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William Maley

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About William Maley

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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Hi there, it's your favorite staff writer! Okay, maybe I am embellishing this a bit. It has been about six months since I have announced that I would stepping away from my full-time role as a staff writer for a job with JATO Dynamics as a specs researcher. This past week marked six months at the new job and I thought it would be a good time to give an update of where I stand. To start, the new job has been working out very well. Most of my work deals with taking data from automakers on various vehicles and putting into our systems. That may seem tedious (and there makes and model where it is that), but I am oddly enjoying. I think a lot of comes from figuring out what automaker means by one feature and translating it to our nomenclature. Blind spot monitoring is a good example as a number of automakers have their own to name to make it seem exclusive, even though it is just sensors around the vehicle - see GM's Side Blind Zone Alert as an example. It doesn't hurt that writing a bunch of news and driving various new cars also helps out. The major downside has been traffic. Our illustrious Road Commission decided to start some extensive road construction along various parts of I-75, which makes up a majority of my commute. Instead of taking 20 minutes or so, it takes now around a hour because I want to avoid driving in gridlock. This means waking up a bit earlier than I want to and being quite tired at the end of day. I've been taking quick cat naps to help me not feel as tired. But what this has done is made me not do anything when I get home, such as writing or anything else. I know some of this construction is bound to wrap-up before winter and hopefully I'll be able to get back on track with other stuff. You may have notice that I'm not been here as much, in terms of commenting or writing much. Some of that is self-imposed to give my mind a break and hopefully allow the creative juices to come in. The past few months before starting the job, I could tell that I wasn't enjoying writing. Instead of words flowing out, it felt like I pulling them out. I've been getting stuff up here and there, mostly reviews (and I still have more incoming, the manilla folder of doom has around 10 or so vehicles). Right now, it feels somewhat easier to get stuff out. But it is taking a much longer time. Hopefully, I will be caught up towards the end of year. This also stinks because there are various opinion pieces I would like to get up such What's going on Cadillac and Is Mazda making the right call with Premium? These ideas are just in my head, but haven't gone much further than that. I should just write down the various bits somewhere that I could look back on whenever my mind is somewhat recovered. But it has been a nice break, to see stuff happening and not feel like I NEED TO GET THIS STORY UP RIGHT THIS SECOND. Breathers are a good thing. So it is a mix of good and bad, but that is a good metaphor on life. You have the ups and downs - how you deal with them is the question. One I still haven't come up with an answer.
  6. Expectation can be a very dangerous thing. You come into something thinking it will blow your mind and more often than not, it comes up short. That’s how I felt during the first few days into a loan of a 2019 Buick Regal GS. What was being presented didn’t match up with my experience. But over the week I had the vehicle, it began to grow on. That isn’t to say some issues need to be addressed. At first glance, you might think Buick decided to stick with a sedan shape. But the sloping rear hatch gives away its true identity as a Sportback. This helps give the impression that the Regal is sporty, helped further by short overhangs. By adding small touches such as large front air intakes, GS-specific 19-inch wheels. Brembo front brake calipers finished in Red, and a small lip spoiler, the GS transforms the Regal into looking like a red-blooded sports sedan. The interior sadly doesn’t match up with what is being presented on the outside. While there was some effort to make the GS stand out with faux carbon-fiber trim, special sport seats, and GS badging, it doesn’t quite match with what is being presented outside. Not helping are some cheap plastics littered throughout the Regal GS’ interior. If this was a standard Regal, I may have given it a slight pass. But considering this GS carries a price of almost $43k, it becomes a big issue. The interior does redeem it somewhat with a logical and simple layout. No one had any complaints about whether the controls were confusing or hard to reach. Let’s talk about the front seats, The Regal GS comes fitted with racing-style front seat with aggressive side bolstering and faux holes towards the top where the belts for a harness would go into. This design seems more at home in a hardcore Corvette than a Buick. Before you start thinking that the seat design only allows a small group of people to fit, Buick has fitted adjustable bolstering to allow a wide set of body types to sit comfortably. With this and other power adjustments, I was able to find a position that suited me. Over a long drive, the seats were able to provide the right amount of support and comfort. The back seats don’t get the same “race car” treatment as the front, but they do offer ample head and legroom for most passengers. Cargo space is quite impressive with 31.5 cubic feet with the seats up and 60.7 when folded. The Kia Stinger I drove back in January pales in comparison with 23.3 and 40.9 cubic feet. The Regal GS features an eight-inch touchscreen with the new Buick Infotainment 3 system. As I mentioned in my Silverado/Sierra 1500 review, the new system is worlds better than Intellilink. The interface has been cleaned up with simpler graphics and fonts that are much easier to read. Also seeing noticeable improvements is the overall performance. The system is much faster when bringing up different functions or crunching a route on the optional navigation system. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and OnStar 4G LTE round off the system. With the effort Buick has put in, you might have the feeling that the Regal GS has something special under the hood. That isn’t the case. Under the hood of the GS is GM’s venerable 3.6L V6 with 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet. While the V6 packs 40 more horsepower than the 2.0L turbo-four from the last-generation model, it is also down 13 pound-feet. This absence becomes apparent when you decide to sprint away from a stoplight or exiting a corner as you need to work the engine to get that rush of power. A numb throttle response doesn’t help. If you resist from attack mode, the V6 reveals a quiet and refined nature. But again, you will need to work the engine when merging or making a pass. Before someone shouts “put a turbo on it”, Buick cannot do that as there isn’t enough space in the engine bay due to the design of the platform. We’ve known about this issue since 2016 when Holden was gearing up to launch the Commodore - its version of the OpelVauxhall Insignia. The nine-speed automatic transmission goes about its business with unobtrusive shifts when going about your daily errands, but offers up snappy shifts when you decide to get aggressive. A glaring omission on this sports sedan is the lack of paddle shifters. Fuel economy for the 2019 Regal GS is 19 City/27 Highway/22 Combined. I saw an average of 20 during the week. This can likely to be attributed to the test vehicle having under 1,000 miles on the odometer. On paper, the Regal GS’ handling credentials seem top-notch with Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system and a GKN all-wheel drive system featuring a twin-clutch torque-vectoring rear differential. The latter allows a varying amount of power sent to each rear wheel to improve cornering. In the real world, the GS is more Grand Tourer than Gran Sport. While the sedan shows little body roll, its reflexes are slightly muted due to a nearly 3,800 pound curb weight. The steering provides a decent amount of weight when turning, but don’t expect a lot of road feel. What about that AWD system? For the most part, you really won’t notice working unless you decide to push the limits or practice your winter driving skills in a snowy and empty parking lot. Thanks to the CDC system, the Regal GS’ ride is surprisingly smooth. With the vehicle in Tour, the suspension glides over bumps and imperfections. The ride begins to get choppy if you One area that I’m glad Buick is still focusing on is noise isolation. Road and wind noise is almost non-existent. The 2019 Buick Regal GS is a case of expectations being put too high. Despite what the exterior and sports seats of the interior may hint at, this isn’t a sports sedan like a Kia Stinger GT or something from a German luxury brand. But my feelings began to change when I thought of the GS as being more of a grand tourer. It has the ingredients such as a refined powertrain, a suspension that can be altered to provide either a comfortable or sporty ride; and minimizing the amount of outside noise. There lies the overall problem with Regal GS as Buick doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a sport sedan or a luxury sedan with grand tourer tendencies? This confusion will likely cause many people to look at something else which is a big shame. How I Would Configure a 2019 Buick Regal GS. My particular configuration would be similar to the vehicle tested here with the Driver Confidence Package #2, Sights and Sounds, and Appearance packages. The only change would be adding the White Frost Tricoat color, which adds an additional $1,095 to the price. All together, it comes out to $44,210. Alternatives to the 2019 Buick Regal GS: Kia Stinger: The big elephant in the room when talking about the Regal GS. For a similar amount of cash, you can step into the base GT model with its 365 horsepower twin-turbo V6 and rear-wheel drive setup (AWD adds $2,200). I came away very impressed with the styling, performance on tap from the V6, and handling prowess. Downsides include the interior design being a bit too minimalist and the ride being a bit rough. Volkswagen Arteon: The other dark horse to the Regal GS. There is no doubt that the Arteon is quite handsome with flowing lines and sleek fastback shape. Having sat in one at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, I found it to be very roomy and upscale in terms of the interior materials. I hope to get some time behind the wheel in the near future to see how it measures up in handling. Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Regal GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Buick Model: Regal Trim: GS Engine: 3.6L V6 Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 310 @ 6,800 Torque @ RPM: 282 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22 Curb Weight: 3,796 lbs Location of Manufacture: Rüsselsheim Germany Base Price: $39,070 As Tested Price: $43,115 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Confidence Package #2: $1,690.00 Sights and Sounds Package: $945.00 Appearance Package: $485.00 View full article
