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2018 Buick Regal Sportback Essence

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Driven: 2018 Buick Regal Sportback Essence 2.0t

(the original review is in this post.  Revised reviews are further down, in this post, and in  this other post)

HIGHS:

-Nice understated shape conceals a cleverly integrated hatchback design

-'Decent' propulsion from 2.0t engine

-Nicely shaped upper dash with touchsreen oriented slightly to driver.  Interesting at least from a design standpoint.

-Sporting driving position and good room in both rows, mostly, plus the biggest benefit being improved leg room over previous model

-Really nice cargo space, with seats up, or seats down, the cargo area of this vehicle and the flexibility of it in a car like this IMO is a major draw

-View outside of this vehicle is improved over its platform mate (Malibu, my daily driver) due to the rear door glass being longer and taller.  View out the front and rear is essentially the same.

-AWD availability is a nice plus, thanks Buick.

LOWS:

-I can't recall any of the GM vehicles I have driven with this ubiquitous 2.0t engine, where i have actually been wowed or impressed by it.  It has decent thrust, but honestly you gotta spool it up a bit, the tranny doesn't respond instantly, it's not a five star smooth tranny, and it's kind of rough and noisy overall as a powertrain (AT LEAST FOR IT'S PRICE / CLASS).  I was hoping the 2.0 would make the car match the near luxury description but I don't think it's overall a smooth enough powertrain to meet that claim.  It's neither smooth, nor sporting or exciting.  And this is with front wheel drive.  I will reserve final judgment until i get in the GS with the v6, which is the engine I think most people will really end up liking in this car.

-Heavier than it's Malibu platform mate.  No doubt acceptable due to the larger engine, but the benefit of the extra weight doesn't manifest itself in any real tangible way anywhere in the ride and drive of the car.

-Not really any quieter inside than my Malibu.  Strange, because this Buick is supposed to have quiet tuning, and goo in the tires to help make it quieter.  The ride isn't really any more plush, either.

-Steering is sort of dead and mushy.  That's not GERMANIC now, is it.

-NEED TO BE ABLE TO TURN OFF THE AUTOSTOP WHEN YOU WANT TO.

-Not really much nicer inside than in my Malibu.  The lower dash is the same 'less expensive' plastic you see in cheap Chevy's.  The door panels are a little nicer, but not that much more.  Many switches and buttons are the same.  The console is nicer (I don't like the shifter centered in the console now actually, it's quite a reach) I guess...except for cupholders in front of the climate controls.  The upper dash material is an upgrade over the Malibu, but it's not a PREMIUM dash material either.

-I can't really tell for sure if the seats are better.  My Malibu seats are poor.  The Regal seats seemed to hug me more, but they still felt thin and insubstantial.  The leather quality was slightly better, but still nothing to write home about. 

-Rear head room suffers a bit with the hatch design.  I don't mind the tradeoff personally, but the Malibu retains a bit more headroom, and the Regal TourX really has much more....so get the wagon if rear head room matters.

-Sunroof was nice to have considering how bunkerlike the Malibu can feel....but again the hatch design limits the size of the sunroof here compared to the Malibu's BAMR.  I can live with the compromise here myself, and again, the wagon will satisfy your urge for BAMR if you need it.  I would encourage GM to develop a way to integrate a larger moonroof with the hatch design.  I think it could be done, but would require time and money on a redesign effort.

-Options / packages on this car are, simply put, stupid.  But that merits its own post.  At least in this car, the heated steering wheel and leather heated seats were both included.  You can actually get this car with heated steering wheel but without heated seats.  How f-cked up is that?  In 2019, Fusion, Toyota, and others will have things like blind spot and cross path detection as standard equipment.  And those are not 'premium' makes.

-I'll let others decide if they think the styling is too tepid.  I don't mind the understated styling but do admit that the color selections that are available on this car leave me wanting.  I like the red on the GS, and the smoked pearl metallic is nice.  And Buick seems to think they should charge extra for paint colors when they don't make the ride and drive anything special.

