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  1. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to what stood before me. In the driveway stood an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I had to touch it to see if I was imagining it. Okay, I am being a bit hyperbolic, but considering the long time it took Alfa Romeo to get its affairs in some semblance of order, it is amazing that the Giulia is on sale. Still, I had a bit of trepidation with spending a week in the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The past year has seen a number of outlets reporting various gremlins pop up on their test vehicles. Would my particular one be spared? If so, what does the Giulia Quadrifoglio offer over the competition? Alfa Romeo is known for styling vehicles that stand out and Giulia Quadrifoglio is no exception. Up front resides the traditional Alfa triangle grille and large openings in the bumper with mesh inserts. The carbon fiber hood features gentle sculpting and a set of air vents in the channels. The side profile features more of the gentle sculpting on the doors, along with carbon fiber side skirts and 19-inch wheels finished in dark gray. The rear is where the Giulia Quadrifoglio makes its intentions known to the world with a carbon fiber lip spoiler and massive rear diffuser with large exhaust pipes sitting on either end. Finishing off the vehicle are cloverleaf badges on the front fenders and a dark blue finish. At first glance, the Giulia’s interior looks elegant. The dash has a flowing wave shape that is higher on the driver’s side to make space for the instrument cluster and infotainment system. Material choices such soft-touch plastics, carbon fiber accent trim, and a small-rimmed steering wheel with Alcantara and carbon fiber help set the Quadrifoglio apart from other Giulia models. But Alfa Romeo earns some red marks as the center console is littered with cheap plastics - the controller for the infotainment system and gear lever being the key offenders. Our test Giulia Quadrifoglio came with the standard leather and Alcantara sport seats. A set of carbon fiber Sparco racing seats are available as an option, but it is one we would recommend trying out first. Sitting in a Quadrifoglio with the optional seats, I found that I could not fully settle into them due to my wide shoulder blades. The standard seats offer increased bolstering to hold you and a passenger when the road gets twisty. I would like to see a little bit more cushioning in the seats as it becomes somewhat uncomfortable the longer you sit in them. The back seat in Giulia is average for the class, offering a decent amount of head and legroom for those under six-feet. Getting in and out of the back seat is not easy due to a narrow opening. All Giulia Quadrifoglios come equipped with an 8.8-inch infotainment system. Controlling this is a rotary knob in the center console, along with using voice commands. The system itself is very frustrating for a number of reasons. For one, the system is slow when put against competitors. It takes a few moments to switch between various menus. Also, certain functions don’t work as you might expect. For example, turning the knob in the navigation system doesn’t zoom in or out. You have to scroll the navigation menu to find the Zoom command to allow this function. Other issues I experienced during my week-long test of the Giulia included,: The system wouldn’t play my iPod if I had it paused for more than minute or if I switched to another audio source and then back to the iPod. Connecting my iPhone 7 Plus to the system via Bluetooth took on average about 45 seconds. I had the system crash on me twice during the week I had the Giulia. One of those crashes required me to turn off the vehicle and start it back up to get the system working again. Alfa Romeo needs to go back to the garage and do some serious work with this infotainment system. Underneath the carbon fiber hood lies the beating heart of the Quadrifoglio, a 2.9L twin-turbo V6 with 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. Drive is sent to the rear-wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Quadrifoglio models have four drive modes - Race, Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency and each one alters the engine’s behavior. Advanced Efficiency and Natural are about the same with the throttle being a bit more laid back. But that isn’t to say the Giulia isn’t quick in either mode. It has more than enough oomph to leave other cars in the dust when leaving a stop light or merging. But the engine really comes alive when in Dynamic or Race. The throttle sharpens up and the exhaust opens up to deliver a tantalizing soundtrack. Mash the pedal and hold on because this engine will throw you back. The engine sings at mid and high-rpms with speed coming on at an astonishing rate. Alfa says the Quadrifoglio can hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and I can say they are right on the money. The automatic transmission is quite impressive. In Normal and Advanced Efficiency, the transmission delivers smooth gear changes. Turn to Dynamic or Race and the gear changes are snappy and fast. Oddly, the automatic transmission exhibits some hesitation when leaving a stop. This is a problem more attune with dual-clutch transmissions. EPA fuel economy figures for the Giulia Quadrifoglio are 17 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed at 19.7 mpg. Handling is where the Giulia Quadrifoglio truly shines. Enter into a corner and Giulia hunkers down with little body roll and gives you the confidence to push a little bit further. Steering is another highlight, offering quick response and decent weight. The only complaint I have with the steering is that I wished for some road feel. There is a trade-off to Giulia’s handling and that is a very stiff ride. Even with the vehicle set in Advanced Efficiency or Natural mode, the suspension will transmit every road imperfection to your backside. Wind and road noise isolation is about average for the class. It is time to address the elephant in the room and that is Alfa Romeo’s reliability record. Since the Giulia went on sale last year, numerous outlets have reported various issues from a sunroof jamming to a vehicle going into a limp mode after half a lap on a track. The only real issues I experienced during my week dealt with infotainment system which made me breathe a sigh of relief. Still, the dark cloud of reliability hung over the Giulia and I never felt fully comfortable that some show-stopping issue would happen. This is something Alfa Romeo needs to remedy ASAP. Now we come to end of the Giulia Quadrifoglio review and I am quite mixed. Considering the overall package, the Quadrifoglio is not for everyone. No, it isn’t just because of reliability. This vehicle is a pure sports car in a sedan wrapper. It will put a big smile on your face every time you get on the throttle or execute that perfect turn around a corner. But it will not coddle you or your passengers during the daily drive. Add in the material quality issues and concerns about reliability, and you have a mixed bag. To some, that is the charm of an Alfa Romeo. Within all of those flaws is a brilliant automobile. For others, it is something that should be avoided at all costs. Disclaimer: Alfa Romeo Provided the Giulia, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Alfa Romeo Model: Giulia Trim: Quadrifoglio Engine: 2.9L 24-Valve DOHC Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 505 @ 6,500 Torque @ RPM: 443 @ 2,500 - 5,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/24/20 Curb Weight: N/A Location of Manufacture: Cassino, Italy Base Price: $72,000 As Tested Price: $76,995 (Includes $1,595.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package - $1,500.00 Harman Kardon Premium Audio System - $900.00 Montecarlo Blue Metallic Exterior Paint - $600.00 Quadrifoglio Carbon Fiber Steering Wheel - $400.00 View full article
  2. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

    I couldn’t believe my eyes as to what stood before me. In the driveway stood an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I had to touch it to see if I was imagining it. Okay, I am being a bit hyperbolic, but considering the long time it took Alfa Romeo to get its affairs in some semblance of order, it is amazing that the Giulia is on sale. Still, I had a bit of trepidation with spending a week in the Giulia Quadrifoglio. The past year has seen a number of outlets reporting various gremlins pop up on their test vehicles. Would my particular one be spared? If so, what does the Giulia Quadrifoglio offer over the competition? Alfa Romeo is known for styling vehicles that stand out and Giulia Quadrifoglio is no exception. Up front resides the traditional Alfa triangle grille and large openings in the bumper with mesh inserts. The carbon fiber hood features gentle sculpting and a set of air vents in the channels. The side profile features more of the gentle sculpting on the doors, along with carbon fiber side skirts and 19-inch wheels finished in dark gray. The rear is where the Giulia Quadrifoglio makes its intentions known to the world with a carbon fiber lip spoiler and massive rear diffuser with large exhaust pipes sitting on either end. Finishing off the vehicle are cloverleaf badges on the front fenders and a dark blue finish. At first glance, the Giulia’s interior looks elegant. The dash has a flowing wave shape that is higher on the driver’s side to make space for the instrument cluster and infotainment system. Material choices such soft-touch plastics, carbon fiber accent trim, and a small-rimmed steering wheel with Alcantara and carbon fiber help set the Quadrifoglio apart from other Giulia models. But Alfa Romeo earns some red marks as the center console is littered with cheap plastics - the controller for the infotainment system and gear lever being the key offenders. Our test Giulia Quadrifoglio came with the standard leather and Alcantara sport seats. A set of carbon fiber Sparco racing seats are available as an option, but it is one we would recommend trying out first. Sitting in a Quadrifoglio with the optional seats, I found that I could not fully settle into them due to my wide shoulder blades. The standard seats offer increased bolstering to hold you and a passenger when the road gets twisty. I would like to see a little bit more cushioning in the seats as it becomes somewhat uncomfortable the longer you sit in them. The back seat in Giulia is average for the class, offering a decent amount of head and legroom for those under six-feet. Getting in and out of the back seat is not easy due to a narrow opening. All