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For the past decade, Acura has felt lost at sea. Not sure of what it wanted to be as a brand. This was shown by mixed messaging in their lineup as they weren’t sure to focus on luxury, technology, or sport. This muddled mess of identities would cause a fair amount of issues. But in the past couple of years, Acura started to get its act together thanks in part to new leadership. The first fruits of their efforts came last year in the form of the third-generation RDX. 

It has been over two years since I last drove an Acura, so when the opportunity for an RDX A-Spec landed on my desk, I took it with both hands. It was time to see what Acura has been up to and if they’re taking a step in the right direction. 

You Want Presence? You Got It!

The RDX is the first production model to feature Acura’s newest design language and its no shrinking violet. The front end draws your attention with a large trapezoidal grille paired with a massive Acura emblem. Sitting on either side is Acura’s Jewel-Eye LED headlights that add a distinctive touch. My A-Spec tester takes it further with distinctive front and rear bumpers, 20-inch alloy wheels finished in black, and a special Apex Blue Pearl color that is only available on this trim. This crossover garnered a lot of looks during the week I had, something I hadn’t experience in quite some time.

Cozy, Polarizing Interior

The RDX’s interior captures the feeling of being in a sports car with a symmetrical dashboard design that cocoons the front passengers. A rotary drive-mode selector found in the center stack echos the design found in the NSX supercar. While it does emphasize the sporty nature of the vehicle, the position of the knob does make the climate controls a bit hard to reach. A-Spec models have some special touches such as red contrast stitching, a suede panel on the passenger side of the dashboard, and new trim for the instrument cluster that help it stand out. Material and build quality are quite close to some competitors from Germany.

A set of sport seats with increased bolstering and power adjustments come standard on the A-Spec. I found them to be quite comfortable for any trip length and were able to hold me if I decided to be a bit enthusiastic. Back seat passengers will be plenty comfortable with an abundance of head and legroom. I would have like to see the back seat be able to slide forward and back to offer more comfort. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 29.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 58.9 when folded. There’s also a little storage nook under the cargo floor to stash valuables.

Intuitive Infotainment?

Acura’s previous infotainment system drew a lot of ire from people. The dual-screen layout was confusing as some functions were split between the two screens such as changing the audio input. Not helping was the two different control methods for this setup; touchscreen for the bottom portion and a controller for the top screen. Thankfully, Acura has introduced a new infotainment system for the RDX. A large 10.2-inch screen sits on top of the dash and is controlled by a touchpad on the center console. Seeing the touchpad for the first time sent chills down my spine as I thought back to my frustrating experiences with Lexus’ Touchpad Controller. But Acura says this controller is much easier and logical to use than competitors. Okay, challenge accepted.

Acura’s touchpad controller is slightly different from Lexus’ setup as it is mapped to the screen. So if you want to access the navigation, you tap that part of the pad that corresponds to the screen. This removes the dragging of the finger across the touchpad to get it to the selection you want. This seems quite logical on paper, but I found to be somewhat frustrating. It took me a few days to mind-meld with the system as I was still used to dragging my finger across the touchpad to select various functions. This made simple tasks such as changing presets or moving around in Apple CarPlay very tough.

There is also a smaller touchpad that controls a small section of the screen. This allows you to scroll through three menus - audio, navigation, and clock. This would prove to be the most frustrating aspect of this system as it didn’t always recognize whenever I scroll down on the touchpad to move to another screen.

Thankfully, Acura has left a number of physical controls for the audio and climate systems. I’m glad that some luxury automakers aren’t falling into the trap.

Powertrain Goes Back To Its Roots

The RDX has always found itself with a different powertrain throughout its various generations. The first version used a turbo-four engine, while the second-generation moved to a V6. For the third-generation, Acura went back to the RDX’s roots and settled on another turbo-four engine. The 2.0L engine punches out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 10-speed automatic and either front or my tester’s Super-Handling all-wheel drive system.

The turbo-four is quite a potent engine with little turbo lag when leaving a stop and a seemingly endless amount of power for any situation. The ten-speed automatic is very smooth and quick when upshifting. But it does stumble somewhat when you need a quick shot of speed. 

