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Found 487 results

  1. My wheels for the week are a 2020 Toyota Corolla XLE sedan. This one is well equipped with Toyota Safety Sense now standard, Toyota Entune with Apple CarPlay, Adaptive lighting system with automatic high beams, headed seats, and a JBL Premium audio system. It is rated for 29 city / 37 highway and we'll be putting that highway number to the test. We will be taking the Corolla to Northern Virginia for the weekend to visit family for the holidays. The XLE differs from the 2019 Corolla SE hatchback that @William Maley recently tested in that it has the 1.8 liter engine instead of the 2.0 liter. This engine puts out 139 horsepower at 6100 RPM and 126 lb-ft of torque at 3900 rpm. About a 30 horsepower deficit compared to the SE. In my initial drive, I found the car to be snappy around town, but things got a little raucous when I went to merge onto the highway. Though it is a CVT, it has a fixed first gear. The fixed first gear does take away from the rubber band feeling most CVTs have. I took the Corolla on a set of twisty roads that I take all test vehicles on and the sedan, while no sports car, felt firmly planted and predictable around the curves. One thing that is surprising is the sticker price; $28,084 for a Corolla without even the biggest engine seems quite steep. So while I'm loading up the trunk with Christmas cheer, fire off any questions you have about the 2020 Toyota Corolla XLE.
  2. My wheels for the week are a 2020 Toyota Corolla XLE sedan. This one is well equipped with Toyota Safety Sense now standard, Toyota Entune with Apple CarPlay, Adaptive lighting system with automatic high beams, headed seats, and a JBL Premium audio system. It is rated for 29 city / 37 highway and we'll be putting that highway number to the test. We will be taking the Corolla to Northern Virginia for the weekend to visit family for the holidays. The XLE differs from the 2019 Corolla SE hatchback that @William Maley recently tested in that it has the 1.8 liter engine instead of the 2.0 liter. This engine puts out 139 horsepower at 6100 RPM and 126 lb-ft of torque at 3900 rpm. About a 30 horsepower deficit compared to the SE. In my initial drive, I found the car to be snappy around town, but things got a little raucous when I went to merge onto the highway. Though it is a CVT, it has a fixed first gear. The fixed first gear does take away from the rubber band feeling most CVTs have. I took the Corolla on a set of twisty roads that I take all test vehicles on and the sedan, while no sports car, felt firmly planted and predictable around the curves. One thing that is surprising is the sticker price; $28,084 for a Corolla without even the biggest engine seems quite steep. So while I'm loading up the trunk with Christmas cheer, fire off any questions you have about the 2020 Toyota Corolla XLE. View full article
  3. Hyundai can’t seem to stop itself from tinkering with the Santa Fe crossover. This is apparent when you consider the nameplate first debuted on compact crossover in the early 2000s before growing into a two-model family up until last year. Hyundai has made another drastic change to the Santa Fe by making it a single model again - the three-row Santa Fe XL has been replaced by the Palisade. Does this re-focus make the model competitive? The overall shape of the 2019 Santa Fe is more upright than the outgoing Santa Fe Sport. This solves one of the biggest issues I had with the Sport, poor visibility. The upright shape and flatter belt line allowed Hyundai designers to increase the amount of glass used. Not only does this improve overall visibility. This also makes the interior feel more airy. Up front, Hyundai uses a hexagonal grille that is flanked by a split headlight layout. Slim LED daytime running lights sit on either side of the grille, while a pod housing the headlights sit underneath. Where the Santa Fe really shines is the interior. It’s a modern and clean design with a two-tone dashboard, unique fabric covering the pillars and headliner; and the use of polygons in the seat pattern and speaker grilles. Materials for the most part are soft-touch plastics and leather on my Ultimate tester. There are some hard plastics used here and there, but it will not detract from the premium feel Hyundai is going for. The layout for the controls is excellent with all in easy reach for driver or passenger. Also earning top marks is the eight-inch infotainment system which is simple to use, provides snappy performance, and allows a driver to use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. For those sitting up front, the Santa Fe Ultimate provides power adjustments, heat, and ventilation. Getting settled in and finding the correct position, I found the seats to be quite comfortable with enough padding to tackle any trip length. Back seat passengers will find plenty of leg and headroom. Those sitting in the back will also appreciate the rear seats can recline along with heat during the cold winter months. Cargo space is about average with 35.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71.3 when folded. Most Santa Fes will come with the base 2.4L inline-four with 185 horsepower. My Ultimate AWD tester featured the optional turbocharged 2.0L inline-four with 235 horsepower. Both engines come paired with an eight-speed automatic. Whenever a Hyundai vehicle is equipped with a turbo-four, it falls into one of two camps - works perfectly or there is a performance issue. The Santa Fe falls into the latter. There is a noticeable amount of turbo-lag when leaving from a stop. Once up to speed, the engine can sometimes be a bit too responsive with a jumpiness that makes smooth acceleration a difficult task. Whether this is something with the programming of the engine, transmission, or throttle, I cannot say. I hope this gets fixed with the 2020 model. EPA fuel economy figures for the turbo-four with AWD are 19 City/24 Highway/21 Combined. I saw an average of 20.7 mpg during my week of testing. It should be noted this is the same as the Honda Passport with its slightly more powerful 3.5L V6 producing 280 horsepower. The Santa Fe’s ride is still smooth and relaxing over many of the bumps and imperfections that dot the roads of Metro Detroit. It is also surprisingly quiet with barely any wind or road noise coming inside. Handling is where the Santa Fe really surprised me as it felt agile when driven around a bend. There was barely any body roll and steering provided excellent response. On the surface, the 2019 Santa Fe is an improvement over the Santa Fe Sport. It features a fetching design, comfortable ride, simple tech, and a lot of equipment for the money. My Ultimate tester came with an as-tested price of $39,905 and that includes adaptive cruise control with stop & go; blind spot monitoring, Infinity premium audio system, panoramic sunroof, and much more. Build up one of the Santa Fe’s competition to similar specs and you’re looking at spending on average around $5,000 more. But the Santa Fe is soured by the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine which appears to have two settings - slow off the line performance and unpredictable acceleration at higher speeds. Until Hyundai can figure out what is going on, stick with the base 2.4L four-cylinder. It may be a little bit underpowered, but at least it is more consistent in its power delivery. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Santa Fe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Hyundai Model: Santa Fe Trim: Ultimate Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L GDI 16-Valve DOHC CVVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 235 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,450 - 3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/24/21 Curb Weight: 4,085 lbs Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama Base Price: $38,800 As Tested Price: $39,905 (Includes $980.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00 View full article
  4. Hyundai can’t seem to stop itself from tinkering with the Santa Fe crossover. This is apparent when you consider the nameplate first debuted on compact crossover in the early 2000s before growing into a two-model family up until last year. Hyundai has made another drastic change to the Santa Fe by making it a single model again - the three-row Santa Fe XL has been replaced by the Palisade. Does this re-focus make the model competitive? The overall shape of the 2019 Santa Fe is more upright than the outgoing Santa Fe Sport. This solves one of the biggest issues I had with the Sport, poor visibility. The upright shape and flatter belt line allowed Hyundai designers to increase the amount of glass used. Not only does this improve overall visibility. This also makes the interior feel more airy. Up front, Hyundai uses a hexagonal grille that is flanked by a split headlight layout. Slim LED daytime running lights sit on either side of the grille, while a pod housing the headlights sit underneath. Where the Santa Fe really shines is the interior. It’s a modern and clean design with a two-tone dashboard, unique fabric covering the pillars and headliner; and the use of polygons in the seat pattern and speaker grilles. Materials for the most part are soft-touch plastics and leather on my Ultimate tester. There are some hard plastics used here and there, but it will not detract from the premium feel Hyundai is going for. The layout for the controls is excellent with all in easy reach for driver or passenger. Also earning top marks is the eight-inch infotainment system which is simple to use, provides snappy performance, and allows a driver to use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. For those sitting up front, the Santa Fe Ultimate provides power adjustments, heat, and ventilation. Getting settled in and finding the correct position, I found the seats to be quite comfortable with enough padding to tackle any trip length. Back seat passengers will find plenty of leg and headroom. Those sitting in the back will also appreciate the rear seats can recline along with heat during the cold winter months. Cargo space is about average with 35.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71.3 when folded. Most Santa Fes will come with the base 2.4L inline-four with 185 horsepower. My Ultimate AWD tester featured the optional turbocharged 2.0L inline-four with 235 horsepower. Both engines come paired with an eight-speed automatic. Whenever a Hyundai vehicle is equipped with a turbo-four, it falls into one of two camps - works perfectly or there is a performance issue. The Santa Fe falls into the latter. There is a noticeable amount of turbo-lag when leaving from a stop. Once up to speed, the engine can sometimes be a bit too responsive with a jumpiness that makes smooth acceleration a difficult task. Whether this is something with the programming of the engine, transmission, or throttle, I cannot say. I hope this gets fixed with the 2020 model. EPA fuel economy figures for the turbo-four with AWD are 19 City/24 Highway/21 Combined. I saw an average of 20.7 mpg during my week of testing. It should be noted this is the same as the Honda Passport with its slightly more powerful 3.5L V6 producing 280 horsepower. The Santa Fe’s ride is still smooth and relaxing over many of the bumps and imperfections that dot the roads of Metro Detroit. It is also surprisingly quiet with barely any wind or road noise coming inside. Handling is where the Santa Fe really surprised me as it felt agile when driven around a bend. There was barely any body roll and steering provided excellent response. On the surface, the 2019 Santa Fe is an improvement over the Santa Fe Sport. It features a fetching design, comfortable ride, simple tech, and a lot of equipment for the money. My Ultimate tester came with an as-tested price of $39,905 and that includes adaptive cruise control with stop & go; blind spot monitoring, Infinity premium audio system, panoramic sunroof, and much more. Build up one of the Santa Fe’s competition to similar specs and you’re looking at spending on average around $5,000 more. But the Santa Fe is soured by the turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine which appears to have two settings - slow off the line performance and unpredictable acceleration at higher speeds. Until Hyundai can figure out what is going on, stick with the base 2.4L four-cylinder. It may be a little bit underpowered, but at least it is more consistent in its power delivery. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Santa Fe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Hyundai Model: Santa Fe Trim: Ultimate Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L GDI 16-Valve DOHC CVVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 235 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,450 - 3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/24/21 Curb Weight: 4,085 lbs Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, Alabama Base Price: $38,800 As Tested Price: $39,905 (Includes $980.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