Giulia Quadrifoglios come equipped with an 8.8-inch infotainment system. Controlling this is a rotary knob in the center console, along with using voice commands. The system itself is very frustrating for a number of reasons. For one, the system is slow when put against competitors. It takes a few moments to switch between various menus. Also, certain functions don’t work as you might expect. For example, turning the knob in the navigation system doesn’t zoom in or out. You have to scroll the navigation menu to find the Zoom command to allow this function. Other issues I experienced during my week-long test of the Giulia included,: The system wouldn’t play my iPod if I had it paused for more than minute or if I switched to another audio source and then back to the iPod. Connecting my iPhone 7 Plus to the system via Bluetooth took on average about 45 seconds. I had the system crash on me twice during the week I had the Giulia. One of those crashes required me to turn off the vehicle and start it back up to get the system working again. Alfa Romeo needs to go back to the garage and do some serious work with this infotainment system. Underneath the carbon fiber hood lies the beating heart of the Quadrifoglio, a 2.9L twin-turbo V6 with 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. Drive is sent to the rear-wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Quadrifoglio models have four drive modes - Race, Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency and each one alters the engine’s behavior. Advanced Efficiency and Natural are about the same with the throttle being a bit more laid back. But that isn’t to say the Giulia isn’t quick in either mode. It has more than enough oomph to leave other cars in the dust when leaving a stop light or merging. But the engine really comes alive when in Dynamic or Race. The throttle sharpens up and the exhaust opens up to deliver a tantalizing soundtrack. Mash the pedal and hold on because this engine will throw you back. The engine sings at mid and high-rpms with speed coming on at an astonishing rate. Alfa says the Quadrifoglio can hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and I can say they are right on the money. The automatic transmission is quite impressive. In Normal and Advanced Efficiency, the transmission delivers smooth gear changes. Turn to Dynamic or Race and the gear changes are snappy and fast. Oddly, the automatic transmission exhibits some hesitation when leaving a stop. This is a problem more attune with dual-clutch transmissions. EPA fuel economy figures for the Giulia Quadrifoglio are 17 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed at 19.7 mpg. Handling is where the Giulia Quadrifoglio truly shines. Enter into a corner and Giulia hunkers down with little body roll and gives you the confidence to push a little bit further. Steering is another highlight, offering quick response and decent weight. The only complaint I have with the steering is that I wished for some road feel. There is a trade-off to Giulia’s handling and that is a very stiff ride. Even with the vehicle set in Advanced Efficiency or Natural mode, the suspension will transmit every road imperfection to your backside. Wind and road noise isolation is about average for the class. It is time to address the elephant in the room and that is Alfa Romeo’s reliability record. Since the Giulia went on sale last year, numerous outlets have reported various issues from a sunroof jamming to a vehicle going into a limp mode after half a lap on a track. The only real issues I experienced during my week dealt with infotainment system which made me breathe a sigh of relief. Still, the dark cloud of reliability hung over the Giulia and I never felt fully comfortable that some show-stopping issue would happen. This is something Alfa Romeo needs to remedy ASAP. Now we come to end of the Giulia Quadrifoglio review and I am quite mixed. Considering the overall package, the Quadrifoglio is not for everyone. No, it isn’t just because of reliability. This vehicle is a pure sports car in a sedan wrapper. It will put a big smile on your face every time you get on the throttle or execute that perfect turn around a corner. But it will not coddle you or your passengers during the daily drive. Add in the material quality issues and concerns about reliability, and you have a mixed bag. To some, that is the charm of an Alfa Romeo. Within all of those flaws is a brilliant automobile. For others, it is something that should be avoided at all costs. Disclaimer: Alfa Romeo Provided the Giulia, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Alfa Romeo Model: Giulia Trim: Quadrifoglio Engine: 2.9L 24-Valve DOHC Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 505 @ 6,500 Torque @ RPM: 443 @ 2,500 - 5,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/24/20 Curb Weight: N/A Location of Manufacture: Cassino, Italy Base Price: $72,000 As Tested Price: $76,995 (Includes $1,595.00 Destination Charge) Options: Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package - $1,500.00 Harman Kardon Premium Audio System - $900.00 Montecarlo Blue Metallic Exterior Paint - $600.00 Quadrifoglio Carbon Fiber Steering Wheel - $400.00
  3. William Maley

    Review: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport

    The Hyundai Elantra GT has always stood apart from its sedan counterpart due to its European roots. This is most apparent in terms of handling where the hatchback felt slightly sharper than the sedan. Hyundai’s U.S. office has once again called on the European office to source a new Elantra GT hatchback. The model known in Europe as the i30 has been said to be a viable alternative to the Volkswagen Golf by automotive writers. Does that hold true in terms of the U.S.? Hyundai’s designers took a page out of the Golf’s playbook when it comes to the exterior. It may not have the excitement or sharp design traits of other compacts, but the Elantra GT’s shape is very classy. The front end features Hyundai’s new hexagonal grille shape and deep cuts in the bumper for the fog lights. The side profile features a large area of glass to help the interior feel airier and a set of 18-inch wheels with black center caps. The rear has a crease running along the rear tailgate and a dual exhaust system. My first impression of the Elantra GT’s interior was, “this is more interesting to look at than the Elantra sedan”. The dash design is clean with sculpting along the passenger side to provide some visual differentiation. Sport models feature red accent trim around the vents and stitching on the seats to give off the impression of sportiness. Material quality is average for the class with an equal mix of hard and soft-touch materials. Passengers sitting up front will find controls to be in easy reach and the seats offering adequate comfort. Taller passengers sitting in the back will be complaining about the minuscule amount of legroom. With the driver’s seat set in my position, I found my knees were almost touching the back of it. The Elantra GT’s cargo space is towards the top of the class with 24.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 55.1 cubic feet when folded. All Elantra GT’s get Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment system housed either in a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen mounted on top of the dash. Our tester came with the larger 8-inch screen with navigation. Hyundai’s BlueLink system is one our favorite infotainment system with an easy-to-understand user interface, physical shortcut buttons around the screen, and snappy performance. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard and bring more capability to BlueLink. Under the hood of the Elantra GT Sport is a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder producing 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine you’ll find in the Elantra Sport and Kia Soul !. A six-speed manual is standard, but the model seen here had the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The first couple of days driving the Elantra GT Sport was somewhat of a disappointment. The throttle felt very sluggish, not letting the turbo engine provide a rush of power. Not helping was the transmission which was focused more on upshifting quickly, along with stumbling with gear changes at low speeds. But I soon figured out that putting the vehicle into Sport mode makes the vehicle much more lively. The throttle loosens up and allows the engine to exploit its full potential. The transmission seems to hold on to gears slightly longer to allow for improved performance. My hunch is that the standard drive mode is actually an eco mode to maximize fuel economy. I would like to see Hyundai add a separate eco mode and have the standard driving mode be a balance of eco and sport. In terms of fuel economy, the Elantra GT Sport is rated at 26 City/32 Highway/28 Combined with the DCT. My average for the week landed around 27 mpg with a 60/40 mix of city and highway driving. The Elantra GT Sport’s handling is Hyundai’s best effort to date. Sport models swap the torsion beam rear suspension found on the standard GT for a sport-tuned multilink setup. This swap makes the Elantra GT quite nimble in the corners with little body roll and feels poised. Steering provides decent weight when turning. The sporty setup does mean the Elantra GT Sport has a compliant ride with more road imperfections being transmitted. Not much wind noise comes inside, but a fair amount of road noise does. The Elantra GT Sport is so close to being a viable alternative to the Volkswagen Golf. It offers a clean exterior look, well-equipped interior, spacious cargo area, and impressive handling characteristics. But the programming of the standard drive mode dents the appeal of the Sport, making it feel less ‘sporty’. Hopefully, Hyundai has some plans to tweak the drive mode programming and dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai has an agreeable compact hatchback in the form of the Elantra GT Sport. But we think given a little bit more time and work, it could be one of the best. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra GT, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Hyundai Model: Elantra GT Trim: Sport A/T Engine: 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed dual-Clutch Horsepower @ RPM: 201 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 ~ 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/32/28 Curb Weight: 3,155 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $24,350 As Tested Price: $29,210 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sport Tech Package - $3,850.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00 View full article
  4. William Maley

    Review: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport

    The Hyundai Elantra GT has always stood apart from its sedan counterpart due to its European roots. This is most apparent in terms of handling where the hatchback felt slightly sharper than the sedan. Hyundai’s U.S. office has once again called on the European office to source a new Elantra GT hatchback. The model known in Europe as the i30 has been said to be a viable alternative to the Volkswagen Golf by automotive writers. Does that hold true in terms of the U.S.? Hyundai’s designers took a page out of the Golf’s playbook when it comes to the exterior. It may not have the excitement or sharp design traits of other compacts, but the Elantra GT’s shape is very classy. The front end features Hyundai’s new hexagonal grille shape and deep cuts in the bumper for the fog lights. The side profile features a large area of glass to help the interior feel airier and a set of 18-inch wheels with black center caps. The rear has a crease running along the rear tailgate and a dual exhaust system. My first impression of the Elantra GT’s interior was, “this is more interesting to look at than the Elantra sedan”. The dash design is clean with sculpting along the passenger side to provide some visual differentiation. Sport models feature red accent trim around the vents and stitching on the seats to give off the impression of sportiness. Material quality is average for the class with an equal mix of hard and soft-touch materials. Passengers sitting up front will find controls to be in easy reach and the seats offering adequate comfort. Taller passengers sitting in the back will be complaining about the minuscule amount of legroom. With the driver’s seat set in my position, I found my knees were almost touching the back of it. The Elantra GT’s cargo space is towards the top of the class with 24.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 55.1 cubic feet when folded. All Elantra GT’s get Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment system housed either in a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen mounted on top of the dash. Our tester came with the larger 8-inch screen with navigation. Hyundai’s BlueLink system is one our favorite infotainment system with an easy-to-understand user interface, physical shortcut buttons around the screen, and snappy performance. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard and bring more capability to BlueLink. Under the hood of the Elantra GT Sport is a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder producing 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine you’ll find in the Elantra Sport and Kia Soul !. A six-speed manual is standard, but the model seen here had the optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The first couple of days driving the Elantra GT Sport was somewhat of a disappointment. The throttle felt very sluggish, not letting the turbo engine provide a rush of power. Not helping was the transmission which was focused more on upshifting quickly, along with stumbling with gear changes at low speeds. But I soon figured out that putting the vehicle into Sport mode makes the vehicle much more lively. The throttle loosens up and allows the engine to exploit its full potential. The transmission seems to hold on to gears slightly longer to allow for improved performance. My hunch is that the standard drive mode is actually an eco mode to maximize fuel economy. I would like to see Hyundai add a separate eco mode and have the standard driving mode be a balance of eco and sport. In terms of fuel economy, the Elantra GT Sport is rated at 26 City/32 Highway/28 Combined with the DCT. My average for the week landed around 27 mpg with a 60/40 mix of city and highway driving. The Elantra GT Sport’s handling is Hyundai’s best effort to date. Sport models swap the torsion beam rear suspension found on the standard GT for a sport-tuned multilink setup. This swap makes the Elantra GT quite nimble in the corners with little body roll and feels poised. Steering provides decent weight when turning. The sporty setup does mean the Elantra GT Sport has a compliant ride with more road imperfections being transmitted. Not much wind noise comes inside, but a fair amount of road noise does. The Elantra GT Sport is so close to being a viable alternative to the Volkswagen Golf. It offers a clean exterior look, well-equipped interior, spacious cargo area, and impressive handling characteristics. But the programming of the standard drive mode dents the appeal of the Sport, making it feel less ‘sporty’. Hopefully, Hyundai has some plans to tweak the drive mode programming and dual-clutch transmission. Hyundai has an agreeable compact hatchback in the form of the Elantra GT Sport. But we think given a little bit more time and work, it could be one of the best. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Elantra GT, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Hyundai Model: Elantra GT Trim: Sport A/T Engine: 1.6L Turbocharged DOHC D-CVVT GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed dual-Clutch Horsepower @ RPM: 201 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 ~ 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/32/28 Curb Weight: 3,155 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $24,350 As Tested Price: $29,210 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Sport Tech Package - $3,850.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
  5. William Maley

    Review: 2018 Lexus LC 500

    "We had no intention of turning it into a production car. But your positive reaction, as well as the reaction of our customers, changed our minds. We listened, and we made it real.” That was Toyota President Akio Toyoda speaking at the Lexus LC 500 debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Four years before, Lexus unveiled the LF-LC concept to the world. It was striking to say in the least with a design that empathized curves and deep cuts. There was no chance that this sleek concept would make it into production. It was too daring for a brand that liked to play it safe. But the LF-LC did make it into production and retained most of the design. But what is the rest of the car like? When an automaker takes a car from concept to production, something is usually lost in the translation due to regulations or costs. But Lexus was somehow able to carry over the design of the LF-LC concept to the LC 500. The front end is set very low and features the brand’s spindle grille and aggressive cuts in the bumper for the LED fog lights. Channels along the hood flow gently into either side of the grille. For the side, the door handles are flush with the doors and will pop out to allow entry into the vehicle. The rear fenders are quite wide to make room for larger tires and brake vents. The back stands out with narrow taillights that extend into the fenders and chrome exhaust surrounds. Wearing a dark grey finish, the LC 500 looks very sinister. The interior is a treat for the eyes. It’s a minimalist design with few buttons and knobs on the dash and door panels. There are some special design touches such as handles that float on the door panels and a grab handle that extends from the center stack to the console for the front seat passenger. Material quality is very impressive with leather, Alcantara, carbon fiber, and metal used throughout. My tester came with a set of sport seats with eight-way power seats. The seats feature increased bolstering to hold driver and passenger during a bout of exuberant driving. However, some people will not be able to fully fit into the seats because of the added bolstering. I would like to see Lexus offer some sort of adjustable bolstering down the road. The back seat is best used for storage. There is barely enough head and legroom for a small kid. A 10.3-inch screen sitting in the center stack features the latest version of Lexus Enform. The system features an updated interface with revised graphics and new color palate that makes it very easy to read at a glance. Controlling this is Lexus’ Remote Touchpad controller. Compared to other vehicles with the Touchpad, the LC brings a couple of key improvements. There are a set of shortcut buttons to common functions such as the radio and navigation. Lexus has also implemented a pause over each icon to prevent you from selecting another one because your finger slipped. Despite the improvements, Remote Touchpad is still very distracting to use when driving. You need to give your full attention to the system and not the road to make sure you’re turning on the heated seat for example. At least the LC 500 collision mitigation system with automatic braking to give you a bit of a safety net when using this system. Pop up the hood to find the heart of the LC 500; a 5.0L naturally-aspirated V8 producing 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. The powertrain has a Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde personality. Driven normally, the 5.0L V8 emits a low growl and delivers power in a smooth fashion. Gear changes from the 10-speed are unobtrusive. Drive it with some aggression and the LC becomes an animal. The V8 emits a roar similar to a muscle car and will throw you back into the seat as power comes on rapidly. The 10-speed automatic delivers fast shifts to keep the engine in its sweet spot of power. I found myself having a stupid grin on my face every time I would floor the accelerator just to hear the lovely sounds of the V8. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2018 Lexus LC 500 are 16 City/26 Highway/19 Combined. My average for the week landed around 18.6 mpg. The LC 500 is quite surprising on a winding road. Despite the large size and weight, the LC seems to glide from bend to bend with little body roll. Some of this can be attributed to the rear-wheel steering system that is part of an optional performance package that makes the coupe feel smaller. This package also adds the variable gear-ratio steering system which adjusts the number of turns to reach steering lock helps the LC feel nimble. The only downside is the steering lacking the feedback some driving enthusiasts want. On a cruise, the LC 500 settles down and provides a somewhat relaxing ride. A small number of bumps make their way inside due to the 21-inch forged aluminum wheels. The smaller 20-inch wheels do improve ride quality somewhat. Road and wind noise are kept to minimum levels. Possibly the big surprise is how much the LC 500 will set you back. The base is $92,000 and our test vehicle came with an as-tested price of $101,715 with destination. Considering how much performance and luxuries you get for the price, the LC 500 is quite the steal. Lexus took quite the gamble with the LC 500 and their efforts paid off. The sharp exterior styling hides a very impressive chassis that somehow balances sporty handling and comfort. Plus, the V8 engine provides one of the most impressive sounds. Lexus Enform and Remote Touch spoil the LC somewhat as it is distracting to use. In a way, the LC is a modern incarnation of the SC coupe from the 90s. Both were a departure for Lexus as they offered a sleek design, smooth and powerful engines, and a balance between comfort and support. The two coupes also gave Lexus something it was lacking, a soul. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LC 500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Lexus Model: LC Trim: 500 Engine: 5.0L DOHC 32-Valve, Dual VVT-i V8 Driveline: Ten-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 471 @ 7,100 Torque @ RPM: 398 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/26/19 Curb Weight: 4,280 lbs Location of Manufacture: Motomachi, Yokohama, Japan Base Price: $92,000 As Tested Price: $101,715 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Performance Package with Carbon - $5,960.00 Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound System - $1,220.00 Color Heads-Up Display - $900.00 Torsen Limited-Slip Rear Differential - $390.00 All-Weather Trim Package - $250.00
  6. William Maley

    Review: 2018 Lexus LC 500

    "We had no intention of turning it into a production car. But your positive reaction, as well as the reaction of our customers, changed our minds. We listened, and we made it real.” That was Toyota President Akio Toyoda speaking at the Lexus LC 500 debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Four years before, Lexus unveiled the LF-LC concept to the world. It was striking to say in the least with a design that empathized curves and deep cuts. There was no chance that this sleek concept would make it into production. It was too daring for a brand that liked to play it safe. But the LF-LC did make it into production and retained most of the design. But what is the rest of the car like? When an automaker takes a car from concept to production, something is usually lost in the translation due to regulations or costs. But Lexus was somehow able to carry over the design of the LF-LC concept to the LC 500. The front end is set very low and features the brand’s spindle grille and aggressive cuts in the bumper for the LED fog lights. Channels along the hood flow gently into either side of the grille. For the side, the door handles are flush with the doors and will pop out to allow entry into the vehicle. The rear fenders are quite wide to make room for larger tires and brake vents. The back stands out with narrow taillights that extend into the fenders and chrome exhaust surrounds. Wearing a dark grey finish, the LC 500 looks very sinister. The interior is a treat for the eyes. It’s a minimalist design with few buttons and knobs on the dash and door panels. There are some special design touches such as handles that float on the door panels and a grab handle that extends from the center stack to the console for the front seat passenger. Material quality is very impressive with leather, Alcantara, carbon fiber, and metal used throughout. My tester came with a set of sport seats with eight-way power seats. The seats feature increased bolstering to hold driver and passenger during a bout of exuberant driving. However, some people will not be able to fully fit into the seats because of the added bolstering. I would like to see Lexus offer some sort of adjustable bolstering down the road. The back seat is best used for storage. There is barely enough head and legroom for a small kid. A 10.3-inch screen sitting in the center stack features the latest version of Lexus Enform. The system features an updated interface with revised graphics and new color palate that makes it very easy to read at a glance. Controlling this is Lexus’ Remote Touchpad controller. Compared to other vehicles with the Touchpad, the LC brings a couple of key improvements. There are a set of shortcut buttons to common functions such as the radio and navigation. Lexus has also implemented a pause over each icon to prevent you from selecting another one because your finger slipped. Despite the improvements, Remote Touchpad is still very distracting to use when driving. You need to give your full attention to the system and not the road to make sure you’re turning on the heated seat for example. At least the LC 500 collision mitigation system with automatic braking to give you a bit of a safety net when using this system. Pop up the hood to find the heart of the LC 500; a 5.0L naturally-aspirated V8 producing 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. The powertrain has a Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde personality. Driven normally, the 5.0L V8 emits a low growl and delivers power in a smooth fashion. Gear changes from the 10-speed are unobtrusive. Drive it with some aggression and the LC becomes an animal. The V8 emits a roar similar to a muscle car and will throw you back into the seat as power comes on rapidly. The 10-speed automatic delivers fast shifts to keep the engine in its sweet spot of power. I found myself having a stupid grin on my face every time I would floor the accelerator just to hear the lovely sounds of the V8. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2018 Lexus LC 500 are 16 City/26 Highway/19 Combined. My average for the week landed around 18.6 mpg. The LC 500 is quite surprising on a winding road. Despite the large size and weight, the LC seems to glide from bend to bend with little body roll. Some of this can be attributed to the rear-wheel steering system that is part of an optional performance package that makes the coupe feel smaller. This package also adds the variable gear-ratio steering system which adjusts the number of turns to reach steering lock helps the LC feel nimble. The only downside is the steering lacking the feedback some driving enthusiasts want. On a cruise, the LC 500 settles down and provides a somewhat relaxing ride. A small number of bumps make their way inside due to the 21-inch forged aluminum wheels. The smaller 20-inch wheels do improve ride quality somewhat. Road and wind noise are kept to minimum levels. Possibly the big surprise is how much the LC 500 will set you back. The base is $92,000 and our test vehicle came with an as-tested price of $101,715 with destination. Considering how much performance and luxuries you get for the price, the LC 500 is quite the steal. Lexus took quite the gamble with the LC 500 and their efforts paid off. The sharp exterior styling hides a very impressive chassis that somehow balances sporty handling and comfort. Plus, the V8 engine provides one of the most impressive sounds. Lexus Enform and Remote Touch spoil the LC somewhat as it is distracting to use. In a way, the LC is a modern incarnation of the SC coupe from the 90s. Both were a departure for Lexus as they offered a sleek design, smooth and powerful engines, and a balance between comfort and support. The two coupes also gave Lexus something it was lacking, a soul. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the LC 500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Lexus Model: LC Trim: 500 Engine: 5.0L DOHC 32-Valve, Dual VVT-i V8 Driveline: Ten-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 471 @ 7,100 Torque @ RPM: 398 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/26/19 Curb Weight: 4,280 lbs Location of Manufacture: Motomachi, Yokohama, Japan Base Price: $92,000 As Tested Price: $101,715 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Performance Package with Carbon - $5,960.00 Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound System - $1,220.00 Color Heads-Up Display - $900.00 Torsen Limited-Slip Rear Differential - $390.00 All-Weather Trim Package - $250.00 View full article
  7. The Toyota Highlander has an interesting selling point in the midsize crossover class. It is the only model that offers a hybrid version. Seems quite crazy that more automakers aren’t offering a green option due to the increasing popularity. But maybe there is a reason for that. (Author’s note: I don’t go into detail about the Highlander Hybrid’s exterior and interior as it is the same as the regular Highlander. If you want to get an idea of what I think, you can check out my quick drive review on the 2017 Highlander posted back in October. -WM) The Highlander Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a 3.5L V6, two electric motors, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output is rated at 306 horsepower. This is paired up with a CVT. The electric motors are mounted on each axle and provide all-wheel drive. Despite the hybrid weighing 310 pounds more than the standard model, the instantaneous torque from electric motors disguises the extra weight at low speeds. This makes the hybrid feel slightly quicker around town than the standard model. But at higher speeds, the effectiveness of the electric motors begin to wane and the V6 begins to shoulder more of the burden. Merging onto a freeway, I found the hybrid to not be any quicker than the standard Highlander. Switching between hybrid and EV mode in the Highlander Hybrid is very seamless. You don’t notice the transition unless you have the hybrid powertrain screen up in the instrument cluster or infotainment system. Like most Toyota hybrids, the Highlander Hybrid can travel on electric power at speeds up to 25 mph for short distances. I found this was easy to sustain when driving in city areas or my neighborhood. EPA fuel economy figures on the Highlander Hybrid are 30 City/28 Highway/29 Combined for the base LE, and 29/27/28 for the rest of the lineup like our Limited tester. During my week, I was only able to achieve a disappointing 24 mpg on a 60/40 mix of city and highway driving. The Highlander I drove last year was only 2 mpg lower during my week-long test. Ride quality is similar to the regular Highlander as most bumps and potholes are ironed out. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Handling is not the Highlander Hybrid’s strong suit. Around corners, the hybrid shows an excessive amount of body roll and dull steering. On the upside, the hybrid does feel more planted to the road than the regular model thanks to the extra weight of batteries. Brakes are still an issue for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles. The Highlander Hybrid exhibits a vague and somewhat unpredictable feel from the pedal, which doesn’t inspire confidence. The 2017 Highlander Hybrid begins at $36,270 for the base LE, about $2,130 more than the standard Highlander LE V6 AWD. Our Limited tester starts at $44,760, and with a couple of options and destination, the as-tested price is $46,134. Is the hybrid worth it? In short, no. With gas prices the way they are at the moment, it will take a long time for you to break even on the extra cost of the Highlander Hybrid. Plus, I found the real-world fuel economy wasn’t that much better than the standard model. At the moment, I would stick with the standard Highlander and pocket the extra cash. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: Highlander Hybrid Trim: Limited Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve with VVT-iW V6, 2 Electric Motors, Sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack Driveline: CVT, AWD-i Horsepower @ RPM: 231 @ 5,800 (Gas); 167 @ 0 (Electric Motor 1); 68 @ 0 (Electric Motor 2); 306 (Total) Torque @ RPM: 215 @ 4,800 (Gas); 247 @ 0 (Electric Motor 1); 103 @ 0 (Electric Motor 2) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/27/28 Curb Weight: 4,861 lbs Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana Base Price: $44,760 As Tested Price: $46,134 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00 Body Side Molding - $209.00
  8. The Toyota Highlander has an interesting selling point in the midsize crossover class. It is the only model that offers a hybrid version. Seems quite crazy that more automakers aren’t offering a green option due to the increasing popularity. But maybe there is a reason for that. (Author’s note: I don’t go into detail about the Highlander Hybrid’s exterior and interior as it is the same as the regular Highlander. If you want to get an idea of what I think, you can check out my quick drive review on the 2017 Highlander posted back in October. -WM) The Highlander Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a 3.5L V6, two electric motors, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output is rated at 306 horsepower. This is paired up with a CVT. The electric motors are mounted on each axle and provide all-wheel drive. Despite the hybrid weighing 310 pounds more than the standard model, the instantaneous torque from electric motors disguises the extra weight at low speeds. This makes the hybrid feel slightly quicker around town than the standard model. But at higher speeds, the effectiveness of the electric motors begin to wane and the V6 begins to shoulder more of the burden. Merging onto a freeway, I found the hybrid to not be any quicker than the standard Highlander. Switching between hybrid and EV mode in the Highlander Hybrid is very seamless. You don’t notice the transition unless you have the hybrid powertrain screen up in the instrument cluster or infotainment system. Like most Toyota hybrids, the Highlander Hybrid can travel on electric power at speeds up to 25 mph for short distances. I found this was easy to sustain when driving in city areas or my neighborhood. EPA fuel economy figures on the Highlander Hybrid are 30 City/28 Highway/29 Combined for the base LE, and 29/27/28 for the rest of the lineup like our Limited tester. During my week, I was only able to achieve a disappointing 24 mpg on a 60/40 mix of city and highway driving. The Highlander I drove last year was only 2 mpg lower during my week-long test. Ride quality is similar to the regular Highlander as most bumps and potholes are ironed out. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Handling is not the Highlander Hybrid’s strong suit. Around corners, the hybrid shows an excessive amount of body roll and dull steering. On the upside, the hybrid does feel more planted to the road than the regular model thanks to the extra weight of batteries. Brakes are still an issue for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles. The Highlander Hybrid exhibits a vague and somewhat unpredictable feel from the pedal, which doesn’t inspire confidence. The 2017 Highlander Hybrid begins at $36,270 for the base LE, about $2,130 more than the standard Highlander LE V6 AWD. Our Limited tester starts at $44,760, and with a couple of options and destination, the as-tested price is $46,134. Is the hybrid worth it? In short, no. With gas prices the way they are at the moment, it will take a long time for you to break even on the extra cost of the Highlander Hybrid. Plus, I found the real-world fuel economy wasn’t that much better than the standard model. At the moment, I would stick with the standard Highlander and pocket the extra cash. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: Highlander Hybrid Trim: Limited Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve with VVT-iW V6, 2 Electric Motors, Sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack Driveline: CVT, AWD-i Horsepower @ RPM: 231 @ 5,800 (Gas); 167 @ 0 (Electric Motor 1); 68 @ 0 (Electric Motor 2); 306 (Total) Torque @ RPM: 215 @ 4,800 (Gas); 247 @ 0 (Electric Motor 1); 103 @ 0 (Electric Motor 2) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/27/28 Curb Weight: 4,861 lbs Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana Base Price: $44,760 As Tested Price: $46,134 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00 Body Side Molding - $209.00 View full article
  9. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq SEL

    Can any automaker out-do the Toyota Prius? Some have tried and ultimately have failed in one way or another. But the latest challenger, the Hyundai Ioniq, appears to be a formidable opponent. On paper, the Ioniq boasts higher fuel economy figures than the Prius. It also features a design that will not scare people away. We spent a week in the midlevel SEL to find out if the Prius needs to watch its back. The Ioniq’s design appears to be heavily influenced by the second and third-generation Prius. This is shown in the overall profile and rear tailgate design. The front end comes with a large hexagonal grille, raked projector headlights, and deep cuts in the bumpers enclosing a set of LEDs. The only downside to the Ioniq’s design is the plastic rectangle around the Hyundai emblem on the front. It looks out of place, but that houses the radar system needed for the automatic braking and adaptive cruise control systems. “It seems quite normal,” will be thought of many when they come inside the Ioniq. There is no futuristic design, joystick controller for the transmission, or endless acres of white plastic trim. This is an interior you might expect to find in the Elantra compact sedan. Material quality is similar to what you’ll find in a Toyota Prius - a mix of hard and soft plastics. The control layout is simple and is within easy reach for those sitting up front. The SEL comes with cloth upholstery and a power driver’s seat. Finding a comfortable position isn’t too hard with the power adjustments and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. But the Ioniq’s front seats do falter on long trips. I found myself squirming around the seat after driving the vehicle for an hour. The back comes up slightly short in terms of head and legroom for taller passengers. For example, I’m 5’9” and my head was touching the headliner. A 7-inch infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard on all Ioniqs. A larger 8-inch system with navigation is only available on the top-line Limited trim. Hyundai offers one of the better infotainment systems with an easy-to-understand interface, quick performance, and having physical shortcut buttons to various functions. The only thing I wished Hyundai would do is making the 8-inch screen standard. This would make it easier to read the information at a quick glance. Hyundai employs a 1.6L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine, a 32 kW electric motor, and a Lithium-ion Polymer battery for the Ioniq’s hybrid powertrain. Total output is rated at 139 horsepower, 18 more than in the Prius. Around town, the Ioniq is noticeably faster than the Prius. I had no problems with keeping up with the flow of traffic. Sport mode does sharpen acceleration, but it will eat into fuel economy. Like the Prius, the Ioniq does struggle with getting up to speed on the freeway. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic didn’t exhibit the hesitation to drop down a gear or the clunky gear changes that I experienced in the Kia Niro. It delivered smooth and quick shifts. The EPA rates the 2017 Ioniq SEL at 55 City/54 Highway/55 Combined - better the 54/50/52 for the Prius. My average for the week was a disappointing 45 mpg. Some of this can be explained by the extremely cold temps that hit the Detroit-area only a couple days into my loan. This caused the gas engine to run constantly to keep the vehicle warm. Like the Prius, the Ioniq is surprisingly fun to drive. There is little body roll and the vehicle quickly transitions from one turn to another. Steering has decent weight when turning, but is devoid of feel, something common in the class. The Ioniq comes up slightly short in terms of ride quality. On rough roads, the Ioniq lets in more bumps than the Prius. There is also a fair amount of tire roar that comes inside when driving on the freeway. Pricing is a strong point for the Ioniq. The midlevel SEL trim begins at $23,950. With the optional tech package (adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning) and floor mats, the as-tested price comes to $25,910. Taking into account what you get for the price, the Ioniq continues Hyundai’s reputation of delivering a lot of car for the money. As my time with the Ioniq was coming to a close, I found myself stumped between choosing the Ioniq and Prius. The Ioniq has the less outlandish design, better performance, higher fuel economy figures (on paper), and value. But the Prius can hold its own as it has a better balance between ride and handling, slightly larger back seat, and impressive real-world fuel economy figures. Plus, the Prius name holds a lot more recognition than the Ioniq. Despite the positives, the Ioniq finds itself between a rock and hard place. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Ioniq, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Hyundai Model: Ioniq Trim: SEL Engine: 1.6L GDI Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 104 @ 5,700 (Gas), 43 @ 0 (Electric), 139 (Combined) Torque @ RPM: 109 @ 4,000 (Gas), 125 @ 0 (Electric) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 55/54/55 Curb Weight: 3,031 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $23,950 As Tested Price: $25,910 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tech Package - $1,000.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00 View full article
  10. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq SEL

    Can any automaker out-do the Toyota Prius? Some have tried and ultimately have failed in one way or another. But the latest challenger, the Hyundai Ioniq, appears to be a formidable opponent. On paper, the Ioniq boasts higher fuel economy figures than the Prius. It also features a design that will not scare people away. We spent a week in the midlevel SEL to find out if the Prius needs to watch its back. The Ioniq’s design appears to be heavily influenced by the second and third-generation Prius. This is shown in the overall profile and rear tailgate design. The front end comes with a large hexagonal grille, raked projector headlights, and deep cuts in the bumpers enclosing a set of LEDs. The only downside to the Ioniq’s design is the plastic rectangle around the Hyundai emblem on the front. It looks out of place, but that houses the radar system needed for the automatic braking and adaptive cruise control systems. “It seems quite normal,” will be thought of many when they come inside the Ioniq. There is no futuristic design, joystick controller for the transmission, or endless acres of white plastic trim. This is an interior you might expect to find in the Elantra compact sedan. Material quality is similar to what you’ll find in a Toyota Prius - a mix of hard and soft plastics. The control layout is simple and is within easy reach for those sitting up front. The SEL comes with cloth upholstery and a power driver’s seat. Finding a comfortable position isn’t too hard with the power adjustments and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. But the Ioniq’s front seats do falter on long trips. I found myself squirming around the seat after driving the vehicle for an hour. The back comes up slightly short in terms of head and legroom for taller passengers. For example, I’m 5’9” and my head was touching the headliner. A 7-inch infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard on all Ioniqs. A larger 8-inch system with navigation is only available on the top-line Limited trim. Hyundai offers one of the better infotainment systems with an easy-to-understand interface, quick performance, and having physical shortcut buttons to various functions. The only thing I wished Hyundai would do is making the 8-inch screen standard. This would make it easier to read the information at a quick glance. Hyundai employs a 1.6L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine, a 32 kW electric motor, and a Lithium-ion Polymer battery for the Ioniq’s hybrid powertrain. Total output is rated at 139 horsepower, 18 more than in the Prius. Around town, the Ioniq is noticeably faster than the Prius. I had no problems with keeping up with the flow of traffic. Sport mode does sharpen acceleration, but it will eat into fuel economy. Like the Prius, the Ioniq does struggle with getting up to speed on the freeway. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic didn’t exhibit the hesitation to drop down a gear or the clunky gear changes that I experienced in the Kia Niro. It delivered smooth and quick shifts. The EPA rates the 2017 Ioniq SEL at 55 City/54 Highway/55 Combined - better the 54/50/52 for the Prius. My average for the week was a disappointing 45 mpg. Some of this can be explained by the extremely cold temps that hit the Detroit-area only a couple days into my loan. This caused the gas engine to run constantly to keep the vehicle warm. Like the Prius, the Ioniq is surprisingly fun to drive. There is little body roll and the vehicle quickly transitions from one turn to another. Steering has decent weight when turning, but is devoid of feel, something common in the class. The Ioniq comes up slightly short in terms of ride quality. On rough roads, the Ioniq lets in more bumps than the Prius. There is also a fair amount of tire roar that comes inside when driving on the freeway. Pricing is a strong point for the Ioniq. The midlevel SEL trim begins at $23,950. With the optional tech package (adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning) and floor mats, the as-tested price comes to $25,910. Taking into account what you get for the price, the Ioniq continues Hyundai’s reputation of delivering a lot of car for the money. As my time with the Ioniq was coming to a close, I found myself stumped between choosing the Ioniq and Prius. The Ioniq has the less outlandish design, better performance, higher fuel economy figures (on paper), and value. But the Prius can hold its own as it has a better balance between ride and handling, slightly larger back seat, and impressive real-world fuel economy figures. Plus, the Prius name holds a lot more recognition than the Ioniq. Despite the positives, the Ioniq finds itself between a rock and hard place. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Ioniq, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Hyundai Model: Ioniq Trim: SEL Engine: 1.6L GDI Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 104 @ 5,700 (Gas), 43 @ 0 (Electric), 139 (Combined) Torque @ RPM: 109 @ 4,000 (Gas), 125 @ 0 (Electric) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 55/54/55 Curb Weight: 3,031 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $23,950 As Tested Price: $25,910 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tech Package - $1,000.00 Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
  11. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

    Mazda has a big dream for itself. It is trying to stand out from the competition by becoming more premium. The first steps of this process took place last year with a refreshed Mazda6 sedan. As we noted in our review at the time, the 6 made great strides in improving noise isolation and material quality. Now, the premium dream is coming more into focus with the redesigned CX-5. Mazda is making some big promises with claims of improved refinement and an upscale look and feel for the interior. We spent a week in a 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring to see if those promises are met. The past few years have seen Mazda designing some distinctive looking vehicles and the redesigned CX-5 is no exception. The overall shape is an evolution of the first-generation model with smoother lines and more curves. The small details such as the wider front grille, slim LED headlights, 19-inch aluminum wheels, and a rear tailgate design similar to the Mazda3 really set the CX-5 apart from the competition. The only item that slightly ruins the design is the oversized Mazda emblem on the front grille. This is due to the emblem holding the hardware for various active safety equipment such as the radar cruise control. Moving inside, it is clear Mazda has put a lot of effort in making the CX-5 a cut above the rest. The modern design and appointments such as the stitching on the dash and bright trim around the vents make for a very classy cabin. Most materials are soft-touch which add another level of the premium-ness Mazda is pushing. Controls fall readily to hand for both driver and front-seat passenger. The front seats in the Grand Touring come wrapped in leather upholstery and feature power adjustments and heat. It would be nice if Mazda had the option of ventilation to prop up their premium image, but we’re nitpicking here. The seats offer excellent support over long trips and plenty of head and legroom. Back seat passengers will have no complaints as head and legroom are very competitive with other models, and there is the option of heated seats. Cargo space is where the CX-5 falters. Open the tailgate to be greeted with 30.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold the seats to expand space to 59.6 cubic feet. It pales in comparison to the likes of the Honda CR-V (39.2 and 75.8 cubic feet) and Volkswagen’s redesigned Tiguan (37.6 and 73.5 cubic feet). The Grand Touring comes with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a control knob. It does take some time to learn the various idiosyncrasies such as the touchscreen functions being locked out when the vehicle is on the move and having to jump through various menus to switch between various audio sources. Once you get the hang of the system, it becomes easy to use. Mazda Connect is beginning to show its age with the dark color palate, somewhat dated navigation interface, and the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Mazda only offers the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front-wheel or Mazda’s i-Active all-wheel drive. The engine is where Mazda’s premium image takes a serious hit. Around town, the engine is very peppy and is willing to get speed quickly. But the powertrain feels somewhat winded when power was needed to make a pass or merge on an expressway. Mazda has been working on a diesel engine option that was expected to arrive in the second half of last year, but hasn’t come out at the time of this writing. A fix that I’m willing to propose is to offer the turbocharged 2.5L four from the CX-9. The six-speed automatic goes about its business with crisp and smooth shifts. Fuel economy for the CX-5 AWD is rated by the EPA at 23 City/29 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 25.7 mpg. We have praised the previous-generation Mazda CX-5 as being one best driving crossovers. The new one continues that with agile handling and excellent body control. The steering provides excellent feedback and weight when driving down a winding road. Mazda has fitted their G-Vectoring Control that monitors steering and throttle input, and will reduce engine power to improve overall handling. But as I noted in my Mazda6 quick drive last year, I couldn’t tell if the system made a difference or not. The same is true when it comes to the CX-5. This sporting edge does mean the ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of road imperfections being transmitted inside. The 19-inch wheels don’t help with this and it might be worth considering dropping down to the Touring for the smaller 17-inch wheels. At least Mazda is continuing to improve road and wind noise isolation. Compared to the last CX-5 I drove, there is a reduction in road and wind noise inside. It is almost as quiet as what you might find in a luxury model. If I was to recommend a CX-5 for most buyers in 2017, that would be the Grand Touring. While I find the price to be slightly high and the 19-inch wheels make the ride uncomfortable, it was the only way to get a number of active safety features such as radar cruise control and the smart city brake support. Thankfully for 2018, Mazda has migrated a number of those features down to the Touring and Sport trims. If you’re considering a 2018 CX-5, the Touring is your best bet as you’ll get most everything on the Grand Touring at a price that won’t break the bank. Has Mazda accomplished their hopes of becoming more premium? The answer is a bit mixed. For the positives, Mazda has been making great strides in improving the noise isolation in their vehicles and the new CX-5 is no exception. There is also the distinctive exterior shape, noticeable improvement in material quality, and the sharp driving dynamics that have made the CX-5 a darling of the automotive press. The negatives on the CX-5 include a slightly stiff ride, smallish cargo area, and certain missing features that would really help with the premium image Mazda is trying to project. But the biggest issue has to be the engine. While 2.5 Skyactiv-G is perfectly adequate around town, it really struggles when more speed is called for. Dropping either the long-delayed diesel or the CX-9’s turbo-four would really do wonders and help foster the premium image. The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is so close to the premium edge. It just needs a few more tweaks to reach it. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-5, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Mazda Model: CX-5 Trim: Grand Touring AWD Engine: 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/29/26 Curb Weight: 3,693 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $30,695 As Tested Price: $34,380 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $1,830.00 Soul Red - $595.00 Retractable Cargo Cover $250.00 Cargo Mat - $70.00
  12. Mazda has a big dream for itself. It is trying to stand out from the competition by becoming more premium. The first steps of this process took place last year with a refreshed Mazda6 sedan. As we noted in our review at the time, the 6 made great strides in improving noise isolation and material quality. Now, the premium dream is coming more into focus with the redesigned CX-5. Mazda is making some big promises with claims of improved refinement and an upscale look and feel for the interior. We spent a week in a 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring to see if those promises are met. The past few years have seen Mazda designing some distinctive looking vehicles and the redesigned CX-5 is no exception. The overall shape is an evolution of the first-generation model with smoother lines and more curves. The small details such as the wider front grille, slim LED headlights, 19-inch aluminum wheels, and a rear tailgate design similar to the Mazda3 really set the CX-5 apart from the competition. The only item that slightly ruins the design is the oversized Mazda emblem on the front grille. This is due to the emblem holding the hardware for various active safety equipment such as the radar cruise control. Moving inside, it is clear Mazda has put a lot of effort in making the CX-5 a cut above the rest. The modern design and appointments such as the stitching on the dash and bright trim around the vents make for a very classy cabin. Most materials are soft-touch which add another level of the premium-ness Mazda is pushing. Controls fall readily to hand for both driver and front-seat passenger. The front seats in the Grand Touring come wrapped in leather upholstery and feature power adjustments and heat. It would be nice if Mazda had the option of ventilation to prop up their premium image, but we’re nitpicking here. The seats offer excellent support over long trips and plenty of head and legroom. Back seat passengers will have no complaints as head and legroom are very competitive with other models, and there is the option of heated seats. Cargo space is where the CX-5 falters. Open the tailgate to be greeted with 30.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold the seats to expand space to 59.6 cubic feet. It pales in comparison to the likes of the Honda CR-V (39.2 and 75.8 cubic feet) and Volkswagen’s redesigned Tiguan (37.6 and 73.5 cubic feet). The Grand Touring comes with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a control knob. It does take some time to learn the various idiosyncrasies such as the touchscreen functions being locked out when the vehicle is on the move and having to jump through various menus to switch between various audio sources. Once you get the hang of the system, it becomes easy to use. Mazda Connect is beginning to show its age with the dark color palate, somewhat dated navigation interface, and the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Mazda only offers the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front-wheel or Mazda’s i-Active all-wheel drive. The engine is where Mazda’s premium image takes a serious hit. Around town, the engine is very peppy and is willing to get speed quickly. But the powertrain feels somewhat winded when power was needed to make a pass or merge on an expressway. Mazda has been working on a diesel engine option that was expected to arrive in the second half of last year, but hasn’t come out at the time of this writing. A fix that I’m willing to propose is to offer the turbocharged 2.5L four from the CX-9. The six-speed automatic goes about its business with crisp and smooth shifts. Fuel economy for the CX-5 AWD is rated by the EPA at 23 City/29 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 25.7 mpg. We have praised the previous-generation Mazda CX-5 as being one best driving crossovers. The new one continues that with agile handling and excellent body control. The steering provides excellent feedback and weight when driving down a winding road. Mazda has fitted their G-Vectoring Control that monitors steering and throttle input, and will reduce engine power to improve overall handling. But as I noted in my Mazda6 quick drive last year, I couldn’t tell if the system made a difference or not. The same is true when it comes to the CX-5. This sporting edge does mean the ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of road imperfections being transmitted inside. The 19-inch wheels don’t help with this and it might be worth considering dropping down to the Touring for the smaller 17-inch wheels. At least Mazda is continuing to improve road and wind noise isolation. Compared to the last CX-5 I drove, there is a reduction in road and wind noise inside. It is almost as quiet as what you might find in a luxury model. If I was to recommend a CX-5 for most buyers in 2017, that would be the Grand Touring. While I find the price to be slightly high and the 19-inch wheels make the ride uncomfortable, it was the only way to get a number of active safety features such as radar cruise control and the smart city brake support. Thankfully for 2018, Mazda has migrated a number of those features down to the Touring and Sport trims. If you’re considering a 2018 CX-5, the Touring is your best bet as you’ll get most everything on the Grand Touring at a price that won’t break the bank. Has Mazda accomplished their hopes of becoming more premium? The answer is a bit mixed. For the positives, Mazda has been making great strides in improving the noise isolation in their vehicles and the new CX-5 is no exception. There is also the distinctive exterior shape, noticeable improvement in material quality, and the sharp driving dynamics that have made the CX-5 a darling of the automotive press. The negatives on the CX-5 include a slightly stiff ride, smallish cargo area, and certain missing features that would really help with the premium image Mazda is trying to project. But the biggest issue has to be the engine. While 2.5 Skyactiv-G is perfectly adequate around town, it really struggles when more speed is called for. Dropping either the long-delayed diesel or the CX-9’s turbo-four would really do wonders and help foster the premium image. The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is so close to the premium edge. It just needs a few more tweaks to reach it. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-5, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Mazda Model: CX-5 Trim: Grand Touring AWD Engine: 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/29/26 Curb Weight: 3,693 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $30,695 As Tested Price: $34,380 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $1,830.00 Soul Red - $595.00 Retractable Cargo Cover $250.00 Cargo Mat - $70.00 View full article
  13. William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE

    Despite the popularity of compact crossovers, it seems somewhat odd there isn’t a large number of hybrid variants. In fact, there is only one available, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Going hybrid usually means a hit in performance and cargo space. But in the case of the RAV4 Hybrid, it is quicker than the standard model and cargo space isn’t greatly affected. I spent some time with the RAV4 Hybrid over the holidays where it was driven to Northern Michigan and back. This is what I learned. The RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a 2.5L four-cylinder, three electric motors (one acting as the engine starter and battery charger, the other two drive the wheels and provide AWD), and a Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack. Total output is rated at 194 horsepower. Power is routed through a CVT. Fuel economy figures are noticeably better than the RAV4 SE AWD I drove last year - 34 City/30 Highway/32 Combined for the Hybrid vs. 22/29/25 for the standard RAV4. My average for the week landed around 30.7 MPG. I think the average could have been higher if Michigan had not experienced a cold snap where temperatures fell to single digits at times, causing the engine to run longer to keep the vehicle warm. The hybrid also feels slightly quicker than the standard RAV4 thanks to the electric motors providing instantaneous torque when leaving a stop. But merging on to a freeway or passing becomes a bit unpleasant as the engine pegs at high rpms to provide the power needed. This also brings forth a lot of noise from the engine and CVT. Doing a lot of driving on the freeway and country roads made me really appreciate the smooth and compliant ride of the RAV4 Hybrid. Most bumps and road imperfections are smoothed over. Some credit has to go to the 17-inch wheels on the XLE. Handling is competent as the suspension keeps body motions in check. However, the rubbery steering and low-rolling resistance tires will make drivers think twice about pushing the RAV4 Hybrid. The low-rolling resistance tires also hamper traction in snow. I could tell when driving in deep snow, the all-wheel drive was working a bit harder to keep the vehicle moving. If you live in a snowy area, I would highly recommend swapping the low-rolling resistance tires for a set of all-seasons or winter tires. At first glance, the RAV4 Hybrid looks like any other RAV4. It is only when you get closer that you will notice the blue-tinted emblems and ‘Hybrid’ badging on the front fenders and tailgate. The interior is much the same as any other RAV4 aside from a different gauge cluster and a button to activate the EV mode. This is ok as the RAV4 is an ok place to sit in with a utilitarian design that puts various controls within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are what you would expect to find in a vehicle of this class, a mix of soft and hard-touch plastics. The back seat is still a plus point to the RAV4 as there is plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. Cargo space in the hybrid is about 3 cubic feet smaller than the standard RAV4 due to the battery with the rear seats up or down. Still, the hybrid’s cargo space is one the of the largest in the compact crossover class and I was able to fit luggage for myself and my brother, along with gifts for various relatives with no issue. All RAV4 Hybrids come with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen. The system is becoming quite dated in terms of the interface and features - no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for example. On the upside, Entune is easy to master thanks to a simple layout and physical shortcut buttons to various functions. 2017 saw Toyota make a number of active safety features standard on all RAV4s. That includes radar cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane keep assist. I would like to see blind spot monitoring added to this suite. The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid begins at $29,030 for the base XLE, about $4,000 more than the RAV4 XLE. Taking into consideration the noticeable fuel economy increase and better performance, I would be willing to spend the extra cash. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the RAV4 Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: RAV4 Hybrid Trim: XLE Engine: 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle 16-Valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Two 650V Electric Motors Driveline: CVT, AWD Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 5,700 (Gas), 105 kW (Front Electric Motor), 50 kW (Rear Electric Motor), 194 (Combined Output) Torque @ RPM: 152 @ 4,400 (Gas) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/30/32 Curb Weight: 3,925 lbs Location of Manufacture: Obu, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $29,030 As Tested Price: $31,965 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Convenience Package - $1,905.00 Tonneau Cover - $90.00
  14. Despite the popularity of compact crossovers, it seems somewhat odd there isn’t a large number of hybrid variants. In fact, there is only one available, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Going hybrid usually means a hit in performance and cargo space. But in the case of the RAV4 Hybrid, it is quicker than the standard model and cargo space isn’t greatly affected. I spent some time with the RAV4 Hybrid over the holidays where it was driven to Northern Michigan and back. This is what I learned. The RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a 2.5L four-cylinder, three electric motors (one acting as the engine starter and battery charger, the other two drive the wheels and provide AWD), and a Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack. Total output is rated at 194 horsepower. Power is routed through a CVT. Fuel economy figures are noticeably better than the RAV4 SE AWD I drove last year - 34 City/30 Highway/32 Combined for the Hybrid vs. 22/29/25 for the standard RAV4. My average for the week landed around 30.7 MPG. I think the average could have been higher if Michigan had not experienced a cold snap where temperatures fell to single digits at times, causing the engine to run longer to keep the vehicle warm. The hybrid also feels slightly quicker than the standard RAV4 thanks to the electric motors providing instantaneous torque when leaving a stop. But merging on to a freeway or passing becomes a bit unpleasant as the engine pegs at high rpms to provide the power needed. This also brings forth a lot of noise from the engine and CVT. Doing a lot of driving on the freeway and country roads made me really appreciate the smooth and compliant ride of the RAV4 Hybrid. Most bumps and road imperfections are smoothed over. Some credit has to go to the 17-inch wheels on the XLE. Handling is competent as the suspension keeps body motions in check. However, the rubbery steering and low-rolling resistance tires will make drivers think twice about pushing the RAV4 Hybrid. The low-rolling resistance tires also hamper traction in snow. I could tell when driving in deep snow, the all-wheel drive was working a bit harder to keep the vehicle moving. If you live in a snowy area, I would highly recommend swapping the low-rolling resistance tires for a set of all-seasons or winter tires. At first glance, the RAV4 Hybrid looks like any other RAV4. It is only when you get closer that you will notice the blue-tinted emblems and ‘Hybrid’ badging on the front fenders and tailgate. The interior is much the same as any other RAV4 aside from a different gauge cluster and a button to activate the EV mode. This is ok as the RAV4 is an ok place to sit in with a utilitarian design that puts various controls within easy reach for driver and passenger. Materials are what you would expect to find in a vehicle of this class, a mix of soft and hard-touch plastics. The back seat is still a plus point to the RAV4 as there is plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. Cargo space in the hybrid is about 3 cubic feet smaller than the standard RAV4 due to the battery with the rear seats up or down. Still, the hybrid’s cargo space is one the of the largest in the compact crossover class and I was able to fit luggage for myself and my brother, along with gifts for various relatives with no issue. All RAV4 Hybrids come with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen. The system is becoming quite dated in terms of the interface and features - no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for example. On the upside, Entune is easy to master thanks to a simple layout and physical shortcut buttons to various functions. 2017 saw Toyota make a number of active safety features standard on all RAV4s. That includes radar cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane keep assist. I would like to see blind spot monitoring added to this suite. The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid begins at $29,030 for the base XLE, about $4,000 more than the RAV4 XLE. Taking into consideration the noticeable fuel economy increase and better performance, I would be willing to spend the extra cash. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the RAV4 Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: RAV4 Hybrid Trim: XLE Engine: 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle 16-Valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Two 650V Electric Motors Driveline: CVT, AWD Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 5,700 (Gas), 105 kW (Front Electric Motor), 50 kW (Rear Electric Motor), 194 (Combined Output) Torque @ RPM: 152 @ 4,400 (Gas) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/30/32 Curb Weight: 3,925 lbs Location of Manufacture: Obu, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $29,030 As Tested Price: $31,965 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge) Options: Convenience Package - $1,905.00 Tonneau Cover - $90.00 View full article
  15. It feels a bit odd to be spending some time in the 2017 Cadillac ATS coupe after driving the CT6 earlier this year. In a way, it felt like I was stepping back into the past where Cadillac was making some dumb decisions that ultimately would hurt their vehicles. The ATS coupe is a prime example of this where Cadillac had a legitimate challenger to likes of the BMW 3/4-Series and Audi A5 in terms of performance and handling. But some bone-headed decisions would regulate it to the mid-pack. The ATS Coupe is still quite the looker. It features the classic rear-wheel drive proportions of a long front end and a short rear deck.The low roofline and raised belt line give off an impression of aggressive elegance. Our test car came with a set of machined-finished, 18-inch wheels that help the design pop. Move inside and it is clear that the interior hasn’t aged so well. For example, the sheet of piano black trim with the silver capacitive touch buttons really look out of place. The trim is also a magnet for fingerprints. Cadillac’s designers deserve a bit of credit for providing a nice mix of materials such as the Bordello Red leather upholstery, suede microfiber covering parts of the dash and door panels, and carbon fiber trim. The front seats are very comfortable for long trips and do an excellent job of holding you in during an enthusiastic drive. The rear seats are best left to be used for additional storage as leg and headroom are minuscule. Trunk space is quite small for the class at 10.4 cubic feet. CUE is still a bit of a mixed bag. While the overall usability is better with quicker response times and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the touch capacitive buttons are still hit and miss in terms of responding. Power comes from a 2.0L turbo-four producing 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. We had the eight-speed automatic that was introduced last year, but a six-speed manual is available as an option. The 2.0L turbo is a punchy performer. Power comes at a smooth and steady rate. The engine does lose some points under hard acceleration as it is not refined as some competitors. The eight-speed automatic is the weak point for the ATS. It is slow to downshift when you need the thrust to pass a slower vehicle. We have to assume this comes down to the programming which is tuned more for fuel economy than performance. Gear changes, for the most part, are seamless. One area that Cadillac hasn’t messed with is the ATS’ handling. The coupe is a willing accomplice down a twisty road with sharp reflexes, little body roll, and steering that provides the right balance of steering feel and weight. We had the optional V-Sport Suspension package which adds a performance suspension and a set of summer-only, run-flat tires which only improves the handling. The downside to this handling goodness is a very stiff ride. Compared to the last ATS we drove (not the ATS-V), this coupe transmitted more bumps and imperfections, making for a very uncomfortable ride. