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William Maley

Review: 2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum 3.0TT

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There has been a common theme for most of the Cadillac vehicles I have reviewed over the past few years. They are always so close to being up there with the best, but there is one thing or trait that knocks them down. Such examples include interior appointments that don’t match up with the price being asked, confusing infotainment systems, and engines that don’t quite match up with the image being portrayed. This was floating around in the back of my head when a 2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum rolled up onto my driveway. This is an important model for Cadillac as it is taking on the likes of the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The little things can make or break a sedan in the class.

Seeing the Cadillac CT6 for the first time at Detroit Auto Show a few years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. The toned-down Art & Science design made me feel that the CT6 blended in with other luxury sedans. But after spending a bit of time with this CT6, I grew to like the design. Yes, the design language has lost some edge found on other Cadillacs, but there is still some sharpness with hard angles and bold lines. The Platinum adds some touches that really bring out the CT6’s shape. A chrome grille helps give the model a more imposing front end and a set of optional 20-inch wheels finished in ‘Midnight Silver’ do an excellent job of filling in the wheel wells. 

If there has been a consistent weak point to Cadillac’s recent models, it has to be interior. On first glance, it seems they have it nailed down with a modern design and quality materials. But when you sit inside and begin to take a closer look, that illusion begins to go away. A fair amount of the materials used doesn't quite match up the luxury aura being presented such as the sheet piano black trim used for touch-sensitive controls on a number of Cadillac models. But the brand is improving as we noted in our XT5 review, and the CT6 is much the same. There is a noticeable step-up in terms of materials such as fine leather, carbon fiber accents, and wood trim. This comes wrapped in a handsomely-designed dashboard. There are some areas Cadillac still needs to do some work on such as the plasticity controls for the climate control system. 

The front seats are a treat to sit in thanks to the right amount of cushioning and support. The Platinum trim gets 20-way power seats for both the driver and passenger to help dial in the right position. Those sitting in the back will be pleased to find generous head and legroom. As added bonus, you can order heated and ventilated seats, power adjustments, and a rear entertainment system to make the back more luxurious. The only downside to sitting in the back is that the CT6 isn’t long enough to take full advantage of the power adjustments. I felt somewhat cramped when I had the back seat fully reclined and my legs touching the back of the front seat. A few more inches in the wheelbase would fix this issue.

Cadillac’s CUE system has undergone some changes for the CT6. Most of the touch-sensitive buttons have either been dropped or replaced with actual, physical buttons. Being able to press a button or flick a switch to change a setting is a welcome change and less frustrating than the touch-sensitive controls. It would have been nice if Cadillac swapped the touch-sensitive volume strip for an actual knob, but at least you can adjust it via the steering wheel controls. Cadillac also added a touchpad controller (think Lexus’ Remote Touch system) for CUE. It is a nice idea on paper, but the execution shows Cadillac needs to do a bit more work. The touchpad is hypersensitive and tends to overshoot from where you want the cursor. You’re better off using the touchscreen. As for CUE itself, the system comes with a faster processor, some tweaks to the interface, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. These changes make CUE less frustrating to use on a daily basis.

There are three engines on offer for the CT6. The base is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, followed by a 3.6L V6. Our Platinum tester featured the big dog; a twin-turbo 3.0L V6 offering 404 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque (@ 2,500 - 5,100 rpm)  Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Performance for the twin-turbo six may not have same exuberance as V8s found in competitors, but it isn’t a slouch. This engine rockets the CT6 at a surprising rate of speed. Those who have timed the vehicle say it will hit 60 mph in around five seconds and we would believe it. Torque is abundant throughout rev range, meaning you should have no issue trying to merge on the freeway or make a pass. The eight-speed automatic has the right characteristics you want in a flagship sedan, smooth and unobtrusive shifts.

EPA fuel economy figures for the CT6 3.0TT stand at 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 22 mpg in mostly city driving.

Describing a sedan that measures 204 inches in overall length as ‘agile’ seems very disingenuous. But the CT6 is that. Drive it around a turn and the CT6 feels like a smaller sedan with nimble manners and well-controlled body motions. Some credit has to go Active Chassis package that comes standard on the Platinum and comes with the excellent Magnetic Ride Control system and rear-wheel steering. 

But most buyers who tend to buy a sedan of this caliber don’t really care about handling. Ride quality is king here and that’s where the CT6 begins to falter. When equipped with the Magnetic Ride Control system, the ride is just a touch too firm. You will feel more bumps in this than some of the CT6’s competition. It would be nice if Cadillac could offer an air suspension for those who want comfort. On the upside, road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels.