-pricing.  I think the average nature of this car would be easily forgiven if the pricing were in line with being an average car; not priced for a premium marque.  Like the LaCrosse and Envision, it is best to wait out the model year if you are buying and wait for the inevitable 7,000-10,000 or more in discounts...which might bring the pricing in line with what the vehicle really is.  You can't say this vehicle is appealing at the prices it is at now.  

SUMMARY:

This probably seems like a negative review, but you should consider it more of underwhelmed and let down.  This car as I drove it just doesn't have any kind of endearing personality to speak of!  At the end of the day, it took Buick two extra years to bring to the US it's own Malibu clone, which doesn't have much more to show for it.... apart from the clever hatch and base 2.0 engine upgrade over the 1.5.  I actually am very curious now to be among the first to try the 2019 Malibu 1.5t + CVT combo.  But that's an aside for another discussion.  The 2.0 that general motors puts in so many vehicles has never impressed me, and that's due more to it's character than anything.  I had hopes this would be the ONE CAR that it would feel sporting in; one that would make the car feel at least a little, like a SPORTS SEDAN.  Nope.  I will wait with baited breath to someday find a v6 GS to test, as i think it will be the only Regal worth anything.  At least worth anything more than just being another option in the midsize, genericar class.  And I hope Buick is working on a twin turbo six option as well for the GS (GSX?).  I tend to think this car won't move the needle in marketplace excitement until it has a tire shredder under the hood to brag about...The v6 will promise smoother revs and deeper lungs at least......... Still, as a replacement in the bottom end of the Buick lineup for the Verano, I am ok with this.  Just please, sex it up!

 

 

 

 

Edited by regfootball
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Probably the only reason to get Buick over Malibu or other car in the segment is to get TourX, not the Sportback

2018-Buick-Regal-TourX-front-three-quart

 

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We were really underwhelmed by the new regal. I have autotrader searches out for Certified '17 GSes instead.  Typically finding them for ~$24k with 15k on the odometer.

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3 hours ago, ykX said:

Probably the only reason to get Buick over Malibu or other car in the segment is to get TourX, not the Sportback

2018-Buick-Regal-TourX-front-three-quart

 

I do admit. The hatchback is versatile as well. Wish we could get a GS wagon. 

1 hour ago, Drew Dowdell said:

We were really underwhelmed by the new regal. I have autotrader searches out for Certified '17 GSes instead.  Typically finding them for ~$24k with 15k on the odometer.

I've got to get out and try a new LaCrosse as well. V6...

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The newest Lacrosse is everything it is supposed to be.  Albert likes those also, but they are holding their value better than the '17 Regal.  I want to stick around the $25k mark for a used vehicle.  The '17 GS can be had with adaptive cruise control and Android Auto and Buick Certified for $25k, so it's really high on the list for me with those killer apps. 

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Really thorough write-up, Reg.  I won't go out of my way to drive one.  I sat in one and didn't like the rear visibility, but I'm picky about that and I'm of average height.  I like to sit high and see a lot of glass around me, with thinner pillars.  That will be the day.

You seem to like the new thematic Buick dash.  It's simple and convenient, but it also seems to be a retro throwback to the late 60s, with a heavy ridge across the top of the cowl.  I'm not so sure.  I like dashboards that have 3 defined zones, so to speak, or more sculpting if not 3 defined zones.

I don't know how the steering would compare to the outgoing Regal.  I found the last one to be nimble with enough road manners and isolation, but I believe you.  I'm guessing these are all electric P.S. units, with hydraulics now gone.

I will agree that I am warming up to the new LaCrosse.  I have not warmed up to its MSRP.  They can sticker at 2x the one that I bought! I don't like a console where its surface is way above the seating surfaces like the LaCrosse, and even this new Regal, have.

I will say that, even if the final experience isn't very Germanic, the car (2018 Regal) definitely looks "more" Germanic as it's approaching you if you're going in the other direction.

 

Edited by trinacriabob

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Over the last few weeks I keep warming up to the 2017+ LaCrosse with more and more of them hitting the used market.

Some are as low as 22-23k.  Ones in colors you want plus options you want are tough to find but the main takeaway with the LaCrosse is v6 availability and slightly larger size.  It really IMO set up Buick nicely to market the LaCrosse even with sedan sales dwindling, as the Regal is hatch only and is not Buick's entry car.  (No longer Verano).  The LaCrosse is the only sedan now, and the Impala is becoming familiar and fading.  XTS getting put out to pasture.  Ford ditching sedans too.  So perhaps LaCrosse sales may possibly increase if they appeal to v6 buyers who don't want Impalas and if the prices drop some.

The raised console is a problem.  It does put the shifter joystick in a good spot but the dash itself could stand to be a bit nicer and the raised console area has some cheapness and such, apart from being too tall.  Older buyers still sometimes want bench seats which this car will never have...but buyers like that don't want the intrusiveness of the console they way it is now.  Even the new Regal's console is intrusive too.

A 2-3 year old LaCrosse in the right color, with the huge moonroof, and maybe AWD for super cheap may be a nice future ride.  The styling change affected me but now the new body is growing on me some.  

Buick doesn't really care if the Regal sells too huge.  They would probably prefer the LaCrosse to sell well and just import a set but manageable number of Regals each year since the import them from Germany and now Opel is out of the mix.  The Regal is there just to round out the lineup.  Not be a huge piece of it.  Enclave is Buick's $$$$ car these days.  The LaCrosse is for the guy who just got his spouse the Enclave but he wants a Buick too.

 

Edited by regfootball
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Remember that GM now has to pay PSA to build Regals.... so they probably don't care how many they sell. 

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^^^^  right.

I'd be surprised if Buick actually wants to sell any more than 25-30k a year of the sportback and tourX combined.

The TourX is incidental, and the base Sportback takes over for the Verano as the entry car, so they don't have to bring over the Astra / Verano.

I think if Buick really set their minds to it, and configured the choices right, the Sportback could sell very well as crossover alternatives, but they would have to drop MSRP's which GM doesn't like doing.

Every time i see a tourX and the shitty looking wheel cladding, I get wound up because a GS wagon would be awesome and it would really be a nice niche; I think they could sell a few, since they just want to be niche anyways.

I'd like to see Regal add a twin turbo 6 to really put the car on the map but i suppose that will never happen.

Imagine a 350-400hp GS wagon or sportback.

Edited by regfootball

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1 hour ago, regfootball said:

Imagine a 350-400hp GS wagon or sportback.

I would take a 350 - 400 HP CUV GS Buick over the Wagon or Sportback.

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On 5/15/2018 at 6:21 PM, dfelt said:

I would take a 350 - 400 HP CUV GS Buick over the Wagon or Sportback.

Something Xt5 sized in the Buick lineup with said engine....would be cool.

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Always puzzles me how GM NA can't ever seem to make use of the Opel stuff and now Opel is gone.  

Maybe GM should have brought the previous Insignia wagon over......

 

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Edited by regfootball
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Very cool.  The photos show both the new (ridged cowl) and old (Regal like) dashboard for the Insignia.  That brick-maroon interior is pretty nifty.  Since Volvo seemingly does well with their wagons stateside, the same could be true of a rebranded Insignia wagon.

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I have a second test drive of the new Regal which turned out to be more favorable, and so I'll come back and make note of that yet today if i am able.  It really was a case where the person accompanying me and the route and situation in general allowed for a better test drive and so will be making some modified impressions in a few areas.

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Second / Revised review

Driven: 2018 Buick Regal Sportback Preferred II 2.0t

(the original review is in the first post of this thread.  This post is a second / revised review)

HIGHS:

prior review

-Nice understated shape conceals a cleverly integrated hatchback design

-'Decent' propulsion from 2.0t engine

-Nicely shaped upper dash with touchsreen oriented slightly to driver.  Interesting at least from a design standpoint.

