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  1. I’m one of the few people who actually like the current Toyota Prius - I named it one of my favorite vehicles last year. It offers excellent fuel economy and noticeable improvements to the interior and handling. So what happens when you add a plug to it? You end up with the Prius Prime which is much better than the last-generation Prius Plug-In and makes for an interesting alternative to Chevrolet Volt if you happen to be on a budget. The regular Prius was already a model that you either loved or hated the design. The Prime only exacerbates this as it comes with new front and rear styling to set it apart. The front end gets a new black treatment for the middle that makes it look like it is wearing a mask to hide its identity. A set of quad-LED headlights come from the Mirai and makes the Prime look futuristic. The back features a new tailgate design with what Toyota calls a “dual wave.” It may look ridiculous when put next to the standard Prius, but I dig it. One more thing about the rear tailgate; it happens to made out of carbon fiber to help reduce some weight out of the Prime. The weight loss is not really that impressive as the tailgate only drops 8 pounds from the curb weight. Move inside and the Prime is mostly similar to the Prius I drove last year with an abundance of soft-touch materials, color screens for the instrument cluster, and comfortable front seats. The key differences? You’ll only find seating for two in the back and cargo space is slightly smaller (19.8 vs. 24.6 cubic feet) due to the larger battery taking up some of the precious cargo space. One key item Toyota is proud of in the Prius Prime is an 11.6-inch, vertical touchscreen that controls many of the vehicle’s function such as navigation, audio, and climate control. But you may notice our test Prime doesn’t have it. That’s because the larger screen is only available on the Premium and Advanced models. The base Plus sticks with the 7-inch touchscreen with Entune. From reviews I have been reading about the Prime with the larger screen, it is a mess. The user interface is a bit of mess, performance is meh, and the screen washes out when sunlight hits it. The 7-inch system doesn’t have all of these issues - aside from the sunlight one. Entune may look a little bit dated, but the interface is easy to wrap your head around and performance is pretty snappy. The Prime’s powertrain is the same as the standard Prius; 1.8L Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors/generators producing a total output of 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Where it differs is the battery. The Prime comes with a 95-cell, 8.8-kWh Lithium-ion battery pack. This allows for 25 miles of electric motoring - 14 miles more than the last-generation Prius Plug-In. In electric mode, the Prius Prime feels confident when leaving a stop as the electric motors provide that immediate thrust of power. This is a vehicle that will make other drivers question their thoughts about the Prius. When the Prime is put into the hybrid mode, it feels and goes like a slower Prius. A lot of this is due to extra weight brought on the larger battery - about 300 pounds. You will notice the vehicle taking a few ticks longer to get up speed, especially on hills or merging on to a freeway. How much range was I able to squeeze out of the Prime? I was able to travel between 24 to 27 miles on EV power. Average fuel economy landed around 75 mpg with mostly city driving. When I first got the Prius Prime, I had to plug it in to get the battery charged up. On a 120V outlet, it took 5 hours and 30 minutes to recharged - exactly the time listed by Toyota. If you have a 240V charger, a full recharge only takes 2 hours and 10 minutes on 240V When the battery is halfway depleted, it took about 2 hours and 30 minutes to fully recharge. The Prius was quite a shock when I drove it last year as it drove surprisingly well. It provided decent handling and the steering felt somewhat natural. The same is true for the Prime. You would think after four-generations of the Prius, Toyota would have finally figured out how to make the regenerative brakes feel like brakes in a standard car. But this isn’t the case. Like in the Prius I drove last year, the Prime exhibited brakes that felt numb and having to push further on the pedal to bring the vehicle to a stop. The Toyota Prius Prime is a huge improvement over the old the Prius Plug-In Hybrid as it offers a better EV range, short recharging time, and a much nicer interior. The exterior will put some people off and Toyota still needs to work on improving the Prius’ brakes. We have to address the elephant in the room, the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt does offer a longer range (53 miles), much better brakes, and a sharper exterior. The Prius Prime fights back with a larger interior, shorter recharging times, and low price. If I had the money, I would be picking up a Volt Premier as I think it is the slightly better vehicle. But if I only had $30,000 to spend and wanted something fuel efficient, the Prius Prime would be at the top of the list. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius Prime, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: Prius Prime Trim: Plus Engine: 1.8L DOHC, VVT-i Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder, Two Electric Motors Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, ECVT Horsepower @ RPM: 95 @ 5,200 (Gas), 71 @ 0 (Electric), 121 (Combined) Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 5,200 (Gas), 120 @ 0 (Electric) Fuel Economy: Electric + Gas, Hybrid City/Highway/Combined - 133 MPGe, 55/53/54 Curb Weight: 3,365 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan Base Price: $27,100 As Tested Price: $28,380 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Special Color (Hypersonic Red) - $595.00 View full article
  2. The Volkswagen Jetta is an outlier in the compact class. Whereas other automakers have been stepping up with sharper designs, more tech, and improved driving dynamics, Volkswagen went in a completely different direction by offering the biggest amount of interior space for not that much money. But to accomplish this, Volkswagen made a number of sacrifices in terms of design, materials, and mechanical bits. This put the Jetta way behind the pack of the fresh competition. But Volkswagen has been working to try and right some of the wrongs of the Jetta. A couple of years ago, Volkswagen updated the model with a new front end, new dashboard, and a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder to take place of the decrepit 2.0L. It salvages the Jetta’s reputation somewhat. The current Jetta is slightly better in terms of looks. A new front end with a larger grille and headlights with LED daytime running lights help make the model look more interesting to look at. Sadly, the rest of vehicle is as nondescript as before with nothing that jumps out at you. If you were to ask a small kid to draw a car, it would most likely look like the Jetta. If you ever wanted a master class of in how not to do an interior, the Jetta is a perfect candidate. Whereas most compact sedans show marked improvements in design and materials, the Jetta is like stepping back a decade or so. Our mid-level SE came with a large amount of cheap and hard plastics that you don’t see most compacts now - aside from the base models. The mostly black interior makes for a dreary experience. On the upside, Volkswagen has improved the dash by taking some ideas from the Golf. A new instrument cluster and revised center stack layout helps make the Jetta not feel as cheap as the previous model. It also makes for an easier time to find various controls and reading things at a quick glance. All Jettas get Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system. The base S makes do with a 5-inch touchscreen, while the SE and higher trims use a 6.3-inch screen. Car-Net is one of the best infotainment systems on sale today thanks to a sharp interface, simple layout of the various functions, and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Space is the Jetta’s key selling point. The back seat alone dwarfs most compacts and even gives some midsize sedans a run for their money. Sitting back here, I could stretch out with no issue. The trunk is also huge, offering up 15.7 cubic feet. I do wish the front seats were a bit more comfortable. Most of the week found me constantly adjusting the seat to try and find a position that wouldn’t cause me to ache after a drive. The SE comes with a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder offering 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Our test vehicle came with the standard five-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic is available. On paper, the 1.4T should be a strong engine as it offers the same torque figure as the larger 1.8T at a lower rpm (1,400 rpm vs. 1,500 rpm). In the real world, this doesn’t happen. You’ll need to get the engine above 2,000 rpm to wake it up. At first, I thought we were dealing with a bad case of turbo lag. But further investigation revealed the five-speed manual is at fault. Volkswagen used taller gearing to make up for a missing sixth gear and improve fuel economy. I can’t help but wonder if the six-speed automatic alleviates this issue. Once you figure this out, the 1.4T is a surprising performer. Speed comes on at a rapid rate once your above 2,000 rpm. The engine is also very smooth and makes a pleasant noise when accelerating. The manual is somewhat difficult to work as the gear linkage feels somewhat stiff when moving through the gears. The clutch is light and it’s easy to find the take-off point. EPA fuel economy figures for the 1.4T manual stand at 28 City/40 Highway/33 Combined. I saw an average of 35 mpg that was a mix of 70 percent city driving and 30 percent highway driving. The automatic sees a slight drop in fuel economy to 28/38/32. One item we’re glad to see the lesser Jetta models get is a multilink rear suspension - replacing the rear beam axle of previous models. This makes a huge difference in ride and handling. On rough roads, the Jetta provides a compliant and comfortable ride. Handling is almost similar to the Golf Wolfsburg I drove earlier in the year - little body roll and excellent steering response. The SE seen here came with an as-tested price of $21,795 with destination. That includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, push-button start, cruise control, and a power sunroof. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is much better than the model that was launched only five years ago. But that isn’t saying a lot considering how much the compact class has moved up in this time frame. Price may be the Jetta’s ultimate strength as it offers a lot of features for the money with the 1.4T engine and interior space running slightly behind. Everywhere else, the Jetta is outmatched. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Jetta, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Volkswagen Model: Jetta Trim: SE Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L 16V TSI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 5,000 Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 1,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/40/33 Curb Weight: 2,939 lbs Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico Base Price: $20,895 As Tested Price: $21,715 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  3. The Volkswagen Jetta is an outlier in the compact class. Whereas other automakers have been stepping up with sharper designs, more tech, and improved driving dynamics, Volkswagen went in a completely different direction by offering the biggest amount of interior space for not that much money. But to accomplish this, Volkswagen made a number of sacrifices in terms of design, materials, and mechanical bits. This put the Jetta way behind the pack of the fresh competition. But Volkswagen has been working to try and right some of the wrongs of the Jetta. A couple of years ago, Volkswagen updated the model with a new front end, new dashboard, and a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder to take place of the decrepit 2.0L. It salvages the Jetta’s reputation somewhat. The current Jetta is slightly better in terms of looks. A new front end with a larger grille and headlights with LED daytime running lights help make the model look more interesting to look at. Sadly, the rest of vehicle is as nondescript as before with nothing that jumps out at you. If you were to ask a small kid to draw a car, it would most likely look like the Jetta. If you ever wanted a master class of in how not to do an interior, the Jetta is a perfect candidate. Whereas most compact sedans show marked improvements in design and materials, the Jetta is like stepping back a decade or so. Our mid-level SE came with a large amount of cheap and hard plastics that you don’t see most compacts now - aside from the base models. The mostly black interior makes for a dreary experience. On the upside, Volkswagen has improved the dash by taking some ideas from the Golf. A new instrument cluster and revised center stack layout helps make the Jetta not feel as cheap as the previous model. It also makes for an easier time to find various controls and reading things at a quick glance. All Jettas get Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system. The base S makes do with a 5-inch touchscreen, while the SE and higher trims use a 6.3-inch screen. Car-Net is one of the best infotainment systems on sale today thanks to a sharp interface, simple layout of the various functions, and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Space is the Jetta’s key selling point. The back seat alone dwarfs most compacts and even gives some midsize sedans a run for their money. Sitting back here, I could stretch out with no issue. The trunk is also huge, offering up 15.7 cubic feet. I do wish the front seats were a bit more comfortable. Most of the week found me constantly adjusting the seat to try and find a position that wouldn’t cause me to ache after a drive. The SE comes with a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder offering 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Our test vehicle came with the standard five-speed manual, but a six-speed automatic is available. On paper, the 1.4T should be a strong engine as it offers the same torque figure as the larger 1.8T at a lower rpm (1,400 rpm vs. 1,500 rpm). In the real world, this doesn’t happen. You’ll need to get the engine above 2,000 rpm to wake it up. At first, I thought we were dealing with a bad case of turbo lag. But further investigation revealed the five-speed manual is at fault. Volkswagen used taller gearing to make up for a missing sixth gear and improve fuel economy. I can’t help but wonder if the six-speed automatic alleviates this issue. Once you figure this out, the 1.4T is a surprising performer. Speed comes on at a rapid rate once your above 2,000 rpm. The engine is also very smooth and makes a pleasant noise when accelerating. The manual is somewhat difficult to work as the gear linkage feels somewhat stiff when moving through the gears. The clutch is light and it’s easy to find the take-off point. EPA fuel economy figures for the 1.4T manual stand at 28 City/40 Highway/33 Combined. I saw an average of 35 mpg that was a mix of 70 percent city driving and 30 percent highway driving. The automatic sees a slight drop in fuel economy to 28/38/32. One item we’re glad to see the lesser Jetta models get is a multilink rear suspension - replacing the rear beam axle of previous models. This makes a huge difference in ride and handling. On rough roads, the Jetta provides a compliant and comfortable ride. Handling is almost similar to the Golf Wolfsburg I drove earlier in the year - little body roll and excellent steering response. The SE seen here came with an as-tested price of $21,795 with destination. That includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry, push-button start, cruise control, and a power sunroof. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is much better than the model that was launched only five years ago. But that isn’t saying a lot considering how much the compact class has moved up in this time frame. Price may be the Jetta’s ultimate strength as it offers a lot of features for the money with the 1.4T engine and interior space running slightly behind. Everywhere else, the Jetta is outmatched. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Jetta, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Volkswagen Model: Jetta Trim: SE Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L 16V TSI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 5,000 Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 1,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/40/33 Curb Weight: 2,939 lbs Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico Base Price: $20,895 As Tested Price: $21,715 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  4. Subcompact crossovers are the hot thing at the moment and automakers are trying to make their models stand out. Whether it is using sleek styling, sporty driving dynamics, or value for money, every automaker is trying their best to get their vehicle noticed. For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they’re going for a two-prong attack in the class with models from Fiat and Jeep. The Jeep Renegade is aimed at those who want a subcompact that can tackle a trail, and the Fiat 500X provides some chicness for the class. We spent some time in both models to see if they can make some end roads in this growing class. While the 500X and Renegade may share a fair amount of mechanicals, the design of the two is worlds apart. The Renegade is classic Jeep with a square body, seven-slot grille, and a set of large headlights. The Renegade also features a fair number of Easter eggs throughout the exterior. The head and taillights feature little Jeep grille-and-headlights logos, and a small Willys MB on the bottom of the windshield. This is basically the vehicle equivalent of a hidden object puzzle you might have done back in school. Remember the first commercial for the Fiat 500X where a blue pill falls into the fuel filler of a standard 500. The owner turns around and somehow his vehicle has engorged into something bigger. That’s how you can summarize the design of the 500X. Compared to your standard 500, the 500X is 28.6 inches longer and 15.6 inches wider. A lot of the design traits from the 500 such as the round headlights, long chrome bar holding the emblem, and rectangular taillights are present on this crossover. Moving inside, the Renegade takes some inspiration from the Wrangler with a rugged dash design and a grab bar for the passenger. Higher trims such as our Limited tester feature a decent amount of soft-touch materials. Like the exterior, the Renegade’s interior has Easter eggs strewn about. The tachometer with has a splash of mud to illustrate the redline, a seven-slot grille design for the speaker grilles, and the frame around the radio having ‘Since 1941’ stamped. The only complaint we have with the Renegade’s dash is the placement of the climate controls. They are mounted a bit too low to reach easily. The 500X’s interior is Fiat’s best effort to date. The overall look has some traits of the standard 500 such as a retro design for the dash. But where the 500X stands out is in the material choices. Fiat went all out with adding soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels to help make the model feel very premium. Our Trekking Plus tester came upholstered in brown leather that added a touch of class that’s nonexistent in other competitors. Both models offer plenty of head and legroom for passengers sitting up front. In the back, headroom is decent for most passengers even with the optional sunroof fitted. Legroom ranges from decent for most folks to almost nonexistent depending on how tall the person sitting up front is. The seats themselves are lacking sufficient support for long trips. If cargo capacity is a priority, then consider the Renegade as it offers 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up. The 500X is towards the bottom of the class with only 12.2 cubic feet mostly due to the design of the vehicle. For your infotainment needs, Fiat and Jeep offer a lineup of Uconnect systems from three to 6.5 inches. Our test vehicles featured the optional 6.5-inch system. Uconnect is still one of the easiest systems to use thanks to a simple interface and very fast performance. We hope FCA considers adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in the future. In terms of engines, both the 500X and Renegade come standard with a turbocharged 1.4L with 160 horsepower. The downside to this engine is that it is only available with a six-speed manual. If you want an automatic, then you’ll need to get the engine found under the hood of our test models; a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. We’re not fans of the 2.4L in the any of the FCA vehicles we have driven and this trend continues with the 500X and Renegade. Leaving a stop, there is plenty of oomph to get up to speed in urban environments. Out on the rural roads and highways, the 2.4L struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. Not helping matters is the engine sounding unrefined. The engine noise during hard acceleration could actually drown out the radio. The one bright spot for the powertrain is the nine-speed automatic. This transmission has been a sore point in a number of FCA vehicles for sluggish shifting and not feeling refined. With the 500X and Renegade, it seems FCA has been able to fix many of the wrongs of the nine-speed. Gear changes are much faster and smoother than in previous models. Both models can be equipped with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both models came equipped with all-wheel drive. This system primarily works in front-wheel drive to help improve fuel economy. But if the system detects slip, it will hook up the rear axle and start sending power for better traction. The Renegade has the more advanced all-wheel drive system known as Jeep Active Drive. This system gives the driver the choice of various drive modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud) that adjusts the all-wheel drive, steering, and transmission to provide the best settings for the conditions at hand. There’s also a 4WD lock that splits power 50:50 to provide added traction. Thanks to a freak snow storm in April, I was able to put the system to the test. Driving on some snowy roads, the system was able to keep the Renegade moving without the tires spinning. The Renegade Trailhawk takes the system a step further with Active Drive Low. As the name suggests, this system features low range via a two-speed transfer case. This allows the Trailhawk to tackle more difficult obstacles such as rocks. Fuel economy is terrible for the class. The Fiat 500X is rated at 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined. The Renegade matches the 500X in city and combined fuel figures but is only rated at 29 for the highway. Our average for the week was a very disappointing 22.1 MPG in both vehicles. This is a figure you would expect in a larger crossover, not a subcompact. The ride in both vehicles is on the firm and harsh side. You’ll be able to tell how bad the roads around you are as bumps and road imperfections are transmitted to the seats. Interestingly, both the 500X and Renegade are quite fun around corners. The vehicles feel agile and the steering has some decent weight. But as the Mazda CX-3 has shown, you can have excellent handling characteristics and a decent ride in a crossover. On the highway, the Renegade is the noisier of the two with a large amount of wind noise coming inside. As for pricing, the 500X and Renegade get off to a good start. The Renegade starts at $17,995 and the 500X comes in at $20,000. Where it falls apart comes in the higher trims. Our two testers had price tags of just under $32,000 - $31,695 for the Renegade Limited and $31,800 for the 500X Trekking Plus. For that same amount of money, you can get into a well-equipped or even a loaded compact crossover. Neither one of these models is worth their high price tags. The subcompact crossover class has become a hotly contested class in only a couple of years and you have to show up with your a-game if you want to make an impact. In the case the 500X and Renegade, FCA dropped the ball. The larger four-cylinder engine should be shown the door for its issues in terms of refinement and fuel economy. The ride characteristics need a rethink and the value for money argument is tough when dealing with the higher trim models. This is very disappointing as the two models have some characteristics that should put them a bit higher in the class. The Fiat 500X’s interior looks and feels like something you would find in a luxury model. The Jeep Renegade can go into places that other subcompact crossovers not even dare try thanks to a clever all-wheel drive system and Jeep’s off-road know-how. But these positive points cannot overcome the numerous issues both of the vehicles have. It would be best to avoid them. Cheers: Off-Road Ability (Renegade), Interior Styling and Features (500X), Nine-Speed Automatic Is Much Better Jeers: 2.4L Is Terrible, Rough Ride, Pricing for Higher Trims Disclaimer: FCA Provided the 500X and Renegade; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Fiat Model: 500X Trim: Trekking Plus AWD Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24 Curb Weight: 3,278 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $29,000 As Tested Price: $31,800 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Trekking Plus Collection 1 - $1,900 Year: 2016 Make: Jeep Model: Renegade Trim: Limited 4X4 Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,348 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $26,995 As Tested Price: $31,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 6.5-inch Navigation Group with Uconnect - $1,245 Advanced Technology Group - $995 Beats Premium Audio System - $695 Safety and Security Group - $645 Passive Entry Keyless Enter n' Go Package - $125
  5. Subcompact crossovers are the hot thing at the moment and automakers are trying to make their models stand out. Whether it is using sleek styling, sporty driving dynamics, or value for money, every automaker is trying their best to get their vehicle noticed. For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they’re going for a two-prong attack in the class with models from Fiat and Jeep. The Jeep Renegade is aimed at those who want a subcompact that can tackle a trail, and the Fiat 500X provides some chicness for the class. We spent some time in both models to see if they can make some end roads in this growing class. While the 500X and Renegade may share a fair amount of mechanicals, the design of the two is worlds apart. The Renegade is classic Jeep with a square body, seven-slot grille, and a set of large headlights. The Renegade also features a fair number of Easter eggs throughout the exterior. The head and taillights feature little Jeep grille-and-headlights logos, and a small Willys MB on the bottom of the windshield. This is basically the vehicle equivalent of a hidden object puzzle you might have done back in school. Remember the first commercial for the Fiat 500X where a blue pill falls into the fuel filler of a standard 500. The owner turns around and somehow his vehicle has engorged into something bigger. That’s how you can summarize the design of the 500X. Compared to your standard 500, the 500X is 28.6 inches longer and 15.6 inches wider. A lot of the design traits from the 500 such as the round headlights, long chrome bar holding the emblem, and rectangular taillights are present on this crossover. Moving inside, the Renegade takes some inspiration from the Wrangler with a rugged dash design and a grab bar for the passenger. Higher trims such as our Limited tester feature a decent amount of soft-touch materials. Like the exterior, the Renegade’s interior has Easter eggs strewn about. The tachometer with has a splash of mud to illustrate the redline, a seven-slot grille design for the speaker grilles, and the frame around the radio having ‘Since 1941’ stamped. The only complaint we have with the Renegade’s dash is the placement of the climate controls. They are mounted a bit too low to reach easily. The 500X’s interior is Fiat’s best effort to date. The overall look has some traits of the standard 500 such as a retro design for the dash. But where the 500X stands out is in the material choices. Fiat went all out with adding soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels to help make the model feel very premium. Our Trekking Plus tester came upholstered in brown leather that added a touch of class that’s nonexistent in other competitors. Both models offer plenty of head and legroom for passengers sitting up front. In the back, headroom is decent for most passengers even with the optional sunroof fitted. Legroom ranges from decent for most folks to almost nonexistent depending on how tall the person sitting up front is. The seats themselves are lacking sufficient support for long trips. If cargo capacity is a priority, then consider the Renegade as it offers 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up. The 500X is towards the bottom of the class with only 12.2 cubic feet mostly due to the design of the vehicle. For your infotainment needs, Fiat and Jeep offer a lineup of Uconnect systems from three to 6.5 inches. Our test vehicles featured the optional 6.5-inch system. Uconnect is still one of the easiest systems to use thanks to a simple interface and very fast performance. We hope FCA considers adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in the future. In terms of engines, both the 500X and Renegade come standard with a turbocharged 1.4L with 160 horsepower. The downside to this engine is that it is only available with a six-speed manual. If you want an automatic, then you’ll need to get the engine found under the hood of our test models; a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. We’re not fans of the 2.4L in the any of the FCA vehicles we have driven and this trend continues with the 500X and Renegade. Leaving a stop, there is plenty of oomph to get up to speed in urban environments. Out on the rural roads and highways, the 2.4L struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. Not helping matters is the engine sounding unrefined. The engine noise during hard acceleration could actually drown out the radio. The one bright spot for the powertrain is the nine-speed automatic. This transmission has been a sore point in a number of FCA vehicles for sluggish shifting and not feeling refined. With the 500X and Renegade, it seems FCA has been able to fix many of the wrongs of the nine-speed. Gear changes are much faster and smoother than in previous models. Both models can be equipped with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both models came equipped with all-wheel drive. This system primarily works in front-wheel drive to help improve fuel economy. But if the system detects slip, it will hook up the rear axle and start sending power for better traction. The Renegade has the more advanced all-wheel drive system known as Jeep Active Drive. This system gives the driver the choice of various drive modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud) that adjusts the all-wheel drive, steering, and transmission to provide the best settings for the conditions at hand. There’s also a 4WD lock that splits power 50:50 to provide added traction. Thanks to a freak snow storm in April, I was able to put the system to the test. Driving on some snowy roads, the system was able to keep the Renegade moving without the tires spinning. The Renegade Trailhawk takes the system a step further with Active Drive Low. As the name suggests, this system features low range via a two-speed transfer case. This allows the Trailhawk to tackle more difficult obstacles such as rocks. Fuel economy is terrible for the class. The Fiat 500X is rated at 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined. The Renegade matches the 500X in city and combined fuel figures but is only rated at 29 for the highway. Our average for the week was a very disappointing 22.1 MPG in both vehicles. This is a figure you would expect in a larger crossover, not a subcompact. The ride in both vehicles is on the firm and harsh side. You’ll be able to tell how bad the roads around you are as bumps and road imperfections are transmitted to the seats. Interestingly, both the 500X and Renegade are quite fun around corners. The vehicles feel agile and the steering has some decent weight. But as the Mazda CX-3 has shown, you can have excellent handling characteristics and a decent ride in a crossover. On the highway, the Renegade is the noisier of the two with a large amount of wind noise coming inside. As for pricing, the 500X and Renegade get off to a good start. The Renegade starts at $17,995 and the 500X comes in at $20,000. Where it falls apart comes in the higher trims. Our two testers had price tags of just under $32,000 - $31,695 for the Renegade Limited and $31,800 for the 500X Trekking Plus. For that same amount of money, you can get into a well-equipped or even a loaded compact crossover. Neither one of these models is worth their high price tags. The subcompact crossover class has become a hotly contested class in only a couple of years and you have to show up with your a-game if you want to make an impact. In the case the 500X and Renegade, FCA dropped the ball. The larger four-cylinder engine should be shown the door for its issues in terms of refinement and fuel economy. The ride characteristics need a rethink and the value for money argument is tough when dealing with the higher trim models. This is very disappointing as the two models have some characteristics that should put them a bit higher in the class. The Fiat 500X’s interior looks and feels like something you would find in a luxury model. The Jeep Renegade can go into places that other subcompact crossovers not even dare try thanks to a clever all-wheel drive system and Jeep’s off-road know-how. But these positive points cannot overcome the numerous issues both of the vehicles have. It would be best to avoid them. Cheers: Off-Road Ability (Renegade), Interior Styling and Features (500X), Nine-Speed Automatic Is Much Better Jeers: 2.4L Is Terrible, Rough Ride, Pricing for Higher Trims Disclaimer: FCA Provided the 500X and Renegade; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Fiat Model: 500X Trim: Trekking Plus AWD Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24 Curb Weight: 3,278 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $29,000 As Tested Price: $31,800 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Trekking Plus Collection 1 - $1,900 Year: 2016 Make: Jeep Model: Renegade Trim: Limited 4X4 Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,348 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $26,995 As Tested Price: $31,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 6.5-inch Navigation Group with Uconnect - $1,245 Advanced Technology Group - $995 Beats Premium Audio System - $695 Safety and Security Group - $645 Passive Entry Keyless Enter n' Go Package - $125 View full article
  6. The Dodge Charger is a mean and potent machine when equipped with one of three HEMI V8s available. But is the same true when the Charger is equipped with the 3.6L V6? The answer we found after spending a week with an SXT AWD model is it depends. Dodge updated the Charger back in 2015 with new front and rear end treatments. I’m not too fond of the new front with a wider crosshair grille, reshaped headlights with LEDs, and new hood just looks somewhat awkward. On the upside, the revised trundled with the long taillights works very well. Our test vehicle came equipped with the Blacktop Appearance Group which adds a gloss black fascia, a spoiler finished in satin black, and 19-inch wheels finished in black. Yes, our vehicle is missing the wheels and we don’t know why. But even without the wheels, the Blacktop package makes the Charger look even more menacing. Time has not been so kind to the Charger’s interior as it is looking even more dated since the last time we drove one. The black interior isn’t pleasant to spend a lot of time and makes the vehicle feel somewhat claustrophobic. Not helping are the materials which are either hard plastic or have a rubbery feeling. There is some good news concerning the Charger’s interior. For 2017, FCA has installed the latest version of UConnect which brings a number of improvements. I’ve praised this system in the 2017 Pacifica and will do the same here. Performance is noticeably improved thanks to various tweaks made to the system. FCA also gave the interface a fresh coat of paint that helps bring the UConnect into the current century. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are present and work flawlessly. Under the hood is the familiar 3.6L V6 that powers a number of FCA vehicles. For the Charger, the V6 produces 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed through an eight-speed automatic to either the rear-wheels or in our tester, all four wheels. Sufficient is the best word to describe the performance of the V6 as it gets the Charger up to speed at a decent rate. We will admit that the extra weight of the all-wheel drive does zap some of V6’s power, making it feel slightly slower. Fuel economy doesn’t take as much of a hit as you might think when going with AWD. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 18 City/27 Highway/21 Combined. The rear-drive Charger V6 returns 19/30/23. During my week, I saw an average 20.7 in mostly city driving. Compared to its V8 brethren, the Charger V6 has a much softer suspension tune. This does mean the Charger does not like being pushed around corners. You can order the Rallye package that brings a sport-tuned suspension which makes for a very entertaining vehicle. The benefit to the softer suspension is the Charger glides over bumps with no issue. Some road and wind noise makes its way into the cabin, but it is quite acceptable for most buyers. The Charger is quite the brash vehicle to look at no matter which variant you choose. When it comes to engines, the V6 can be a surprisingly good drive if you order the Rally package. Otherwise, the Charger V6 is a mean looker of a full-size sedan that can provide a comfortable ride. Though, if you really have your heart set on one, we would point you in the direction of the Chrysler 300 which offers most of the plus points of the Charger with a much nicer interior. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Charger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Dodge Model: Charger Trim: SXT AWD Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 292 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/27/21 Curb Weight: 4,233 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $31,995 As Tested Price: $36,165 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation and Travel Group - $1,095.00 Driver Confidence Group - $795.00 Redline Tri-Coat Exterior Paint - $595.00 Blacktop Appearance Group - $495.00 Premium Cloth Seats - $95.00