It seems somewhat surprising to call the CT6 Platinum a great value, but it actually is. The Platinum 3.0TT begins at $87,495 and our test car with a few options (20-inch wheels, white paint, and spoiler) comes in at $91,580. Considering you have to spend a fair amount more on competitors to match the level of equipment on offer, the CT6 Platinum is quite the steal.

Most of Cadillac’s vehicles have fallen into the cliche of ‘being so close, yet so far’ due to some odd or boneheaded decision. But the CT6 is the first Cadillac that has avoided this. It feels like Cadillac is starting to feel comfortable in this new identity that it has been putting out there since the mid-2000s, a legitimate competitor to the Germans. The CT6 stands out for a number of reasons; excellent driving dynamics, impressive interior, punchy V6, and being quite the value. There are some niggling issues such as a firm ride and questionable materials, but these can and should be addressed down the road. Whether the CT6 can draw people away from the usual suspects remains to be seen. 

If Cadillac can take what they have learned from the CT6 and implement them into future models, then we can say something that hasn’t been used in a long time, ‘Standard of the World’.

Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the CT6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2017
Make: Cadillac
Model: CT6
Trim: Platinum
Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.0L DI DOHC with VVT V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 404 @ 5,700
Torque @ RPM: 400 @ 2,500 - 5,100
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21
Curb Weight: 4,085 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI
Base Price: $87,495
As Tested Price: $91,580 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
20" Midnight Silver Wheels - $2,095.00
Crystal White Tricoat - $500.00
Spoiler Kit - $495.00


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Awesome write up, very enjoyable to read. I suspect the usual suspects will nit pick this apart as it still is not a german sedan.

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Yes there will always be the BMW(right or wrong) crowd.  It is great to know that Cadillac can now truly compete with the Germans with no excuses.

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2 hours ago, dfelt said:

Awesome write up, very enjoyable to read. I suspect the usual suspects will nit pick this apart as it still is not a german sedan.

And we care not about them, as they will always nitpick anything that doesn't come from das fuhrer lol! The CT6 is a solid triple, just short of a home run, with the 3.0L. The CUE system keeps it at third base but it is ready to steal home with the right update.

I will say this though. These comparisons to the S Class need to stop. It was never meant to compete with the S Class, yet people keep insisting on bringing it up in every CT6 article. It's clearly not in the same price bracket and is not equipped the same (not to mention the size). That spot is reserved for the upcoming CT8, which I do think will be a true S Class fighter and rightfully so.

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Solid review. I want to see the CT6 taken further with the long rumored new V8 in development and teased in concepts.

I disagree on one count, because every Cadillac review seems to repeat the same "finally no more excuses" theme. Besides the questionable CUE system, both the CTS and Escalade are already no-excuses excellent products. Their interiors are very well executed with leather,  suede, and wood trim. I'm particularly smitten with Cadillac's brown leather options.

Cadillac has been building great cars for a while, and the CT6's greatest weakness IMO is the way Cadillac's rapid evolution and stunning concept cars set expectations so high that the warmed over Art & Science sheetmetal and simplified interior were underwhelming.

2015-Cadillac-CTS-cockpit.jpg

2015-Cadillac-Escalade-Platinum-cockpit.

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9 minutes ago, cp-the-nerd said:

Solid review. I want to see the CT6 taken further with the long rumored new V8 in development and teased in concepts.

I disagree on one count, because every Cadillac review seems to repeat the same "finally no more excuses" theme. Besides the questionable CUE system, both the CTS and Escalade are already no-excuses excellent products. Their interiors are very well executed with leather,  suede, and wood trim. I'm particularly smitten with Cadillac's brown leather options.

Cadillac has been building great cars for a while, and the CT6's greatest weakness IMO is the way Cadillac's rapid evolution and stunning concept cars set expectations so high that the warmed over Art & Science sheetmetal and simplified interior were underwhelming.

2015-Cadillac-CTS-cockpit.jpg

2015-Cadillac-Escalade-Platinum-cockpit.

Totally agree, that I love their warm brown interiors.

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Given the average age demographic of the 7-series and S-class buyer, the handling aspect of the CT6 may be a benefit in an often overlooked category.  The ability to park these larger cars is a common concern of that age group and 4-wheel steering makes parking the CT6 a breeze. You can maneuver the CT6 around the Piggly Wiggly parking lot as if it were a CTS while still having your fullsize comfort.  

Turning radii:

CT6 - 18.5 Feet (only with 4-wheel steering) 20 feet without.