-Sporting driving position and good room in both rows, mostly, plus the biggest benefit being improved leg room over previous model

-Really nice cargo space, with seats up, or seats down, the cargo area of this vehicle and the flexibility of it in a car like this IMO is a major draw

-View outside of this vehicle is improved over its platform mate (Malibu, my daily driver) due to the rear door glass being longer and taller.  View out the front and rear is essentially the same.

-AWD availability is a nice plus, thanks Buick.

added

-shifter was more aggressive, seemed to downshift better.  Driver may have been more throttle aggressive as well.

-Preferred II cloth was ok by me.  It has a nicer pattern and more stitching compared to regular Preferred trim.  This maybe should be the standard cloth.  I would still want a more elaborate leatherette / cloth mix or leather still anyways.

-Heated Steering wheel! on Preferred II trim.

-Back lumbar support was exceptionally comfortable and noticeable.  Seat felt way better than my Malibu and for some reason better than the last Regal drive.

-loved the dash angled to the driver.

 

LOWS:

previous

-I can't recall any of the GM vehicles I have driven with this ubiquitous 2.0t engine, where i have actually been wowed or impressed by it.  It has decent thrust, but honestly you gotta spool it up a bit, the tranny doesn't respond instantly, it's not a five star smooth tranny, and it's kind of rough and noisy overall as a powertrain (AT LEAST FOR IT'S PRICE / CLASS).  I was hoping the 2.0 would make the car match the near luxury description but I don't think it's overall a smooth enough powertrain to meet that claim.  It's neither smooth, nor sporting or exciting.  And this is with front wheel drive.  I will reserve final judgment until i get in the GS with the v6, which is the engine I think most people will really end up liking in this car.

added

For whatever reason, the powertrain felt better this time.  The 2.0t still doesn't feel like a very elastic motor to me.  It does not seem to like to rev to me.  Ever.  On like 10+ vehicles I have driven with the 2.0t .  I guess that part of it is not a deal breaker however.

-Heavier than it's Malibu platform mate.  No doubt acceptable due to the larger engine, but the benefit of the extra weight doesn't manifest itself in any real tangible way anywhere in the ride and drive of the car.

-Not really any quieter inside than my Malibu.  Strange, because this Buick is supposed to have quiet tuning, and goo in the tires to help make it quieter.  The ride isn't really any more plush, either.

added

For whatever reason, the car felt reasonably quiet inside.

-Steering is sort of dead and mushy.  That's not GERMANIC now, is it.

-NEED TO BE ABLE TO TURN OFF THE AUTOSTOP WHEN YOU WANT TO.

-Not really much nicer inside than in my Malibu.  The lower dash is the same 'less expensive' plastic you see in cheap Chevy's.  The door panels are a little nicer, but not that much more.  Many switches and buttons are the same.  The console is nicer (I don't like the shifter centered in the console now actually, it's quite a reach) I guess...except for cupholders in front of the climate controls.  The upper dash material is an upgrade over the Malibu, but it's not a PREMIUM dash material either.

-I can't really tell for sure if the seats are better.  My Malibu seats are poor.  The Regal seats seemed to hug me more, but they still felt thin and insubstantial.  The leather quality was slightly better, but still nothing to write home about. 

Added

as mentioned above, the cloth in the Preferred II was ok, still would want leather, but for cloth wasn't bad.  Seats and back support felt far better this time around.

-Rear head room suffers a bit with the hatch design.  I don't mind the tradeoff personally, but the Malibu retains a bit more headroom, and the Regal TourX really has much more....so get the wagon if rear head room matters.

-Sunroof was nice to have considering how bunkerlike the Malibu can feel....but again the hatch design limits the size of the sunroof here compared to the Malibu's BAMR.  I can live with the compromise here myself, and again, the wagon will satisfy your urge for BAMR if you need it.  I would encourage GM to develop a way to integrate a larger moonroof with the hatch design.  I think it could be done, but would require time and money on a redesign effort.

Added

This time the car had a normal moonroof.  While not quite a awesome as a larger moonroof, it did lighten up the cabin inside some.  I tend to think the rear vision camera surround view rear view mirror would be beneficial on this car because of the really small rear window.

-Options / packages on this car are, simply put, stupid.  But that merits its own post.  At least in this car, the heated steering wheel and leather heated seats were both included.  You can actually get this car with heated steering wheel but without heated seats.  How f-cked up is that?  In 2019, Fusion, Toyota, and others will have things like blind spot and cross path detection as standard equipment.  And those are not 'premium' makes.

Added

-The very nice person accompanying me on the test drive and I spent a lot of time mocking how stupid it was for Buick to offer this car from the factory trimmed out with a heated steering wheel but without factory heated seats.  This sheer utter complete stupidity of this to sell vehicles in snow / cold states alone is cause for product planners to get canned.   I don't give a shit if the car is built in Germany and that creates logistics issues.  Honestly, Buick pull your head out of your behind.

-I'll let others decide if they think the styling is too tepid.  I don't mind the understated styling but do admit that the color selections that are available on this car leave me wanting.  I like the red on the GS, and the smoked pearl metallic is nice.  And Buick seems to think they should charge extra for paint colors when they don't make the ride and drive anything special.

-pricing.  I think the average nature of this car would be easily forgiven if the pricing were in line with being an average car; not priced for a premium marque.  Like the LaCrosse and Envision, it is best to wait out the model year if you are buying and wait for the inevitable 7,000-10,000 or more in discounts...which might bring the pricing in line with what the vehicle really is.  You can't say this vehicle is appealing at the prices it is at now.  

Added

The rear hatch while masterfully done, is pretty large and is on the border of really benefitting from a power hatch setup with your remote.  It is large, heavy and clunky to close / slam shut.

SUMMARY:

This probably seems like a negative review, but you should consider it more of underwhelmed and let down.  This car as I drove it just doesn't have any kind of endearing personality to speak of!  At the end of the day, it took Buick two extra years to bring to the US it's own Malibu clone, which doesn't have much more to show for it.... apart from the clever hatch and base 2.0 engine upgrade over the 1.5.  I actually am very curious now to be among the first to try the 2019 Malibu 1.5t + CVT combo.  But that's an aside for another discussion.  The 2.0 that general motors puts in so many vehicles has never impressed me, and that's due more to it's character than anything.  I had hopes this would be the ONE CAR that it would feel sporting in; one that would make the car feel at least a little, like a SPORTS SEDAN.  Nope.  I will wait with baited breath to someday find a v6 GS to test, as i think it will be the only Regal worth anything.  At least worth anything more than just being another option in the midsize, genericar class.  And I hope Buick is working on a twin turbo six option as well for the GS (GSX?).  I tend to think this car won't move the needle in marketplace excitement until it has a tire shredder under the hood to brag about...The v6 will promise smoother revs and deeper lungs at least......... Still, as a replacement in the bottom end of the Buick lineup for the Verano, I am ok with this.  Just please, sex it up!

Added

The car seemed nicer this time around.  Still not sporty but pleasing.  Ok for a Preferred trim I figure.  Buick needs to change the available colors and allow a GS body trim package for a front wheel drive Regal.  All the muted and dark dreary colors Buick offers now needs to be balanced out.  I would like to see a GS style body trim package available for a Regal wagon that is not a TourX as well.  Hopefully this car may be available with a newer turbo four some day but due to the Opel break off, probably not.  After driving this and the LaCrosse back to back I must say for a daily driver I would prefer this but either car is ok.

Edited by regfootball

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I took a Sportback 2.0 Preferred FWD out for another spin..  I think by now I am thinking more clearly on what this car is about.

The engine and tranny performed better and feels decently fast but it did not feel 'sporting'.  For the base model that's ok, sure...i guess i get it.  I can't wait to see if the new 2.0 in the Cadillac feels more lively.

