 17-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, all Camaros and Firebirds used the same dual-piston brakes starting that year, regardless if they were V6 or V8-equipped.)

In fact, the Firebird I owned was also equipped with the Y87 performance package that earned the car a V8 steering box and an upgraded suspension. I can't remember if the Camaro I had also packed the Y87 package, but I'm leaning toward yes since it had the Z28's 16-inch wheels and I remember the window sticker showing the car to be pretty much a fully-loaded V6 car, save for leather seats. So then, so much for a downgraded suspension.

Let's also dig a little deeper, think with an open-mind for a second. Those V6 cars actually had most of the engine's weight placed behind the front wheels, and weighed a few hundred pounds less than their V8 counterparts. Obviously, these factors had positive effects on how the V6 cars handled.

Facts aside, driving impressions are, like styling, ultimately a subjective matter. The stock tires on a Scion FR-S, for example, are actually pretty frickin skinny. But, if I recall correctly, most reviewers praise the FR-S as being fun to drive and a good handling car, just slow. Hmmmm...

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9 hours ago, Blake Noble said:

Certainly, you do realize you've just made an argument here that's about as watertight as the Titanic.

Skinny tires? My fourth-gen, six-banger Camaro and Firebird were both equipped with the same exact 16-inch wheels and tires as the Z28 and Trans Am, respectively, for 1998.

(Only SS and WS6 models had 17-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, all Camaros and Firebirds used the same dual-piston brakes starting that year, regardless if they were V6 or V8-equipped.)

In fact, the Firebird I owned was also equipped with the Y87 performance package that earned the car a V8 steering box and an upgraded suspension. I can't remember if the Camaro I had also packed the Y87 package, but I'm leaning toward yes since it had the Z28's 16-inch wheels and I remember the window sticker showing the car to be pretty much a fully-loaded V6 car, save for leather seats. So then, so much for a downgraded suspension.

Let's also dig a little deeper, think with an open-mind for a second. Those V6 cars actually had most of the engine's weight placed behind the front wheels, and weighed a few hundred pounds less than their V8 counterparts. Obviously, these factors had positive effects on how the V6 cars handled.

Facts aside, driving impressions are, like styling, ultimately a subjective matter. The stock tires on a Scion FR-S, for example, are actually pretty frickin skinny. But, if I recall correctly, most reviewers praise the FR-S as being fun to drive and a good handling car, just slow. Hmmmm...

1998 Camaro v6's has tire options of 215/50R16 and 235/55R16 and the SS came with 275/40R17s. Z/28 has a super awkward tire size of 245/5016. Those are very much different tire sizes. Not just section width but a more aggressive aspect ratio as well. And yes those taller sidewalls made for a squishy feeling.

Looking up what exactly this Y87 Performance Package entails.. Nothing to do with suspension. 3.42 gears, Zexel-Torsion LSD, 235/55R16 Goodyear Eagles, Dual exhaust, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the V8's steering rack.

The little FR-S/BRZ twins do have relatively skinny tires, and they also come with low rolling resistance tires from the factory. 214/45R17. The car has a boxer engine and it sits extremely low in the car bringing the CG down a ton in comparison. Yes, the V6 Camaros and Mustangs of those older generations weighed less because of less engine but you'll never objectively explain how the V6(of those older generations because the new ones are a completely different story with 1LE packages and north of 300hp and such) could be more fun than their V8 counterparts. Sliding around a 2700-2800lb car with exceptional balance is not the same as a 3300-3500lb, not well balanced, car.

"Also critical in it’s handling dynamics is the BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. This is because of Subaru’s Boxer engine design with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the chassis. It contributes to all Subaru’s having this important characteristic, but BRZ takes maximum advantage of this."

http://www.torquenews.com/1084/three-things-make-2015-subaru-brz-special-sports-car

For what it's worth, C/D compared the Mustang and Camaro back in 1999 and the V6 Camaro ran a 16.1@87mph. That's not exactly fun speed either.. The little BRZ does the same in 15.0@94mph. Not the greatest comparison. Slow and overweight vs quick and light.

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15 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

1998 Camaro v6's has tire options of 215/50R16 and 235/55R16 and the SS came with 275/40R17s. Z/28 has a super awkward tire size of 245/5016. Those are very much different tire sizes. Not just section width but a more aggressive aspect ratio as well. And yes those taller sidewalls made for a squishy feeling.