7-series - 21 feet

S-Class - 20 feet

A8 - 20.85 feet

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, surreal1272 said:

And we care not about them, as they will always nitpick anything that doesn't come from das fuhrer lol! The CT6 is a solid triple, just short of a home run, with the 3.0L. The CUE system keeps it at third base but it is ready to steal home with the right update.

I will say this though. These comparisons to the S Class need to stop. It was never meant to compete with the S Class, yet people keep insisting on bringing it up in every CT6 article. It's clearly not in the same price bracket and is not equipped the same (not to mention the size). That spot is reserved for the upcoming CT8, which I do think will be a true S Class fighter and rightfully so.

I agree it is not an S-class competitor, they aren't even close on the inside or in power or in price.  The Genesis cars and Continental and Kia K900 aren't S-class competitors either, even if they are full size cars. 

I think the CT6 is more of an E-class competitor based on price, and I think the CT6 interior lags behind the E-class, maybe it is on par with the 5-series and A6, but the A6 is old.  I think Cadillac should have done more with the interior of the CT6 since they didn't bring a lot of horsepower to the table.  They aren't selling M5 performance for their $91k, so that interior better be world class.    

Really if they took the CT6 and cut 10 inches of length out of it, they would have a CTS that would be competitive with the mid-size segment.  If they do a CT8, and that is a big IF, they better aim way high.

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4 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

Given the average age demographic of the 7-series and S-class buyer, the handling aspect of the CT6 may be a benefit in an often overlooked category.  The ability to park these larger cars is a common concern of that age group and 4-wheel steering makes parking the CT6 a breeze. You can maneuver the CT6 around the Piggly Wiggly parking lot as if it were a CTS while still having your fullsize comfort.  

Turning radii:

CT6 - 18.5 Feet (only with 4-wheel steering) 20 feet without.

7-series - 21 feet

S-Class - 20 feet

A8 - 20.85 feet

 

 

 

The S-class and 7-series park themselves though, the 7-series does perpendicular parking too, not sure if the S-class does now, I assume it will on the 2018 update it it doesn't already because the E-class can.  I think the 5-series has the same self-park as the 7.

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1 hour ago, smk4565 said:

The S-class and 7-series park themselves though, the 7-series does perpendicular parking too, not sure if the S-class does now, I assume it will on the 2018 update it it doesn't already because the E-class can.  I think the 5-series has the same self-park as the 7.

Optional - Minimum price, $100k. 

The CT6 does have self-park and can do it perpendicularly. 

The 2010 MKS had self-park, so ease off that high horse there mister. 

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7 hours ago, surreal1272 said:

I will say this though. These comparisons to the S Class need to stop. It was never meant to compete with the S Class, yet people keep insisting on bringing it up in every CT6 article. It's clearly not in the same price bracket and is not equipped the same (not to mention the size). That spot is reserved for the upcoming CT8, which I do think will be a true S Class fighter and rightfully so.

3

 

1 hour ago, smk4565 said:

I agree it is not an S-class competitor, they aren't even close on the inside or in power or in price.  The Genesis cars and Continental and Kia K900 aren't S-class competitors either, even if they are full size cars. 

I think the CT6 is more of an E-class competitor based on price, and I think the CT6 interior lags behind the E-class, maybe it is on par with the 5-series and A6, but the A6 is old.  I think Cadillac should have done more with the interior of the CT6 since they didn't bring a lot of horsepower to the table.  They aren't selling M5 performance for their $91k, so that interior better be world class.    

Really if they took the CT6 and cut 10 inches of length out of it, they would have a CTS that would be competitive with the mid-size segment.  If they do a CT8, and that is a big IF, they better aim way high.

1

I would ask then is what you would compare this specific model with? If we were talking about 2.0T or 3.6, then I would compare it to the likes of 5-Series, E-Class, S90, etc. But this is 3.0TT Platinum with a starting price of $87,495. I think if we're talking price, then the S-Class, 7-Series, A8 comparisons are fair.

But, the size of CT6 is where I think the comparison becomes tougher. The CT6 is smaller than a full-size flagship, but bigger than a midsize (i.e. CTS). We go back to the issue of the last-generation CTS - what class does it compete in? Compact or midsize?

I think that's where a lot of us, myself included, find ourselves scratching our heads as to where to put it.

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55 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

Optional - Minimum price, $100k. 

The CT6 does have self-park and can do it perpendicularly. 

The 2010 MKS had self-park, so ease off that high horse there mister. 

It isn't a high horse, you stated that ease of parking was an advantage of buying the CT6 over the other big sedans, but they all self park.  So it is a non issue really.  No V8 in the CT6, and a base 4 cylinder, so they aren't going for performance.  I think they should have done more with the interior so they had something that stands out against the competition.

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1 hour ago, William Maley said:

 

I would ask then is what you would compare this specific model with? If we were talking about 2.0T or 3.6, then I would compare it to the likes of 5-Series, E-Class, S90, etc. But this is 3.0TT Platinum with a starting price of $87,495. I think if we're talking price, then the S-Class, 7-Series, A8 comparisons are fair.

But, the size of CT6 is where I think the comparison becomes tougher. The CT6 is smaller than a full-size flagship, but bigger than a midsize (i.e. CTS). We go back to the issue of the last-generation CTS - what class does it compete in? Compact or midsize?

I think that's where a lot of us, myself included, find ourselves scratching our heads as to where to put it.

Might leave buyers scratching their heads too.   I still think it more of a 5-series, E-class competitor, because the CT6 is the same size as a 90s STS and Cadillac wanted that to be a 5-series/E-class competitor, with full size at mid-size price.

If you take an E43 it starts at $72k, but with premium 3 package, metallic paint and heated/cooled seats as the only options added, the price hits $81,795 and you could get it to $87k with the rest of the options.  If you take an S550 4Matic with premium package as the only option it is $105,025.  However, if you check all the option boxes except for the refrigerator and dealer accessories I was able to option an S550 up to $156,765.   And that is with the base engine in the S-class, we aren't even to the V12 or the AMG yet.  This is why I think CT6 is more E-class competition

Edited by smk4565

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17 minutes ago, smk4565 said:

It isn't a high horse, you stated that ease of parking was an advantage of buying the CT6 over the other big sedans, but they all self park.  So it is a non issue really.  No V8 in the CT6, and a base 4 cylinder, so they aren't going for performance.  I think they should have done more with the interior so they had something that stands out against the competition.

SMK complain all you want, fact is the CT6 interior is every bit a competent interior and very competitive to the E-class interior.

2017 E-Class

2017-EclassInterior.jpg

2017 CT6

2017-CT6Interior.jpg 

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I think the E is better after sitting in both, but CT6 is competitive in the segment for sure.  But the CTS is also supposed to be competing in the midsize segment.  What Cadillac should do is put the CT6 interior in the CTS, the CTS interior in the ATS and upgrade CT6 to something above Escalade Platinum interior.   This will make all 3 of their sedans more competitive.

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1 hour ago, smk4565 said:

It isn't a high horse, you stated that ease of parking was an advantage of buying the CT6 over the other big sedans, but they all self park.  So it is a non issue really.  No V8 in the CT6, and a base 4 cylinder, so they aren't going for performance.  I think they should have done more with the interior so they had something that stands out against the competition.

No, they don't all self park. It's an option on cars already $10k higher in price than the Cadillac. On the S class, it's part of a $4,500 option package. What you're trying to do is discount the fact that the CT6 Platinum is more manageable to drive.

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5 hours ago, smk4565 said:

the E-class, maybe it is on par with the 5-series and A6, but the A6 is old.  I think Cadillac should have done more with the interior of the CT6 since they didn't bring a lot of horsepower to the table.

In order to match the CT6 with the A6, you have to bump up to the S6, where 2 more cylinders & a full litre more displacement gets you 16 more HP than the 3.0TT CT6.

In order to match the CT6 with the e-class, you have to bump up to the V8TT, where 2 more cylinders & 1.6 litres more displacement gets you 2 less HP than the 3.0TT CT6.

Cylinder to cylinders & litres to litres, its the Germans that didn't bring a lot of HP to the table (unless you pay and pay and pay).

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Are we actually proud for self-parking cars?

We are discussing which cars have park assist and which of these park themselves better?

Ill be impressed when self-parking cars park like this!  (And a feature that I will use ONLY if they actually park like that!)

10e3eaffc3f3e23451a8565680103e8b91e1695c

 

I bet you these kids will NEVER use park assist in their lives!!!

image?id=816005867774&t=44&plc=WEB&tkn=*

kid-shows-how-to-parallel-park-o.gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by oldshurst442
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@oldshurst442 I agree, that self parking is overrated. I feel that this makes people lazier.

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14 hours ago, William Maley said:

 

I would ask then is what you would compare this specific model with? If we were talking about 2.0T or 3.6, then I would compare it to the likes of 5-Series, E-Class, S90, etc. But this is 3.0TT Platinum with a starting price of $87,495. I think if we're talking price, then the S-Class, 7-Series, A8 comparisons are fair.

But, the size of CT6 is where I think the comparison becomes tougher. The CT6 is smaller than a full-size flagship, but bigger than a midsize (i.e. CTS). We go back to the issue of the last-generation CTS - what class does it compete in? Compact or midsize?

I think that's where a lot of us, myself included, find ourselves scratching our heads as to where to put it.

The A8 and 7 Series are more apt here. The S Class, when you start to option it out (never mind the higher base price), shoots into another stratosphere price wise that makes comparing a much cheaper Cadillac kind of pointless. That's just my opinion, mind you, but I feel it is a valid opinion. I do get that the CT6 is a "tweener" size but just further makes my point in regards to any comparison to a bigger and much more expensive S Class. That all changes when the CT8 comes out.

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14 hours ago, smk4565 said:

It isn't a high horse, you stated that ease of parking was an advantage of buying the CT6 over the other big sedans, but they all self park.  So it is a non issue really.  No V8 in the CT6, and a base 4 cylinder, so they aren't going for performance.  I think they should have done more with the interior so they had something that stands out against the competition.

Its not just about parking.. the CT6 has a better turning radius.. thus allowing it to maneuver better. U are just hell bent on trying to praise Benz.. which is curious.. because if the CT6 had the V8 options that the S-Class has... the all important to U 0-60 times would most likely see Caddy a victor again. Did I mention FUCK BENZ??? 

1 hour ago, surreal1272 said:

The A8 and 7 Series are more apt here. The S Class, when you start to option it out (never mind the higher base price), shoots into another stratosphere price wise that makes comparing a much cheaper Cadillac kind of pointless. That's just my opinion, mind you, but I feel it is a valid opinion. I do get that the CT6 is a "tweener" size but just further makes my point in regards to any comparison to a bigger and much more expensive S Class. That all changes when the CT8 comes out.

Not just that.. the CT6 is quite frankly on par directly with the two "alternative Germans" and currently beats the LS460 and XJ... and IT'S NOT EVEN CALLED FLAGSHIP. The CT8 is simply gonna roast these bitches if it follows the same trend set forth by the CTS and now CT6

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What I really want to see is the Omega chassis used on the next CTS(5?). There would be more meat in that market.  It could end up 600lbs lighter than an E-Class.

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    • By William Maley
      I’ll admit that I have an unabashed love for the Mazda MX-5 Miata. This plucky roadster proves you don’t need gobs of power to provide a big grin when driving. A combination of well-sorted chassis, steering, and slick gearbox does the trick. But Mazda has decided to add a bit more power for the 2019 model, along with including a more powerful four-cylinder and a hardtop option. I’m curious to see if these changes can make the Miata better or worse.
      The model seen here is the RF - short for retractable fastback. Press the switch and the roof panels begin an origami folding exercise into the trunk. The result is a targa that provides the open-air feeling, minus a large amount of wind noise. It doesn’t hurt that roof pillars are styled in such a way that gives off a rakish look, no matter whether the top is up or down. Under the hood lies a revised 2.0L Skyactiv four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque - up 26 and 3 respectively. A six-speed manual is standard, while an automatic is optional. The small bump makes for a huge improvement in overall acceleration. Just leaving a stop, I was surprised how much pull the engine had as it got to 45 about a half-second quicker than the last Miata.   A key change is Mazda bumping the redline to 7,500 rpm, which allows the engine to fully flex its muscle. This became apparent when I needed to pass a vehicle and found that I didn’t need to drop down a gear to get the power needed.  The six-speed manual is still a joy to work with short and precise throws and a direct feeling clutch pedal. Even when stuck in traffic, doing the motions didn’t feel like a hassle. Average fuel economy for the week landed around 32 mpg, even though I was winding the engine out and playing through the gears just because it is so much fun. My tester was the Club model that adds a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, and a front shock tower brace. This firms up the suspension and provides improve handling on the limit. But out on the backroads, I couldn’t tell there was any real difference in handling between this and the 2016 MX-5 Grand Touring I drove a few years back. Maybe there was slightly less body roll in the RF, but both vehicles had similar characteristics when going into a turn. If I drove both of them on a track, then I think the differences would become more apparent. There is a downside to the Club’s suspension, a very harsh ride. Just making a quick trip to the store was a bit much as the suspension would transmit every little bump and imperfection to the backside of those sitting inside. Another item fitted to my tester was a set of Recaro bucket seats. They come as part of an option package that also adds Brembo Brakes and some cool-looking BBS wheels finished in black. The seats have increased bolstering to hold you in during an enthusiastic drive. But the lack of padding makes them uncomfortable for longer trips. On paper, the RF is an expensive proposition when put against the soft-top: $32,345 vs. $25,730. That massive difference is due to Mazda not offering the base Sport model on the RF. But put the soft-top Club against the RF and the difference shrinks to just over $2,000. Be forewarned that the RF can get expensive. That package I mentioned earlier with the Recaro seats? That will set you back $4,670, bringing the as-tested price to just over $38,000. Mazda’s improvements for the 2019 MX-5 Miata for the most part help, allowing it to become more fun to drive and somewhat easier to live with. That said, the additional cost of the hardtop will depend on whether or not you think it is worth the benefits of possibly being an all-seasons car. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata RF, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2019
      Make: Mazda
      Model: MX-5 Miata RF
      Trim: Club
      Engine: 2.0L SkyActiv-G DOHC 16-Valve with VVT Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 181 @ 7,000
      Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/34/29
      Curb Weight: 2,453 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $32,345
      As Tested Price: $38,335 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Brembo with Black Roof - $4,670.00
      Interior Package for M/T - $425.00