The ride and steering and handling are numb, particularly on the base tire and wheel package.  They are not bad, because it's decently quiet and the ride is 'good'.  The car feels less agile and less sporting than my regular platform mate Malibu.  There is no sense of "game on" with the chassis on this car.  The suspension almost can feel a bit floaty at times and the steering is easy to turn but kinda mushy.  I don't think this is a different observation than the buff books have been saying.

The interior criticisms in the press are about right.  It's ok but does have cheapness relative to its higher pricing.  IMO it would only take a little bit more with the interior to make it near lux like it should be.  

All the above said, I still like the packaging.  The room and space, the seating position, the nice integration of the hatchback.  I love the package.  With the hatch though, a power hatch will be needed.  In fact, sales guy seemed to think they may be adding that in a year ......  They better, it's a near lux brand and the hatch is very wieldly.

This one had a moonroof, and it helps brighten the interior.  On the sportback it is so small of roof panel but it is better than nothing.

This Preferred I  didn't have heated seats or steering wheel.  It is beyond idiotic that the Preferred II with cloth seats has standard heated steering wheel, but it doesn't have heated seats.

I like the car and it is low key and comfortable, but there is a missed opportunity here.  This would be fantastic to offer a sport handling package on the more base level cars and it would really I think draw in the younger buyers it was intended to.  The car sort of telegraphs an attitude, compared to the other Buick vehicles like the LaCrosse and Envision.  It would help this model stand out and get some young buyers to the brand.  I would go one further and suggest whatever new 2.0 is going in the Cadillacs be put in this (although since the Opel sale I suppose that wouldn't happen).  I'd even be interested in seeing a v6 / FWD combo in a lesser trim.  The GS v6 should be a twin turbo six.  I have some thoughts coming up soon on how much I think Buick's option packaging for the Regal sucks.

Overall I can't really bash the car, and I like it, I may get one down the road.  But I think there is plenty of ways to make it better, the best place to fix it quick is ride and handling option package.  I still want to try a GS someday too.

 

 

Edited by regfootball

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Have yet to see a Sportback on the road, after seeing the very underwhelming reviews quickly forgot about one I did see perhaps.

Mayhem the model run will be short..

 

 

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19 minutes ago, frogger said:

Have yet to see a Sportback on the road, after seeing the very underwhelming reviews quickly forgot about one I did see perhaps.

Mayhem the model run will be short..

 

 

sales guy said the dealer had not sold one Regal (hatch or wagon) yet.  After these last 4 months or whatever.  He said because there is no incentives on them.  No programs, for leasing or finance.  The incentives drive the traffic and buyers.  GM maybe doesn't even want these to sell after the Opel sale since they are built overseas.  No advertising support either.  The Buick GMC dealers first priority is selling pickups, and then after that its the larger SUV's.  He said the Buick Encore is the hottest seller at the dealership.  People love em and the big incentives and cheap leases move em out the door.  He also agreed with me that they should make a vesion of the TourX without the cladding.

Edited by regfootball

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The very nice person accompanying me on the test drive and I spent a lot of time mocking how stupid it was for Buick to offer this car from the factory trimmed out with a heated steering wheel but without factory heated seats.  This sheer utter complete stupidity of this to sell vehicles in snow / cold states alone is cause for product planners to get canned.

Anyone who seriously wants to review products needs to get this ingrained in their approach.

Just because a particular feature (or in this case; a particular pairing of features) isn't done the exact way the reviewer prefers it, this is NO WAY justifies advocating people lose their jobs over it. A product review needs to take into consideration generalities and averages of the consumer at large, and over-the-top hyperbole causes MANY readers to 'shut down' on the review because right there it unhinges itself from reason.

I, for one, can take or leave heated seats. My wife's car has them, I've used them countless times, they're kinda nice (she says she won't have another car without them). I don't want a heated steering wheel in any case, so while I might consider checking the heated seat option box (if offered separately), I'd only be happy to skip the heated wheel.  Yet I'd never advocate unemployment (hyperbole) if they were paired together, and that's just me talking to myself.

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I have yet to see a Regal on the roads here. See plenty of Enclaves a few Envisions.

 

okay now that the Envision is tariffed the Tourx might get a boost.

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I haven't seen a Sportback on the road yet, but back in mid-May saw a brown TourX at a gas station...only new Regal I've seen out and about in NE Ohio.. I find the TourX quite striking in person. 

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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fun to play with Opel's configurator.  I wish the AGR seats without the stupid track back was available here.....

 

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or custom colors

 

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Edited by regfootball
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      The Volkswagen Arteon is the vehicle that effectively replaces the Volkswagen CC in VW’s lineup, however, it comes at the segment with a noticeably different approach. The Arteon is much more interesting looking than the old CC and comes as a hatchback rather than a sedan.
      I would hesitate to use the word “bold” about the Arteon’s looks, as feels rather conservative to me, but it still has a gravitas that lets passers-by know that this is not an ordinary Volkswagen. The front end has a lot of detailing with multiple creases in the hood and a deep, wide grille. Thick wheel arches give the car a muscular look. Around back, the hatch area fits between a set of thick thighs and a set of tail lights that almost look Benz-like. Down below there is a chrome strip that runs around the entire perimeter of the car.
       
      As handsome as the exterior is, the interior is a bit of a letdown. In the SEL version I drove, the interior materials were not up to snuff for a car with a $42,795 sticker price and the design is fairly sterile. There is a wide strip that traverses the dash and mimics the look of the grille and below that, another wood (plood?) strip runs parallel. The center stack is neatly organized with all knobs and buttons within easy reach.  If you are a bit of a neat freak like me about your car, keep a microfiber duster in the glovebox to wipe down the piano black surfaces.  The seats are flat and firm but without much lateral support. As a hatchback, rear passengers get cut out of a bit of headroom, but there is plenty of legroom back there for them to stretch out.  Cargo room for this size of a car can only be described as cavernous. The hatch lifts up high and out of the way giving you easy access to anything you can rear. Fold the rear seats down and you may even say “Crossover, what?”, there is 55 cubic feet of cargo room back there.
      The Arteon comes with an 8-inch touch screen display that includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Android Auto is easy to set up and I stayed in that mode during my entire drive.
      Driving the Arteon is probably the best part about it. My tester came equipped with 4motion, Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system. It works well and the car feels glued to the road during the twisties.  No matter which level of Arteon you buy, you have a single choice of engine. Standard is a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It is this engine that delayed the Arteon’s entry into the U.S. due to a backlog of certification testing. This setup is merely adequate. It neither thrills you nor lets you down.  I do wish a V6 were available, but small-displacement turbo-4s are where the market is going these days.  Unfortunately, even with the small displacement 4-cylinder, you still get V6-like fuel economy.  The Arteon is rated for 20 city / 27 highway / 23 combined. For reference, that’s about the same as an AWD Buick Lacrosse with a big V6 and 310 horsepower, in fact, the Buick does a little better on the highway and so do most other V6 sedans. In normal mode the transmission is a bit lazy, upshifting early and reluctant to downshift. In sport mode, it wakes up a little but there is still a lag when downshifting.
      The ride and drive of the Arteon is definitely dialed towards comfort over sport. It comes equipped with a DCC adaptive ride system, but I notice almost no difference between the Sport and Comfort modes. Cruising along in the Arteon is serene with very little noise from the outside entering the cabin. It is certainly a car that can get you into trouble with the leasing company for mileage.
      Is the Arteon a car I can recommend?  Yes and no.  If you’re a die-hard VW fan, then the Arteon is an easy choice to make. Otherwise, there are more powerful and more upscale options out there for the price, but you wouldn’t be wrong to choose this one.
      Year: 2019
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Arteon
      Trim: SEL w/4Motion
      Engine: 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Direct Injected 4-cylinder
      Driveline: 8-Speed automatic with all-wheel-drive
      Horsepower: 268
      Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 0 - 3,600
      Curb Weight: 3,655 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Emden, Germany
      Base Price: $35,845
      As Tested Price: $42,790 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