  7. The Dodge Charger is a mean and potent machine when equipped with one of three HEMI V8s available. But is the same true when the Charger is equipped with the 3.6L V6? The answer we found after spending a week with an SXT AWD model is it depends. Dodge updated the Charger back in 2015 with new front and rear end treatments. I’m not too fond of the new front with a wider crosshair grille, reshaped headlights with LEDs, and new hood just looks somewhat awkward. On the upside, the revised trundled with the long taillights works very well. Our test vehicle came equipped with the Blacktop Appearance Group which adds a gloss black fascia, a spoiler finished in satin black, and 19-inch wheels finished in black. Yes, our vehicle is missing the wheels and we don’t know why. But even without the wheels, the Blacktop package makes the Charger look even more menacing. Time has not been so kind to the Charger’s interior as it is looking even more dated since the last time we drove one. The black interior isn’t pleasant to spend a lot of time and makes the vehicle feel somewhat claustrophobic. Not helping are the materials which are either hard plastic or have a rubbery feeling. There is some good news concerning the Charger’s interior. For 2017, FCA has installed the latest version of UConnect which brings a number of improvements. I’ve praised this system in the 2017 Pacifica and will do the same here. Performance is noticeably improved thanks to various tweaks made to the system. FCA also gave the interface a fresh coat of paint that helps bring the UConnect into the current century. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are present and work flawlessly. Under the hood is the familiar 3.6L V6 that powers a number of FCA vehicles. For the Charger, the V6 produces 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed through an eight-speed automatic to either the rear-wheels or in our tester, all four wheels. Sufficient is the best word to describe the performance of the V6 as it gets the Charger up to speed at a decent rate. We will admit that the extra weight of the all-wheel drive does zap some of V6’s power, making it feel slightly slower. Fuel economy doesn’t take as much of a hit as you might think when going with AWD. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 18 City/27 Highway/21 Combined. The rear-drive Charger V6 returns 19/30/23. During my week, I saw an average 20.7 in mostly city driving. Compared to its V8 brethren, the Charger V6 has a much softer suspension tune. This does mean the Charger does not like being pushed around corners. You can order the Rallye package that brings a sport-tuned suspension which makes for a very entertaining vehicle. The benefit to the softer suspension is the Charger glides over bumps with no issue. Some road and wind noise makes its way into the cabin, but it is quite acceptable for most buyers. The Charger is quite the brash vehicle to look at no matter which variant you choose. When it comes to engines, the V6 can be a surprisingly good drive if you order the Rally package. Otherwise, the Charger V6 is a mean looker of a full-size sedan that can provide a comfortable ride. Though, if you really have your heart set on one, we would point you in the direction of the Chrysler 300 which offers most of the plus points of the Charger with a much nicer interior. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Charger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Dodge Model: Charger Trim: SXT AWD Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 292 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/27/21 Curb Weight: 4,233 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $31,995 As Tested Price: $36,165 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation and Travel Group - $1,095.00 Driver Confidence Group - $795.00 Redline Tri-Coat Exterior Paint - $595.00 Blacktop Appearance Group - $495.00 Premium Cloth Seats - $95.00 View full article
  8. Trucks are a big deal in the U.S. Last year alone, 15 percent of the more than 17 million vehicles sold were some sort of truck. Case in point is the Chevrolet Silverado. So far in 2017, Chevrolet has sold 212,425 Silverado trucks. So what is it about the Silverado that makes it one of Chevrolet popular models? A key reason might be the large number of configurations on offer. The Silverado offers five bed and cab configurations, eight trims, three engines, and two drivetrain choices. That’s before you start looking at the long list of options. Our test truck is a prime example of what you might find a dealer - an LTZ crew cab with the short bed (5-foot). We’re not kidding on the long options list. Our truck features over $11,000 in options including a 6.2L V8 engine, 20-inch chrome wheels, power-assist steps, heated and ventilated seats; Bose sound system, navigation, max trailering package, and chrome mirrors. GM updated the exteriors of their half-ton trucks last year with revised front ends. I’m not so keen on the new front end as it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the truck’s design. At least the chrome grille seen here looks slightly better than the one you get if you order the Z71 package which has a body-colored center and different inner. Otherwise, the Silverado looks much the same as the one we drove back in 2014 with a boxy, muscular shape. The LTZ is the middle ground in the Silverado lineup between blue-collar LT and luxurious High Country trims, and that puts it in a tough spot. You can see this in the interior as GM tries to straddle the middle and ultimately fails. The faux leather upholstery isn’t nice to sit on due to a waxy feel. The trim pieces may look nice at first glance, but look closer and you can easily tell they are plastic. I would be willing to give this a pass, but not when said truck is a hair over $60,000. General Motors does earn some points back when it comes to their half-ton’s interior layout. With large buttons and knobs placed in logical places, GM knows keep keeping it simple earns big points from truck buyers. The same is true for Chevrolet’s Intellilink infotainment system with an easy to navigate menu system, legible graphics, and redundant controls for common controls. As mentioned, our Silverado came with the big 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It comes hooked up to an eight-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. Two-wheel drive comes standard. The 6.2L V8 engine is the biggest ace up the Silverado’s sleeve. Not only does it provide some impressive towing numbers - 11,700 with the max trailering package, but it also moves this truck like it was something smaller. 0-60 mph is said to take around six seconds which is quite impressive. Plus, it makes the right noises when you step on the accelerator. Fuel economy for the 6.2L V8 is the same as the 5.3L V8 when equipped similarly (eight-speed automatic and 4WD) - 15 City/20 Highway/17 Combined. We saw an average of 16.2 mpg for our short test period in mostly city driving. The only downside to the 6.2L V8? You can only get it on the LTZ and High Country trims. It would be nice if Chevrolet made it optional on lower LT trim. We’ve considered General Motors’ half-tons to run a close second to the Ram 1500 in terms of ride quality. Despite sticking with leaf-springs in the rear, GM somehow tuned the suspension to provide a compliant ride over any surface. It needs to be noted that the Max Trailering package does ride somewhat firmer due to a new suspension package which brings heavy-duty springs and revised shock tuning. We now need to talk about price. As we mentioned, the as-tested price of our Silverado 1500 LTZ tester came in at $60,020 mostly due to the large amount of options equipped. If I were buying an LTZ, I would skip the power assist steps, 20-inch chrome wheels, Siren Red paint, and max trailering package. to help bring the price to around $55,500 or so. It is still an expensive proposition, but it becomes slightly easier to swallow. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Silverado, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Chevrolet Model: Silverado 1500 Trim: LTZ Crew Cab Engine: 6.2L VVT DI with Active Fuel Management V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5600 Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/20/17 Curb Weight: 5,299 lbs* Location of Manufacture: Silao, GJ, Mexico Base Price: $47,175 As Tested Price: $60,020 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge) *Curb weight of a base Silverado 4WD crew cab. Options: 6.2L V8 w/Eight-Speed Automatic - $2,695.00 Power and Articulating Assist Steps - $1,695.00 20-Inch Chrome Wheels - $1,495.00 Enhanced Driver Package - $945.00 Max Trailering Package - $925.00 LTZ Plus Package - $770.00 Heated & Ventilated Front Seats - $650.00 Leather Appointed Buckets with Center Console - $510.00 8-inch MyLink with Navigation - $495.00 Siren Red Tintcoat- $495.00 Spray-On Bedliner - $495.00 Chrome Trailering Mirrors with Power Folding - $295.00 Cargo Box with LED Lighting - $125.00 Moveable Upper Tie Dows - $60.00
  9. Trucks are a big deal in the U.S. Last year alone, 15 percent of the more than 17 million vehicles sold were some sort of truck. Case in point is the Chevrolet Silverado. So far in 2017, Chevrolet has sold 212,425 Silverado trucks. So what is it about the Silverado that makes it one of Chevrolet popular models? A key reason might be the large number of configurations on offer. The Silverado offers five bed and cab configurations, eight trims, three engines, and two drivetrain choices. That’s before you start looking at the long list of options. Our test truck is a prime example of what you might find a dealer - an LTZ crew cab with the short bed (5-foot). We’re not kidding on the long options list. Our truck features over $11,000 in options including a 6.2L V8 engine, 20-inch chrome wheels, power-assist steps, heated and ventilated seats; Bose sound system, navigation, max trailering package, and chrome mirrors. GM updated the exteriors of their half-ton trucks last year with revised front ends. I’m not so keen on the new front end as it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the truck’s design. At least the chrome grille seen here looks slightly better than the one you get if you order the Z71 package which has a body-colored center and different inner. Otherwise, the Silverado looks much the same as the one we drove back in 2014 with a boxy, muscular shape. The LTZ is the middle ground in the Silverado lineup between blue-collar LT and luxurious High Country trims, and that puts it in a tough spot. You can see this in the interior as GM tries to straddle the middle and ultimately fails. The faux leather upholstery isn’t nice to sit on due to a waxy feel. The trim pieces may look nice at first glance, but look closer and you can easily tell they are plastic. I would be willing to give this a pass, but not when said truck is a hair over $60,000. General Motors does earn some points back when it comes to their half-ton’s interior layout. With large buttons and knobs placed in logical places, GM knows keep keeping it simple earns big points from truck buyers. The same is true for Chevrolet’s Intellilink infotainment system with an easy to navigate menu system, legible graphics, and redundant controls for common controls. As mentioned, our Silverado came with the big 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It comes hooked up to an eight-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. Two-wheel drive comes standard. The 6.2L V8 engine is the biggest ace up the Silverado’s sleeve. Not only does it provide some impressive towing numbers - 11,700 with the max trailering package, but it also moves this truck like it was something smaller. 0-60 mph is said to take around six seconds which is quite impressive. Plus, it makes the right noises when you step on the accelerator. Fuel economy for the 6.2L V8 is the same as the 5.3L V8 when equipped similarly (eight-speed automatic and 4WD) - 15 City/20 Highway/17 Combined. We saw an average of 16.2 mpg for our short test period in mostly city driving. The only downside to the 6.2L V8? You can only get it on the LTZ and High Country trims. It would be nice if Chevrolet made it optional on lower LT trim. We’ve considered General Motors’ half-tons to run a close second to the Ram 1500 in terms of ride quality. Despite sticking with leaf-springs in the rear, GM somehow tuned the suspension to provide a compliant ride over any surface. It needs to be noted that the Max Trailering package does ride somewhat firmer due to a new suspension package which brings heavy-duty springs and revised shock tuning. We now need to talk about price. As we mentioned, the as-tested price of our Silverado 1500 LTZ tester came in at $60,020 mostly due to the large amount of options equipped. If I were buying an LTZ, I would skip the power assist steps, 20-inch chrome wheels, Siren Red paint, and max trailering package. to help bring the price to around $55,500 or so. It is still an expensive proposition, but it becomes slightly easier to swallow. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Silverado, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Chevrolet Model: Silverado 1500 Trim: LTZ Crew Cab Engine: 6.2L VVT DI with Active Fuel Management V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 5600 Torque @ RPM: 460 @ 4100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/20/17 Curb Weight: 5,299 lbs* Location of Manufacture: Silao, GJ, Mexico Base Price: $47,175 As Tested Price: $60,020 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge) *Curb weight of a base Silverado 4WD crew cab. Options: 6.2L V8 w/Eight-Speed Automatic - $2,695.00 Power and Articulating Assist Steps - $1,695.00 20-Inch Chrome Wheels - $1,495.00 Enhanced Driver Package - $945.00 Max Trailering Package - $925.00 LTZ Plus Package - $770.00 Heated & Ventilated Front Seats - $650.00 Leather Appointed Buckets with Center Console - $510.00 8-inch MyLink with Navigation - $495.00 Siren Red Tintcoat- $495.00 Spray-On Bedliner - $495.00 Chrome Trailering Mirrors with Power Folding - $295.00 Cargo Box with LED Lighting - $125.00 Moveable Upper Tie Dows - $60.00 View full article
  10. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 24, 2012 Back in August, I had the chance to drive the new 2013 Mazda CX-5 for a week. The CX-5 featured the whole suite of Mazda’s SKYACTIV tech; engine, transmission, and lightweight construction. But what happens when you only take two out of the three parts of SKYACTIV? Well, you get the 2012 Mazda3i which comes equipped with the SKYACTIV engine and transmission. Does having two parts of SKYACTIV make the 3i a competent compact car or not? The 3’s exterior looks pretty much the same as it was introduced back in 2009, a design that doesn’t go for the cliché of the month. Up front, the big grin grille has been toned down a little and the front headlights now have blue accent rings, quietly signifying that you’re driving a SKYACTIV model. Along the side, Mazda designers have embellished the front fenders and placed a set of sixteen-inch alloy wheels into the wheel wells. Inside the 3, the same story applies. The interior is draped in black trim and seats. Thankfully, Mazda has added some other colors to give some variation. This included some silver trim along the dash and adding variety of colors for the illumination of the gauges and center stack (blue, red, and white). Materials range from hard plastics on the dash to soft touch materials on the door rests. All of the materials feel like they should belong in a $25,000 vehicle. As for build quality, the 3i Hatchback passed with flying colors with no apparent gaps or loose pieces. The front seats are well-bolstered and provide a good amount of adjustments for both driver and passenger. Back-seat passengers will find a decent amount of headroom and legroom. Be forewarned though; the seats are really firm, meaning this isn’t really a good choice for long trips. Cargo space for the Mazda3 hatchback measures out to be 17.8 cu.ft. with the rear seats up and 42.8 cu.ft. with the rear seats down. This puts the 3 hatchback on the smallish side when compared with the Ford Focus Hatchback and Hyundai Elantra GT. The 3 I had in for review was the top of the line Grand Touring trim that comes equipped with heated leather seats, power driver’s seat, Bluetooth, sunroof, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 265-watt Bose CenterPoint audio system, color Multi-Information Display, and navigation. My biggest complaint with the 3’s interior deals with the screens on the dash and the navigation. For starters, the Mazda3i comes with two screens. The screen the left is where trip computer, information about what you’re listening to, and navigation. To the right is where another screen displays what input you’re listening to. I feel this layout is just somewhat redundant and confusing. Also, the left screen is on the smallish side. Taking a quick glance at the screen is somewhat of a joke. Then there is the navigation system, which resides in the left screen, meaning you have to deal with smallness. Plus, if you want to enter an address or destination, you have to you use controls on the steering wheel to do it. This is slow way to input a destination and made me wish for a touchscreen. Hopefully with the next-generation 3, Mazda condenses the two screens into one. Next: Power, Ride, and Verdict Powering the 3i is Mazda’s 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder producing 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 148 lb-ft (@ 4100 RPM). If you decide to get a 3i Grand Touring model, you can only equip it with a six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic. Want a manual? You’ll have to drop to the 3i Touring model. Compared to the CX-5 with the same powertrain, the 3i's difference is night and day.The sluggishness and need to rev the engine in the CX-5 is non-existent in the 3. Instead, the SKYACTIV-G is very spritely and willing to get you up to speed quickly. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Also, I found the transmission to downshift much quicker than in the CX-5. What’s the reason for different engine behavior in the two vehicles? Weight. The CX-5 FWD Touring I had back August tipped the scales at 3,272 lbs. The Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback tips the scales at 2,969 lbs. That’s a difference of 303 lbs. The EPA rates the Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback at 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week was a surprising 34 MPG on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I averaged 40 MPG. Mazda’s are known for their fun to drive aspect in their vehicles and the 3 is no exception to this. Mazda employs Macpherson struts up front; a multi-link setup in the back, stabilizer bars, and a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system. All of these components make the 3 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension keeps the vehicle in check and controllable when going into the turns. The steering is weighted just right and provides the right amount of road feel. With the 3 being lively on a fun road, it does fall short when on a day to day basis. The suspension doesn’t cope well with minimizing the impacts of bumps and imperfections on the road. There is also a good amount of road noise, meaning you’ll have to speak a little bit louder to your passengers. Going back to the question I asked in the first paragraph: Does having two out of three parts of SKYACTIV make the Mazda3i a competent compact car or not? The answer is a resounding yes. By adding the SKYACTIV powertrain package, Mazda has revitalized the 3 to better compete with the current crop of compact cars with improved gas mileage and some very impressive handling. There are some shortfalls with the Mazda3i which include a rough ride for day to day driving, a surprising amount of road noise, confusing screens, and some uncomfortable seats. But if you can overlook the problems, the Mazda3i Hatchback is possibly the best balance of fun and efficiency in the compact car class. Cheers: Fuel Economy SKYACTIV-G Engine Much More Lively Quick and Smooth Automatic Unique Styling Sporty Ride Jeers: The Two Screens on the Dash Seats Becoming Uncomfortable After Awhile Interior Cargo Space On Small Side Sporty Ride Not Pleasant on Rough Roads Road Noise Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2012 Make – Mazda Model – 3 Trim – i Grand Touring Hatchback Engine – 2.0L SKYACTIV-G Four-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, SKYACTIV-Drive Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 155 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 148 lb-ft (@ 4,100 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32 Curb Weight – 2,969 lbs Location of Manufacture – Houfu, Japan Base Price - $23,150.00 As Tested Price - $25,345.00 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  11. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 24, 2012 Back in August, I had the chance to drive the new 2013 Mazda CX-5 for a week. The CX-5 featured the whole suite of Mazda’s SKYACTIV tech; engine, transmission, and lightweight construction. But what happens when you only take two out of the three parts of SKYACTIV? Well, you get the 2012 Mazda3i which comes equipped with the SKYACTIV engine and transmission. Does having two parts of SKYACTIV make the 3i a competent compact car or not? The 3’s exterior looks pretty much the same as it was introduced back in 2009, a design that doesn’t go for the cliché of the month. Up front, the big grin grille has been toned down a little and the front headlights now have blue accent rings, quietly signifying that you’re driving a SKYACTIV model. Along the side, Mazda designers have embellished the front fenders and placed a set of sixteen-inch alloy wheels into the wheel wells. Inside the 3, the same story applies. The interior is draped in black trim and seats. Thankfully, Mazda has added some other colors to give some variation. This included some silver trim along the dash and adding variety of colors for the illumination of the gauges and center stack (blue, red, and white). Materials range from hard plastics on the dash to soft touch materials on the door rests. All of the materials feel like they should belong in a $25,000 vehicle. As for build quality, the 3i Hatchback passed with flying colors with no apparent gaps or loose pieces. The front seats are well-bolstered and provide a good amount of adjustments for both driver and passenger. Back-seat passengers will find a decent amount of headroom and legroom. Be forewarned though; the seats are really firm, meaning this isn’t really a good choice for long trips. Cargo space for the Mazda3 hatchback measures out to be 17.8 cu.ft. with the rear seats up and 42.8 cu.ft. with the rear seats down. This puts the 3 hatchback on the smallish side when compared with the Ford Focus Hatchback and Hyundai Elantra GT. The 3 I had in for review was the top of the line Grand Touring trim that comes equipped with heated leather seats, power driver’s seat, Bluetooth, sunroof, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 265-watt Bose CenterPoint audio system, color Multi-Information Display, and navigation. My biggest complaint with the 3’s interior deals with the screens on the dash and the navigation. For starters, the Mazda3i comes with two screens. The screen the left is where trip computer, information about what you’re listening to, and navigation. To the right is where another screen displays what input you’re listening to. I feel this layout is just somewhat redundant and confusing. Also, the left screen is on the smallish side. Taking a quick glance at the screen is somewhat of a joke. Then there is the navigation system, which resides in the left screen, meaning you have to deal with smallness. Plus, if you want to enter an address or destination, you have to you use controls on the steering wheel to do it. This is slow way to input a destination and made me wish for a touchscreen. Hopefully with the next-generation 3, Mazda condenses the two screens into one. Next: Power, Ride, and Verdict Powering the 3i is Mazda’s 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder producing 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 148 lb-ft (@ 4100 RPM). If you decide to get a 3i Grand Touring model, you can only equip it with a six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic. Want a manual? You’ll have to drop to the 3i Touring model. Compared to the CX-5 with the same powertrain, the 3i's difference is night and day.The sluggishness and need to rev the engine in the CX-5 is non-existent in the 3. Instead, the SKYACTIV-G is very spritely and willing to get you up to speed quickly. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Also, I found the transmission to downshift much quicker than in the CX-5. What’s the reason for different engine behavior in the two vehicles? Weight. The CX-5 FWD Touring I had back August tipped the scales at 3,272 lbs. The Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback tips the scales at 2,969 lbs. That’s a difference of 303 lbs. The EPA rates the Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback at 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week was a surprising 34 MPG on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I averaged 40 MPG. Mazda’s are known for their fun to drive aspect in their vehicles and the 3 is no exception to this. Mazda employs Macpherson struts up front; a multi-link setup in the back, stabilizer bars, and a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system. All of these components make the 3 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension keeps the vehicle in check and controllable when going into the turns. The steering is weighted just right and provides the right amount of road feel. With the 3 being lively on a fun road, it does fall short when on a day to day basis. The suspension doesn’t cope well with minimizing the impacts of bumps and imperfections on the road. There is also a good amount of road noise, meaning you’ll have to speak a little bit louder to your passengers. Going back to the question I asked in the first paragraph: Does having two out of three parts of SKYACTIV make the Mazda3i a competent compact car or not? The answer is a resounding yes. By adding the SKYACTIV powertrain package, Mazda has revitalized the 3 to better compete with the current crop of compact cars with improved gas mileage and some very impressive handling. There are some shortfalls with the Mazda3i which include a rough ride for day to day driving, a surprising amount of road noise, confusing screens, and some uncomfortable seats. But if you can overlook the problems, the Mazda3i Hatchback is possibly the best balance of fun and efficiency in the compact car class. Cheers: Fuel Economy SKYACTIV-G Engine Much More Lively Quick and Smooth Automatic Unique Styling Sporty Ride Jeers: The Two Screens on the Dash Seats Becoming Uncomfortable After Awhile Interior Cargo Space On Small Side Sporty Ride Not Pleasant on Rough Roads Road Noise Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2012 Make – Mazda Model – 3 Trim – i Grand Touring Hatchback Engine – 2.0L SKYACTIV-G Four-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, SKYACTIV-Drive Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 155 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 148 lb-ft (@ 4,100 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32 Curb Weight – 2,969 lbs Location of Manufacture – Houfu, Japan Base Price - $23,150.00 As Tested Price - $25,345.00 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  12. Kia’s second attempt at a full-size sedan, the Cadenza wasn’t a big success for the company. Over the course of four years, less than 30,000 Cadenzas were sold. This might make you think Kia would get out of this segment. Not so. Last year, Kia introduced an all-new Cadenza with various improvements to try and improve the fortunes of it. Let us see if they make a difference. The previous-generation Cadenza didn’t really stand out in terms of design. The only distinctive item you could point out was the tiger nose grille. Otherwise, it was 195.7-inches of car. This has been addressed with the redesign of the Cadenza and it looks quite sharp. Up front, Kia has widened and added a concave shape to the tiger nose grille The front LED headlights feature a unique Z-strand to provide some eye candy. Move towards the side and it looks like an Audi A7 in profile with the hatchback-esq sloping roofline. Kia has made some noticeable improvements to the Cadenza to look and feel more premium. There is abundance of soft-touch materials used on the dashboard and door panels, along with surprising touches such as the dark wood trim and quilted leather on the seat bolsters. The center stack has been slightly tweaked with a revised layout that makes it easier to find the various functions. In terms of tech, the Cadenza Limited features an 8-inch touchscreen with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. We like UVO as its interface is simple to understand and is quite fast in terms of performance. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto add another plus point for this system. The Limited also comes with a heads-up display which can display speed, navigation, and other details. In our test car, the display was quite blurry and you had to really focus on it to make out what it was showing. Hopefully, this issue was only limited to this particular vehicle. Those sitting the back will appreciate the large amount of legroom available. Headroom is quite tight for taller passengers due to the roofline and optional panoramic sunroof. Power comes from a 3.3L V6 offering up 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. This is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic. Compared to the last Cadenza we drove back in 2013, the new model feels slightly quicker. Part of that can be attributed to the new automatic that helps keep the engine in the sweet spot of power. However, the Cadenza does lose out to competitors in terms of acceleration. Those who timed the Cadenza to 60 mph said it takes between 6.5 to 6.8 seconds, which puts it on the slow end of the full-size sedan class. Fuel economy also falls behind competitors with EPA figures of 20 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. I saw an average of 22.1 mpg for the week with mostly city driving. Kia has done a great job of giving the Cadenza one of the smoothest rides in the class. Even roads ladened with potholes are mostly ironed out. Road and wind noises are kept to very acceptable levels. This does mean the Cadenza shows a fair amount of body roll when cornering. Passengers will be bracing themselves if you decide to take a corner a bit too fast. For most buyers, this isn’t a huge deal. Our test Cadenza Limited rung in at $45,290 with destination, which is a lot of cash to drop on a big sedan. It is a nice sedan and can justify the large price tag, but will people be willing to spend that much for a Kia? Personally, I would get the Technology as that gets you everything you need and comes in under $39,000. It seems odd that Kia is competing in a class where their previous attempts didn’t really make a dent. But the second-generation Cadenza shows Kia isn’t willing to give up in a certain class. While the full-size sedan class is venturing into the sunset, it is nice to see automakers give it their all to produce models that stand out. The Cadenza is a prime example of this. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Cadenza, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Kia Model: Cadenza Trim: Limited Engine: 3.3L DOHC 24-Valve GDI V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 253 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/28/23 Curb Weight: 3,770 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hwaseong, South Korea Base Price: $44,390.00 As Tested Price: $45,290.00 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  13. Kia’s second attempt at a full-size sedan, the Cadenza wasn’t a big success for the company. Over the course of four years, less than 30,000 Cadenzas were sold. This might make you think Kia would get out of this segment. Not so. Last year, Kia introduced an all-new Cadenza with various improvements to try and improve the fortunes of it. Let us see if they make a difference. The previous-generation Cadenza didn’t really stand out in terms of design. The only distinctive item you could point out was the tiger nose grille. Otherwise, it was 195.7-inches of car. This has been addressed with the redesign of the Cadenza and it looks quite sharp. Up front, Kia has widened and added a concave shape to the tiger nose grille The front LED headlights feature a unique Z-strand to provide some eye candy. Move towards the side and it looks like an Audi A7 in profile with the hatchback-esq sloping roofline. Kia has made some noticeable improvements to the Cadenza to look and feel more premium. There is abundance of soft-touch materials used on the dashboard and door panels, along with surprising touches such as the dark wood trim and quilted leather on the seat bolsters. The center stack has been slightly tweaked with a revised layout that makes it easier to find the various functions. In terms of tech, the Cadenza Limited features an 8-inch touchscreen with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. We like UVO as its interface is simple to understand and is quite fast in terms of performance. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto add another plus point for this system. The Limited also comes with a heads-up display which can display speed, navigation, and other details. In our test car, the display was quite blurry and you had to really focus on it to make out what it was showing. Hopefully, this issue was only limited to this particular vehicle. Those sitting the back will appreciate the large amount of legroom available. Headroom is quite tight for taller passengers due to the roofline and optional panoramic sunroof. Power comes from a 3.3L V6 offering up 290 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. This is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic. Compared to the last Cadenza we drove back in 2013, the new model feels slightly quicker. Part of that can be attributed to the new automatic that helps keep the engine in the sweet spot of power. However, the Cadenza does lose out to competitors in terms of acceleration. Those who timed the Cadenza to 60 mph said it takes between 6.5 to 6.8 seconds, which puts it on the slow end of the full-size sedan class. Fuel economy also falls behind competitors with EPA figures of 20 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. I saw an average of 22.1 mpg for the week with mostly city driving. Kia has done a great job of giving the Cadenza one of the smoothest rides in the class. Even roads ladened with potholes are mostly ironed out. Road and wind noises are kept to very acceptable levels. This does mean the Cadenza shows a fair amount of body roll when cornering. Passengers will be bracing themselves if you decide to take a corner a bit too fast. For most buyers, this isn’t a huge deal. Our test Cadenza Limited rung in at $45,290 with destination, which is a lot of cash to drop on a big sedan. It is a nice sedan and can justify the large price tag, but will people be willing to spend that much for a Kia? Personally, I would get the Technology as that gets you everything you need and comes in under $39,000. It seems odd that Kia is competing in a class where their previous attempts didn’t really make a dent. But the second-generation Cadenza shows Kia isn’t willing to give up in a certain class. While the full-size sedan class is venturing into the sunset, it is nice to see automakers give it their all to produce models that stand out. The Cadenza is a prime example of this. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Cadenza, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Kia Model: Cadenza Trim: Limited Engine: 3.3L DOHC 24-Valve GDI V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 253 @ 5,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/28/23 Curb Weight: 3,770 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hwaseong, South Korea Base Price: $44,390.00 As Tested Price: $45,290.00 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  14. It is quite amazing how in the past few years, the humble heavy-duty pickup has morphed into a prized luxury vehicle. You might think that I am crazy for writing this, but consider how in the few years, truck manufacturers have been tailoring their models to appeal to a new audience. From new trim levels that focus primarily on luxury to new features that one would expect to find in an expensive sedan such as massaging front seats and high-quality leather. That doesn’t mean these luxury pickups have forgotten their main priority; to shoulder the weight of the world in terms of hauling and towing. Recently, we spent a week in the GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD and Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn to get a reading on where luxury heavy-duty trucks currently stand. Exterior Neither one of these trucks has gone through any significant changes since we last reviewed them. The 2500HD comes with a new hood scoop if you option the Duramax V8 turbodiesel, while certain Ram models such as our tester come with a new grille insert featuring “RAM”. The two trucks could not be more different in terms of design elements. The Denali is more modern with a mesh grille, square headlights with LED strands, and a seemingly endless amount of chrome trim. We've found ourselves wondering if we could blind anyone while driving if the sun hit the Denali in just the right way. Meanwhile, the Laramie Longhorn feels right at home on a farm or ranch. The two-tone paint scheme of brown and beige really sets off the Ram 2500, along with the meaty 18-inch chrome wheels. The ‘RAM’ grille is a bit much, but at least it doesn’t come with large chrome lettering on the tailgate that can be reportedly seen from space. Our test truck came with Ram Box storage system. We like the additional storage and ability for the boxes to be locked, but it also means the bed is slightly narrower than a truck without it. Interior At one time, Sierra Denali was considered the pinnacle of luxury for pickup trucks. But now it pales in comparison to the likes the Ram and Ford. The Sierra Denali has the basics such as leather upholstery and stitching on the dash. But that’s about it as there isn’t the option of wood or aluminum trim. Instead, you get painted and faux-chrome like on other Sierra models. A lack of special touches hurt the Denali as well. It would be nice if there was some exclusive feature for the Denali such as a premium audio system or massaging seats. On the upside, the dashboard is laid out in a logical fashion and controls are within easy reach. Both rows of seats provide excellent support for long trips and plenty of space for most passengers. The Sierra also earns points for having numerous USB ports. Getting in and out of the Sierra 2500HD is slightly easier than the Ram 2500 as the cab height is slightly lower. Ram does a better a job in terms of luxury appointments. The Laramie Longhorn features what Ram calls ‘Natura Plus’ leather that feels quite nice when you run your hand across it. Real wood is used on the steering wheel and center stack trim to set it apart from other trims. Rear seat passengers will like the availability of heated seats, something not available on the Denali. There are other touches such as different background for the gauge package and seat pockets that are designed to look like saddle bags. It might look ridiculous to some, but Ram deserves some credit for trying to stand out. Like the Sierra, Ram has a well-laid out dashboard with controls in the place you would expect. Seats aren’t as comfortable as the Sierra, but the 2500 does match it in terms of interior space. The Ram 2500 is somewhat harder to get in as feel like to you have to take a running leap, despite there being entry rails and grab handles. It is also quite the drop when getting out. Technology If there is an area that the Sierra leapfrogs the Ram, it is in technology. The Denali comes with an eight-inch screen featuring GMC’s Intellilink system as standard. This system has been improving since we first tried it a few years ago with improved performance and better stability. The only thing that needs to fixed is the slow response of the navigation system when first launched. Using the system is easy thanks to a simple interface and physical buttons underneath the screen. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto give Intellilink more of an edge over other systems. Ram’s UConnect system was for a time considered one of the best systems thanks to a large screen and interface that offers large touchscreen buttons. It still retains these plus points, but it looks quite dated to the system found in the Sierra. A lot of this comes down to the interface which hasn’t changed since UConnect was launched a few years ago. There is a new version of UConnect that FCA has implemented into various models such as the Pacifica and the 2017 Dodge Charger that brings an updated look along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Sadly, the Ram 2500 misses out on this and it is unclear whether it will get in this current-generation or in a redesign. Performance Both trucks came with their respective optional diesel engines. For the Sierra Denali 2500HD, it is an updated 6.6L Duramax turbodiesel V8 offering 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque. Ram sticks with 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel inline-six with 370 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come paired with six-speed automatic transmissions, but the Ram is available with a six-speed manual. On paper, the Sierra Denali 2500HD smokes the Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn and this plays out in the real world as well. The Duramax gets the Sierra 2500HD up to speed at a surprising rate. It feels more like a muscle car thanks to an abundance of low-end torque and being the lightest truck in the class - 6,532 lbs for a 4WD crew cab and 6’6” box vs. 7,625 lbs for the Ram 2500 when similarly equipped. A lot of these performance gains come from changes GM made to the Duramax V8 for 2017 with most of the engine’s internals being replaced and new cool air system with a hood vent. Aside from increased power, the changes also affect how quiet this engine is. Start the engine up and you’ll faintly hear the diesel clatter from inside. The 6.7L Cummins cannot match the Duramax in outright performance. It takes about a second or two longer to hit the same speed as the Duramax. The large deficit in power and being slightly heavier than the Sierra 2500HD are the main reasons as to why. Not helping matters is the Cummins being quite louder than Duramax. At idle, it sounds like a semi-truck. Fuel Economy Neither truck is rated by the EPA as they're exempted from testing due to their heavy weight. In our week-long evaluation, both trucks returned an average of 15 mpg in mostly city driving. Towing Ram shines here as the maximum tow rating for our particular configuration (crew cab, 6’6” bed, and 4WD) comes in 17,200 lbs. GMC comes up short at 13,000 lbs in the same configuration. Ride and Handling While the Sierra Denali 2500HD may trail the Ram in terms of towing, it runs away when it comes to the ride. Despite sticking with a set leaf-springs in the rear, the Sierra 2500HD does a better job smoothing out bumps than the Ram’s coil-spring setup when the beds are empty. Fill them up and it becomes a dead heat in terms of ride quality. Ram does claw some points back as body motions are controlled better when turning and the steering doesn’t wander as much when driven on the highway. Noise isolation goes to the GMC as there has been a fair amount of work done on adding more sound insulation to the truck, along with the improvements made to the engine. Value Both of these trucks are expensive propositions. The Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn comes in at $73,310 as equipped and the Sierra Denali 2500HD is slightly less at $70,540. The key reason for the high prices are the optional diesel engines - $8,700 for the Ram and $9,550 for the Sierra. Considering how much power you get, we give this to Sierra by a hair. Verdict If we consider these two trucks as luxury models, then we would rank the Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn ahead of the Sierra Denali. It makes passengers feel special with various touches such as the unique leather for the trim and heated rear seats. But both trucks pale in comparison to all-new Ford F-Series Super Duty that brings massaging seats and impressive material qualities in its top trim. But when it comes to heavy-duty truck things, the GMC Sierra Denali stands above. While the Ram 2500 may have the more impressive towing numbers, the Sierra fights back with the more powerful diesel engine, better NVH containment, and a more comfortable ride. Hence why it takes this comparison test by a very narrow margin. Disclaimer: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors Provided the trucks, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: GMC Model: Sierra 2500HD Trim: Denali Engine: 6.6L Duramax Turbodiesel V8 Driveline: Allison Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 445 @ 2,800 Torque @ RPM: 910 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A Curb Weight: 6,532 lbs Location of Manufacture: Flint, MI Base Price: $58,495 As Tested Price: $70,540 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge and $750.00 Duramax Plus Package Discount) Options: Duramax Plus Package - $9,550.00 Power Sunroof - $995.00 Dark Slate Metallic - $395.00 5th Wheel/Gooseneck Trailer Hi Tch Prep Package - $370.00 Off-Road Suspension Package - $180.00 Roof Marker Lamps - $55.00 Radiator Cover - $55.00 Year: 2017 Make: Ram Model: 2500 Trim: Laramie Longhorn Engine: 6.7L Cummins Turbodiesel Inline-Six Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 370 @ 2,800 Torque @ RPM: 800 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A Curb Weight: 7,625 lbs Location of Manufacture: Saltillo, Mexico Base Price: $57,575 As Tested Price: $73,310 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge) Options: 6.7L Cummins Turbodiesel Inline-Six - $8,700.00 RamBox Cargo Management System - $1,295.00 Power Sunroof - $1,095.00 Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover - $545.00 Convenience Group - $395.00 Wheel to Wheel Side Steps - $395.00 Center High-Mount Stop Lamp w/Cargo View Camera - $345.00 LT275/70R18E OWL On/Off-Road Tires - $245.00 Off-Road Package - $200.00 Keyless Enter n' Go - $195.00 Power Chrome Trailer Tow Mirrors w/Power Fold Away - $195.00 Rear Window Defroster - $195.00 Clearance Lamps - $95.00
  15. It is quite amazing how in the past few years, the humble heavy-duty pickup has morphed into a prized luxury vehicle. You might think that I am crazy for writing this, but consider how in the few years, truck manufacturers have been tailoring their models to appeal to a new audience. From new trim levels that focus primarily on luxury to new features that one would expect to find in an expensive sedan such as massaging front seats and high-quality leather. That doesn’t mean these luxury pickups have forgotten their main priority; to shoulder the weight of the world in terms of hauling and towing. Recently, we spent a week in the GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD and Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn to get a reading on where luxury heavy-duty trucks currently stand. Exterior Neither one of these trucks has gone through any significant changes since we last reviewed them. The 2500HD comes with a new hood scoop if you option the Duramax V8 turbodiesel, while certain Ram models such as our tester come with a new grille insert featuring “RAM”. The two trucks could not be more different in terms of design elements. The Denali is more modern with a mesh grille, square headlights with LED strands, and a seemingly endless amount of chrome trim. We've found ourselves wondering if we could blind anyone while driving if the sun hit the Denali in just the right way. Meanwhile, the Laramie Longhorn feels right at home on a farm or ranch. The two-tone paint scheme of brown and beige really sets off the Ram 2500, along with the meaty 18-inch chrome wheels. The ‘RAM’ grille is a bit much, but at least it doesn’t come with large chrome lettering on the tailgate that can be reportedly seen from space. Our test truck came with Ram Box storage system. We like the additional storage and ability for the boxes to be locked, but it also means the bed is slightly narrower than a truck without it. Interior At one time, Sierra Denali was considered the pinnacle of luxury for pickup trucks. But now it pales in comparison to the likes the Ram and Ford. The Sierra Denali has the basics such as leather upholstery and stitching on the dash. But that’s about it as there isn’t the option of wood or aluminum trim. Instead, you get painted and faux-chrome like on other Sierra models. A lack of special touches hurt the Denali as well. It would be nice if there was some exclusive feature for the Denali such as a premium audio system or massaging seats. On the upside, the dashboard is laid out in a logical fashion and controls are within easy reach. Both rows of seats provide excellent support for long trips and plenty of space for most passengers. The Sierra also earns points for having numerous USB ports. Getting in and out of the Sierra 2500HD is slightly easier than the Ram 2500 as the cab height is slightly lower. Ram does a better a job in terms of luxury appointments. The Laramie Longhorn features what Ram calls ‘Natura Plus’ leather that feels quite nice when you run your hand across it. Real wood is used on the steering wheel and center stack trim to set it apart from other trims. Rear seat passengers will like the availability of heated seats, something not available on the Denali. There are other touches such as different background for the gauge package and seat pockets that are designed to look like saddle bags. It might look ridiculous to some, but Ram deserves some credit for trying to stand out. Like the Sierra, Ram has a well-laid out dashboard with controls in the place you would expect. Seats aren’t as comfortable as the Sierra, but the 2500 does match it in terms of interior space. The Ram 2500 is somewhat harder to get in as feel like to you have to take a running leap, despite there being entry rails and grab handles. It is also quite the drop when getting out. Technology If there is an area that the Sierra leapfrogs the Ram, it is in technology. The Denali comes with an eight-inch screen featuring GMC’s Intellilink system as standard. This system has been improving since we first tried it a few years ago with improved performance and better stability. The only thing that needs to fixed is the slow response of the navigation system when first launched. Using the system is easy thanks to a simple interface and physical buttons underneath the screen. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto give Intellilink more of an edge over other systems. Ram’s UConnect system was for a time considered one of the best systems thanks to a large screen and interface that offers large touchscreen buttons. It still retains these plus points, but it looks quite dated to the system found in the Sierra. A lot of this comes down to the interface which hasn’t changed since UConnect was launched a few years ago. There is a new version of UConnect that FCA has implemented into various models such as the Pacifica and the 2017 Dodge Charger that brings an updated look along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Sadly, the Ram 2500 misses out on this and it is unclear whether it will get in this current-generation or in a redesign. Performance Both trucks came with their respective optional diesel engines. For the Sierra Denali 2500HD, it is an updated 6.6L Duramax turbodiesel V8 offering 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque. Ram sticks with 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel inline-six with 370 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come paired with six-speed automatic transmissions, but the Ram is available with a six-speed manual. On paper, the Sierra Denali 2500HD smokes the Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn and this plays out in the real world as well. The Duramax gets the Sierra 2500HD up to speed at a surprising rate. It feels more like a muscle car thanks to an abundance of low-end torque and being the lightest truck in the class - 6,532 lbs for a 4WD crew cab and 6’6” box vs. 7,625 lbs for the Ram 2500 when similarly equipped. A lot of these performance gains come from changes GM made to the Duramax V8 for 2017 with most of the engine’s internals being replaced and new cool air system with a hood vent. Aside from increased power, the changes also affect how quiet this engine is. Start the engine up and you’ll faintly hear the diesel clatter from inside. The 6.7L Cummins cannot match the Duramax in outright performance. It takes about a second or two longer to hit the same speed as the Duramax. The large deficit in power and being slightly heavier than the Sierra 2500HD are the main reasons as to why. Not helping matters is the Cummins being quite louder than Duramax. At idle, it sounds like a semi-truck. Fuel Economy Neither truck is rated by the EPA as they're exempted from testing due to their heavy weight. In our week-long evaluation, both trucks returned an average of 15 mpg in mostly city driving. Towing Ram shines here as the maximum tow rating for our particular configuration (crew cab, 6’6” bed, and 4WD) comes in 17,200 lbs. GMC comes up short at 13,000 lbs in the same configuration. Ride and Handling While the Sierra Denali 2500HD may trail the Ram in terms of towing, it runs away when it comes to the ride. Despite sticking with a set leaf-springs in the rear, the Sierra 2500HD does a better job smoothing out bumps than the Ram’s coil-spring setup when the beds are empty. Fill them up and it becomes a dead heat in terms of ride quality. Ram does claw some points back as body motions are controlled better when turning and the steering doesn’t wander as much when driven on the highway. Noise isolation goes to the GMC as there has been a fair amount of work done on adding more sound insulation to the truck, along with the improvements made to the engine. Value Both of these trucks are expensive propositions. The Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn comes in at $73,310 as equipped and the Sierra Denali 2500HD is slightly less at $70,540. The key reason for the high prices are the optional diesel engines - $8,700 for the Ram and $9,550 for the Sierra. Considering how much power you get, we give this to Sierra by a hair. Verdict If we consider these two trucks as luxury models, then we would rank the Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn ahead of the Sierra Denali. It makes passengers feel special with various touches such as the unique leather for the trim and heated rear seats. But both trucks pale in comparison to all-new Ford F-Series Super Duty that brings massaging seats and impressive material qualities in its top trim. But when it comes to heavy-duty truck things, the GMC Sierra Denali stands above. While the Ram 2500 may have the more impressive towing numbers, the Sierra fights back with the more powerful diesel engine, better NVH containment, and a more comfortable ride. Hence why it takes this comparison test by a very narrow margin. Disclaimer: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors Provided the trucks, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: GMC Model: Sierra 2500HD Trim: Denali Engine: 6.6L Duramax Turbodiesel V8 Driveline: Allison Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 445 @ 2,800 Torque @ RPM: 910 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A Curb Weight: 6,532 lbs Location of Manufacture: Flint, MI Base Price: $58,495 As Tested Price: $70,540 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge and $750.00 Duramax Plus Package Discount) Options: Duramax Plus Package - $9,550.00 Power Sunroof - $995.00 Dark Slate Metallic - $395.00 5th Wheel/Gooseneck Trailer Hi Tch Prep Package - $370.00 Off-Road Suspension Package - $180.00 Roof Marker Lamps - $55.00 Radiator Cover - $55.00 Year: 2017 Make: Ram Model: 2500 Trim: Laramie Longhorn Engine: 6.7L Cummins Turbodiesel Inline-Six Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 370 @ 2,800 Torque @ RPM: 800 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A Curb Weight: 7,625 lbs Location of Manufacture: Saltillo, Mexico Base Price: $57,575 As Tested Price: $73,310 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge) Options: 6.7L Cummins Turbodiesel Inline-Six - $8,700.00 RamBox Cargo Management System - $1,295.00 Power Sunroof - $1,095.00 Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover - $545.00 Convenience Group - $395.00 Wheel to Wheel Side Steps - $395.00 Center High-Mount Stop Lamp w/Cargo View Camera - $345.00 LT275/70R18E OWL On/Off-Road Tires - $245.00 Off-Road Package - $200.00 Keyless Enter n' Go - $195.00 Power Chrome Trailer Tow Mirrors w/Power Fold Away - $195.00 Rear Window Defroster - $195.00 Clearance Lamps - $95.00 View full article
  16. There has been a common theme for most of the Cadillac vehicles I have reviewed over the past few years. They are always so close to being up there with the best, but there is one thing or trait that knocks them down. Such examples include interior appointments that don’t match up with the price being asked, confusing infotainment systems, and engines that don’t quite match up with the image being portrayed. This was floating around in the back of my head when a 2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum rolled up onto my driveway. This is an important model for Cadillac as it is taking on the likes of the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The little things can make or break a sedan in the class. Seeing the Cadillac CT6 for the first time at Detroit Auto Show a few years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. The toned-down Art & Science design made me feel that the CT6 blended in with other luxury sedans. But after spending a bit of time with this CT6, I grew to like the design. Yes, the design language has lost some edge found on other Cadillacs, but there is still some sharpness with hard angles and bold lines. The Platinum adds some touches that really bring out the CT6’s shape. A chrome grille helps give the model a more imposing front end and a set of optional 20-inch wheels finished in ‘Midnight Silver’ do an excellent job of filling in the wheel wells. If there has been a consistent weak point to Cadillac’s recent models, it has to be interior. On first glance, it seems they have it nailed down with a modern design and quality materials. But when you sit inside and begin to take a closer look, that illusion begins to go away. A fair amount of the materials used doesn't quite match up the luxury aura being presented such as the sheet piano black trim used for touch-sensitive controls on a number of Cadillac models. But the brand is improving as we noted in our XT5 review, and the CT6 is much the same. There is a noticeable step-up in terms of materials such as fine leather, carbon fiber accents, and wood trim. This comes wrapped in a handsomely-designed dashboard. There are some areas Cadillac still needs to do some work on such as the plasticity controls for the climate control system. The front seats are a treat to sit in thanks to the right amount of cushioning and support. The Platinum trim gets 20-way power seats for both the driver and passenger to help dial in the right position. Those sitting in the back will be pleased to find generous head and legroom. As added bonus, you can order heated and ventilated seats, power adjustments, and a rear entertainment system to make the back more luxurious. The only downside to sitting in the back is that the CT6 isn’t long enough to take full advantage of the power adjustments. I felt somewhat cramped when I had the back seat fully reclined and my legs touching the back of the front seat. A few more inches in the wheelbase would fix this issue. Cadillac’s CUE system has undergone some changes for the CT6. Most of the touch-sensitive buttons have either been dropped or replaced with actual, physical buttons. Being able to press a button or flick a switch to change a setting is a welcome change and less frustrating than the touch-sensitive controls. It would have been nice if Cadillac swapped the touch-sensitive volume strip for an actual knob, but at least you can adjust it via the steering wheel controls. Cadillac also added a touchpad controller (think Lexus’ Remote Touch system) for CUE. It is a nice idea on paper, but the execution shows Cadillac needs to do a bit more work. The touchpad is hypersensitive and tends to overshoot from where you want the cursor. You’re better off using the touchscreen. As for CUE itself, the system comes with a faster processor, some tweaks to the interface, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. These changes make CUE less frustrating to use on a daily basis. There are three engines on offer for the CT6. The base is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, followed by a 3.6L V6. Our Platinum tester featured the big dog; a twin-turbo 3.0L V6 offering 404 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque (@ 2,500 - 5,100 rpm) Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Performance for the twin-turbo six may not have same exuberance as V8s found in competitors, but it isn’t a slouch. This engine rockets the CT6 at a surprising rate of speed. Those who have timed the vehicle say it will hit 60 mph in around five seconds and we would believe it. Torque is abundant throughout rev range, meaning you should have no issue trying to merge on the freeway or make a pass. The eight-speed automatic has the right characteristics you want in a flagship sedan, smooth and unobtrusive shifts. EPA fuel economy figures for the CT6 3.0TT stand at 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 22 mpg in mostly city driving. Describing a sedan that measures 204 inches in overall length as ‘agile’ seems very disingenuous. But the CT6 is that. Drive it around a turn and the CT6 feels like a smaller sedan with nimble manners and well-controlled body motions. Some credit has to go Active Chassis package that comes standard on the Platinum and comes with the excellent Magnetic Ride Control system and rear-wheel steering. But most buyers who tend to buy a sedan of this caliber don’t really care about handling. Ride quality is king here and that’s where the CT6 begins to falter. When equipped with the Magnetic Ride Control system, the ride is just a touch too firm. You will feel more bumps in this than some of the CT6’s competition. It would be nice if Cadillac could offer an air suspension for those who want comfort. On the upside, road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. It seems somewhat surprising to call the CT6 Platinum a great value, but it actually is. The Platinum 3.0TT begins at $87,495 and our test car with a few options (20-inch wheels, white paint, and spoiler) comes in at $91,580. Considering you have to spend a fair amount more on competitors to match the level of equipment on offer, the CT6 Platinum is quite the steal. Most of Cadillac’s vehicles have fallen into the cliche of ‘being so close, yet so far’ due to some odd or boneheaded decision. But the CT6 is the first Cadillac that has avoided this. It feels like Cadillac is starting to feel comfortable in this new identity that it has been putting out there since the mid-2000s, a legitimate competitor to the Germans. The CT6 stands out for a number of reasons; excellent driving dynamics, impressive interior, punchy V6, and being quite the value. There are some niggling issues such as a firm ride and questionable materials, but these can and should be addressed down the road. Whether the CT6 can draw people away from the usual suspects remains to be seen. If Cadillac can take what they have learned from the CT6 and implement them into future models, then we can say something that hasn’t been used in a long time, ‘Standard of the World’. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the CT6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Cadillac Model: CT6 Trim: Platinum Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.0L DI DOHC with VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 404 @ 5,700 Torque @ RPM: 400 @ 2,500 - 5,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21 Curb Weight: 4,085 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $87,495 As Tested Price: $91,580 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 20" Midnight Silver Wheels - $2,095.00 Crystal White Tricoat - $500.00 Spoiler Kit - $495.00
  17. There has been a common theme for most of the Cadillac vehicles I have reviewed over the past few years. They are always so close to being up there with the best, but there is one thing or trait that knocks them down. Such examples include interior appointments that don’t match up with the price being asked, confusing infotainment systems, and engines that don’t quite match up with the image being portrayed. This was floating around in the back of my head when a 2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum rolled up onto my driveway. This is an important model for Cadillac as it is taking on the likes of the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The little things can make or break a sedan in the class. Seeing the Cadillac CT6 for the first time at Detroit Auto Show a few years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. The toned-down Art & Science design made me feel that the CT6 blended in with other luxury sedans. But after spending a bit of time with this CT6, I grew to like the design. Yes, the design language has lost some edge found on other Cadillacs, but there is still some sharpness with hard angles and bold lines. The Platinum adds some touches that really bring out the CT6’s shape. A chrome grille helps give the model a more imposing front end and a set of optional 20-inch wheels finished in ‘Midnight Silver’ do an excellent job of filling in the wheel wells. If there has been a consistent weak point to Cadillac’s recent models, it has to be interior. On first glance, it seems they have it nailed down with a modern design and quality materials. But when you sit inside and begin to take a closer look, that illusion begins to go away. A fair amount of the materials used doesn't quite match up the luxury aura being presented such as the sheet piano black trim used for touch-sensitive controls on a number of Cadillac models. But the brand is improving as we noted in our XT5 review, and the CT6 is much the same. There is a noticeable step-up in terms of materials such as fine leather, carbon fiber accents, and wood trim. This comes wrapped in a handsomely-designed dashboard. There are some areas Cadillac still needs to do some work on such as the plasticity controls for the climate control system. The front seats are a treat to sit in thanks to the right amount of cushioning and support. The Platinum trim gets 20-way power seats for both the driver and passenger to help dial in the right position. Those sitting in the back will be pleased to find generous head and legroom. As added bonus, you can order heated and ventilated seats, power adjustments, and a rear entertainment system to make the back more luxurious. The only downside to sitting in the back is that the CT6 isn’t long enough to take full advantage of the power adjustments. I felt somewhat cramped when I had the back seat fully reclined and my legs touching the back of the front seat. A few more inches in the wheelbase would fix this issue. Cadillac’s CUE system has undergone some changes for the CT6. Most of the touch-sensitive buttons have either been dropped or replaced with actual, physical buttons. Being able to press a button or flick a switch to change a setting is a welcome change and less frustrating than the touch-sensitive controls. It would have been nice if Cadillac swapped the touch-sensitive volume strip for an actual knob, but at least you can adjust it via the steering wheel controls. Cadillac also added a touchpad controller (think Lexus’ Remote Touch system) for CUE. It is a nice idea on paper, but the execution shows Cadillac needs to do a bit more work. The touchpad is hypersensitive and tends to overshoot from where you want the cursor. You’re better off using the touchscreen. As for CUE itself, the system comes with a faster processor, some tweaks to the interface, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. These changes make CUE less frustrating to use on a daily basis. There are three engines on offer for the CT6. The base is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, followed by a 3.6L V6. Our Platinum tester featured the big dog; a twin-turbo 3.0L V6 offering 404 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque (@ 2,500 - 5,100 rpm) Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Performance for the twin-turbo six may not have same exuberance as V8s found in competitors, but it isn’t a slouch. This engine rockets the CT6 at a surprising rate of speed. Those who have timed the vehicle say it will hit 60 mph in around five seconds and we would believe it. Torque is abundant throughout rev range, meaning you should have no issue trying to merge on the freeway or make a pass. The eight-speed automatic has the right characteristics you want in a flagship sedan, smooth and unobtrusive shifts. EPA fuel economy figures for the CT6 3.0TT stand at 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 22 mpg in mostly city driving. Describing a sedan that measures 204 inches in overall length as ‘agile’ seems very disingenuous. But the CT6 is that. Drive it around a turn and the CT6 feels like a smaller sedan with nimble manners and well-controlled body motions. Some credit has to go Active Chassis package that comes standard on the Platinum and comes with the excellent Magnetic Ride Control system and rear-wheel steering. But most buyers who tend to buy a sedan of this caliber don’t really care about handling. Ride quality is king here and that’s where the CT6 begins to falter. When equipped with the Magnetic Ride Control system, the ride is just a touch too firm. You will feel more bumps in this than some of the CT6’s competition. It would be nice if Cadillac could offer an air suspension for those who want comfort. On the upside, road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. It seems somewhat surprising to call the CT6 Platinum a great value, but it actually is. The Platinum 3.0TT begins at $87,495 and our test car with a few options (20-inch wheels, white paint, and spoiler) comes in at $91,580. Considering you have to spend a fair amount more on competitors to match the level of equipment on offer, the CT6 Platinum is quite the steal. Most of Cadillac’s vehicles have fallen into the cliche of ‘being so close, yet so far’ due to some odd or boneheaded decision. But the CT6 is the first Cadillac that has avoided this. It feels like Cadillac is starting to feel comfortable in this new identity that it has been putting out there since the mid-2000s, a legitimate competitor to the Germans. The CT6 stands out for a number of reasons; excellent driving dynamics, impressive interior, punchy V6, and being quite the value. There are some niggling issues such as a firm ride and questionable materials, but these can and should be addressed down the road. Whether the CT6 can draw people away from the usual suspects remains to be seen. If Cadillac can take what they have learned from the CT6 and implement them into future models, then we can say something that hasn’t been used in a long time, ‘Standard of the World’. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the CT6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Cadillac Model: CT6 Trim: Platinum Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.0L DI DOHC with VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 404 @ 5,700 Torque @ RPM: 400 @ 2,500 - 5,100 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21 Curb Weight: 4,085 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $87,495 As Tested Price: $91,580 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 20" Midnight Silver Wheels - $2,095.00 Crystal White Tricoat - $500.00 Spoiler Kit - $495.00 View full article
  18. Mazda is already known for building vehicles that are fun to drive and is garnering one for their distinctive designs. One area that Mazda might not get a lot of credit is the constant improvements they make to their lineup. Take for example the Mazda6 sedan. Since its launch back in 2013 as a 2014 model, Mazda has been updating the 6 with new improvements and features to make it better. For example, when we drove the 2016 Mazda6 back in 2015, it featured new dashboard and infotainment system that made it more pleasant to be in. For 2017, Mazda has introduced two big changes for 6 - one dealing with handling and the other dealing with overall refinement. First up is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control. This system monitors steering and throttle input (along with a few other things according to the brand), and when it deems necessary, will reduce engine power to shift weight to the front. This is said to improve overall handling in a corner. Here’s the thing, I really can’t tell if this system makes the 2017 Mazda6 a better handler than the previous 6 I drove back in 2015. The model shows the sharp handling characteristics that has made it one of the best driving models in the class with little body roll and steering that feels direct. I would need to drive both a 2016 and 2017 Mazda6 back to back to see if there is a difference. The other improvement for the 2017 Mazda6 will be noticed by anyone going for a ride; a quieter interior. Mazda has added a bit more sound insulation for the 6 and it makes for a more pleasant driving experience. There isn’t as much wind whistle as there was in previous 6s I have driven. You still do get a fair amount of tire noise, but that’s more due to the 19-inch wheels fitted on the Grand Touring. The 19-inch wheels also make the ride slightly rough with various bumps being transmitted clearly to the backsides of you and your passengers. Mazda hasn’t messed with anything else for the 2017 6 and that’s mostly a good thing. It still retains the striking good looks of the outside, especially in this bronze color seen here. The Mazda6’s interior is towards the top of the class with a modern design, high-quality materials, and an easy to understand control layout. The leather seats offer the right amount of comfort for long trips. Those sitting in the back will have no complaints in terms of head and legroom. Under the hood is a 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Sport and Touring models get the option of either a six-speed manual or automatic, while the Grand Touring makes due with only the automatic. The engine is a spritely performer with strong acceleration and having the power ready to go when needed. The six-speed is quick when it comes to downshifts. But the transmission does stumble when it comes to upshifts as it is slow to respond when you need that punch of power. At least the automatic transmission does feature paddles on the steering wheel to allow for some manual control to solve this. The continuous updates Mazda makes to the vehicles should be applauded as it helps keep them competitive in light of tougher competition. The 2017 Mazda6 is a key example of this. You might not be able to detect one of the changes made, but the other one us quite noticeable and makes the 6 that much better. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Mazda Model: 6 Trim: Grand Touring Engine: 2.5L DOHC Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700 Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/35/30 Curb Weight: 3,305 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan Base Price: $30,695 As Tested Price: $34,530 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: GT Premium Package - $2,500.00 Machine Gray Metallic - $300.00 Door Sill Trim Plates - $125.00 Cargo Mat - $75.00
  19. Mazda is already known for building vehicles that are fun to drive and is garnering one for their distinctive designs. One area that Mazda might not get a lot of credit is the constant improvements they make to their lineup. Take for example the Mazda6 sedan. Since its launch back in 2013 as a 2014 model, Mazda has been updating the 6 with new improvements and features to make it better. For example, when we drove the 2016 Mazda6 back in 2015, it featured new dashboard and infotainment system that made it more pleasant to be in. For 2017, Mazda has introduced two big changes for 6 - one dealing with handling and the other dealing with overall refinement. First up is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control. This system monitors steering and throttle input (along with a few other things according to the brand), and when it deems necessary, will reduce engine power to shift weight to the front. This is said to improve overall handling in a corner. Here’s the thing, I really can’t tell if this system makes the 2017 Mazda6 a better handler than the previous 6 I drove back in 2015. The model shows the sharp handling characteristics that has made it one of the best driving models in the class with little body roll and steering that feels direct. I would need to drive both a 2016 and 2017 Mazda6 back to back to see if there is a difference. The other improvement for the 2017 Mazda6 will be noticed by anyone going for a ride; a quieter interior. Mazda has added a bit more sound insulation for the 6 and it makes for a more pleasant driving experience. There isn’t as much wind whistle as there was in previous 6s I have driven. You still do get a fair amount of tire noise, but that’s more due to the 19-inch wheels fitted on the Grand Touring. The 19-inch wheels also make the ride slightly rough with various bumps being transmitted clearly to the backsides of you and your passengers. Mazda hasn’t messed with anything else for the 2017 6 and that’s mostly a good thing. It still retains the striking good looks of the outside, especially in this bronze color seen here. The Mazda6’s interior is towards the top of the class with a modern design, high-quality materials, and an easy to understand control layout. The leather seats offer the right amount of comfort for long trips. Those sitting in the back will have no complaints in terms of head and legroom. Under the hood is a 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Sport and Touring models get the option of either a six-speed manual or automatic, while the Grand Touring makes due with only the automatic. The engine is a spritely performer with strong acceleration and having the power ready to go when needed. The six-speed is quick when it comes to downshifts. But the transmission does stumble when it comes to upshifts as it is slow to respond when you need that punch of power. At least the automatic transmission does feature paddles on the steering wheel to allow for some manual control to solve this. The continuous updates Mazda makes to the vehicles should be applauded as it helps keep them competitive in light of tougher competition. The 2017 Mazda6 is a key example of this. You might not be able to detect one of the changes made, but the other one us quite noticeable and makes the 6 that much better. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Mazda Model: 6 Trim: Grand Touring Engine: 2.5L DOHC Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700 Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/35/30 Curb Weight: 3,305 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan Base Price: $30,695 As Tested Price: $34,530 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: GT Premium Package - $2,500.00 Machine Gray Metallic - $300.00 Door Sill Trim Plates - $125.00 Cargo Mat - $75.00 View full article
  20. When I last reviewed the Acura MDX back in 2014, I mentioned that it and the RDX crossover made up a majority of the brand’s sales. That’s still true in 2017 as both models currently make up 63.8 percent of Acura’s sales through the end of March. In closing my review, I said Acura focused on fixing the issues that hurt the MDX before and left other things well alone, creating a balanced luxury crossover. But does that still hold up in a field that has become very competitive in the past couple of years? It seemed a revisit was in order. Acura did a significant refresh for the 2017 MDX with the biggest change being the design. Up front, Acura has swapped the shield grille for a larger pentagonal grille from the 2016 Precision Concept. While the shield was considered by many to a bit polarizing and a turn-off, I find the new grille to be a bit cartoonish. It doesn’t really work with the rest of the MDX’s design. At least certain traits such as the ‘Jewel Eye’ headlights and sloping roofline are still here and still work. The interior hasn’t changed much since our last test and that’s both a good and bad thing. The good is the MDX’s material quality is towards the top of the class with a fair amount of leather and wood trim used throughout. Although considering the price tag of just over $59,000, it would have been nice if Acura added some more luxury touches. Those sitting up front or in the second-row will find plenty of room and a set of supportive seats. The MDX is one of the few models in the class that offers a third-row as standard, but it is best reserved for small kids or being folded into the floor to increase cargo space. The bad mostly deals with the AcuraLink infotainment system. This dual screen setup brings more headaches than any other system I have used. A perfect example is when you want to switch from music to a podcast on your USB device. You need to use the top screen and a control knob to go through the various menus to find the show you want to listen to. Not only is this pain, but it also creates a distraction when driving as your eyes are taken off from the road. I wish Acura would scrap this system and start back from square one. Power still comes from a 3.5L V6 offering 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic routes power to either the front-wheels or all four-wheels via Acura’s super-handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD). Advanced models like ours come standard with a stop-start system. The V6 in the MDX is such an impressive motor. Power delivery is quite strong throughout the rev band and the engine doesn’t make much noise during acceleration. However, the stop-start is a bit of a mess. It takes a few seconds for the system to realize that you took your foot off the brake before it restarts the engine. The system can be turned off which we recommend doing. The nine-speed automatic needs a bit work as well as we found shifts to be somewhat clunky at low speeds. Also, the transmission is slow to downshift when you need to make a pass. At least paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel solves this issue somewhat as you can do it yourself. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 19 City/26 Highway/22 Combined when the MDX is equipped with SH-AWD. I got none too shabby 23 MPG average for the week. One area we’re glad to see Acura not messing with the MDX refresh is the suspension tuning. The MDX has stuck the right balance of comfort and handling. Some of this is credited to the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) that alters various settings for the suspension, steering, and a few other items. This means the MDX can be tailored to deliver a sporty ride when driving down a curvy road and ironing out road imperfections when commuting. There is one big issue for the MDX, price. Our MDX Advance & Entertainment tester came with an as-tested price of $59,475 with destination. Considering what you get for the price and compare against other models, the MDX is a bit of a poor value. Stick with one of the lower trims. The Acura MDX stands in a bit of an odd middle ground, where it is above the mainstream, but below luxury competitors. It remains a very competent crossover that seems to do most things right. But we can’t help but wonder if Acura was given a bit more time to mess with the stop-start system and automatic transmission, along with making it slightly more luxurious, it could take it a bit further from the middle ground the MDX currently sits in. Disclaimer: Acura Provided the MDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Acura Model: MDX Trim: Advanced Entertainment SH-AWD Engine: 3.5L 24-Valve SOHC i-VTEC V6 Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/26/22 Curb Weight: 4,292 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lincoln, AL Base Price: $58,500 As Tested Price: $59,475 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article
  21. When I last reviewed the Acura MDX back in 2014, I mentioned that it and the RDX crossover made up a majority of the brand’s sales. That’s still true in 2017 as both models currently make up 63.8 percent of Acura’s sales through the end of March. In closing my review, I said Acura focused on fixing the issues that hurt the MDX before and left other things well alone, creating a balanced luxury crossover. But does that still hold up in a field that has become very competitive in the past couple of years? It seemed a revisit was in order. Acura did a significant refresh for the 2017 MDX with the biggest change being the design. Up front, Acura has swapped the shield grille for a larger pentagonal grille from the 2016 Precision Concept. While the shield was considered by many to a bit polarizing and a turn-off, I find the new grille to be a bit cartoonish. It doesn’t really work with the rest of the MDX’s design. At least certain traits such as the ‘Jewel Eye’ headlights and sloping roofline are still here and still work. The interior hasn’t changed much since our last test and that’s both a good and bad thing. The good is the MDX’s material quality is towards the top of the class with a fair amount of leather and wood trim used throughout. Although considering the price tag of just over $59,000, it would have been nice if Acura added some more luxury touches. Those sitting up front or in the second-row will find plenty of room and a set of supportive seats. The MDX is one of the few models in the class that offers a third-row as standard, but it is best reserved for small kids or being folded into the floor to increase cargo space. The bad mostly deals with the AcuraLink infotainment system. This dual screen setup brings more headaches than any other system I have used. A perfect example is when you want to switch from music to a podcast on your USB device. You need to use the top screen and a control knob to go through the various menus to find the show you want to listen to. Not only is this pain, but it also creates a distraction when driving as your eyes are taken off from the road. I wish Acura would scrap this system and start back from square one. Power still comes from a 3.5L V6 offering 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic routes power to either the front-wheels or all four-wheels via Acura’s super-handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD). Advanced models like ours come standard with a stop-start system. The V6 in the MDX is such an impressive motor. Power delivery is quite strong throughout the rev band and the engine doesn’t make much noise during acceleration. However, the stop-start is a bit of a mess. It takes a few seconds for the system to realize that you took your foot off the brake before it restarts the engine. The system can be turned off which we recommend doing. The nine-speed automatic needs a bit work as well as we found shifts to be somewhat clunky at low speeds. Also, the transmission is slow to downshift when you need to make a pass. At least paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel solves this issue somewhat as you can do it yourself. EPA fuel economy figures stand at 19 City/26 Highway/22 Combined when the MDX is equipped with SH-AWD. I got none too shabby 23 MPG average for the week. One area we’re glad to see Acura not messing with the MDX refresh is the suspension tuning. The MDX has stuck the right balance of comfort and handling. Some of this is credited to the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) that alters various settings for the suspension, steering, and a few other items. This means the MDX can be tailored to deliver a sporty ride when driving down a curvy road and ironing out road imperfections when commuting. There is one big issue for the MDX, price. Our MDX Advance & Entertainment tester came with an as-tested price of $59,475 with destination. Considering what you get for the price and compare against other models, the MDX is a bit of a poor value. Stick with one of the lower trims. The Acura MDX stands in a bit of an odd middle ground, where it is above the mainstream, but below luxury competitors. It remains a very competent crossover that seems to do most things right. But we can’t help but wonder if Acura was given a bit more time to mess with the stop-start system and automatic transmission, along with making it slightly more luxurious, it could take it a bit further from the middle ground the MDX currently sits in. Disclaimer: Acura Provided the MDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Acura Model: MDX Trim: Advanced Entertainment SH-AWD Engine: 3.5L 24-Valve SOHC i-VTEC V6 Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,200 Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/26/22 Curb Weight: 4,292 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lincoln, AL Base Price: $58,500 As Tested Price: $59,475 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  22. American automakers haven’t been known for building good compact vehicles. Previous attempts have faltered when compared to those from the likes of Honda, Mazda, and Toyota. But this perception began to change when Ford brought out the Focus in 2000. It seemed progress was being made in making a decent compact vehicle thanks to their European branch helping out. Seeing this, GM decided to follow the same path. They called in their Korean and European offices to help out with the development of a new model known as Cruze. The vehicle proved to be a massive improvement from the Cobalt as it got the basics right such as fuel economy and overall interior space. Yes, the Cruze was lacking in some key areas such as design and driving fun. But it was light years ahead of GM’s previous attempts at a compact vehicle. When it came time to work on the next-generation Cruze, Chevrolet knew they had a good starting point and only needed to make improvements to make the model a real contender in the class. Let’s see if that has panned out or not. Dare I say the new Cruze is a sharp looking compact? Yes, but to a point. It is clear that Chevrolet’s design team took a lot of inspiration from the Volt PHEV when working on the second-generation Cruze. The overall profile and certain lines of the Volt appear on the Cruze. The front end features Chevrolet’s new tiered-grille and a set of slimmer headlights. Where the Cruze’s design falls flat is in the back. It seems Chevrolet’s designers really couldn’t be bothered to do something special. There two ways you can fix this. You can either go with the Cruze hatchback which to our eyes looks so much better thanks to the longer roofline and tailgate, or opting for the RS appearance package which dresses up the back with a more aggressive bumper. The RS package also adds mesh grille inserts, and sporty looking wheels - 18-inch ones on our Premier tester. Moving inside, Chevrolet has put a lot of effort in making the Cruze a nice place to sit in. Many surfaces are covered with high-quality materials and feature some unique touches such as a curving character line on the dashboard. Making yourself comfortable is quite easy thanks to eight-way power adjustments for the driver and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. The front passenger has to make do with manual adjustments. In the back, there is enough legroom for most passengers. Headroom is slightly tight if you decide to get a sunroof. One nice item for those sitting in the back is the option of heated seats. One area Chevrolet is using as a selling point for the Cruze is technology. All Cruzes get a seven-inch touchscreen with Chevrolet MyLink and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi also comes standard across the board. Our Premier tester came with the optional 8-inch touchscreen with navigation. MyLink has been a source of frustration in many of Chevrolet vehicles we have reviewed, but it seems they are starting to get its act together. Overall performance has seen a slight improvement with transitions into various functions being snappy. The navigation system still has some performance issues as it slows down when zooming in or out. Chevrolet has also fixed some of the bugs with their Apple CarPlay integration. We saw no issues of slowdown or apps crashing whenever we had CarPlay up. Under the Cruze’s hood is a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission choice if you get the Premier. Anything below and you have the choice of the automatic or a six-speed manual. A diesel engine is coming later this year. The performance figures for the turbo 1.4L will not knock the socks off of anyone - 0-60 mph time of just over eight seconds. But you won’t think the Cruze is a slowpoke thanks the engine having a lot of low-end grunt. The vehicle leaps forward when leaving a stop and doesn’t feel that it is going to run out of breath. It doesn’t hurt Chevrolet has dropped almost 300 pounds from the new model. The six-speed automatic is quick to upshift to maximize fuel economy, but the same cannot be said for downshifts. It takes a moment or two for the automatic to go down a gear when you step on the accelerator. The turbo 1.4 comes with an auto stop-start system as standard. The system is quick to start the engine back up whenever you take your foot off the brake. One item that will irk some people is that you cannot turn off the stop-start system. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze stand at 29 City/39 Highway/33 Combined for the Premier sedan. Our average for the week landed around 31.2 mpg. The L, LS, and LT sedan get slightly higher fuel economy figures of 28/39/32 for the manual and 30/40/34 for the automatic. It seems most compacts are trying to outdo one another in terms of offering the best driving experience. So it is a bit of fresh air that Chevrolet has decided to skip this and make the Cruze ride like a bigger car. The suspension provides a cushy ride with most bumps being ironed out. Road and wind noise are kept to almost silent levels. Handling is competent in the class as the Cruze shows little body roll. However, the steering is too light in terms of feel and weight when driven enthusiastically. Chevrolet’s previous attempts at a compact vehicle have ranged from the punchline to a bad joke to something that can be considered at competent. But with the 2017 Cruze, Chevrolet put their heads down into making a compact that could stand tall among competitors. They have succeeded as the Cruze gets the fundamentals right and offers some distinctive traits that help it stand out from others such as the big-car ride and impressive amount of tech. Yes, it would be nice if Cruze was a slightly sharper in terms of design and the steering tweaked a bit to make it a bit more fun to drive. Since I have been reviewing new vehicles for almost five years, there have been only a few vehicles that I keep thinking about to this day. Chevrolet has two to its name. The first was the 2014 Impala and the Cruze is number two. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Cruze, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Chevrolet Model: Cruze Trim: Premier Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L DOHC VVT DI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 153 @ 5600 Torque @ RPM: 177 @ 2000-4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/39/33 Curb Weight: 2,978 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lordstown, OH Base Price: $23,475 As Tested Price: $29,195 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sun & Sound w/Navigation - $1,995.00 RS Package - $995.00 Enhanced Convenience Package - $865.00 Driver Confidence II Package - $790.00 Floor Mats - $140.00 Wheel Lock Kit - $60.00 View full article
  23. American automakers haven’t been known for building good compact vehicles. Previous attempts have faltered when compared to those from the likes of Honda, Mazda, and Toyota. But this perception began to change when Ford brought out the Focus in 2000. It seemed progress was being made in making a decent compact vehicle thanks to their European branch helping out. Seeing this, GM decided to follow the same path. They called in their Korean and European offices to help out with the development of a new model known as Cruze. The vehicle proved to be a massive improvement from the Cobalt as it got the basics right such as fuel economy and overall interior space. Yes, the Cruze was lacking in some key areas such as design and driving fun. But it was light years ahead of GM’s previous attempts at a compact vehicle. When it came time to work on the next-generation Cruze, Chevrolet knew they had a good starting point and only needed to make improvements to make the model a real contender in the class. Let’s see if that has panned out or not. Dare I say the new Cruze is a sharp looking compact? Yes, but to a point. It is clear that Chevrolet’s design team took a lot of inspiration from the Volt PHEV when working on the second-generation Cruze. The overall profile and certain lines of the Volt appear on the Cruze. The front end features Chevrolet’s new tiered-grille and a set of slimmer headlights. Where the Cruze’s design falls flat is in the back. It seems Chevrolet’s designers really couldn’t be bothered to do something special. There two ways you can fix this. You can either go with the Cruze hatchback which to our eyes looks so much better thanks to the longer roofline and tailgate, or opting for the RS appearance package which dresses up the back with a more aggressive bumper. The RS package also adds mesh grille inserts, and sporty looking wheels - 18-inch ones on our Premier tester. Moving inside, Chevrolet has put a lot of effort in making the Cruze a nice place to sit in. Many surfaces are covered with high-quality materials and feature some unique touches such as a curving character line on the dashboard. Making yourself comfortable is quite easy thanks to eight-way power adjustments for the driver and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. The front passenger has to make do with manual adjustments. In the back, there is enough legroom for most passengers. Headroom is slightly tight if you decide to get a sunroof. One nice item for those sitting in the back is the option of heated seats. One area Chevrolet is using as a selling point for the Cruze is technology. All Cruzes get a seven-inch touchscreen with Chevrolet MyLink and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi also comes standard across the board. Our Premier tester came with the optional 8-inch touchscreen with navigation. MyLink has been a source of frustration in many of Chevrolet vehicles we have reviewed, but it seems they are starting to get its act together. Overall performance has seen a slight improvement with transitions into various functions being snappy. The navigation system still has some performance issues as it slows down when zooming in or out. Chevrolet has also fixed some of the bugs with their Apple CarPlay integration. We saw no issues of slowdown or apps crashing whenever we had CarPlay up. Under the Cruze’s hood is a turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder with 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission choice if you get the Premier. Anything below and you have the choice of the automatic or a six-speed manual. A diesel engine is coming later this year. The performance figures for the turbo 1.4L will not knock the socks off of anyone - 0-60 mph time of just over eight seconds. But you won’t think the Cruze is a slowpoke thanks the engine having a lot of low-end grunt. The vehicle leaps forward when leaving a stop and doesn’t feel that it is going to run out of breath. It doesn’t hurt Chevrolet has dropped almost 300 pounds from the new model. The six-speed automatic is quick to upshift to maximize fuel economy, but the same cannot be said for downshifts. It takes a moment or two for the automatic to go down a gear when you step on the accelerator. The turbo 1.4 comes with an auto stop-start system as standard. The system is quick to start the engine back up whenever you take your foot off the brake. One item that will irk some people is that you cannot turn off the stop-start system. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze stand at 29 City/39 Highway/33 Combined for the Premier sedan. Our average for the week landed around 31.2 mpg. The L, LS, and LT sedan get slightly higher fuel economy figures of 28/39/32 for the manual and 30/40/34 for the automatic. It seems most compacts are trying to outdo one another in terms of offering the best driving experience. So it is a bit of fresh air that Chevrolet has decided to skip this and make the Cruze ride like a bigger car. The suspension provides a cushy ride with most bumps being ironed out. Road and wind noise are kept to almost silent levels. Handling is competent in the class as the Cruze shows little body roll. However, the steering is too light in terms of feel and weight when driven enthusiastically. Chevrolet’s previous attempts at a compact vehicle have ranged from the punchline to a bad joke to something that can be considered at competent. But with the 2017 Cruze, Chevrolet put their heads down into making a compact that could stand tall among competitors. They have succeeded as the Cruze gets the fundamentals right and offers some distinctive traits that help it stand out from others such as the big-car ride and impressive amount of tech. Yes, it would be nice if Cruze was a slightly sharper in terms of design and the steering tweaked a bit to make it a bit more fun to drive. Since I have been reviewing new vehicles for almost five years, there have been only a few vehicles that I keep thinking about to this day. Chevrolet has two to its name. The first was the 2014 Impala and the Cruze is number two. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Cruze, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Chevrolet Model: Cruze Trim: Premier Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L DOHC VVT DI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 153 @ 5600 Torque @ RPM: 177 @ 2000-4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/39/33 Curb Weight: 2,978 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lordstown, OH Base Price: $23,475 As Tested Price: $29,195 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sun & Sound w/Navigation - $1,995.00 RS Package - $995.00 Enhanced Convenience Package - $865.00 Driver Confidence II Package - $790.00 Floor Mats - $140.00 Wheel Lock Kit - $60.00
  24. In the past two years, I have driven three variations of the Volkswagen Golf; the GTI, SportWagen, and R. But I never had the chance to drive the standard Golf. That is until a couple of months ago when a Golf Wolfsburg Edition rolled up. For 2017, the Wolfsburg is one of the two trims on offer (the base S being the other) and comes with lots of equipment for a surprising price. But this is only the cherry on top of an impressive compact hatchback as I would find out. Let’s begin with that surprising price. Our Golf Wolfsburg tester came with an as-tested price of $23,515 and that includes a sunroof, push-button start, heated seats, backup camera, pre-collision braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rain-sensing wipers. Considering the amount of equipment on offer, this might be one of the best values in the compact class. I know that I’m beating a dead horse here, but I wished the Golf was just a little bit more exciting to look at. The clean lines and minimal brightwork make the Golf have a handsome profile. But park it next to something like a Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback, and you kind of wish that Volkswagen did something to make it standout. You could level the same complaint at the Golf’s interior as doesn’t have the same panache or sharpness as some competitors. But I can overlook it as the Golf has one the most functional and well-built interiors in the class. Controls are within easy reach and have a solid feel that is lacking in other compact models. It doesn’t hurt the Golf has a spacious interior for passengers and cargo. I’m 5’8” and found to have plenty of head and legroom sitting in the back. For cargo, the Golf offers up 22.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 52.7 cubic feet with them folded, putting it at the top of the class. Like the larger SportWagen and Alltrack, the regular Golf sports a turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder producing 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with the optional six-speed automatic. A five-speed manual comes standard. This engine is such a sweetheart as it punches well above its weight. Power comes on a quick and smooth rate, meaning you’ll not be wanting for power when trying to make a pass. The automatic transmission is smart, knowing when it needs to up or downshift and doing so at a quick rate. One item that I gave the Golf SportWagen a lot of praise was the pleasant balance between a smooth ride and sharp handling. The regular Golf is much the same. Taking a corner, the vehicle shows little body roll and the steering provides a linear and quick response. It would be nice if the steering had some more weight, but otherwise, it is a fun car to hustle around. For the daily commute, the Golf offers up a comfortable ride where potholes and other imperfections are ironed out. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. If I do have one complaint, it has to deal with the lack of adaptive cruise control. There is already a radar module up front for the pre-collision braking that can monitor vehicles ahead and bring the vehicle to a stop. So why isn’t there the ability to use that module to provide adaptive cruise control? Is it a technical issue or something dealing with the cost? (I'm thinking its the latter). That issue aside, I’m really impressed with the regular Golf. This is one of the vehicles that can deliver on being an all arounder without falling on its face due to one or many things. Plus, the Wolfsburg Edition might be the steal for the 2017 Golf lineup considering what you get. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Volkswagen Model: Golf Trim: Wolfsburg Edition Engine: 1.8L TSI Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500 Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/29 Curb Weight: 3,023 lbs Location of Manufacture: Wolfsburg, Germany Base Price: $22,695 As Tested Price: $23,515 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  25. In the past two years, I have driven three variations of the Volkswagen Golf; the GTI, SportWagen, and R. But I never had the chance to drive the standard Golf. That is until a couple of months ago when a Golf Wolfsburg Edition rolled up. For 2017, the Wolfsburg is one of the two trims on offer (the base S being the other) and comes with lots of equipment for a surprising price. But this is only the cherry on top of an impressive compact hatchback as I would find out. Let’s begin with that surprising price. Our Golf Wolfsburg tester came with an as-tested price of $23,515 and that includes a sunroof, push-button start, heated seats, backup camera, pre-collision braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rain-sensing wipers. Considering the amount of equipment on offer, this might be one of the best values in the compact class. I know that I’m beating a dead horse here, but I wished the Golf was just a little bit more exciting to look at. The clean lines and minimal brightwork make the Golf have a handsome profile. But park it next to something like a Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback, and you kind of wish that Volkswagen did something to make it standout. You could level the same complaint at the Golf’s interior as doesn’t have the same panache or sharpness as some competitors. But I can overlook it as the Golf has one the most functional and well-built interiors in the class. Controls are within easy reach and have a solid feel that is lacking in other compact models. It doesn’t hurt the Golf has a spacious interior for passengers and cargo. I’m 5’8” and found to have plenty of head and legroom sitting in the back. For cargo, the Golf offers up 22.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 52.7 cubic feet with them folded, putting it at the top of the class. Like the larger SportWagen and Alltrack, the regular Golf sports a turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder producing 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with the optional six-speed automatic. A five-speed manual comes standard. This engine is such a sweetheart as it punches well above its weight. Power comes on a quick and smooth rate, meaning you’ll not be wanting for power when trying to make a pass. The automatic transmission is smart, knowing when it needs to up or downshift and doing so at a quick rate. One item that I gave the Golf SportWagen a lot of praise was the pleasant balance between a smooth ride and sharp handling. The regular Golf is much the same. Taking a corner, the vehicle shows little body roll and the steering provides a linear and quick response. It would be nice if the steering had some more weight, but otherwise, it is a fun car to hustle around. For the daily commute, the Golf offers up a comfortable ride where potholes and other imperfections are ironed out. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. If I do have one complaint, it has to deal with the lack of adaptive cruise control. There is already a radar module up front for the pre-collision braking that can monitor vehicles ahead and bring the vehicle to a stop. So why isn’t there the ability to use that module to provide adaptive cruise control? Is it a technical issue or something dealing with the cost? (I'm thinking its the latter). That issue aside, I’m really impressed with the regular Golf. This is one of the vehicles that can deliver on being an all arounder without falling on its face due to one or many things. Plus, the Wolfsburg Edition might be the steal for the 2017 Golf lineup considering what you get. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Volkswagen Model: Golf Trim: Wolfsburg Edition Engine: 1.8L TSI Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500 Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/29 Curb Weight: 3,023 lbs Location of Manufacture: Wolfsburg, Germany Base Price: $22,695 As Tested Price: $23,515 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A View full article

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