I did notice that the 2.0L turbo isn’t a quiet engine when traveling on the expressway, going above 2,000 rpm when traveling at 70 mph. This may explain the slightly disappointing 21.7 mpg average I got during the week. EPA fuel economy figures for the A-Spec SH-AWD are 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. The standard RDX models see a small bump in their EPA fuel economy figures.

Capable Driver

Acura is no stranger to building a crossover that is good to drive, the larger MDX crossover is a prime example. But the RDX A-Spec takes that a step further. This version gets a slightly stiffer suspension setup which negates a fair amount of body roll on a winding road. The steering firms up nicely when pushed through corners. When going through the daily grind, the RDX A-Spec will let in a few more bumps and road imperfections due to its suspension tuning. Road and wind noise are kept to very minimal levels.

Welcome Back Acura

The 2020 RDX shows that Acura is starting to figure out what it wants to be; a brand that offers something playful in the class. The RDX certainly has the qualities with a bold exterior, punchy turbo-four, and a surprising chassis that offers sporty handling and a mostly-comfortable ride. The slightly-confounding infotainment system and poor fuel economy figures do sour it a bit. But the RDX is a very compelling alternative to many compact luxury crossovers.

It does give me hope that Acura is figuring out who it wants to be and excited to see what comes down the road such as the new TLX.

How I Would Configure An RDX: For me, I would basically take the exact RDX tester seen here. That will set me back $47,195 after adding destination and $400.00 paint option. Everyone else should look at the Technology package that will get you most of the safety equipment that is part of Acurawatch, along with a 12-speaker ELS audio system, navigation, and parking sensors. It will not break the bank at $41,000 for FWD or $43,000 for AWD.

Disclaimer: Acura Provided the RDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2020
Make: Acura
Model: RDX
Trim: A-Spec
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve VTEC Four-Cylinder
Driveline: 10-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 272 @ 6,500
Torque @ RPM: 280 @ 1,600 - 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23
Curb Weight: 4,015 lbs
Location of Manufacture: East Liberty, Ohio
Base Price: $45,800
As Tested Price: $47,195 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Premium Exterior Color - $400.00


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I don't see where Oldsmobile fits and would have enough sales to be around still.  Do we really need more 1.5t, 2.0t and 3.6L CUV's from GM?     

Cadillac sales peaked in the late 70s and were in steady decline in the 80s and Mercedes and BMW were on the rise.  With the Japanese coming in the 90s the sales drop continued.  The 1981 Seville

BMW sold 2.5 million last year. Honda/Acura sold 5.3 million.

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Nice review read, so performance over efficiency which explains the MPG issue. Not a fan of the NSX, so I was not thrilled to see that center stack dial knob and appreciate the feedback on how it was not easy to use. I am honestly surprised that they built it this way when Japanese are such tiny people and reaching so far for a knob to make things work is hard.

Over all Acura fans will be happy, I do not see this getting conquest sales.

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I like it a lot.  That infotainment system seems like a huge improvement on the previous dual screen system.  My wife's car has it and I hate it.  They do drive very nice, so that's a huge plus.  Also, Acurawatch safety system is not very intrusive like on some other vehicles.

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Im liking the 2021 TLX. Interior and exterior.   And with a TT 3.0 V6, I might have a canditate to replace my 2012 eventually.  Again, depending what other cars are available in 2023-2024-2025 because Im kinda  thinking about NOT spending money needlessly...  I wasnt gonna change my TL anytime soon anyway, but Covid reinforced that mindset.   I could FINALLY say that a recent new car has peaked my interest again.  And Im hoping that Acura will keep producing the 2021 TLX until  Im ready to part ways with my 2012 TL in another 3 years or so.  That will make this new gen TLX 3 years old. I dont think Acura will cancel it due to low sales... (Covid economy, CUV/SUV sales reality, etc)  Hope not.    There is nothing else out there in 2020 that I want to own.  Maybe a Cadillac CT5, but it doesnt hit the right buttons within the price range that I want to be in. A CT5 V or Blackwing is where its at with me, and THAT is too much money for me to spend on a car.  

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Love that they have kept the climate control (and hopefully seat heat/ventilation?) controls outside of the touch screen.  Red seats would be a bit too obnoxious for me.  Given the price similarity I wonder how this compares to the Blazer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Problem is Acura wants to position themselves as a performance brand but there are 500+ hp competitors in this segment.  So they aren’t even close to competition on performance. 
 