      View full article
    • By Drew Dowdell
      The Volkswagen Arteon is the vehicle that effectively replaces the Volkswagen CC in VW’s lineup, however, it comes at the segment with a noticeably different approach. The Arteon is much more interesting looking than the old CC and comes as a hatchback rather than a sedan.
      I would hesitate to use the word “bold” about the Arteon’s looks, as feels rather conservative to me, but it still has a gravitas that lets passers-by know that this is not an ordinary Volkswagen. The front end has a lot of detailing with multiple creases in the hood and a deep, wide grille. Thick wheel arches give the car a muscular look. Around back, the hatch area fits between a set of thick thighs and a set of tail lights that almost look Benz-like. Down below there is a chrome strip that runs around the entire perimeter of the car.
       
      As handsome as the exterior is, the interior is a bit of a letdown. In the SEL version I drove, the interior materials were not up to snuff for a car with a $42,795 sticker price and the design is fairly sterile. There is a wide strip that traverses the dash and mimics the look of the grille and below that, another wood (plood?) strip runs parallel. The center stack is neatly organized with all knobs and buttons within easy reach.  If you are a bit of a neat freak like me about your car, keep a microfiber duster in the glovebox to wipe down the piano black surfaces.  The seats are flat and firm but without much lateral support. As a hatchback, rear passengers get cut out of a bit of headroom, but there is plenty of legroom back there for them to stretch out.  Cargo room for this size of a car can only be described as cavernous. The hatch lifts up high and out of the way giving you easy access to anything you can rear. Fold the rear seats down and you may even say “Crossover, what?”, there is 55 cubic feet of cargo room back there.
      The Arteon comes with an 8-inch touch screen display that includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Android Auto is easy to set up and I stayed in that mode during my entire drive.
      Driving the Arteon is probably the best part about it. My tester came equipped with 4motion, Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system. It works well and the car feels glued to the road during the twisties.  No matter which level of Arteon you buy, you have a single choice of engine. Standard is a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It is this engine that delayed the Arteon’s entry into the U.S. due to a backlog of certification testing. This setup is merely adequate. It neither thrills you nor lets you down.  I do wish a V6 were available, but small-displacement turbo-4s are where the market is going these days.  Unfortunately, even with the small displacement 4-cylinder, you still get V6-like fuel economy.  The Arteon is rated for 20 city / 27 highway / 23 combined. For reference, that’s about the same as an AWD Buick Lacrosse with a big V6 and 310 horsepower, in fact, the Buick does a little better on the highway and so do most other V6 sedans. In normal mode the transmission is a bit lazy, upshifting early and reluctant to downshift. In sport mode, it wakes up a little but there is still a lag when downshifting.
      The ride and drive of the Arteon is definitely dialed towards comfort over sport. It comes equipped with a DCC adaptive ride system, but I notice almost no difference between the Sport and Comfort modes. Cruising along in the Arteon is serene with very little noise from the outside entering the cabin. It is certainly a car that can get you into trouble with the leasing company for mileage.
      Is the Arteon a car I can recommend?  Yes and no.  If you’re a die-hard VW fan, then the Arteon is an easy choice to make. Otherwise, there are more powerful and more upscale options out there for the price, but you wouldn’t be wrong to choose this one.
      Year: 2019
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Arteon
      Trim: SEL w/4Motion
      Engine: 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Direct Injected 4-cylinder
      Driveline: 8-Speed automatic with all-wheel-drive
      Horsepower: 268
      Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 0 - 3,600
      Curb Weight: 3,655 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Emden, Germany
      Base Price: $35,845
      As Tested Price: $42,790 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
    • 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

      View full article
    • 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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