  7. Expectation can be a very dangerous thing. You come into something thinking it will blow your mind and more often than not, it comes up short. That’s how I felt during the first few days into a loan of a 2019 Buick Regal GS. What was being presented didn’t match up with my experience. But over the week I had the vehicle, it began to grow on. That isn’t to say some issues need to be addressed. At first glance, you might think Buick decided to stick with a sedan shape. But the sloping rear hatch gives away its true identity as a Sportback. This helps give the impression that the Regal is sporty, helped further by short overhangs. By adding small touches such as large front air intakes, GS-specific 19-inch wheels. Brembo front brake calipers finished in Red, and a small lip spoiler, the GS transforms the Regal into looking like a red-blooded sports sedan. The interior sadly doesn’t match up with what is being presented on the outside. While there was some effort to make the GS stand out with faux carbon-fiber trim, special sport seats, and GS badging, it doesn’t quite match with what is being presented outside. Not helping are some cheap plastics littered throughout the Regal GS’ interior. If this was a standard Regal, I may have given it a slight pass. But considering this GS carries a price of almost $43k, it becomes a big issue. The interior does redeem it somewhat with a logical and simple layout. No one had any complaints about whether the controls were confusing or hard to reach. Let’s talk about the front seats, The Regal GS comes fitted with racing-style front seat with aggressive side bolstering and faux holes towards the top where the belts for a harness would go into. This design seems more at home in a hardcore Corvette than a Buick. Before you start thinking that the seat design only allows a small group of people to fit, Buick has fitted adjustable bolstering to allow a wide set of body types to sit comfortably. With this and other power adjustments, I was able to find a position that suited me. Over a long drive, the seats were able to provide the right amount of support and comfort. The back seats don’t get the same “race car” treatment as the front, but they do offer ample head and legroom for most passengers. Cargo space is quite impressive with 31.5 cubic feet with the seats up and 60.7 when folded. The Kia Stinger I drove back in January pales in comparison with 23.3 and 40.9 cubic feet. The Regal GS features an eight-inch touchscreen with the new Buick Infotainment 3 system. As I mentioned in my Silverado/Sierra 1500 review, the new system is worlds better than Intellilink. The interface has been cleaned up with simpler graphics and fonts that are much easier to read. Also seeing noticeable improvements is the overall performance. The system is much faster when bringing up different functions or crunching a route on the optional navigation system. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and OnStar 4G LTE round off the system. With the effort Buick has put in, you might have the feeling that the Regal GS has something special under the hood. That isn’t the case. Under the hood of the GS is GM’s venerable 3.6L V6 with 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet. While the V6 packs 40 more horsepower than the 2.0L turbo-four from the last-generation model, it is also down 13 pound-feet. This absence becomes apparent when you decide to sprint away from a stoplight or exiting a corner as you need to work the engine to get that rush of power. A numb throttle response doesn’t help. If you resist from attack mode, the V6 reveals a quiet and refined nature. But again, you will need to work the engine when merging or making a pass. Before someone shouts “put a turbo on it”, Buick cannot do that as there isn’t enough space in the engine bay due to the design of the platform. We’ve known about this issue since 2016 when Holden was gearing up to launch the Commodore - its version of the OpelVauxhall Insignia. The nine-speed automatic transmission goes about its business with unobtrusive shifts when going about your daily errands, but offers up snappy shifts when you decide to get aggressive. A glaring omission on this sports sedan is the lack of paddle shifters. Fuel economy for the 2019 Regal GS is 19 City/27 Highway/22 Combined. I saw an average of 20 during the week. This can likely to be attributed to the test vehicle having under 1,000 miles on the odometer. On paper, the Regal GS’ handling credentials seem top-notch with Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system and a GKN all-wheel drive system featuring a twin-clutch torque-vectoring rear differential. The latter allows a varying amount of power sent to each rear wheel to improve cornering. In the real world, the GS is more Grand Tourer than Gran Sport. While the sedan shows little body roll, its reflexes are slightly muted due to a nearly 3,800 pound curb weight. The steering provides a decent amount of weight when turning, but don’t expect a lot of road feel. What about that AWD system? For the most part, you really won’t notice working unless you decide to push the limits or practice your winter driving skills in a snowy and empty parking lot. Thanks to the CDC system, the Regal GS’ ride is surprisingly smooth. With the vehicle in Tour, the suspension glides over bumps and imperfections. The ride begins to get choppy if you One area that I’m glad Buick is still focusing on is noise isolation. Road and wind noise is almost non-existent. The 2019 Buick Regal GS is a case of expectations being put too high. Despite what the exterior and sports seats of the interior may hint at, this isn’t a sports sedan like a Kia Stinger GT or something from a German luxury brand. But my feelings began to change when I thought of the GS as being more of a grand tourer. It has the ingredients such as a refined powertrain, a suspension that can be altered to provide either a comfortable or sporty ride; and minimizing the amount of outside noise. There lies the overall problem with Regal GS as Buick doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a sport sedan or a luxury sedan with grand tourer tendencies? This confusion will likely cause many people to look at something else which is a big shame. How I Would Configure a 2019 Buick Regal GS. My particular configuration would be similar to the vehicle tested here with the Driver Confidence Package #2, Sights and Sounds, and Appearance packages. The only change would be adding the White Frost Tricoat color, which adds an additional $1,095 to the price. All together, it comes out to $44,210. Alternatives to the 2019 Buick Regal GS: Kia Stinger: The big elephant in the room when talking about the Regal GS. For a similar amount of cash, you can step into the base GT model with its 365 horsepower twin-turbo V6 and rear-wheel drive setup (AWD adds $2,200). I came away very impressed with the styling, performance on tap from the V6, and handling prowess. Downsides include the interior design being a bit too minimalist and the ride being a bit rough. Volkswagen Arteon: The other dark horse to the Regal GS. There is no doubt that the Arteon is quite handsome with flowing lines and sleek fastback shape. Having sat in one at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, I found it to be very roomy and upscale in terms of the interior materials. I hope to get some time behind the wheel in the near future to see how it measures up in handling. Disclaimer: Buick Provided the Regal GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Buick Model: Regal Trim: GS Engine: 3.6L V6 Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 310 @ 6,800 Torque @ RPM: 282 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/27/22 Curb Weight: 3,796 lbs Location of Manufacture: Rüsselsheim Germany Base Price: $39,070 As Tested Price: $43,115 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Confidence Package #2: $1,690.00 Sights and Sounds Package: $945.00 Appearance Package: $485.00
  8. Ford is planning a dramatic change to their European lineup. Autocar reported yesterday that the automaker will be replacing the Mondeo (Fusion to us), Galaxy, and S-Max with a new "single crossover-style estate model" - think Subaru Outback. Not many details are known about this new model. It is expected to use Ford's C2 platform which underpins the new Fiesta and Focus. A range of gas and diesel engines will be available, along with 48V mild-hybrid system. The new wagon is expected to arrive in early 2021 in Europe. Autocar notes that this model is expected to be sold in other markets such as North America. While this model is quite different from three it will replace (a midsize sedan/hatchback/wagon and two vans), it is expected to outsell all of them. Last year, Ford only moved 50,000 Mondeos, 24,000 S-Maxs, and 12,000 Galaxy. Numbers according to Autocar that are too small to make any profit. As for the U.S., the reason is likely due to Ford to possibly keep sedan buyers in the showroom. Last July, we reported that Ford was considering doing an "Outback competitor" with the Fusion name. Source: Autocar View full article
  9. Ford is planning a dramatic change to their European lineup. Autocar reported yesterday that the automaker will be replacing the Mondeo (Fusion to us), Galaxy, and S-Max with a new "single crossover-style estate model" - think Subaru Outback. Not many details are known about this new model. It is expected to use Ford's C2 platform which underpins the new Fiesta and Focus. A range of gas and diesel engines will be available, along with 48V mild-hybrid system. The new wagon is expected to arrive in early 2021 in Europe. Autocar notes that this model is expected to be sold in other markets such as North America. While this model is quite different from three it will replace (a midsize sedan/hatchback/wagon and two vans), it is expected to outsell all of them. Last year, Ford only moved 50,000 Mondeos, 24,000 S-Maxs, and 12,000 Galaxy. Numbers according to Autocar that are too small to make any profit. As for the U.S., the reason is likely due to Ford to possibly keep sedan buyers in the showroom. Last July, we reported that Ford was considering doing an "Outback competitor" with the Fusion name. Source: Autocar

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