Acura is giving $12,000 off the RLX right now before they kill it off.  This is another brand in contraction.

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2 hours ago, smk4565 said:

Problem is Acura wants to position themselves as a performance brand but there are 500+ hp competitors in this segment.  So they aren’t even close to competition on performance. 
 

Acura is giving $12,000 off the RLX right now before they kill it off.  This is another brand in contraction.

Who is adding sedans in a CUV/SUV market?  No One I suspect.  The car sales are no longer there unlike 7-10 years ago.

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5 hours ago, smk4565 said:

Problem is Acura wants to position themselves as a performance brand

They were always a performance brand since the introduction of Acura in North America.  

Not a brutish, big block 455 V8 engine in a small, compact Civic kinda way.  But with high revving, silky smooth 4 cylinder,s great manual transmissions, great handling like a golf cart kinda way partnered up with "technological" dual overhead cam shafts and variable valve timing in a Civic and Integra.  Leading the way was Acura's Ferrari fighting mid-engine gem 1st gen NSX.  

The rest of that early line-up, were not torque monster cars. Were not high horsepower behemoths. What they were, were sporty oriented, great handling, mid level luxury cruising sedans.  The compact car Integra early on and well into its 2nd and 3rd generation were sporty, zippy and peppy things.    Fun cars to drive.    A different, very Honda approach to performance...

And they lost that in the early 2000s.  

In reality, all Acura (and Honda) is doing now, is just going back to its 1980s roots.  So, not a problem...

5 hours ago, smk4565 said:

but there are 500+ hp competitors in this segment.

What Balthy said...

And this was never Acura's image to begin with.  So...not a problem. 

5 hours ago, smk4565 said:

So they aren’t even close to competition on performance. 

Acura was always a different kind of performance. Had a different approach to performance. A different angle if you will. 

Actually, BMW first did this angle of performance with their 2002 in the 1970s.  Acura's cars emulated that. But with FWD instead of RWD.   

 

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Acura builds 2 FWD crossovers with near segment bottom power.  And they have the TLX with currently segment bottom power and the Type S that is coming is still less powerful than CT5-v I think and the Acura is wrong wheel drive with a 57/43 weight balance.

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Concerning Honda/Acura. Being FWD on their smaller cars like the Civic or the ILX  is not really an issue.  

On their mid level CUVs and TLX, being FWD with their SH-AWD  system or PAWS really is not an issue.  The SH-AWD system or PAWS takes care of any RWD bias there is because Acura's systems are that good in that all important fun in handling  category...  Which those systems are also available in their bigger CUVs. 

Concerning Acura, their problem from the 2000s all the way to 2020 is not about wrong wheel drive. 

Their problem was a lack of focus and eye off the ball of what their cars really mean to their buyers.  And of course, really ugly front fascias and really porky vehicles that stopped being about fun driving characteristics with bulky, old looking interiors.

Acuras (and Hondas) of the 1980s and 1990s, had just about the industry's most youthful looking cars exterior wise and their interiors were simple, driver oriented with sportiness in mind.  

The handling of their cars during this heyday were spirited and fun.

And then the 2000s came along and Honda/Acura became...old man cars.    

Acura always reminded me of what Oldsmobile used to be in the 1950s/1960s/1970s and certain 1980s models.  About mid-level 'sporty' luxury.  Acura, I felt, replaced Oldsmobile in the market place in the 1990s. 

And then, I felt, Acura BECAME Oldsmobile in EVERY sense of the way. In that Acura became a shadow of its former self, became  stale and 'old' in the 2000s EXACTLY how Oldsmobile became that in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Front wheel drive IS Acura's image.

NOW...its SH-AWD and  PAWS.

Acura successfully marketed this SH-AWD thing.

Acura is just now, redefining and re-engineering their cars and CUVs to fit EXACTLY that image and infusing that DNA SUCCESSFULLY into their cars and CUVs.    Acura cars and CUVs are JUST NOW, getting back that fun to drive quotient they once had in the 1980s and 1990s.

Is it too late?   Only time will tell.  Time ran out on Oldsmobile as in the mid-to late 1990s, Oldsmobile got back on track. But it was too little too late for Oldsmobile.  Will it be the same for Acura?