  5. Over a year ago, I pitted the Mazda CX-9 against the Volkswagen Atlas to find out which was the better three-row crossover. The CX-9 put up a good fight with a very luxurious interior and impressive driving dynamics. However, the Atlas took home the win as it proved to be the better carrier of passengers and cargo, along with providing a slightly smoother ride. A year on, the CX-9 makes a return to the C&G Detroit Garage to see if it could redeem itself. Spoiler alert: I still feel the same way as I did last year. Going on three years, the CX-9 is still one of the best looking three-row crossovers on sale. Its graceful lines, tapered rear pillar, and slim lights make the crossover look more expensive than it actually is. The Grand Touring may miss out on the Nappa leather for the seats and Rosewood trim found on the Signature, it is still a nice place to sit in. Bright metalwork contrasts nicely with soft-touch plastics and leather upholstery on the seats. But the interior also houses some of the CX-9’s key flaws beginning with the seat arrangement. All 2019 CX-9s come with seating for seven people, there is no option for six with a set of captain chairs - that is being rectified for 2020. Those sitting in the second-row will have no complaints about space, but anyone sitting in the third-row will bemoan the lack of legroom. This can improve if the second-row is slid forward. Cargo space is another weak spot. The CX-9 only offers 14.4 cubic feet behind the third-row, 38.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and 71.2 cubic feet with both rows folded. To give some perspective, the Atlas offers 20.6, 55.5, and 96.8 cubic feet of space. 2019 finally sees Mazda add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to their MazdaConnect infotainment system. This is an improvement as MazdaConnect trails competitors in terms of graphics and a slightly confusing menu structure. At least the control knob and shortcut buttons make using the system less aggravating. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder with 227 horsepower (250 if you fill up with premium) and 310 pound-feet. This is channeled through a six-speed automatic and the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Putting a turbo-four into a three-row crossover seems like madness, but Mazda was able to make it work with no issue. Torque arrives at a low 2,000 rpm, allowing the CX-9 to leap away from any driving situation. Response from the transmission is excellent with snappy up and downshifts. Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23, slightly better than the 22.5 mpg for the 2018 model. The ace up the CX-9’s sleeve is the handling. No other crossover can close to matching the taut characteristics on offer with body motions kept in check and sharp steering. Though how many people consider a plus is likely very small. Ride quality falls under supple with most bumps and imperfections being ironed out. Impressive when you consider this is riding 20-inch wheels. The Mazda CX-9 is an outlier in the three-row crossover class as it focuses more on the driving experience and looks. That isn’t a bad thing as it gives Mazda a unique selling point. But a small space for passengers and cargo is the CX-9’s major downfall. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-9, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Mazda Model: CX-9 Trim: Grand Touring AWD Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv-G Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 227 or 250 @ 5,000 (Depending on the fuel) Torque @ RPM: 310 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/23 Curb Weight: 4,383 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $42,640 As Tested Price: $45,060 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Illuminated Door Sill Trim Plates - $575.00 Front & Rear Bumper Trim - $550.00 Snowflake White Pearl - $200.00 Cargo Mat - $100.00 View full article
  6. Over a year ago, I pitted the Mazda CX-9 against the Volkswagen Atlas to find out which was the better three-row crossover. The CX-9 put up a good fight with a very luxurious interior and impressive driving dynamics. However, the Atlas took home the win as it proved to be the better carrier of passengers and cargo, along with providing a slightly smoother ride. A year on, the CX-9 makes a return to the C&G Detroit Garage to see if it could redeem itself. Spoiler alert: I still feel the same way as I did last year. Going on three years, the CX-9 is still one of the best looking three-row crossovers on sale. Its graceful lines, tapered rear pillar, and slim lights make the crossover look more expensive than it actually is. The Grand Touring may miss out on the Nappa leather for the seats and Rosewood trim found on the Signature, it is still a nice place to sit in. Bright metalwork contrasts nicely with soft-touch plastics and leather upholstery on the seats. But the interior also houses some of the CX-9’s key flaws beginning with the seat arrangement. All 2019 CX-9s come with seating for seven people, there is no option for six with a set of captain chairs - that is being rectified for 2020. Those sitting in the second-row will have no complaints about space, but anyone sitting in the third-row will bemoan the lack of legroom. This can improve if the second-row is slid forward. Cargo space is another weak spot. The CX-9 only offers 14.4 cubic feet behind the third-row, 38.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and 71.2 cubic feet with both rows folded. To give some perspective, the Atlas offers 20.6, 55.5, and 96.8 cubic feet of space. 2019 finally sees Mazda add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to their MazdaConnect infotainment system. This is an improvement as MazdaConnect trails competitors in terms of graphics and a slightly confusing menu structure. At least the control knob and shortcut buttons make using the system less aggravating. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder with 227 horsepower (250 if you fill up with premium) and 310 pound-feet. This is channeled through a six-speed automatic and the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Putting a turbo-four into a three-row crossover seems like madness, but Mazda was able to make it work with no issue. Torque arrives at a low 2,000 rpm, allowing the CX-9 to leap away from any driving situation. Response from the transmission is excellent with snappy up and downshifts. Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23, slightly better than the 22.5 mpg for the 2018 model. The ace up the CX-9’s sleeve is the handling. No other crossover can close to matching the taut characteristics on offer with body motions kept in check and sharp steering. Though how many people consider a plus is likely very small. Ride quality falls under supple with most bumps and imperfections being ironed out. Impressive when you consider this is riding 20-inch wheels. The Mazda CX-9 is an outlier in the three-row crossover class as it focuses more on the driving experience and looks. That isn’t a bad thing as it gives Mazda a unique selling point. But a small space for passengers and cargo is the CX-9’s major downfall. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-9, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Mazda Model: CX-9 Trim: Grand Touring AWD Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv-G Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 227 or 250 @ 5,000 (Depending on the fuel) Torque @ RPM: 310 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/23 Curb Weight: 4,383 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $42,640 As Tested Price: $45,060 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Illuminated Door Sill Trim Plates - $575.00 Front & Rear Bumper Trim - $550.00 Snowflake White Pearl - $200.00 Cargo Mat - $100.00
  7. The Toyota Corolla for the past couple of decades has been the poster child of the vehicle that just existed. All it was built to do was go from point a to b without any sort of enthusiasm. But Toyota is wanting to change that with the redesign of Corolla, starting with the new Corolla Hatchback. Has it worked? The Corolla Hatchback falls in line with recent Toyota models with a shouty design. A sloping front end features massive lower grille, slim daytime running lights, and headlights that looked to be chiseled in. My SE tester lacked the 18-inch alloy wheels and a huge rear wing that is standard on the XSE. But the smaller wheels and wing provide a much cleaner look. The interior looks more expressive with a layered dashboard design and faux stitching around both the dash and transmission. In traditional Toyota fashion, controls for the various functions are within easy reach. An eight-inch screen mounted high on the dash is standard on Corolla Hatchbacks and comes with the latest version of Entune. As I have noted in other 2019 Toyotas, the updated Entune is noticeably quicker when switching between various functions. Also appreciated is the integration with Apple CarPlay which gives a driver another choice for infotainment. Those with Android phones will need to get their hands on the 2020 model. What I do wish is that Toyota had made the interface slightly more modern and added other colors that weren’t 50 shades of grey. If you find yourself riding in the Corolla Hatchback, be sure to nab the front seat. Those sitting in the back will find space for their legs to be quite small. This isn’t helped with the narrow rear door openings. At least no one will have any complaints with the headroom as the hatchback has plenty of it. It gets even worse when you open up the rear tailgate and you’re presented with a minuscule 17.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. The new Mazda3 offers more space at 20.1. Power comes from a new 2.0L four-cylinder producing 168 horsepower and 151 pounds-feet of torque, a noticeable increase from the outgoing Corolla iM - 137 HP and 126 lb-ft. This has moved overall performance impressions from poor to adequate as the hatchback is noticeably quicker around town. Country and highway driving are still a weak point as you’ll need to jam the gas to get any real movement from the engine. I would like to see either Toyota introduce a small turbo engine or figure out how to have torque readily available at a lower rpm. My test vehicle was fitted with an optional CVT; a six-speed manual is standard. This CVT is different from others as Toyota fitted a fixed first gear ratio that it uses when leaving a stop. This reduces the rubber-band-type delay when accelerating and makes it feel more like a conventional automatic. EPA fuel economy figures for the Corolla Hatchback with the CVT are 32 City/42 Highway/36 Combined. My average for the week landed around 36.1 mpg. One area that the Corolla Hatchback’s predecessor impressed me was the handling. It felt planted and had surprising reflexes when going through a bend, but the rubbery steering did let it down. The Corolla Hatchback carries this torch as it feels even sharper with less body roll and a nimble feel. Steering is improved as well with a more natural feel when turning. I’ll still put the last-generation Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf as the best-handling models in the class, but Corolla Hatchback isn’t too far behind. Despite its sporting intentions, the Corolla Hatchback coped very well on Detroit’s shambolic roads with most bumps and ruts being smoothed over. Part of this comes down to the SE having 16-inch wheels, allowing for more sidewall. Road noise is kept out, but there is a fair amount of wind noise that enters when driving on the freeway. Toyota pulled most of the stops out when working on the Corolla Hatchback and their efforts have paid off. It is the best looking Corolla in quite some time, offers surprising handling characteristics, and comes well equipped for the money. The SE begins at $21,090 and that includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, eight-inch touchscreen, and LED lighting. Where the Corolla Hatchback loses ground is rear-seat space and cargo room which trails competitors by a significant amount. That’s the make or break decision as to whether you should or shouldn’t consider one. Nevertheless, Toyota has done the seemingly impossible: Made the Corolla interesting. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Corolla Hatchback, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Toyota Model: Corolla Hatchback Trim: SE Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve D4S Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,600 Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 32/42/36 Curb Weight: 3,060 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $21,090 As Tested Price: $23,639.00 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge) Options: SE Preferred Package - $1,400.00 Carpet Mat Package - $229.00 View full article
  8. The Toyota Corolla for the past couple of decades has been the poster child of the vehicle that just existed. All it was built to do was go from point a to b without any sort of enthusiasm. But Toyota is wanting to change that with the redesign of Corolla, starting with the new Corolla Hatchback. Has it worked? The Corolla Hatchback falls in line with recent Toyota models with a shouty design. A sloping front end features massive lower grille, slim daytime running lights, and headlights that looked to be chiseled in. My SE tester lacked the 18-inch alloy wheels and a huge rear wing that is standard on the XSE. But the smaller wheels and wing provide a much cleaner look. The interior looks more expressive with a layered dashboard design and faux stitching around both the dash and transmission. In traditional Toyota fashion, controls for the various functions are within easy reach. An eight-inch screen mounted high on the dash is standard on Corolla Hatchbacks and comes with the latest version of Entune. As I have noted in other 2019 Toyotas, the updated Entune is noticeably quicker when switching between various functions. Also appreciated is the integration with Apple CarPlay which gives a driver another choice for infotainment. Those with Android phones will need to get their hands on the 2020 model. What I do wish is that Toyota had made the interface slightly more modern and added other colors that weren’t 50 shades of grey. If you find yourself riding in the Corolla Hatchback, be sure to nab the front seat. Those sitting in the back will find space for their legs to be quite small. This isn’t helped with the narrow rear door openings. At least no one will have any complaints with the headroom as the hatchback has plenty of it. It gets even worse when you open up the rear tailgate and you’re presented with a minuscule 17.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. The new Mazda3 offers more space at 20.1. Power comes from a new 2.0L four-cylinder producing 168 horsepower and 151 pounds-feet of torque, a noticeable increase from the outgoing Corolla iM - 137 HP and 126 lb-ft. This has moved overall performance impressions from poor to adequate as the hatchback is noticeably quicker around town. Country and highway driving are still a weak point as you’ll need to jam the gas to get any real movement from the engine. I would like to see either Toyota introduce a small turbo engine or figure out how to have torque readily available at a lower rpm. My test vehicle was fitted with an optional CVT; a six-speed manual is standard. This CVT is different from others as Toyota fitted a fixed first gear ratio that it uses when leaving a stop. This reduces the rubber-band-type delay when accelerating and makes it feel more like a conventional automatic. EPA fuel economy figures for the Corolla Hatchback with the CVT are 32 City/42 Highway/36 Combined. My average for the week landed around 36.1 mpg. One area that the Corolla Hatchback’s predecessor impressed me was the handling. It felt planted and had surprising reflexes when going through a bend, but the rubbery steering did let it down. The Corolla Hatchback carries this torch as it feels even sharper with less body roll and a nimble feel. Steering is improved as well with a more natural feel when turning. I’ll still put the last-generation Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf as the best-handling models in the class, but Corolla Hatchback isn’t too far behind. Despite its sporting intentions, the Corolla Hatchback coped very well on Detroit’s shambolic roads with most bumps and ruts being smoothed over. Part of this comes down to the SE having 16-inch wheels, allowing for more sidewall. Road noise is kept out, but there is a fair amount of wind noise that enters when driving on the freeway. Toyota pulled most of the stops out when working on the Corolla Hatchback and their efforts have paid off. It is the best looking Corolla in quite some time, offers surprising handling characteristics, and comes well equipped for the money. The SE begins at $21,090 and that includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, eight-inch touchscreen, and LED lighting. Where the Corolla Hatchback loses ground is rear-seat space and cargo room which trails competitors by a significant amount. That’s the make or break decision as to whether you should or shouldn’t consider one. Nevertheless, Toyota has done the seemingly impossible: Made the Corolla interesting. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Corolla Hatchback, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Toyota Model: Corolla Hatchback Trim: SE Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve D4S Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,600 Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 32/42/36 Curb Weight: 3,060 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $21,090 As Tested Price: $23,639.00 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge) Options: SE Preferred Package - $1,400.00 Carpet Mat Package - $229.00
  9. In the C&G garage for the week is the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD with a sticker price of $47,605. This is Hyundai's newest SUV, at least until the diminutive Hyundai Venue takes its place at the other end of the size spectrum. The first impression I got from the Palisade was how big it is. Even though it is around 7 inches shorter than a Buick Enclave, it looks bigger and beefier. Being a Limited means that it is in top trim with only carpeted floor mats as an additional option. It's powered by a 3.8 liter naturally aspirated V6 producing 291 HP and 262 lb-ft of torque and equipped with start/stop. On my quick initial test drive I found the start/stop function to be unobtrusive and quick to restart the vehicle when I was ready to roll. Another immediate impression was with the sound quality of the Harmon Kardon sound system. I hooked my phone up via USB and Android Auto took over, playing my favorite Pandora station loud and clear. Another feature I like is the video display in the dash when using the turn signal. It helps clear any blind spots one might have in this big SUV. So while you're stuffing your faces with turkey this Thursday, think of questions you have about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade and post them below.
  10. In the C&G garage for the week is the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD with a sticker price of $47,605. This is Hyundai's newest SUV, at least until the diminutive Hyundai Venue takes its place at the other end of the size spectrum. The first impression I got from the Palisade was how big it is. Even though it is around 7 inches shorter than a Buick Enclave, it looks bigger and beefier. Being a Limited means that it is in top trim with only carpeted floor mats as an additional option. It's powered by a 3.8 liter naturally aspirated V6 producing 291 HP and 262 lb-ft of torque and equipped with start/stop. On my quick initial test drive I found the start/stop function to be unobtrusive and quick to restart the vehicle when I was ready to roll. Another immediate impression was with the sound quality of the Harmon Kardon sound system. I hooked my phone up via USB and Android Auto took over, playing my favorite Pandora station loud and clear. Another feature I like is the video display in the dash when using the turn signal. It helps clear any blind spots one might have in this big SUV. So while you're stuffing your faces with turkey this Thursday, think of questions you have about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade and post them below. View full article
  11. 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Mazda is on a mission lately to make their products feel more premium. They have been tuning their vehicles to be quieter and more refined in order to give them an air that they are above their class. This second generation of the Mazda CX-5 debuted for the 2017 model year with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft of torque. For 2019, Mazda added the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine from the CX-9. On regular gas, the engine produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft of torque, but if you fill it up with 93 octane, the horsepower figure bumps up to 250. Available only on the Grand Touring and Signature trims, the 2.5-T makes the CX-5 the compact crossover with the most available torque. Mazda sent a CX-5 Signature for me to try for a week to see what I thought. There’s no replacement for displacement… maybe The biggest CX-5 news for 2019 is the engine options. There is the 2.5-T mentioned above and a 2.2-liter turbo diesel. Both are exciting entries into a relatively conservative segment. The 2.5-T is the second-largest displacement engine available in the segment, behind the 3.2 liter V6 in the Jeep Cherokee. This 4-cylinder puts out quite a bit more torque than the bigger V6, though the Jeep produces more horsepower (271 @ 6,500 rpm). Even among 4-cylinders, this is the largest displacement you can get, but none of those others offering 2.5 liters also offers a turbocharger. This engine is rated by the EPA to get 22 city / 27 highway. I got about 24 mpg in mostly city driving. Zero to 60 is a claimed 6.2 seconds. Under normal driving, the engine is quiet and composed, with torque coming on quickly when called for. When the pedal is mashed at speed, the CX-5 leaps forward with minimal turbo lag and gives off a strong growl from under the hood. The only time you can really feel any lag in the turbo is if you are starting from a dead stop. Overall, you never feel without power at the tip of your toes and the sounds, and lack of sounds, from the engine room is quiet and refined. One area the CX-5 falls behind on is in the transmission department. Although the transmission offers smooth shift and is willing to downshift when called upon, a 6-speed automatic almost feels anachronistic in a time when all of its direct competition is sporting 8 or 9 speeds. I never thought there would come a day when 6-forward gears aren’t enough, but here we are. Adding 2 or 3 more gears to the CX-5 would further liven up the already sporty crossover and help keep the turbocharged engine firmly in the good places of its torque band. Ride: Al dente – Firm but tender If there is a brand that Mazda is looking to emulate here by being premium without the premium badge, it would likely be BMW. The ride is firm, but not so harsh as to spill your latte. Steering is on the heavy side with precise control and great on-center feel. Body roll is minimal. Pushing the CX-5 into corners is fun and the standard G-Vectoring Control Plus makes sure you stay planted where you intended to be. The i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive mostly runs in front-wheel-drive mode until microscopic amounts of wheel slip are detected and then some torque is instantly transferred to the rear wheels. Mazda programs the AWD system to always have at least a little bit of torque going to the rear in order for the transfer of torque to happen faster. It’s what’s inside that matter most Inside the CX-5, the premium story continues. There is a distinct lack of cheap plastic even in places where they could probably get away with it. The dash and door panels are made of soft-touch material and there is a tasteful amount of chrome trim. Though the seats look black in pictures, they are actually a very dark brown that Mazda calls Caturra Brown Nappa leather. This leather is a feature of the Signature trim level and they are both heated and ventilated. Rear passengers get heated outboard seats as well, controlled from inside the fold-down center armrest. Also, a feature of the Signature trim is the real wood dash inlay and ambient cabin lighting. The seats in the CX-5 are very comfortable with just the right combination of support and cushion. They would be most welcome companions on a long road trip. The rear seats are fairly flat and do not offer a lot of legroom. There is no adjustment fore and aft. Wind and tire noise has been kept to a minimum. There are 4 USB ports, two in the up front armrest and two in the rear armrest. Only one of them allows a connection to the infotainment system. Oddly, the USB ports don’t seem to put out much juice as my phones were very slow to charge from them. The infotainment system is another area similar to BMW. The unit is controlled by a large dial in the center console or touch screen controls. I found the touch aspect to be laggy and a long reach, so I found myself using the dial. Using the dial to navigate is simple enough, but the menus and layout of the screen could probably use a re-think. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both here, for some reason only Apple CarPlay can be activated by touch. Operating either system is frustrating with the dial however, this is especially true for Android Auto which I found frustrating to use without touch screen functionality. At least, unlike BMW, Mazda doesn’t charge you an extra subscription fee to use them. Sound from the Bose speakers was clear, but not especially great. There was a time when people mostly bought crossovers for the utility of hauling lots of bulky stuff home from the store, however, these days are different. Now, crossovers are a fashion statement. Still, the CX-5 has 59.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded and 30.9 cubic feet with the seats up. That is at the high end of mid-pack in the segment with the Honda CR-V being the leader, while the Toyota RAV-4, Chevy Equinox, and Ford Escape all have less. Do you need a safe space? This may be it. The Mazda CX-5 Signature comes with a whole host of safety equipment and the center of it all is the heads-up display that keeps the driver informed. Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane-Keep Assist, and Radar Cruise Control, all have status lights in the heads-up display. I found the blind spot monitoring system to be especially helpful when I was backing out onto a busy street with limited visibility. Radar Cruise control is one of my favorite systems of all and I feel it should be standard equipment on all cars. The CX-5 can even read speed limit and stop signs as you approach, changing and updating the local regulations in the heads up display. The Signature also comes with active headlights that turn when you turn to help see around corners. They helped me spot a deer on the side of the road I normally would not have seen. The Verdict The CX-5 Signature is the top of the CX-5 line, so naturally, the price is reflected in that. With an MSRP of $36,890 before any options, the CX-5 may seem pricey, but it comes with everything you could possibly want. However, when you compare it to other small crossovers with similar equipment it actually ends up comparing favorably to others in its class. I priced out Jeep Cherokee Overland with the 2.0T and technology group and the MSRP is $41,685. A GMC Terrain Denali with all the same option boxes checked? $41,430. A Honda CR-V can’t even be equipped like the CX-5 because there is no up-level engine option, yet it still rings up to $38,147. Overall, Mazda has produced a handsome, sporty, fun to drive crossover with enough utility to remain competitive. They’ve loaded it with safety equipment and kept the price in check. It is definitely worth a look. View full article
  12. 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Mazda is on a mission lately to make their products feel more premium. They have been tuning their vehicles to be quieter and more refined in order to give them an air that they are above their class. This second generation of the Mazda CX-5 debuted for the 2017 model year with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft of torque. For 2019, Mazda added the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine from the CX-9. On regular gas, the engine produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft of torque, but if you fill it up with 93 octane, the horsepower figure bumps up to 250. Available only on the Grand Touring and Signature trims, the 2.5-T makes the CX-5 the compact crossover with the most available torque. Mazda sent a CX-5 Signature for me to try for a week to see what I thought. There’s no replacement for displacement… maybe The biggest CX-5 news for 2019 is the engine options. There is the 2.5-T mentioned above and a 2.2-liter turbo diesel. Both are exciting entries into a relatively conservative segment. The 2.5-T is the second-largest displacement engine available in the segment, behind the 3.2 liter V6 in the Jeep Cherokee. This 4-cylinder puts out quite a bit more torque than the bigger V6, though the Jeep produces more horsepower (271 @ 6,500 rpm). Even among 4-cylinders, this is the largest displacement you can get, but none of those others offering 2.5 liters also offers a turbocharger. This engine is rated by the EPA to get 22 city / 27 highway. I got about 24 mpg in mostly city driving. Zero to 60 is a claimed 6.2 seconds. Under normal driving, the engine is quiet and composed, with torque coming on quickly when called for. When the pedal is mashed at speed, the CX-5 leaps forward with minimal turbo lag and gives off a strong growl from under the hood. The only time you can really feel any lag in the turbo is if you are starting from a dead stop. Overall, you never feel without power at the tip of your toes and the sounds, and lack of sounds, from the engine room is quiet and refined. One area the CX-5 falls behind on is in the transmission department. Although the transmission offers smooth shift and is willing to downshift when called upon, a 6-speed automatic almost feels anachronistic in a time when all of its direct competition is sporting 8 or 9 speeds. I never thought there would come a day when 6-forward gears aren’t enough, but here we are. Adding 2 or 3 more gears to the CX-5 would further liven up the already sporty crossover and help keep the turbocharged engine firmly in the good places of its torque band. Ride: Al dente – Firm but tender If there is a brand that Mazda is looking to emulate here by being premium without the premium badge, it would likely be BMW. The ride is firm, but not so harsh as to spill your latte. Steering is on the heavy side with precise control and great on-center feel. Body roll is minimal. Pushing the CX-5 into corners is fun and the standard G-Vectoring Control Plus makes sure you stay planted where you intended to be. The i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive mostly runs in front-wheel-drive mode until microscopic amounts of wheel slip are detected and then some torque is instantly transferred to the rear wheels. Mazda programs the AWD system to always have at least a little bit of torque going to the rear in order for the transfer of torque to happen faster. It’s what’s inside that matter most Inside the CX-5, the premium story continues. There is a distinct lack of cheap plastic even in places where they could probably get away with it. The dash and door panels are made of soft-touch material and there is a tasteful amount of chrome trim. Though the seats look black in pictures, they are actually a very dark brown that Mazda calls Caturra Brown Nappa leather. This leather is a feature of the Signature trim level and they are both heated and ventilated. Rear passengers get heated outboard seats as well, controlled from inside the fold-down center armrest. Also, a feature of the Signature trim is the real wood dash inlay and ambient cabin lighting. The seats in the CX-5 are very comfortable with just the right combination of support and cushion. They would be most welcome companions on a long road trip. The rear seats are fairly flat and do not offer a lot of legroom. There is no adjustment fore and aft. Wind and tire noise has been kept to a minimum. There are 4 USB ports, two in the up front armrest and two in the rear armrest. Only one of them allows a connection to the infotainment system. Oddly, the USB ports don’t seem to put out much juice as my phones were very slow to charge from them. The infotainment system is another area similar to BMW. The unit is controlled by a large dial in the center console or touch screen controls. I found the touch aspect to be laggy and a long reach, so I found myself using the dial. Using the dial to navigate is simple enough, but the menus and layout of the screen could probably use a re-think. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both here, for some reason only Apple CarPlay can be activated by touch. Operating either system is frustrating with the dial however, this is especially true for Android Auto which I found frustrating to use without touch screen functionality. At least, unlike BMW, Mazda doesn’t charge you an extra subscription fee to use them. Sound from the Bose speakers was clear, but not especially great. There was a time when people mostly bought crossovers for the utility of hauling lots of bulky stuff home from the store, however, these days are different. Now, crossovers are a fashion statement. Still, the CX-5 has 59.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded and 30.9 cubic feet with the seats up. That is at the high end of mid-pack in the segment with the Honda CR-V being the leader, while the Toyota RAV-4, Chevy Equinox, and Ford Escape all have less. Do you need a safe space? This may be it. The Mazda CX-5 Signature comes with a whole host of safety equipment and the center of it all is the heads-up display that keeps the driver informed. Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane-Keep Assist, and Radar Cruise Control, all have status lights in the heads-up display. I found the blind spot monitoring system to be especially helpful when I was backing out onto a busy street with limited visibility. Radar Cruise control is one of my favorite systems of all and I feel it should be standard equipment on all cars. The CX-5 can even read speed limit and stop signs as you approach, changing and updating the local regulations in the heads up display. The Signature also comes with active headlights that turn when you turn to help see around corners. They helped me spot a deer on the side of the road I normally would not have seen. The Verdict The CX-5 Signature is the top of the CX-5 line, so naturally, the price is reflected in that. With an MSRP of $36,890 before any options, the CX-5 may seem pricey, but it comes with everything you could possibly want. However, when you compare it to other small crossovers with similar equipment it actually ends up comparing favorably to others in its class. I priced out Jeep Cherokee Overland with the 2.0T and technology group and the MSRP is $41,685. A GMC Terrain Denali with all the same option boxes checked? $41,430. A Honda CR-V can’t even be equipped like the CX-5 because there is no up-level engine option, yet it still rings up to $38,147. Overall, Mazda has produced a handsome, sporty, fun to drive crossover with enough utility to remain competitive. They’ve loaded it with safety equipment and kept the price in check. It is definitely worth a look.
  13. In this week for a review is a 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature with the turbocharged 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine. This engine is shared with the Mazda CX-9 and Mazda 6 Turbo and produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft of torque on regular gasoline, but bumps up to 250 horsepower on 93 octane. All-wheel drive is standard. This is the most loaded of the CX-5 trims with only the paint ($300) and rear bumper guard ($125) as additional charges. That brings the MSRP to $38,360 after destination charges. What do you want to know about this Mazda while I have it for a week? Let me know in the comments below.
  14. In this week for a review is a 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature with the turbocharged 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine. This engine is shared with the Mazda CX-9 and Mazda 6 Turbo and produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft of torque on regular gasoline, but bumps up to 250 horsepower on 93 octane. All-wheel drive is standard. This is the most loaded of the CX-5 trims with only the paint ($300) and rear bumper guard ($125) as additional charges. That brings the MSRP to $38,360 after destination charges. What do you want to know about this Mazda while I have it for a week? Let me know in the comments below. View full article
  15. Automakers want to be first into a new segment for various reasons. They can become the icon for the class and grab a fair chunk of sales as competitors rush to get their models in. There is a significant downside to being first as it allows some of the competition to study and figure out where to improve on. This brings us to the 2019 Volvo XC40 which is the focus of today’s review. It was one of the late arrivals to the subcompact luxury crossover class, but it allowed the automaker to study and figure what it could improve on. How does it stack up? The XC40 shares various design traits with the XC60 and XC90 crossovers. They include a familiar boxy profile, wide rectangular grille, and LED headlights with the signature “Thor’s Hammer” element. But Volvo allowed their designers to play around to give it a distinct identity. Take for example the side profile with its beltline that sharply rakes along the rear door and meets the rear pillar. There is also the option of a two-tone color palette that gives the XC40 a youthful look. Inside, the XC40 follows the ideals as seen in other Volvos with a minimalist look. But again, Volvo gave free roam to their designers to make it slightly different. While my test vehicle didn’t come with the bright ‘Lava Orange’ carpet, there is patterned metal trim where you would expect to find wood and felt-like material covering parts of the door panels. There is a fair amount of hard plastics used, but Volvo made the smart decision of keeping them in places where they make sense such as panels covering the center console. My R-Design tester came with leather upholstery for the seats, along with power adjustments for those sitting in the front. The front seats are the best place to sit in as they offer plenty of support and comfort for any drive length. In the back, there plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. But the XC40 falters on the seats as the bottom cushions come up a bit short and the seat-back doesn’t have any form of recline. Volvo’s technology story in the XC40 is mixed. The reconfigurable 12.3-inch display for the instrument cluster is a delight to look at with vibrant graphics and different layouts to present key information. Move over to the center stack to find a nine-inch touchscreen with Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. Many of the controls for audio, climate control, and systems are controlled through the screen, with a row of buttons sitting underneath for volume and a few other functions. This decision does make for a cleaner dash but also makes accomplishing simple tasks very irritating. To change the fan speed or audio input, you have to go through various screens to find that one menu or slider. Adding more physical buttons would clutter up the dash, but would massively improve overall usability. What engine comes under the hood of the XC40 ultimately depends on the driven wheels. Go for front-wheel drive and you’ll end up with the T4 - turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 187 horsepower. Opt for all-wheel drive like in my tester and you’ll get the T5 - the same 2.0L four, but with 248 horsepower. Both come paired with an eight-speed automatic. The T5 is the workhorse of Volvo’s lineup by boasting decent performance and fuel economy for most of their models. In the XC40, the T5 becomes a surprising performer with excellent off the line performance and a seemingly endless flow of power when needed for passing. Some credit is due to the 258 pound-feet of torque which is available on the low end of the rpm band. The eight-speed automatic provided timely and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is rated at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 24 mpg. Opting for the R-Design does change up the chassis setup with an emphasis on sporty driving. This is apparent in the bends as the XC40 feels confident with minimal body roll and quick reflexes. Steering is responsive, but there will be some who wished there was a little bit more weight dialed in. The downside to the R-Design’s chassis is the ride feeling slightly rough, not helped by the optional 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to my tester. Despite being somewhat late to the party, the Volvo XC40 stands out from the subcompact luxury crossover crowd. The styling inside and out put the model into its own space that competitors dream about, along with offering a strong performer in the form of the T5 engine. Where the XC40 stands out is the Care By Volvo subscription service. Starting at $700 a month for 24 months, this service gives you the vehicle, complimentary maintenance, insurance, and the ability to upgrade your vehicle to another one after 12 months. No one has been able to match what Volvo is offering. The XC40 shows that if you bring something compelling to the party, it doesn’t matter how late you are. Disclaimer: Volvo Provided the XC40, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Volvo Model: XC40 Trim: T5 R-Design Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 248 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight: 3,713 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ghent, Belgium Base Price: $35,700 As Tested Price: $46,385 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: R-Design Features - $2,500.00 Laminated Panoramic Sunroof - $1,200.00 Vision Package - $1,100.00 Advanced Package - $995.00 Premium Package - $900.00 20" 5-Double Spoke Matte Black Alloy Wheels - $800.00 Harman Kardon Audio System - $800.00 Heated Front Seats & Steering Wheel - $750.00 Metallic Paint - $645.00 View full article
  16. Automakers want to be first into a new segment for various reasons. They can become the icon for the class and grab a fair chunk of sales as competitors rush to get their models in. There is a significant downside to being first as it allows some of the competition to study and figure out where to improve on. This brings us to the 2019 Volvo XC40 which is the focus of today’s review. It was one of the late arrivals to the subcompact luxury crossover class, but it allowed the automaker to study and figure what it could improve on. How does it stack up? The XC40 shares various design traits with the XC60 and XC90 crossovers. They include a familiar boxy profile, wide rectangular grille, and LED headlights with the signature “Thor’s Hammer” element. But Volvo allowed their designers to play around to give it a distinct identity. Take for example the side profile with its beltline that sharply rakes along the rear door and meets the rear pillar. There is also the option of a two-tone color palette that gives the XC40 a youthful look. Inside, the XC40 follows the ideals as seen in other Volvos with a minimalist look. But again, Volvo gave free roam to their designers to make it slightly different. While my test vehicle didn’t come with the bright ‘Lava Orange’ carpet, there is patterned metal trim where you would expect to find wood and felt-like material covering parts of the door panels. There is a fair amount of hard plastics used, but Volvo made the smart decision of keeping them in places where they make sense such as panels covering the center console. My R-Design tester came with leather upholstery for the seats, along with power adjustments for those sitting in the front. The front seats are the best place to sit in as they offer plenty of support and comfort for any drive length. In the back, there plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. But the XC40 falters on the seats as the bottom cushions come up a bit short and the seat-back doesn’t have any form of recline. Volvo’s technology story in the XC40 is mixed. The reconfigurable 12.3-inch display for the instrument cluster is a delight to look at with vibrant graphics and different layouts to present key information. Move over to the center stack to find a nine-inch touchscreen with Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. Many of the controls for audio, climate control, and systems are controlled through the screen, with a row of buttons sitting underneath for volume and a few other functions. This decision does make for a cleaner dash but also makes accomplishing simple tasks very irritating. To change the fan speed or audio input, you have to go through various screens to find that one menu or slider. Adding more physical buttons would clutter up the dash, but would massively improve overall usability. What engine comes under the hood of the XC40 ultimately depends on the driven wheels. Go for front-wheel drive and you’ll end up with the T4 - turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 187 horsepower. Opt for all-wheel drive like in my tester and you’ll get the T5 - the same 2.0L four, but with 248 horsepower. Both come paired with an eight-speed automatic. The T5 is the workhorse of Volvo’s lineup by boasting decent performance and fuel economy for most of their models. In the XC40, the T5 becomes a surprising performer with excellent off the line performance and a seemingly endless flow of power when needed for passing. Some credit is due to the 258 pound-feet of torque which is available on the low end of the rpm band. The eight-speed automatic provided timely and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is rated at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 24 mpg. Opting for the R-Design does change up the chassis setup with an emphasis on sporty driving. This is apparent in the bends as the XC40 feels confident with minimal body roll and quick reflexes. Steering is responsive, but there will be some who wished there was a little bit more weight dialed in. The downside to the R-Design’s chassis is the ride feeling slightly rough, not helped by the optional 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to my tester. Despite being somewhat late to the party, the Volvo XC40 stands out from the subcompact luxury crossover crowd. The styling inside and out put the model into its own space that competitors dream about, along with offering a strong performer in the form of the T5 engine. Where the XC40 stands out is the Care By Volvo subscription service. Starting at $700 a month for 24 months, this service gives you the vehicle, complimentary maintenance, insurance, and the ability to upgrade your vehicle to another one after 12 months. No one has been able to match what Volvo is offering. The XC40 shows that if you bring something compelling to the party, it doesn’t matter how late you are. Disclaimer: Volvo Provided the XC40, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Volvo Model: XC40 Trim: T5 R-Design Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 248 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight: 3,713 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ghent, Belgium Base Price: $35,700 As Tested Price: $46,385 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: R-Design Features - $2,500.00 Laminated Panoramic Sunroof - $1,200.00 Vision Package - $1,100.00 Advanced Package - $995.00 Premium Package - $900.00 20" 5-Double Spoke Matte Black Alloy Wheels - $800.00 Harman Kardon Audio System - $800.00 Heated Front Seats & Steering Wheel - $750.00 Metallic Paint - $645.00
  17. The X2 is BMW’s entry into the compact crossover vehicle segment. It’s based on the X1, but with a lower roofline and more car-like characteristics. While the base X2 28i comes with a 228 horsepower 2.0-liter engine with either front or all-wheel drive, I got my hands on one with the M badge at a meeting of the Mid-West Automotive Media Association at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet Illinois. The M badge brings a default of BMW xDrive and increases engine horsepower to 302 and the torque to 332 lb.-ft. BWM claims a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and 29 mpg. With that much power coming from a 2-liter engine, there was bound to be a bit of turbo lag and while rolling the small BMW minimizes the lag well. However, from a dead stop, there is a disturbing amount of lag that would scare me if I needed to pull out into fast traffic. Sprints from zero require planning. When already at speed, the 8-speed automatic is quick to downshift and the engine is willing to rev. Putting the X2 M35i into sport mode does make the engine more lively. The suspension setup is stiff and you’ll feel all of the road imperfections except on the most glass-smooth of pavement. That is the tradeoff for having very nimble handling. It is rather fun to push this small front driver into the corners. My tester came with 20-inch wheels rather than the standard 19-inchers. This is not one of those cars that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The interior is definitely snug and I wouldn’t recommend the driver’s seat to anyone much larger than my 5’10” frame. Because of the lower roof, headroom suffers, especially in the rear. Cargo room is small, but if you’re in the market for a car this size, it is to be expected. Still, in spite of its lack of size, the X2 is a comfortable place to sit with bold leather seats in Magma Red. The controls are well placed, though with a large number of buttons. BMW’s iDrive is here too, which always takes some getting used to. Android Auto is not an option and BMW offers Apple CarPlay as a subscription service. This is one thing I can’t get my head around as both are offered for free on much less expensive vehicles. Because of the smaller dimensions, rearward vision isn’t great and there are a few blind spots that can make things tricky. The BMW X2 competes with the likes of the Volvo XC40, Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Cadillac XT4, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. All of those, save the GLA, feel roomier inside, making the X2 a more ideal fit for someone of diminutive size. However, the M35i can out power all of them except the GLA AMG 45. The as-tested price of my X2 M35i is estimated at $50,400 MSRP. Whether you can stomach $50k for a compact crossover with 302 horsepower is up to you.
  18. The X2 is BMW’s entry into the compact crossover vehicle segment. It’s based on the X1, but with a lower roofline and more car-like characteristics. While the base X2 28i comes with a 228 horsepower 2.0-liter engine with either front or all-wheel drive, I got my hands on one with the M badge at a meeting of the Mid-West Automotive Media Association at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet Illinois. The M badge brings a default of BMW xDrive and increases engine horsepower to 302 and the torque to 332 lb.-ft. BWM claims a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and 29 mpg. With that much power coming from a 2-liter engine, there was bound to be a bit of turbo lag and while rolling the small BMW minimizes the lag well. However, from a dead stop, there is a disturbing amount of lag that would scare me if I needed to pull out into fast traffic. Sprints from zero require planning. When already at speed, the 8-speed automatic is quick to downshift and the engine is willing to rev. Putting the X2 M35i into sport mode does make the engine more lively. The suspension setup is stiff and you’ll feel all of the road imperfections except on the most glass-smooth of pavement. That is the tradeoff for having very nimble handling. It is rather fun to push this small front driver into the corners. My tester came with 20-inch wheels rather than the standard 19-inchers. This is not one of those cars that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The interior is definitely snug and I wouldn’t recommend the driver’s seat to anyone much larger than my 5’10” frame. Because of the lower roof, headroom suffers, especially in the rear. Cargo room is small, but if you’re in the market for a car this size, it is to be expected. Still, in spite of its lack of size, the X2 is a comfortable place to sit with bold leather seats in Magma Red. The controls are well placed, though with a large number of buttons. BMW’s iDrive is here too, which always takes some getting used to. Android Auto is not an option and BMW offers Apple CarPlay as a subscription service. This is one thing I can’t get my head around as both are offered for free on much less expensive vehicles. Because of the smaller dimensions, rearward vision isn’t great and there are a few blind spots that can make things tricky. The BMW X2 competes with the likes of the Volvo XC40, Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Cadillac XT4, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. All of those, save the GLA, feel roomier inside, making the X2 a more ideal fit for someone of diminutive size. However, the M35i can out power all of them except the GLA AMG 45. The as-tested price of my X2 M35i is estimated at $50,400 MSRP. Whether you can stomach $50k for a compact crossover with 302 horsepower is up to you. View full article
  19. The last-generation Lexus LS felt a bit lost. It had many of the qualities of previous LS models, but it could not fully compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, and BMW 7-Series. People pointed out the somewhat plain design, lackluster performance of the V8 engine, or the confounding infotainment system as possible reasons. But I think the reason comes down to Lexus not having something that made the LS stand out. How do you right the ship of what many considered to be at one time, the best luxury sedan on sale? If you’re Lexus, that means making some very drastic changes. Lexus has tended to play it safe with the LS’ design to fit with the general idea of a flagship sedan - providing a presence without shouting. But this new generation decides to stray away from that idea. The front end features a lot of inspiration from LC coupe with a wide grille, protruding cutouts for the faux vent, and a lowered hood. A set of Z-shaped LED headlights help the LS stand out from other Lexus models. The rest of the design looks to be an evolution of the previous model with slightly wider fenders and a new trunk lid design. One of the places that LS surprised me was the interior. The layout is quite attractive with a flowing dash and contours on the door panels. A clever touch is the horizontal slat pattern used on the center part of the dash that somewhat disguises the center vents. Material quality is top-notch with leather, real wood, and metal used throughout. This particular test vehicle was equipped with perforated leather upholstery which had a unique snakeskin pattern. I quite liked it, but some who rode in the vehicle found it to be a bit gaudy. This seat pattern is only available on the F-Sport, all other LS models have a plain design. The front seats are quite comfortable and provide numerous power adjustments, along with heat and ventilation. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of legroom, but tall passengers will be annoyed by their heads touching the roof liner, a major downside to the lower roofline. The interior also houses a big disappointment; Lexus Remote Touch. The touchpad controller is still confounding and distracting to use as you need to be precise with your finger movements to correctly select the function you want. Otherwise, you’ll end up on another screen and want to scream. This is disappointing considering that Lexus Enform has improved a lot. The system is noticeably quicker in various functions and can use Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. Despite the 500 designation, there is not a 5.0L V8 under the LS’ hood. Instead, Lexus is using a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 engine with 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. A ten-speed automatic routes power to either the rear or all four wheels like in my test vehicle. The twin-turbo V6 is disappointing when leaving a stop as there is a considerable amount of turbo lag between pressing the accelerator and the engine responding. Once you get past this, the V6 provides plenty of scoot. Never once did I think that the V8 would be better whenever I need to merge or speed out of a corner. It is also noticeably quieter and more refined than the old V8. Fuel economy is rated at 18 City/27 Highway/21 Combined if you opt for AWD. Stick with RWD and the numbers rise to 19/30/23. My average for the week landed at 20.2 mpg on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. Picking the F-Sport trim will get you a revised suspension setup and uprated brakes. It will not transform the LS into something like an Alpina B7 or a Mercedes-AMG S63, but it does make the vehicle feel a bit more poised on a winding road. When put into S+ mode, Body roll is kept in check and the steering is quick to respond. The coil springs used on the LS F-Sport are a bit stiff, which will provide a more choppy ride. An optional air suspension is reportedly better at dealing with bumps and other imperfections, but I will need to try it out before saying it is better or not. This drastic move by Lexus with the new LS could have gone wrong, but it pulls it off. The new model is more interesting to look at, luxurious and offers improved driving dynamics when ordered with the F-Sport package. There are still some thorns Lexus needs to extract such as the poor initial performance of the twin-turbo six and the mess that is Remote Touch. If you’re willing to deal with these issues, then the 2019 LS is a very viable alternative to the Germans. How I would configure an LS 500: Most likely I would build one similar to the one seen here, although I would get it in red as I think the paint really makes the design pop. Alternatives to the LS 500 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The S-Class is still considered by many to be the best of the best. Considering its wide range of engines, very smooth ride, and impressive interior quality, it is tough to argue this. But the LS comes very close to matching the S-Class's interior quality, along with a more eye-catching design. It doesn't help that the S-Class is about $7,000 more than the LS. Genesis G90: Still the bargain in the flagship sedan class with a base price of $69,350 and coming with almost every feature you would expect. The twin-turbo 3.3L V6 offers better off-the line performance than the 3.5 found in the LS. But the LS offers higher quality interior materials than what is available in the G90. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LS 500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Lexus Model: LS Trim: 500 F-Sport Engine: 3.5L Twin-Turbo 24-Valve DOHC V6 Driveline: 10-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 416 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 442 @1600 - 4800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - Curb Weight: 5,027 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $84,420 As Tested Price: $88,605 (Includes $1,025 Destination Charge) Options: Mark Levinson Audio System with 23 Speakers - $1,940.00 24-Inch Heads-Up Display - $1,220.00 View full article
  20. The last-generation Lexus LS felt a bit lost. It had many of the qualities of previous LS models, but it could not fully compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, and BMW 7-Series. People pointed out the somewhat plain design, lackluster performance of the V8 engine, or the confounding infotainment system as possible reasons. But I think the reason comes down to Lexus not having something that made the LS stand out. How do you right the ship of what many considered to be at one time, the best luxury sedan on sale? If you’re Lexus, that means making some very drastic changes. Lexus has tended to play it safe with the LS’ design to fit with the general idea of a flagship sedan - providing a presence without shouting. But this new generation decides to stray away from that idea. The front end features a lot of inspiration from LC coupe with a wide grille, protruding cutouts for the faux vent, and a lowered hood. A set of Z-shaped LED headlights help the LS stand out from other Lexus models. The rest of the design looks to be an evolution of the previous model with slightly wider fenders and a new trunk lid design. One of the places that LS surprised me was the interior. The layout is quite attractive with a flowing dash and contours on the door panels. A clever touch is the horizontal slat pattern used on the center part of the dash that somewhat disguises the center vents. Material quality is top-notch with leather, real wood, and metal used throughout. This particular test vehicle was equipped with perforated leather upholstery which had a unique snakeskin pattern. I quite liked it, but some who rode in the vehicle found it to be a bit gaudy. This seat pattern is only available on the F-Sport, all other LS models have a plain design. The front seats are quite comfortable and provide numerous power adjustments, along with heat and ventilation. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of legroom, but tall passengers will be annoyed by their heads touching the roof liner, a major downside to the lower roofline. The interior also houses a big disappointment; Lexus Remote Touch. The touchpad controller is still confounding and distracting to use as you need to be precise with your finger movements to correctly select the function you want. Otherwise, you’ll end up on another screen and want to scream. This is disappointing considering that Lexus Enform has improved a lot. The system is noticeably quicker in various functions and can use Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. Despite the 500 designation, there is not a 5.0L V8 under the LS’ hood. Instead, Lexus is using a twin-turbo 3.5L V6 engine with 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. A ten-speed automatic routes power to either the rear or all four wheels like in my test vehicle. The twin-turbo V6 is disappointing when leaving a stop as there is a considerable amount of turbo lag between pressing the accelerator and the engine responding. Once you get past this, the V6 provides plenty of scoot. Never once did I think that the V8 would be better whenever I need to merge or speed out of a corner. It is also noticeably quieter and more refined than the old V8. Fuel economy is rated at 18 City/27 Highway/21 Combined if you opt for AWD. Stick with RWD and the numbers rise to 19/30/23. My average for the week landed at 20.2 mpg on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving. Picking the F-Sport trim will get you a revised suspension setup and uprated brakes. It will not transform the LS into something like an Alpina B7 or a Mercedes-AMG S63, but it does make the vehicle feel a bit more poised on a winding road. When put into S+ mode, Body roll is kept in check and the steering is quick to respond. The coil springs used on the LS F-Sport are a bit stiff, which will provide a more choppy ride. An optional air suspension is reportedly better at dealing with bumps and other imperfections, but I will need to try it out before saying it is better or not. This drastic move by Lexus with the new LS could have gone wrong, but it pulls it off. The new model is more interesting to look at, luxurious and offers improved driving dynamics when ordered with the F-Sport package. There are still some thorns Lexus needs to extract such as the poor initial performance of the twin-turbo six and the mess that is Remote Touch. If you’re willing to deal with these issues, then the 2019 LS is a very viable alternative to the Germans. How I would configure an LS 500: Most likely I would build one similar to the one seen here, although I would get it in red as I think the paint really makes the design pop. Alternatives to the LS 500 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The S-Class is still considered by many to be the best of the best. Considering its wide range of engines, very smooth ride, and impressive interior quality, it is tough to argue this. But the LS comes very close to matching the S-Class's interior quality, along with a more eye-catching design. It doesn't help that the S-Class is about $7,000 more than the LS. Genesis G90: Still the bargain in the flagship sedan class with a base price of $69,350 and coming with almost every feature you would expect. The twin-turbo 3.3L V6 offers better off-the line performance than the 3.5 found in the LS. But the LS offers higher quality interior materials than what is available in the G90. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LS 500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Lexus Model: LS Trim: 500 F-Sport Engine: 3.5L Twin-Turbo 24-Valve DOHC V6 Driveline: 10-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 416 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 442 @1600 - 4800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - Curb Weight: 5,027 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $84,420 As Tested Price: $88,605 (Includes $1,025 Destination Charge) Options: Mark Levinson Audio System with 23 Speakers - $1,940.00 24-Inch Heads-Up Display - $1,220.00
  21. The Volkswagen Arteon is the vehicle that effectively replaces the Volkswagen CC in VW’s lineup, however, it comes at the segment with a noticeably different approach. The Arteon is much more interesting looking than the old CC and comes as a hatchback rather than a sedan. I would hesitate to use the word “bold” about the Arteon’s looks, as feels rather conservative to me, but it still has a gravitas that lets passers-by know that this is not an ordinary Volkswagen. The front end has a lot of detailing with multiple creases in the hood and a deep, wide grille. Thick wheel arches give the car a muscular look. Around back, the hatch area fits between a set of thick thighs and a set of tail lights that almost look Benz-like. Down below there is a chrome strip that runs around the entire perimeter of the car. As handsome as the exterior is, the interior is a bit of a letdown. In the SEL version I drove, the interior materials were not up to snuff for a car with a $42,795 sticker price and the design is fairly sterile. There is a wide strip that traverses the dash and mimics the look of the grille and below that, another wood (plood?) strip runs parallel. The center stack is neatly organized with all knobs and buttons within easy reach. If you are a bit of a neat freak like me about your car, keep a microfiber duster in the glovebox to wipe down the piano black surfaces. The seats are flat and firm but without much lateral support. As a hatchback, rear passengers get cut out of a bit of headroom, but there is plenty of legroom back there for them to stretch out. Cargo room for this size of a car can only be described as cavernous. The hatch lifts up high and out of the way giving you easy access to anything you can rear. Fold the rear seats down and you may even say “Crossover, what?”, there is 55 cubic feet of cargo room back there. The Arteon comes with an 8-inch touch screen display that includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Android Auto is easy to set up and I stayed in that mode during my entire drive. Driving the Arteon is probably the best part about it. My tester came equipped with 4motion, Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system. It works well and the car feels glued to the road during the twisties. No matter which level of Arteon you buy, you have a single choice of engine. Standard is a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It is this engine that delayed the Arteon’s entry into the U.S. due to a backlog of certification testing. This setup is merely adequate. It neither thrills you nor lets you down. I do wish a V6 were available, but small-displacement turbo-4s are where the market is going these days. Unfortunately, even with the small displacement 4-cylinder, you still get V6-like fuel economy. The Arteon is rated for 20 city / 27 highway / 23 combined. For reference, that’s about the same as an AWD Buick Lacrosse with a big V6 and 310 horsepower, in fact, the Buick does a little better on the highway and so do most other V6 sedans. In normal mode the transmission is a bit lazy, upshifting early and reluctant to downshift. In sport mode, it wakes up a little but there is still a lag when downshifting. The ride and drive of the Arteon is definitely dialed towards comfort over sport. It comes equipped with a DCC adaptive ride system, but I notice almost no difference between the Sport and Comfort modes. Cruising along in the Arteon is serene with very little noise from the outside entering the cabin. It is certainly a car that can get you into trouble with the leasing company for mileage. Is the Arteon a car I can recommend? Yes and no. If you’re a die-hard VW fan, then the Arteon is an easy choice to make. Otherwise, there are more powerful and more upscale options out there for the price, but you wouldn’t be wrong to choose this one. Year: 2019 Make: Volkswagen Model: Arteon Trim: SEL w/4Motion Engine: 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Direct Injected 4-cylinder Driveline: 8-Speed automatic with all-wheel-drive Horsepower: 268 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 0 - 3,600 Curb Weight: 3,655 lbs Location of Manufacture: Emden, Germany Base Price: $35,845 As Tested Price: $42,790 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) View full article
  22. The Volkswagen Arteon is the vehicle that effectively replaces the Volkswagen CC in VW’s lineup, however, it comes at the segment with a noticeably different approach. The Arteon is much more interesting looking than the old CC and comes as a hatchback rather than a sedan. I would hesitate to use the word “bold” about the Arteon’s looks, as feels rather conservative to me, but it still has a gravitas that lets passers-by know that this is not an ordinary Volkswagen. The front end has a lot of detailing with multiple creases in the hood and a deep, wide grille. Thick wheel arches give the car a muscular look. Around back, the hatch area fits between a set of thick thighs and a set of tail lights that almost look Benz-like. Down below there is a chrome strip that runs around the entire perimeter of the car. As handsome as the exterior is, the interior is a bit of a letdown. In the SEL version I drove, the interior materials were not up to snuff for a car with a $42,795 sticker price and the design is fairly sterile. There is a wide strip that traverses the dash and mimics the look of the grille and below that, another wood (plood?) strip runs parallel. The center stack is neatly organized with all knobs and buttons within easy reach. If you are a bit of a neat freak like me about your car, keep a microfiber duster in the glovebox to wipe down the piano black surfaces. The seats are flat and firm but without much lateral support. As a hatchback, rear passengers get cut out of a bit of headroom, but there is plenty of legroom back there for them to stretch out. Cargo room for this size of a car can only be described as cavernous. The hatch lifts up high and out of the way giving you easy access to anything you can rear. Fold the rear seats down and you may even say “Crossover, what?”, there is 55 cubic feet of cargo room back there. The Arteon comes with an 8-inch touch screen display that includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Android Auto is easy to set up and I stayed in that mode during my entire drive. Driving the Arteon is probably the best part about it. My tester came equipped with 4motion, Volkswagen’s all-wheel-drive system. It works well and the car feels glued to the road during the twisties. No matter which level of Arteon you buy, you have a single choice of engine. Standard is a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It is this engine that delayed the Arteon’s entry into the U.S. due to a backlog of certification testing. This setup is merely adequate. It neither thrills you nor lets you down. I do wish a V6 were available, but small-displacement turbo-4s are where the market is going these days. Unfortunately, even with the small displacement 4-cylinder, you still get V6-like fuel economy. The Arteon is rated for 20 city / 27 highway / 23 combined. For reference, that’s about the same as an AWD Buick Lacrosse with a big V6 and 310 horsepower, in fact, the Buick does a little better on the highway and so do most other V6 sedans. In normal mode the transmission is a bit lazy, upshifting early and reluctant to downshift. In sport mode, it wakes up a little but there is still a lag when downshifting. The ride and drive of the Arteon is definitely dialed towards comfort over sport. It comes equipped with a DCC adaptive ride system, but I notice almost no difference between the Sport and Comfort modes. Cruising along in the Arteon is serene with very little noise from the outside entering the cabin. It is certainly a car that can get you into trouble with the leasing company for mileage. Is the Arteon a car I can recommend? Yes and no. If you’re a die-hard VW fan, then the Arteon is an easy choice to make. Otherwise, there are more powerful and more upscale options out there for the price, but you wouldn’t be wrong to choose this one. Year: 2019 Make: Volkswagen Model: Arteon Trim: SEL w/4Motion Engine: 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Direct Injected 4-cylinder Driveline: 8-Speed automatic with all-wheel-drive Horsepower: 268 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 0 - 3,600 Curb Weight: 3,655 lbs Location of Manufacture: Emden, Germany Base Price: $35,845 As Tested Price: $42,790 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. When Toyota introduced the last-generation Avalon for the 2014 model year, I was shocked by how Toyota had built the better Lexus ES. On the surface, this seems a bit crazy. But Toyota had put a lot of effort into shedding the image of Avalon of an old person’s car by bringing a modern and sleek look; luxurious interior, and a balance between a relaxing ride and sporty dynamics. This became more apparent when compared to the ES launched a couple of years earlier, looking very dated in terms of looks and driving like a cream puff. The times are a changing and the two brands have launched new versions of their respective sedans within the past year. I find myself wondering if Toyota still builds the better Lexus or if the ES has finally stepped up and can give the Avalon a real challenge. Exterior Toyota stuck with the shape of the previous Avalon but gave it some refinement. The low roofline and sloping rear glass shape are paired with more aggressive rear end featuring a full-length taillight. Where the new design falls apart is in the front. Toyota must have taken some of the pages out of Lexus’ design book on grille design as the Avalon has a massive grille. Lower trim models make do with black slats for the insert, but my Hybrid Limited tester features chrome slats that make it more polarizing. I understand Toyota wants to give the Avalon a bit more presence on the road, but this new grille design is a bit much. The ES 350 is a different story as Lexus’ designers pulled off an extensive transformation. Wearing a toned-down version of the brand’s current design language, the new ES has an overall look of something formidable and elegant. The spindle grille is front and center, but Lexus has made it slightly smaller to have fit in with the flowing lines. Other design traits include a sloping roofline and shortened rear deck. Interior Like the exterior, the ES’ interior is completely unrecognizable from the outgoing model. Gone are the cheap feeling and mismatch plastics. In their places is a combination of leather, soft-touch plastics, and wood trim that brings forth a sense of premium uniformity. Ergonomics are also top of the class with such touches as control knobs sitting on either side of the instrument panel, and controls for the climate and audio being in easy reach for driver and passenger. Those sitting in the front are treated to leather-covered seats that provide an excellent balance between support and coddle. Those sitting in the back seat might complain about the low position, but will like the ample amount of head and legroom. Stepping inside the Avalon Hybrid, Toyota has given it a major makeover. Gone is the flowing and rounded center stack with capacitive touch controls. Instead, the Avalon uses a narrower and blocky center stack with actual buttons. I’m sad to see the touch controls go away as I found them to be quite responsive. Toyota likely dropped them as buyers complained there was no feedback - a click sound or pulsation - to whoever was using it. Other changes include a slim chrome bar running along the dash vents and more color choices. Finding a comfortable position in the Avalon was no problem due to the numerous amount of power adjustments available on the Limited. Like the ES, the Avalon’s seats strike the balance of comfort and support just right. In the back, there is an abundance of legroom that allows passengers to stretch out. Headroom is fine for most adults. Infotainment Toyota has installed the latest version of Entune for the 2019 Avalon. While looking somewhat dated with a muted color palette and dull screen, Entune retains its ease of use. The menus with large touchscreen buttons make it very easy to move around the system, along with clearly marked buttons and knobs sitting on either side. Toyota has also got with times and made the Avalon the first model to feature CarPlay integration. Those wanting Android Auto will need to wait until 2020. If there is an Achilles heel to the ES 350, that would be Lexus’ Remote Touch. I have written numerously about how using this system is not only a pain, but very distracting when driving. Take for example changing an XMSirius station. Look at the screen to see where the cursor is. Use the touchpad to move the cursor to the station you want, making sure to keep an eye on the screen. Press down on the touchpad to make the selection, hoping you’re finger doesn’t slip and causes something else to happen. This whole routine plays out time and time again whenever you want to do something. Even Apple CarPlay which was introduced for 2019 is a pain to use with Remote Touch. There is salvation on the horizon. Earlier this year, Lexus unveiled an updated RX crossover with a touchscreen for the infotainment system. The automaker said that it will be available on other models in the coming years. Here’s to hoping the ES is one of the first recipients. Performance Both vehicles come with the choice of either a 3.5L V6 or hybrid system using a 2.5L four-cylinder. An eight-speed automatic is teamed with the V6. The hybrid uses a CVT. The 3.5 V6 has been given a bit more power for 2019, now producing 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. This bump makes for a noticeable improvement in overall acceleration, feeling slightly quicker than the last ES 350 I drove. Power builds on a smooth and linear fashion. The engine is also noticeably refined, with barely a rumble coming from underneath the hood. With only a total output of 215 horsepower, the hybrid system in the Toyota Avalon may seem underpowered. This is only an issue when climbing a steep hill or needing to make an immediate pass. Otherwise, the hybrid system provides plenty of oomph for the daily drive. I like how the system seamless transitioned from electric to hybrid power with only a minimal buzz coming from the engine bay. Like other Toyota hybrids, the Avalon Hybrid can travel on electric power alone - albeit a short distance and at speeds below 25 mph. In EPA testing, the ES 350 returns 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined and the Avalon Hybrid returns 43 City/43 Highway/43 Combined. I clocked averages of 25 in the ES 350 and 40 in the Avalon Hybrid. Ride and Handling Aside from engines, the Avalon Hybrid and ES 350 share another vital component. Under the skin of both models is a version of Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA) known as GA-K. This variant provides the stiffer structure and lower-center of gravity found on other TGNA models, but allows both Toyota and Lexus to build larger front-wheel drive vehicles. In the Avalon Hybrid, the move to GA-K doesn’t change much. The last-generation model showed that you could have good driving dynamics and retain a mission of comfort. The new model continues that with slightly improved handling and sharper steering response. The ES 350 is a different story. Changing over to GA-K transforms the model from a creampuff on wheels to a luxury sedan with that can take corners without embarrassing itself. Body roll is significantly reduced and the steering responds to inputs without fuss. Neither one of these sedans will challenge the likes of the Germans or the Kia Stinger GT, but they will not fall over and cry uncle when pushed. Ride quality is still one of the impressive points for both models. On some of roughest, pothole-ladened streets that the Metro Detroit has on offer, the Avalon Hybrid and ES 350 made it feel like mere ripples. Not much outside noise comes inside the cabin of either model, making them a perfect place to decompress after a long day. Verdict Let’s begin with the 2020 Avalon Hybrid. This updated sedan didn’t surprise me and that’s fine. Aside from the styling, Toyota made small changes to address certain issues of the previous-generation and build upon its strengths. Getting 40 MPG is still an impressive trait for such a big sedan. With a starting price tag of $35,560 for the gas version and $36,650 for the hybrid, the Avalon is still the one to buy if you want the luxuries of the ES without the luxury tax. The ES 350, on the other hand, is the more impressive of the two. You have to wonder if Lexus was motivated by what Toyota was able to pull off with last-generation Avalon. In a lot of ways, the ES 350 looks and feels like a proper luxury car. Add in a new platform that doesn’t make you feel like you’re going to tip over and Lexus is very close to that idea of “Experience Amazing”. The only fault is Remote Touch which sours many of the dramatic improvements. If Lexus can get that new touchscreen into the ES ASAP, I would gladly give it my “Most Improved Car of the Year” award. How I would configure a 2019 Lexus ES 350 or Toyota Avalon Hybrid Starting with the ES 350, I would skip the base model and go with the Luxury trim. This adds such items as leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, and ambient lighting. On top of this, I would add Blind Spot Monitoring package and a power rear sunshade. With destination, I'm out the door with a final price of $45,540. For the Avalon Hybrid, I would pick the XSE. This is positioned as the sporty model with various exterior treatments including a mesh insert for the grille. Other standard equipment includes a moonroof, leatherette and suede upholstery, and wireless phone charging. The only two options I would tick are the Ruby Flare Pearl paint and 14-Speaker JBL Audio System. Add destination and the final price comes to $41,480. Alternatives Genesis G80: A perennial favorite, the G80 slots between the Avalon Hybrid and ES 350 in terms of price - $41,750. It comes showered with loads of standard equipment and an excellent engine lineup. It cannot match the ES and Avalon in terms of interior design, but provides a more modern and easier to understand infotainment system. Ride quality is similar in all three vehicles, but the ES and Avalon have a slight edge in handling. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Lexus Model: ES 350 Trim: Luxury Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve with Dual VVT-i V6 Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 302 @ 6,600 Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26 Curb Weight: 3,649 lbs Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, Kentucky Base Price: $42,755 As Tested Price: $45,955 (Includes $1,025 Destination Charge)* Options: Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking - $1,065.00 18-Inch Split Five-Spoke Alloy Noise Reduction Wheels - $950.00 Wood and Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel - $300.00 Power Rear Sunshade - $210.00 *No window sticker was provided for the ES 350. This is me taking a guess as to final price and options. Year: 2019 Make: Toyota Model: Avalon Hybrid Trim: Limited Engine: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, 650V Electric Motor Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 176 @ 5,700 (Gas); 118 (88 kW) (Electric); 215 (Total Output) Torque @ RPM: 163 @ 3,600-5,200 (Gas) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 43/43/43 Curb Weight: 3,715 lbs Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, Kentucky Base Price: $42,800 As Tested Price: $45,118 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge) Options: Advanced Safety Package - $1,150.00 Carpet Mat Package - $248.00 View full article

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