Looking up what exactly this Y87 Performance Package entails.. Nothing to do with suspension. 3.42 gears, Zexel-Torsion LSD, 235/55R16 Goodyear Eagles, Dual exhaust, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the V8's steering rack.

The little FR-S/BRZ twins do have relatively skinny tires, and they also come with low rolling resistance tires from the factory. 214/45R17. The car has a boxer engine and it sits extremely low in the car bringing the CG down a ton in comparison. Yes, the V6 Camaros and Mustangs of those older generations weighed less because of less engine but you'll never objectively explain how the V6(of those older generations because the new ones are a completely different story with 1LE packages and north of 300hp and such) could be more fun than their V8 counterparts. Sliding around a 2700-2800lb car with exceptional balance is not the same as a 3300-3500lb, not well balanced, car.

"Also critical in it’s handling dynamics is the BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. This is because of Subaru’s Boxer engine design with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the chassis. It contributes to all Subaru’s having this important characteristic, but BRZ takes maximum advantage of this."

http://www.torquenews.com/1084/three-things-make-2015-subaru-brz-special-sports-car

For what it's worth, C/D compared the Mustang and Camaro back in 1999 and the V6 Camaro ran a 16.1@87mph. That's not exactly fun speed either.. The little BRZ does the same in 15.0@94mph. Not the greatest comparison. Slow and overweight vs quick and light.

Jesus, dude...

Alright then, let's do this, I guess...

  1. The 245/50R16 tire size you mentioned for the Z28 were a Z-rated tire offered as optional equipment for 1998. They were not the standard tire for that year. All base Z/28s had 235/55R16 tires... and, hey, wouldn't you know it? Those are the same tires that my V6 Camaro had.
  2. I've discovered there's some confusion as to whether or not Y87 cars had upgraded suspension parts. I've seen a few sources say yes, others no. I've been under the impression the suspension was upgraded somehow over a basic non-Y87 car. So I decided to do a little research. It appears whatever source you've quoted is ultimately correct. However, with that said, it's possible Y87 cars likely use different steering arms from base V6 cars to use the V8 steering box. If so, I suppose some sources might be counting that as an "upgraded suspension." My apologies for further propagating that confusion.
  3. ...But, while researching the above topic, continuing on with V6 vs V8 suspension differences, all '98 and up V6 and base V8 F-Body cars actually use the same rear coil springs (code TJ). Obviously the front springs are different between the two to account for a lighter/heavier engine, not necessarily to make the handling worse or the ride any softer. Again, only SS and WS6 cars had upgraded springs all the way round. So, once again I'll ask, what downgraded suspension?

So to recap:

  • The Camaro I owned had the same 235/55R16 tires as a base model Z28 for 1998.
  • The Camaro I owned I believe had the Y87 package, which meant it shared the same steering box and rear differential as a 1998 Z28. It's also possible the steering arms are shared as well.
  • The Camaro I owned had the same rear coil springs as a base model '98 Z28. The front coil springs were different to compensate for difference in weight of the V6 versus the V8 engine, not to compromise the ride or handling. This is true for all 1998 Camaros -- base V6, Y87 V6 and base Z28 -- with the exception of SS models.
  • As an aside, at this point, it wouldn't surprise me if even the shocks are the same between base V6, Y87 V6 and base Z28 Camaros built in 1998, although I haven't researched this yet.

The tire and suspension differences are so minor between the car I owned and a base Z28 I don't see how anyone could argue the V8 absolutely handled better, unless we're talking about an SS model which could boast a slight advantage over both the V6 and Z28. But at that point, what engine the car has becomes completely irrelevant. Sure, you can say there's a V8 better than the V6, but you'd be choosing to be ignorant to the fact that it's also better than a similar V8 car as well.

Moving forward now...

  1. Using quarter mile times in a discussion about handling is totally irrelevant. I don't think you make left and right hand turns in a straight-line drag race. Or are you onto some new fun trend that you'd like to share?
  2. Curb weight has little to weight distribution. For example: it's possible for one car to weigh 3,000 lbs. and the other 3,500 but both have the same 55/45 weight distribution. So your point is... ?
  3. The V6 Camaro has 57/43 weight distribution. The FR-S is 53/47. I thought that was interesting.