But one thing is for sure....Acura does NOT need RWD, does NOT need 500 HP.  If Acura does THAT, then they will surely be doomed.   Acura is ALL ABOUT the fun-to-drive quotient.   

I mentioned Oldsmobile and how Acura to me replaced Oldsmobile in the marketplace.   

I should also include BMW.  Acura closely resembles BMW.   Acura is Japan's BMW.  A FWD (and now SH-AWD)  version of BMW (of the 1970s -1990s)   

BMW has became just another CUV company with ALL their vehicles becoming fat and bloated AWD things.  Lots of HP, but disconnected to the road because of all that heft and drive by wire bullshyte they have incorporated in their driving characteristcs.

 Acura has tried to get their cars to be more connected to the driver as of late and made their cars more responsive and more fun for the driver...

One does NOT need 500 HP to be fun to drive.  I think Acura has finally found the right mixture for fun to drive cars with just the RIGHT AMOUNT of HP and weight and SH-AWD or PAWS.   

The BMW M5 has OVER 500 HP.   Closer to 600 HP with 500 some odd ft/lbs of torque.  This M5 is the FIRST M5 to NOT BE RWD.  Its AWD.  I havent heard ANYBODY say that the M5 is fun to drive...   And BMWs were at one time...fun to drive...

Ill repeat.  Acuras need not be 500plus HP.    Acuras just need to be fun to drive...  And they are fast becoming so... 

 

 

Edited by oldshurst442
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They are doing enough to survive, but competition is far greater these days compared to their heyday of the 90s and early 2k.  Tesla has eaten up a lot of that market of entry lux vehicles with the 3 and Y, Porsche is no longer just a sports car company, Koreans are moving upmarket and investing a lot of coin attempting to do so.

 

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It is rather interesting that while Nissan/Infiniti are circling the drain, Acura is struggling because of what the Koreans are doing. 

Oldsmobile reached its sales peak in 1986 when half of the models sold were the rear-drive G-body Cutlass Supreme models.  Once that was replaced by the W-body in 1988, Olds was losing lot of sales (at least until the first Aurora).  By the time the Intrigue and the Alero showed up, Olds was on its way out for good.  If Acura was meant to replace Olds, it has wildly succeeded.  BMW of course is a tougher nut to crack.  Pontiac has been replaced by Nissan and Honda/Acura will probably replace Nissan sooner than any of us think.

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Ill go a step further.

What @frogger said about the Koreans...

Hyundai is wonderfully replacing Chevrolet cars.  The Elantra is doing in the marketplace what the Cavalier/Cobalt and Cruze did in the market and what Chevrolet failed to do as where Hyundai is succeeding.  To SUSTAIN people interested in the car.  Hyundai is also succeeding where Chevrolet failed big time with Cavalier/Cobalt/Cruze is that Hyundai seems to have a POSITIVE public image on the Elantra as where Chevrolet always had negativity surrounding its image with the Cavalier/Cobalt/Cruze trio.  

The Sonata seems to be Hyundai's equivalent to what an Impala was to Chevrolet. An upscale, classy Chevrolet with some styling pizzazz.  This new generation Sonata has gone back to the droopy faced Sonata's image.  Call that Sonata ugly if you will, that Sonata made a splash in the marketplace and lost that momentum when they revised and retracted the aggressive styling on the next gen.  This new gen, which actually looks like Chevy's last gen Malibu, seems to get back that mojo. 

KIA will replace Nissan.  I see KIA as a modern form of Datsun. If KIA doesnt get visions of grandeur.  The managers of KIA should let Hyundai and Genesis handle the higher end stuff. KIA will do wonders if they handle the lower end stuff.     

Honda will just continue to be Honda.   

Genesis is replacing Infiniti quite easily.   Acura better be careful and not let Genesis steal their food off their table.  Its up to Acura at this juncture to not let that happen.  GM dropped the ball on Pontiac, Oldsmobile.  Spent tooo much money on Saturn, but had a good starting point, but flubbed it.  Spent unnecessary money buying and trying to save SAAB. THAT money could have been spent on the road to success on Oldsmobile and perhaps, Oldsmobile would have STILL been here TODAY had GM not wasted their time on money on SAAB...

BMW will not be replaced by anybody.  What I meant to say above was that Acura is  kinda Japan's BMW.  But with FWD (SH-AWD) instead of RWD.

BMW is just killing itself.  BMW has just become just another CUV manufacturer with a few expensive, bloated sedans and coupes in the line-up.   IF EVs ever become a thing and replace ICE (which I think WILL happen), TESLA will eventually replace BMW. Especially now that autonomous driving pods may have been put to rest for good BECAUSE of Covid19. 

Acura could EASILY make fun to drive EVs and remain faithful to their fun to drive image as Acura in the future if EVs become the norm, like I have already stated, because it seems as Acura is in line of righting their ship.   I think BMW has gone tooo far off course that it seems almost impossible to get back to their roots.   Tooooo many folk just dont know about fun, handling BMWs anymore.  BMW has built toooo many bloated sedans and CUVs    SAVs  (yeah right)  for people to give a shyte about driving dynamics and about BMWs anymore.  When the next "in" car company comes along with a new generation of drivers in the next decade, I think BMW is done for.  Tesla could be that company.  But one thing is for sure, BMW is on the way out. I see the signs. In hindsight, the signs are the same ones as how Cadillac was going down in the 1980s and 1990s... 

 

 

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42 minutes ago, frogger said:

I don't see where Oldsmobile fits and would have enough sales to be around still.  Do we really need more 1.5t, 2.0t and 3.6L CUV's from GM? 

 

Buick and GMC seem to cover the filler niche between Chevy and Cadillac pretty well..

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To be fair, Oldsmobile had a hand with GM's initial DOHC 4 and 6 cylinder engines. Lotus did Chevrolet's first DOHC V8 in the Corvette, but Oldsmobile did their own DOHC and Cadillac used it.  More precisely, Cadillac "hired" Oldsmobile to do their DOHC V8 and Oldsmobile did  a version of that to use as well. 

If a different timeline had occurred and Oldsmobile had survived, I think Oldsmobile would be on the cutting edge of automotive trends right about now so I dont think Oldsmobile would have been doing  1.5t, 2.0. and 3.6 liter V6 CUVs.   I think Oldsmobile would be doing EV CUVs right about now, trying to compete with Tesla.  And for the last 3-4 years.  I think Oldsmobile would have used the Bolt platform to do their own CUV with it.  Oldsmobile would have probably used the Volt, to do their own version and Opel, would have badge engineered the Olds version rather than Chevy's.  

I get this vibe as Oldsmobile was doing turbos first in the 1960s, before Chevy with its Corvair. Oldsmobile saw DOHC from the Japanese in the 1980s and did their very own in the mid-80s with the Quad 4, and then Shortstar V6 waaaay before any other GM division.   Oldsmobile did GM's first lux oriented SUV in the late 1980s with Bravada with the old S-10 based Blazer.  LATE 1980s...Waaaaay ahead of the SUV craze. Luxury or otherwise.  Waaaay before any BMW SAVs or Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer editions. Waaaay before OJ Simpson Bronco super slow speed chases....   Waaaaay before Jurassic Park Wrangler or Mercedes Benz MLs...   Waaaaay before Navigators and Escalades and RAV4s and Lexus RXs...

And I think this trend of Oldsmobile being ahead of trends were gonna continue. 

But...we will NEVER know...

Things happen the way they do because it is the way its suppose to be...

 

Edited by oldshurst442
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BMW worldwide outsold Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and Genesis combined last year, so I think they are doing just fine.

 

Acura might be able to pick up Infiniti’s leftovers if they fizzle from the market.  But you can get the same performance Acura has from a Sonata, Edge, RAV4 or whatever other garden variety car is out there.

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20 minutes ago, smk4565 said:

BMW worldwide outsold Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and Genesis combined last year, so I think they are doing just fine.

 

Nah. They are not.

Like I said. They are just like anybody else doing shytty CUVs.

Like I said, when another "in" car company comes in to charm the masses, BMW is done for.  

BMW does NOT do CUVs better than anybody else.  They do NOT do memorable CUVs. There are no 2002 CUV equivalents. No M badged 3 or 5 Series cars or CUVs that charm today. No CUV E36 or E 46 equivalent.  No Z3 or  Z8 or 7 Series saloon James Bond CUV equivalent movie star...

They just do the same ol same ole. Like everybody else.  They are riding on the coattails of those past vehicles. But they are NOT charming any new drivers.  New drivers are buying them BECAUSE of their past.  But when another  enthusiast car maker takes the market by storm, BMW is done for.  

In other words. The X5 and X6 have lost that loving feeling they once had.  The X7 is a disgusting design. Neither CUV just mentioned is gonna  carry the BMW flame to the next generation of BMW lovers...  The X3 and X1 are just...well, they are just the same ole same ole I was talking about. No better than a KIA RIO or Ford Escape...

THIS is what happened to Cadillac.  Cadillac too, was outselling Mercedes and BMW in the very 1990s that BMW enthusiasts all go  googoo gaagaa with E30 M3s,  E36 M3s, E46 M3s,  E34 M5 inline 6 AND V8, E39 M5s.  Cult classic Z8s and Z3s... And Cadillac...was outselling them.  But by the late 1990s. A different story all together. Same with BMW now.   Tesla has taken a fair share of market share from BMW and EV sales are still very very niche. Even Tesla sales are niche.  They are growing fast, and at the expense of many auto manufacturers. Not just BMW.  But Tesla has got that same type of following that BMW enjoyed in the 1970s/1980s and 1990s. Its taken Tesla just a decade to achieve what BMW achieved  in 30. 

Irony. 

What Cadillac did to their image in that same 30 year span that BMW took advantage of, BMW flubbed itself in just less than 20.  

Edited by oldshurst442
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      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 3,060 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $23,240
      As Tested Price: $26,450 (Includes $955.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Black Roof, Spoiler, and Side Mirrors - $500.00
      Adaptive Headlights - $415.00
      Rear Window Spoiler - $375.00
      Carpet Mat Package - $249.00
      Door Sill Protectors - $165.00
      Black Emblem Overlays - $129.00
      Mudguards - $129.00
      Door Edge Guard - $125.00
      Rear Bumper Protector - $89.00
      TRD Air Filter - $79.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Have you ever wondered what it would be to add all-wheel drive to a Prius? What about adding slightly more sport to a Corolla hatchback? Wonder no more as I can tell you some thoughts on the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e and Corolla XSE hatchback.
      Prius XLE AWD-e
      The Prius AWD-e powertrain is mostly the same as you'll find in the standard model - a 1.8L inline-four paired with an electric motor to provide an output of 121 horsepower. But, the e-AWD adds a second electric motor producing 7 horsepower and 40 pound-feet onto the rear axle. This provides extra traction and helps with initial acceleration (up to 6 mph). The other change deals with the battery as Toyota swaps the lithium-ion pack for a nickel-metal hydride. Toyota says the nickel-metal hydride chemistry has better resilience in extremely cold temperatures. Does the addition of a second electric motor make the Prius any faster? Not at all. It feels the same as the standard Prius; fine in stop-go driving, but struggling during hard acceleration such as merging onto a freeway. The AWD system is very unobtrusive, you don’t notice come on when one of the front wheels loses traction. There is an important caveat to note; this system only operates up to 43 mph. This is likely due to Toyota wanting to keep somewhat high fuel economy figures. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Prius AWD-e at 52 City/48 Highway/50 Combined - the lowest of any Prius model. My average for the week was a slightly disappointing 47 mpg. Handling characteristics are the same as the standard Prius. It's slightly fun to drive on winding roads with minimal body roll, but the steering is lackluster. Ride comfort is excellent with most bumps being ironed out. The AWD option does make the Prius a more appealing option for those living in the snow belt who still want excellent fuel economy. Corolla XSE Hatchback