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    • By William Maley
      I’ll admit that I have an unabashed love for the Mazda MX-5 Miata. This plucky roadster proves you don’t need gobs of power to provide a big grin when driving. A combination of well-sorted chassis, steering, and slick gearbox does the trick. But Mazda has decided to add a bit more power for the 2019 model, along with including a more powerful four-cylinder and a hardtop option. I’m curious to see if these changes can make the Miata better or worse.
      The model seen here is the RF - short for retractable fastback. Press the switch and the roof panels begin an origami folding exercise into the trunk. The result is a targa that provides the open-air feeling, minus a large amount of wind noise. It doesn’t hurt that roof pillars are styled in such a way that gives off a rakish look, no matter whether the top is up or down. Under the hood lies a revised 2.0L Skyactiv four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque - up 26 and 3 respectively. A six-speed manual is standard, while an automatic is optional. The small bump makes for a huge improvement in overall acceleration. Just leaving a stop, I was surprised how much pull the engine had as it got to 45 about a half-second quicker than the last Miata.   A key change is Mazda bumping the redline to 7,500 rpm, which allows the engine to fully flex its muscle. This became apparent when I needed to pass a vehicle and found that I didn’t need to drop down a gear to get the power needed.  The six-speed manual is still a joy to work with short and precise throws and a direct feeling clutch pedal. Even when stuck in traffic, doing the motions didn’t feel like a hassle. Average fuel economy for the week landed around 32 mpg, even though I was winding the engine out and playing through the gears just because it is so much fun. My tester was the Club model that adds a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, and a front shock tower brace. This firms up the suspension and provides improve handling on the limit. But out on the backroads, I couldn’t tell there was any real difference in handling between this and the 2016 MX-5 Grand Touring I drove a few years back. Maybe there was slightly less body roll in the RF, but both vehicles had similar characteristics when going into a turn. If I drove both of them on a track, then I think the differences would become more apparent. There is a downside to the Club’s suspension, a very harsh ride. Just making a quick trip to the store was a bit much as the suspension would transmit every little bump and imperfection to the backside of those sitting inside. Another item fitted to my tester was a set of Recaro bucket seats. They come as part of an option package that also adds Brembo Brakes and some cool-looking BBS wheels finished in black. The seats have increased bolstering to hold you in during an enthusiastic drive. But the lack of padding makes them uncomfortable for longer trips. On paper, the RF is an expensive proposition when put against the soft-top: $32,345 vs. $25,730. That massive difference is due to Mazda not offering the base Sport model on the RF. But put the soft-top Club against the RF and the difference shrinks to just over $2,000. Be forewarned that the RF can get expensive. That package I mentioned earlier with the Recaro seats? That will set you back $4,670, bringing the as-tested price to just over $38,000. Mazda’s improvements for the 2019 MX-5 Miata for the most part help, allowing it to become more fun to drive and somewhat easier to live with. That said, the additional cost of the hardtop will depend on whether or not you think it is worth the benefits of possibly being an all-seasons car. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata RF, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2019
      Make: Mazda
      Model: MX-5 Miata RF
      Trim: Club
      Engine: 2.0L SkyActiv-G DOHC 16-Valve with VVT Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 181 @ 7,000
      Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/34/29
      Curb Weight: 2,453 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $32,345
      As Tested Price: $38,335 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Brembo with Black Roof - $4,670.00
      Interior Package for M/T - $425.00
    • By William Maley
      When Toyota introduced the last-generation Avalon for the 2014 model year, I was shocked by how Toyota had built the better Lexus ES. On the surface, this seems a bit crazy. But Toyota had put a lot of effort into shedding the image of Avalon of an old person’s car by bringing a modern and sleek look; luxurious interior, and a balance between a relaxing ride and sporty dynamics. This became more apparent when compared to the ES launched a couple of years earlier, looking very dated in terms of looks and driving like a cream puff.
      The times are a changing and the two brands have launched new versions of their respective sedans within the past year. I find myself wondering if Toyota still builds the better Lexus or if the ES has finally stepped up and can give the Avalon a real challenge.
      Exterior
      Toyota stuck with the shape of the previous Avalon but gave it some refinement. The low roofline and sloping rear glass shape are paired with more aggressive rear end featuring a full-length taillight. Where the new design falls apart is in the front. Toyota must have taken some of the pages out of Lexus’ design book on grille design as the Avalon has a massive grille. Lower trim models make do with black slats for the insert, but my Hybrid Limited tester features chrome slats that make it more polarizing. I understand Toyota wants to give the Avalon a bit more presence on the road, but this new grille design is a bit much.
      The ES 350 is a different story as Lexus’ designers pulled off an extensive transformation. Wearing a toned-down version of the brand’s current design language, the new ES has an overall look of something formidable and elegant. The spindle grille is front and center, but Lexus has made it slightly smaller to have fit in with the flowing lines. Other design traits include a sloping roofline and shortened rear deck.
      Interior
      Like the exterior, the ES’ interior is completely unrecognizable from the outgoing model. Gone are the cheap feeling and mismatch plastics. In their places is a combination of leather, soft-touch plastics, and wood trim that brings forth a sense of premium uniformity. Ergonomics are also top of the class with such touches as control knobs sitting on either side of the instrument panel, and controls for the climate and audio being in easy reach for driver and passenger.
      Those sitting in the front are treated to leather-covered seats that provide an excellent balance between support and coddle. Those sitting in the back seat might complain about the low position, but will like the ample amount of head and legroom.
      Stepping inside the Avalon Hybrid, Toyota has given it a major makeover. Gone is the flowing and rounded center stack with capacitive touch controls. Instead, the Avalon uses a narrower and blocky center stack with actual buttons. I’m sad to see the touch controls go away as I found them to be quite responsive. Toyota likely dropped them as buyers complained there was no feedback - a click sound or pulsation - to whoever was using it. Other changes include a slim chrome bar running along the dash vents and more color choices.
      Finding a comfortable position in the Avalon was no problem due to the numerous amount of power adjustments available on the Limited. Like the ES, the Avalon’s seats strike the balance of comfort and support just right. In the back, there is an abundance of legroom that allows passengers to stretch out. Headroom is fine for most adults.
      Infotainment
      Toyota has installed the latest version of Entune for the 2019 Avalon. While looking somewhat dated with a muted color palette and dull screen, Entune retains its ease of use. The menus with large touchscreen buttons make it very easy to move around the system, along with clearly marked buttons and knobs sitting on either side. Toyota has also got with times and made the Avalon the first model to feature CarPlay integration. Those wanting Android Auto will need to wait until 2020.
      If there is an Achilles heel to the ES 350, that would be Lexus’ Remote Touch. I have written numerously about how using this system is not only a pain, but very distracting when driving. Take for example changing an XMSirius station.
      Look at the screen to see where the cursor is. Use the touchpad to move the cursor to the station you want, making sure to keep an eye on the screen. Press down on the touchpad to make the selection, hoping you’re finger doesn’t slip and causes something else to happen. This whole routine plays out time and time again whenever you want to do something. Even Apple CarPlay which was introduced for 2019 is a pain to use with Remote Touch. There is salvation on the horizon. Earlier this year, Lexus unveiled an updated RX crossover with a touchscreen for the infotainment system. The automaker said that it will be available on other models in the coming years. Here’s to hoping the ES is one of the first recipients. 
      Performance
      Both vehicles come with the choice of either a 3.5L V6 or hybrid system using a 2.5L four-cylinder. An eight-speed automatic is teamed with the V6. The hybrid uses a CVT.
      The 3.5 V6 has been given a bit more power for 2019, now producing 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. This bump makes for a noticeable improvement in overall acceleration, feeling slightly quicker than the last ES 350 I drove. Power builds on a smooth and linear fashion. The engine is also noticeably refined, with barely a rumble coming from underneath the hood. 
      With only a total output of 215 horsepower, the hybrid system in the Toyota Avalon may seem underpowered. This is only an issue when climbing a steep hill or needing to make an immediate pass. Otherwise, the hybrid system provides plenty of oomph for the daily drive. I like how the system seamless transitioned from electric to hybrid power with only a minimal buzz coming from the engine bay. Like other Toyota hybrids, the Avalon Hybrid can travel on electric power alone - albeit a short distance and at speeds below 25 mph.
      In EPA testing, the ES 350 returns 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined and the Avalon Hybrid returns 43 City/43 Highway/43 Combined. I clocked averages of 25 in the ES 350 and 40 in the Avalon Hybrid.
      Ride and Handling