Ultimately, though, you are missing the point of my mention of the FR-S in the last bit of my post, just like how you're missing the entire message of my original post.

On that last note, let's see if using a British accent fixes that, for whatever reason:

Does that make it any clearer? You're trying to dispute that entire notion based on -- what? -- two out of the four cars I've owned that I'm basing my impression on?

I need a goddamn Advil now.

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32 minutes ago, Blake Noble said:

You're trying to dispute that entire notion based on -- what? -- two out of the four cars I've owned that I'm basing my impression on?

This is all that needed to be said.. you're defensive of them because you've owned them..

I'm not intentionally coming off aggressive.. That's the stupid internet's fault or not capturing my light-ness of discussion. My bad there, brother.

The reason I brought up 1/4 mile times/0-60 times was because you said "fun". You said they were more "fun" and that's why I looked into more than just maximum handling capabilities.

Thank you for informing me on those v6 and z/28 similarities. Way closer than I would have thought but I'm still coming up with 245's and 235's for the z/28, both on 16 inch wheels. That seems like not enough tire for the LS1..just sayin'.

The point of weight distribution is handling capabilities. A Camaro with a v6 or v8 over the front axel is going to have a lot more weight over the front end than a BRZ with a boxer 4 tucked lower and further back. The BRZ and '98 Camaro will be night and day in corner carving.

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1999 z/28 test results

1999 Camaro v6 test results

I realize they are 1999 and not 1998, FYI. But that's the same generation for the Camaro so I assumed it was okay.

Found it interesting that the z/28 held a higher maximum lateral g's but the v6 did the emergency lane change a good amount quicker(nearly 5mph). They also took the same distance to brake 70-0mph. Interesting, indeeeeeeed.

Edited by ccap41

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The Challenger needs the 5.7L V8 to be relevant. It weighs too damn much and lacks handling/braking in its class overall, but especially in V6 trims. A V6 Challenger will not drive better because you saved 100 lbs, as the car's most redeeming quality is being a muscle car and the V6 struggles to keep up with common family cars with 2.0Ts and V6s. Fun in a Challenger is a rip-roaring V8 laying a patch of rubber, not getting 30 mpg and losing races against grocery getters.

The same argument can easily be applied to the Camaro and Mustang prior to the late 2000s. It's an incredibly unpopular stance to claim that a 90s pony car is just as fun (or moreso) without a V8. Some things are "subjective opinion" but come on.

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20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

This is all that needed to be said.. you're defensive of them because you've owned them..

I'm defensive of them because not necessarily because of my ownership of them, but because these cars deserve to be judged and enjoyed based on their own merits and not what they lack compared to their V8 counterparts. These cars do have a unique flavor of their own to offer and appreciate. 

Let me touch on this thought of mine for just a minute: I sincerely believe the "no replacement for displacement" mentality that lingers over the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger like a sour fart is what'll ultimately doom these cars when internal combustion engines go the way of the carrier pigeon, Soviet Union and Member's Only jackets. And what I've seen unfold in this thread only further solidifies that notion, honestly.

If these cars survive electrification, it'll be nothing short of a damn miracle because the shear number of all of the old folks and folks who are "old at heart" dying from heart-attacks at the silence of a electric Mustang burnout alone will likely justify some sort of government '90s assault weapons-style ban on electric cars, despite the fact an all-electric Mustang could give way to the best driving Mustang of all time, if not simply the best all-around Mustang ever.

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

The reason I brought up 1/4 mile times/0-60 times was because you said "fun". You said they were more "fun" and that's why I looked into more than just maximum handling capabilities.

I said they were more "fun" because you can use more of the car in legal driving conditions. Remember the driving conditions I mentioned earlier? I've never set a tire on a drag strip and I don't carry a stopwatch around. I do plenty of driving on curvy country roads and backroads (US 421 in particular is a real treat) and anything packing more than 300 to 325 horsepower would be pretty much useless. Really, 300 horsepower can be a bit too much at times.

Reference that James May segment I posted. There's less power with a V6 Camaro, Mustang or Challenger, sure, but there's more usable power. Sure, with a V8 model you can go 0-60 faster than the taco squirts, and down the quarter mile quicker than an ape with a hot fire poker up its ass, but those are ultimately just numbers on paper. It doesn't count for much if you can't use those numbers in the real world.

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

Thank you for informing me on those v6 and z/28 similarities. Way closer than I would have thought but I'm still coming up with 245's and 235's for the z/28, both on 16 inch wheels. That seems like not enough tire for the LS1..just sayin'.

Well, hey, it was the late '90s. Compared to what automakers were using less than 10 years prior, those tires were probably something for the Camaro then. Today, we're used to 17 inch wheels as standard equipment on Camries and Malibus.

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

The point of weight distribution is handling capabilities. A Camaro with a v6 or v8 over the front axel is going to have a lot more weight over the front end than a BRZ with a boxer 4 tucked lower and further back. The BRZ and '98 Camaro will be night and day in corner carving.

Well, yah.

I really don't know where to go here but I wasn't originally trying to directly compare the Camaro to the FR-S...

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

I'm not intentionally coming off aggressive.. That's the stupid internet's fault or not capturing my light-ness of discussion. My bad there, brother.

No worries. I didn't mean to come across abrasive, either. Defensive, maybe. But then again, I'm not used to an argument being this civilized around here, sadly.

19 hours ago, cp-the-nerd said:

The Challenger needs the 5.7L V8 to be relevant. It weighs too damn much and lacks handling/braking in its class overall, but especially in V6 trims. A V6 Challenger will not drive better because you saved 100 lbs, as the car's most redeeming quality is being a muscle car and the V6 struggles to keep up with common family cars with 2.0Ts and V6s. Fun in a Challenger is a rip-roaring V8 laying a patch of rubber, not getting 30 mpg and losing races against grocery getters.

The same argument can easily be applied to the Camaro and Mustang prior to the late 2000s. It's an incredibly unpopular stance to claim that a 90s pony car is just as fun (or moreso) without a V8. Some things are "subjective opinion" but come on.

I'll agree that the Challenger is a Fatty McFatpants that needs to go on a diet. But I'm sticking to what I said earlier: the V6 SE and SXT cars are better at backroad exploration than the R/T models.

But, really, a Challenger is best at cruising down boulevards and interstates and going on long distance trips. It's a big, comfortable car. It's half family car, half grand tourer. It's basically a Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe wearing a pony car pelt. (Not much different, then, than the Challenger in Vanishing Point if you think about it a bit.) And, really, what engine you have under the hood is moot when all you do is loaf around on straight-stretches of road.

And I'm proud to march to the beat of different drum here.

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I own a 5.7 Challenger R/T. I love it, but could a V6 Chally replace it? Sure. Why not? It's is a rare event when I get a chance to stretch the Hemi's legs. It's my go to car for road trips, and on rare occasions I drive it down some winding, twisting mountain roads near where I live, but that is usually a waste of time because of the number of families out for a weekend cruise on the same mountain roads that muck-up any opportunity for me to unwind the Challenger, and that is the problem. There really isn't any safe legal way to reach the potential of these cars unless one spends his weekends at the track, drives dangerously, or temps fate with the local law enforcement and most people have little time for that, so most of these cars are really nothing more than daily driver's, and who really cares if it is a V8 or V6?  

 

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      My first impression seeing the 2018 Sonata was that Hyundai had improved it, but was still a bit short when compared to the work done by other automakers. Spending a week with the Sonata caused me to change my train of thought; It surprised me how much work Hyundai put into this mid-cycle refresh and brings the Sonata up to the point where I would say it is fighting for best-in-class honors. 
      While the 2018 Sonata may lack most of the pizzazz found in the sixth-generation model, it does show that Hyundai has learned from its mistake and worked to reclaim some of the magic.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.4L GDI DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic. Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 185 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 4,000 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/28
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $27,400
      As Tested Price: $31,310 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,900.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Hyundai had set itself a high bar when it launched the sixth-generation Sonata for the 2010 model year. It stood out from a crowded field of midsize sedans with an exterior shape that resembled a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The Sonata also boasted a comfortable interior, loads of technology features, a good selection of engines, and a nice balance between comfort and sport. Replacing this model would be a tough task and one Hyundai wasn’t able to meet. When the seventh-generation model rolled out at 2014 New York Auto Show, you could hear the cry of a sad trombone. The new Sonata had gone conservative in its design. Compared to Chevrolet, Honda, and Toyota that rolled out bold styling on their sedans, the Sonata went backwards with a conservative look.
      Hyundai realized they need to make some drastic changes to Sonata to give it a fighting chance not only against other sedans, but from the growing demand for crossovers of all sizes. This brings us to the 2018 Sonata Limited. It was time to find out if Hyundai had found that magic once again.
      This being a refresh, Hyundai couldn’t go completely crazy in terms of the design language, however the updates really help the Sonata have more presence. Up front is bolder with a new hexagonal grille surround, chrome grille slats, new sculpting on the hood, and deep cuts in the bumper for LED fog lights. The side profile retains the chrome trim that runs through the headlights and around the windows. Hyundai made some drastic changes for the rear by smoothing out the trunk lid and moving the placement of the license plate to the bumper. 
      The Sonata’s interior retains the basic shape of the outgoing model, but changes have been made to freshen it up. The center stack boasts a revised control layout and all trims get a three-spoke steering wheel. Previously, only the Sport trim got this wheel design. It would have been nice if Hyundai was a little bit more adventurous with the design, but I’m willing to forgive some of this feeling as the controls fall easily into hand. Interior materials are about average for the class with a mix of hard and soft plastics.
      The front seats were designed with long-distance comfort in mind with a fair amount of seat padding and just the right amount of firmness. Power adjustments for both driver and passenger are standard on the Limited and offer a generous range of adjustments. Space in the back is quite roomy and there are some nice touches such as manual window shades. The Sonata has one of the largest trunks in the class with 16.3 cubic feet of space on offer.
      All Sonata’s come with a 7-inch touchscreen featuring Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment system. Our test Sonata Limited had the optional 8-inch screen with navigation. The current BlueLink system has been with us for a few years and its interface is beginning to look somewhat dated, but the system is still one of the best when it comes to overall usability with large touchscreen buttons, bright screen, and a simple interface. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all Sonatas except the base SE.
      Sonata offers one of the widest range of powertrains in the segment with three gas engines, a hybrid, and plug-in hybrid. Our Sonata Limited came with the base 2.4L inline-four producing 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic routing power to the front wheels. The engine provides adequate power for around town and rural driving. You will need to step on it when making a pass or merging onto a freeway as torque resides higher in the rev band. The six-speed automatic goes about its business smoothly and always knows what gear it needs to be in. Hyundai does offer an eight-speed automatic, but only if you opt for the turbocharged 2.0L.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 2018 Sonata Limited are 25 City/35 Highway/28 Combined (SE models see a one mpg increase in highway and combined figures). My average for the week landed around 28.5 mpg.
      Hyundai did make some tweaks to the 2018 Sonata’s suspension including a revised rear suspension setup with thicker trailing arms and revised steering system. The end result is a Sonata that handles much better than the previous car. Body motion has noticeably decreased and the steering provides decent weight when turning. Thankfully, the tweaks made to the suspension haven’t affected the Sonata’s ride quality. Bumps and other road imperfections are soaked up before reaching passengers. Some of the credit has to go to Hyundai not going crazy on offering large wheels - the Limited seen here rides on 17-inch wheels. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels.
      My first impression seeing the 2018 Sonata was that Hyundai had improved it, but was still a bit short when compared to the work done by other automakers. Spending a week with the Sonata caused me to change my train of thought; It surprised me how much work Hyundai put into this mid-cycle refresh and brings the Sonata up to the point where I would say it is fighting for best-in-class honors. 
      While the 2018 Sonata may lack most of the pizzazz found in the sixth-generation model, it does show that Hyundai has learned from its mistake and worked to reclaim some of the magic.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.4L GDI DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic. Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 185 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 4,000 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/28
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $27,400
      As Tested Price: $31,310 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,900.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
    • By William Maley
      FCA US Reports June 2018 Sales
      FCA reports best June retail sales in 14 years Jeep® brand reports its best month of June sales ever, up 19 percent Ram Truck brand posts best June sales ever, up 6 percent Jeep Cherokee reports best month of sales ever, up 89 percent July 3, 2018 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - FCA US LLC today reported June 2018 sales of 202,264 vehicles, an 8 percent increase compared with sales in June 2017 of 187,348 vehicles.
       
      Overall sales were bolstered by both the Jeep® and Ram Truck brands, which reported significant increases for the month. FCA retail sales came in at 155,208, marking the best June sales since 2004 when sales reached 155,663 vehicles. Fleet accounted for 23 percent of total sales, a 1 percent decline from the previous year.
       
      Jeep Brand
      Jeep brand notched its best month of June sales ever with 86,989 vehicles sold compared with 73,153 in June 2017. Driving the results were the Cherokee, Compass and Wrangler nameplates. Cherokee and Compass sales nearly doubled, with Cherokee reporting 22,433 vehicle sales compared with 11,895 in June 2017. Compass sales were 15,142 compared with 8,311 in June 2017. Wrangler sales increased to 23,110 vehicles compared with 18,839 in June 2017.
       
      Ram Truck Brand
      Ram Truck brand scored a variety of records as sales increased 6 percent to 51,729 vehicles, making it the best June sales ever. Ram brand retail sales also had their best June ever, rising 4 percent to 36,750. Driving the increase was Light-Duty pickup truck retail sales, which rose 11 percent to 24,036 vehicles. Total sales of the Ram ProMaster van nearly doubled to 6,996 vehicles.  
       
      Chrysler Brand
      Chrysler brand total sales declined 32 percent in June to 13,484 vehicles compared with June of the previous year.
       
      Dodge Brand
      Dodge brand total sales rose 9 percent to 46,387 as Charger sales rose 4 percent to 6,640 vehicles compared with 6,379 vehicles in June 2017.    
       
      FIAT Brand
      Sales of Fiat declined 36 percent to 1,426 vehicles. 
       
      Alfa Romeo Brand
      Alfa Romeo brand sales of 2,249 vehicles were up significantly compared with the same month a year ago. Stelvio led the brand with 1,231 vehicle sales, followed by Giulia at 979 vehicles. 

    • By William Maley
      I found myself in a bit of quandary when it came to writing the review for the 2018 Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. Both of these models have been redesigned recently and despite the different exteriors, under the skin they share a number of key parts such as the engine and suspension. As I was going through my notes, I realized the answer was right in front of me; talk about the differences between the two and see which one does it better. 
      Exterior
      Between the two vehicles, the Rio stands out considerably. Like the previous model, the new Rio has a fair amount of European influence with neatly proportioned body and clean lines. The front end is quite low and features a narrow top grille and deep slits in the bumper for a set of fog lights. 15-inch alloy wheels come standard on EX. Unlike the Accent, the Rio is still available in as a hatchback.
      The Accent goes for the safe approach with a simple three-box sedan design. This isn’t helped by the silver color on my test vehicle which makes it become somewhat anonymous. The only real design traits are in the front with a new grille shape that is appearing on new Hyundai models and cutouts in the bumper for accent trim on our base SE tester or foglights on higher trims. One way the Accent SE stands out from the Rio LX is painted door handles and mirror caps.
      Interior
      There are no frills to be found in the Accent’s interior. Like the outside, Hyundai went for a simple and honest design. Material quality is what you expect in the class - hard plastics on most surfaces. But the plastics have a solid feel. All Accents feature basic front seat adjustments - fore/aft, height (driver only), and recline. I was able to find a position that worked for me quite quickly. One item to be aware of is the SE doesn’t come with a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel; SEL models and above get that feature. Space in the back is average for the class with a decent amount of headroom, but a limited amount of legroom.
      Kia added some style to the Rio’s interior with a sculpted dash featuring two-tone plastics. Hard plastics make up the majority of interior surfaces with a grain texture pattern. Like the Accent, the plastics have a very solid feel. The layout is simple with most controls in easy reach. Finding a comfortable position took no time with a basic set of seat adjustments and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. However, I found the seats in the Rio to not be as supportive on long trips. The back seat mirrors the Accent; ok headroom and a small amount of legroom.
      Infotainment
      The Rio EX comes with a 7-inch infotainment system with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. No navigation system is offered, but you won’t need it as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard. It will not take long to familiarize yourself with UVO thanks to a well-thought out interface and dedicated buttons for various features. Performance is impressive with the system responding very quickly to inputs.
      Over at the Accent SE, it comes with a 5-inch touchscreen radio. For the most part, the system was simple to use with redundant buttons for various functions, simple interface, and large touchscreen buttons. I only wished that the screen was slightly larger when I was scrolling through my iPod. One surprise was the SE getting Bluetooth as standard. Kia doesn’t offer Bluetooth on the base Rio LX.
      Powertrain
      Both the Accent and Rio use the same 1.6L inline-four engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. What differs between the two is the transmission; the Accent SE comes with a six-speed manual while the Rio EX makes do with a six-speed automatic. Between the two, the Accent is noticeably quicker. The manual transmission allows the engine to flex what little muscle it has to get the vehicle up to speed. In the Rio, the automatic’s programming smothers the small amount of power to improve fuel economy. There is a Sport mode that holds onto gears longer, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. Neither of the transmissions can help the 1.6L on the freeway as the engine struggles to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      EPA fuel economy figures are almost identical for the two models. Both return 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The difference is in the combined figure; the Rio returns 32, while the Accent returns 31. I got an average of 34 in the Rio and 33 in the Accent.
      Ride and Handling
      There are more similarities between the Rio and Accent when it comes to the driving experience. Both still employ struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle. But the body has been stiffened which helps with ride quality. Both models exhibited excellent isolation of most road imperfections. Handling is another place where the two surprised me. While not exhibiting the sporty characteristics of a Ford Fiesta, both the Accent and Rio show little body roll and feel quite nimble. The steering is light, but provides a decent amount of feedback when pushed. 
      Pricing
      The 2018 Hyundai Accent begins at $14,995 for the base SE with manual transmission and climbs to $18,895 for the Limited. Our test SE with optional floor mats came to an as-tested price of $16,005. While it does cost $1,095 more than the base Rio LX, the Accent SE comes with more features such as Bluetooth, full power accessories, and a rear USB port.
      The 2018 Kia Rio kicks off at $13,900 for the LX sedan and climbs to $18,700 for the EX hatchback. The EX sedan tester came to an as-tested price of $19,425 with carpeted floor mats and destination. It is a bit hard to stomach the price tag when you can into some decently equipped compact sedans such as the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze for similar money. Even after you factor in the EX getting forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, it’s still a tough sell.
      Verdict
      Trying to decide which of the two subcompacts was the winner in this piece was very difficult as they share so much. Beginning with the Rio EX, it is a very sharp looking subcompact with a fair amount of European influence and it is available as a hatchback. But the automatic transmission suffocates what little performance is on offer from the 1.6L engine. Plus the price tag of the EX is very difficult to swallow when you can step up into a compact for similar money. If it was the midlevel S, this would have been a closer fight.
      This brings us to the Accent SE. It's styling inside and out is a bit plain when pitted against the Rio. The lack of hatchback also makes the Accent a bit of hard sell to some buyers. But the list of standard features on the base model is very surprising. Plus, the manual transmission allows the engine to have some flexibility in most driving situations. 
      Both models are towards the top in the subcompact class. But in this comparison, the base Accent SE nips the top-line Rio EX by a hair.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai and Kia Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Accent
      Trim: SE
      Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 2,502 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Nuevo Leon, Mexico
      Base Price: $14,995
      As Tested Price: $16,005 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats: $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Kia
      Model: Rio
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 1.6L 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
      Curb Weight: 2,714 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $18,400
      As Tested Price: $19,425 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $130.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      I found myself in a bit of quandary when it came to writing the review for the 2018 Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. Both of these models have been redesigned recently and despite the different exteriors, under the skin they share a number of key parts such as the engine and suspension. As I was going through my notes, I realized the answer was right in front of me; talk about the differences between the two and see which one does it better. 
      Exterior
      Between the two vehicles, the Rio stands out considerably. Like the previous model, the new Rio has a fair amount of European influence with neatly proportioned body and clean lines. The front end is quite low and features a narrow top grille and deep slits in the bumper for a set of fog lights. 15-inch alloy wheels come standard on EX. Unlike the Accent, the Rio is still available in as a hatchback.
      The Accent goes for the safe approach with a simple three-box sedan design. This isn’t helped by the silver color on my test vehicle which makes it become somewhat anonymous. The only real design traits are in the front with a new grille shape that is appearing on new Hyundai models and cutouts in the bumper for accent trim on our base SE tester or foglights on higher trims. One way the Accent SE stands out from the Rio LX is painted door handles and mirror caps.
      Interior
      There are no frills to be found in the Accent’s interior. Like the outside, Hyundai went for a simple and honest design. Material quality is what you expect in the class - hard plastics on most surfaces. But the plastics have a solid feel. All Accents feature basic front seat adjustments - fore/aft, height (driver only), and recline. I was able to find a position that worked for me quite quickly. One item to be aware of is the SE doesn’t come with a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel; SEL models and above get that feature. Space in the back is average for the class with a decent amount of headroom, but a limited amount of legroom.
      Kia added some style to the Rio’s interior with a sculpted dash featuring two-tone plastics. Hard plastics make up the majority of interior surfaces with a grain texture pattern. Like the Accent, the plastics have a very solid feel. The layout is simple with most controls in easy reach. Finding a comfortable position took no time with a basic set of seat adjustments and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. However, I found the seats in the Rio to not be as supportive on long trips. The back seat mirrors the Accent; ok headroom and a small amount of legroom.
      Infotainment
      The Rio EX comes with a 7-inch infotainment system with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. No navigation system is offered, but you won’t need it as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard. It will not take long to familiarize yourself with UVO thanks to a well-thought out interface and dedicated buttons for various features. Performance is impressive with the system responding very quickly to inputs.
      Over at the Accent SE, it comes with a 5-inch touchscreen radio. For the most part, the system was simple to use with redundant buttons for various functions, simple interface, and large touchscreen buttons. I only wished that the screen was slightly larger when I was scrolling through my iPod. One surprise was the SE getting Bluetooth as standard. Kia doesn’t offer Bluetooth on the base Rio LX.
      Powertrain
      Both the Accent and Rio use the same 1.6L inline-four engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. What differs between the two is the transmission; the Accent SE comes with a six-speed manual while the Rio EX makes do with a six-speed automatic. Between the two, the Accent is noticeably quicker. The manual transmission allows the engine to flex what little muscle it has to get the vehicle up to speed. In the Rio, the automatic’s programming smothers the small amount of power to improve fuel economy. There is a Sport mode that holds onto gears longer, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. Neither of the transmissions can help the 1.6L on the freeway as the engine struggles to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      EPA fuel economy figures are almost identical for the two models. Both return 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The difference is in the combined figure; the Rio returns 32, while the Accent returns 31. I got an average of 34 in the Rio and 33 in the Accent.
      Ride and Handling
      There are more similarities between the Rio and Accent when it comes to the driving experience. Both still employ struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle. But the body has been stiffened which helps with ride quality. Both models exhibited excellent isolation of most road imperfections. Handling is another place where the two surprised me. While not exhibiting the sporty characteristics of a Ford Fiesta, both the Accent and Rio show little body roll and feel quite nimble. The steering is light, but provides a decent amount of feedback when pushed. 
      Pricing
      The 2018 Hyundai Accent begins at $14,995 for the base SE with manual transmission and climbs to $18,895 for the Limited. Our test SE with optional floor mats came to an as-tested price of $16,005. While it does cost $1,095 more than the base Rio LX, the Accent SE comes with more features such as Bluetooth, full power accessories, and a rear USB port.
      The 2018 Kia Rio kicks off at $13,900 for the LX sedan and climbs to $18,700 for the EX hatchback. The EX sedan tester came to an as-tested price of $19,425 with carpeted floor mats and destination. It is a bit hard to stomach the price tag when you can into some decently equipped compact sedans such as the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze for similar money. Even after you factor in the EX getting forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, it’s still a tough sell.
      Verdict
      Trying to decide which of the two subcompacts was the winner in this piece was very difficult as they share so much. Beginning with the Rio EX, it is a very sharp looking subcompact with a fair amount of European influence and it is available as a hatchback. But the automatic transmission suffocates what little performance is on offer from the 1.6L engine. Plus the price tag of the EX is very difficult to swallow when you can step up into a compact for similar money. If it was the midlevel S, this would have been a closer fight.
      This brings us to the Accent SE. It's styling inside and out is a bit plain when pitted against the Rio. The lack of hatchback also makes the Accent a bit of hard sell to some buyers. But the list of standard features on the base model is very surprising. Plus, the manual transmission allows the engine to have some flexibility in most driving situations. 
      Both models are towards the top in the subcompact class. But in this comparison, the base Accent SE nips the top-line Rio EX by a hair.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai and Kia Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Accent
      Trim: SE
      Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 2,502 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Nuevo Leon, Mexico
      Base Price: $14,995
      As Tested Price: $16,005 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats: $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Kia
      Model: Rio
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 1.6L 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
      Curb Weight: 2,714 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $18,400
      As Tested Price: $19,425 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $130.00
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