      Toyota wants to make it clear the XSE is the sporting version of the Corolla Hatchback and it shows on the exterior. There is a distinct rear wing, 18-inch wheels with black inserts, and a body kit that makes the hatchback stand out from the plain-jane SE. Power comes from the same 2.0L inline-four found in the SE, producing 169 horsepower. In my tester, I had the standard six-speed manual. The CVT is an option. I was hoping for a slight improvement in overall performance with the manual, but it’s similar to the CVT. The engine feels more suited around town where it can get up to speed pretty quick. But it does show some signs of struggling when trying to reach higher speeds. The manual transmission is a mixed bag. The throws are a bit too long for any sort of enthusiastic driving and it is slightly difficult to slot into the next gear due to the vague feeling gate. But, the clutch is very easy to modulate. Despite having a sportier tune for the suspension, I couldn't tell any difference in the handling between this and the SE hatchback I drove in 2020. Both feel agile and composed when driven on a curvy stretch of pavement. I will say the SE does a better job of minimizing impacts from bumps and potholes with smaller wheels. The only reasons I see picking the XSE over the SE is for the more aggressive looks and additional standard equipment (dual-zone climate control, 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster, and power-adjustable driver seat). Otherwise, the SE offers the same driving dynamics, manual transmission, and a slightly better ride for less money. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Prius AWD-e
      Trim: XLE
      Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Four-Cylinder, AC Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: ECVT, All Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 96 @ 5,200 (Gas): 71 @ 0 (Electric Motor 1): 7 @ 0 (Electric Motor 2): 121 (Combined)
      Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 3,600 (Gas): 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 52/48/50
      Curb Weight: 3,220 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: 
      Base Price: $28,375
      As Tested Price: $31,757 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Advanced Technology Package - $800.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Corolla Hatchback
      Trim: XSE
      Engine: 2.0 DOHC 15-Valve D-4S with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 3,060 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $23,240
      As Tested Price: $26,450 (Includes $955.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Black Roof, Spoiler, and Side Mirrors - $500.00
      Adaptive Headlights - $415.00
      Rear Window Spoiler - $375.00
      Carpet Mat Package - $249.00
      Door Sill Protectors - $165.00
      Black Emblem Overlays - $129.00
      Mudguards - $129.00
      Door Edge Guard - $125.00
      Rear Bumper Protector - $89.00
      TRD Air Filter - $79.00
    • By William Maley
      There are some cars I will not turn down the opportunity to spend time with again. A prime example is the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car that brings a smile to my face. This past fall, I had a chance to spend some time in a soft-top version and to figure out whether I would have this or the RF.
      What has changed since our last visit with Miata? Only a few things such as the addition of Mazda's i-Activsense suite of active safety features (automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning) as standard; and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the Club and Grand Touring models. I find myself drawn more to the standard Miata than RF because it looks a bit neater. The hardtop makes the Miata look somewhat bulky.  The 17-inch wheels finished in dark silver help set the car off. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes using the MazdaConnect infotainment system a bit more bearable to use. I found myself using CarPlay more due to its easier interface layout and brighter graphics. Power comes from a 2.0L Skyactiv-G inline-four with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed manual, while an automatic is optional. As I noted in my review of the RF, the new 2.0 makes a dramatic difference to the Miata's performance. Leaving a stop, the engine freely revs and delivers a smooth rush of power. I think this version is slightly faster than the RF, mostly due to it not having the foldable hardtop. The six-speed manual is still one of the sweetest transmissions I have used. It feels smooth and precise when running through the gears. Handling is still one of the Miata's strong points as it eagerly changes direction and shows little body roll. Steering is sharp and provides the right amount of weight when driven hard. Ride quality is slightly better than the RF I drove last year due to the Grand Touring not having as stiff as a suspension setup. Yes, you will still feel several bumps and imperfections. But not at the rate as you'll experience in the Club. The Miata is one of those few cars I find myself still being impressed with every time I get the chance to drive one. It offers a level of driving fun that very few models can match, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. If you were to ask which Miata I would choose, it would be the soft top. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Mazda
      Model: MX-5 Miata
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC 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: 2,341 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $31,670
      As Tested Price: $32,790 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Grey Cloth Roof - $200.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      There are some cars I will not turn down the opportunity to spend time with again. A prime example is the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car that brings a smile to my face. This past fall, I had a chance to spend some time in a soft-top version and to figure out whether I would have this or the RF.
      What has changed since our last visit with Miata? Only a few things such as the addition of Mazda's i-Activsense suite of active safety features (automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning) as standard; and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the Club and Grand Touring models. I find myself drawn more to the standard Miata than RF because it looks a bit neater. The hardtop makes the Miata look somewhat bulky.  The 17-inch wheels finished in dark silver help set the car off. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes using the MazdaConnect infotainment system a bit more bearable to use. I found myself using CarPlay more due to its easier interface layout and brighter graphics. Power comes from a 2.0L Skyactiv-G inline-four with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed manual, while an automatic is optional. As I noted in my review of the RF, the new 2.0 makes a dramatic difference to the Miata's performance. Leaving a stop, the engine freely revs and delivers a smooth rush of power. I think this version is slightly faster than the RF, mostly due to it not having the foldable hardtop. The six-speed manual is still one of the sweetest transmissions I have used. It feels smooth and precise when running through the gears. Handling is still one of the Miata's strong points as it eagerly changes direction and shows little body roll. Steering is sharp and provides the right amount of weight when driven hard. Ride quality is slightly better than the RF I drove last year due to the Grand Touring not having as stiff as a suspension setup. Yes, you will still feel several bumps and imperfections. But not at the rate as you'll experience in the Club. The Miata is one of those few cars I find myself still being impressed with every time I get the chance to drive one. It offers a level of driving fun that very few models can match, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. If you were to ask which Miata I would choose, it would be the soft top. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Mazda
      Model: MX-5 Miata
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC 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: 2,341 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $31,670
      As Tested Price: $32,790 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Grey Cloth Roof - $200.00
    • By William Maley
      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
      Very Polarizing Design