      Aside from engines, the Avalon Hybrid and ES 350 share another vital component. Under the skin of both models is a version of Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA) known as GA-K. This variant provides the stiffer structure and lower-center of gravity found on other TGNA models, but allows both Toyota and Lexus to build larger front-wheel drive vehicles.
      In the Avalon Hybrid, the move to GA-K doesn’t change much. The last-generation model showed that you could have good driving dynamics and retain a mission of comfort. The new model continues that with slightly improved handling and sharper steering response. The ES 350 is a different story. Changing over to GA-K transforms the model from a creampuff on wheels to a luxury sedan with that can take corners without embarrassing itself. Body roll is significantly reduced and the steering responds to inputs without fuss. Neither one of these sedans will challenge the likes of the Germans or the Kia Stinger GT, but they will not fall over and cry uncle when pushed.
      Ride quality is still one of the impressive points for both models. On some of roughest, pothole-ladened streets that the Metro Detroit has on offer, the Avalon Hybrid and ES 350 made it feel like mere ripples. Not much outside noise comes inside the cabin of either model, making them a perfect place to decompress after a long day.
      Verdict
      Let’s begin with the 2020 Avalon Hybrid. This updated sedan didn’t surprise me and that’s fine. Aside from the styling, Toyota made small changes to address certain issues of the previous-generation and build upon its strengths. Getting 40 MPG is still an impressive trait for such a big sedan. With a starting price tag of $35,560 for the gas version and $36,650 for the hybrid, the Avalon is still the one to buy if you want the luxuries of the ES without the luxury tax.
      The ES 350, on the other hand, is the more impressive of the two. You have to wonder if Lexus was motivated by what Toyota was able to pull off with last-generation Avalon. In a lot of ways, the ES 350 looks and feels like a proper luxury car. Add in a new platform that doesn’t make you feel like you’re going to tip over and Lexus is very close to that idea of “Experience Amazing”. The only fault is Remote Touch which sours many of the dramatic improvements. If Lexus can get that new touchscreen into the ES ASAP, I would gladly give it my “Most Improved Car of the Year” award. 
      How I would configure a 2019 Lexus ES 350 or Toyota Avalon Hybrid
      Starting with the ES 350, I would skip the base model and go with the Luxury trim. This adds such items as leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, and ambient lighting. On top of this, I would add Blind Spot Monitoring package and a power rear sunshade. With destination, I'm out the door with a final price of $45,540.
      For the Avalon Hybrid, I would pick the XSE. This is positioned as the sporty model with various exterior treatments including a mesh insert for the grille. Other standard equipment includes a moonroof, leatherette and suede upholstery, and wireless phone charging. The only two options I would tick are the Ruby Flare Pearl paint and 14-Speaker JBL Audio System. Add destination and the final price comes to $41,480.
      Alternatives
      Genesis G80: A perennial favorite, the G80 slots between the Avalon Hybrid and ES 350 in terms of price - $41,750. It comes showered with loads of standard equipment and an excellent engine lineup. It cannot match the ES and Avalon in terms of interior design, but provides a more modern and easier to understand infotainment system. Ride quality is similar in all three vehicles, but the ES and Avalon have a slight edge in handling. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas 
      Year: 2019
      Make: Lexus
      Model: ES 350
      Trim: Luxury
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve with Dual VVT-i V6
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 302 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26
      Curb Weight: 3,649 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, Kentucky
      Base Price: $42,755
      As Tested Price: $45,955 (Includes $1,025 Destination Charge)*
      Options:
      Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking - $1,065.00
      18-Inch Split Five-Spoke Alloy Noise Reduction Wheels - $950.00
      Wood and Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel - $300.00
      Power Rear Sunshade - $210.00
      *No window sticker was provided for the ES 350. This is me taking a guess as to final price and options.
      Year: 2019
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Avalon Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, 650V Electric Motor
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: 176 @ 5,700 (Gas);  118 (88 kW) (Electric); 215 (Total Output)
      Torque @ RPM: 163 @ 3,600-5,200 (Gas)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 43/43/43
      Curb Weight: 3,715 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, Kentucky
      Base Price: $42,800
      As Tested Price: $45,118 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Advanced Safety Package - $1,150.00
      Carpet Mat Package - $248.00

      View full article
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