      The consensus from several readers on Cheers & Gears and various social media sites on the Sonata's design was of dislike. Many found the design to be a bit much and overdone. I found myself in the minority as I was impressed by the lengths Hyundai went. The flowing lines and raked roofline reminded me of the 2012 Sonata which gave notice to other automakers to step up their game. Little details such as the bars the run along the outer edge of the hood to the headlights to a distinct rear-end treatment make the Sonata stand out.
      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
      Simple, Yet Elegant Interior
      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

      Despite the coupe-inspired roofline, the Sonata's interior space is quite spacious. Most no one will have any complaints sitting in the back as there is ample head and legroom. Taller passengers should be aware that the optional panoramic sunroof for the Sonata will take away some headroom. The Sonata Hybrid doesn't worry about that as it doesn't offer the sunroof.
      Tech Galore!
      Both of the Sonatas on test came in the Limited trim which means a bountiful selection of technology. It begins with a 10.2-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster which provides all of the key information needed at a glance. A clever trick is when you engage the turn signal, the respective 'dial' brings up a camera mounted underneath the side view mirrors to provide a blind-spot view. I found this system to be helpful as it gave me an extra set of eyes whenever I needed to change lanes.

      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
      The next two tech features are exclusive to the standard Sonata. First is what Hyundai calls a digital key. Using the BlueLink application on a compatible smartphone, you can use this instead of the key to start the car and drive away. At the time of this writing, this is only available on Android phones. Hyundai did provide a loner Samsung Note smartphone for the week to try this out. I did not have the best experience with this feature at first because I found you need to be pretty close to the vehicle to make a connection. Trying to connect from my room upstairs, just above where the vehicle was parked, the application would throw up a connection error. I found that if I moved to the living room or just outside the front door, the phone was able to make the connection. This sours some of the appeal of this feature. 
      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
      Second is Smart Park (or smart parkh as made famous by the Super Bowl commercial from last year). Using the key, you can have the Sonata move forward or back out of the parking spot to allow for easier access to get into the vehicle. It's simple to operate, just hold down one of two buttons for a few seconds; the Sonata starts up and goes into the correct gear to move in the desired direction. I can see the appeal in urban areas where space is limited. But in the current pandemic times all of us find ourselves in, this seems to be more of a gimmick.
      Power Selection
      Hyundai offers two engines for the regular Sonata; a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6L four. A more potent turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is available on the upcoming Sonata N Line. My tester featured the turbo 1.6 which produces 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in line with some of the base engines found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
      Under the Sonata Hybrid's hood is a system comprised of a 2.0L four-cylinder and electric motor to provide a total output of 192 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata Hybrid feels just as fast as the standard Sonata around town and on country roads. It does struggle slightly on the highway due to the smaller torque figure. The six-speed automatic doesn't stumble when the change over from electric-only to hybrid mode like I have experienced on other Hyundai/Kia hybrid models.

      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
      Fuel economy for both models are as followed,
      Sonata 1.6T: 27 City/36 Highway/31 Combined Sonata Hybrid: 45 City/51 Highway/47 Combined My week saw an average of 29 mpg in the Sonata and 39 mpg for the Sonata Hybrid.
      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00

      View full article
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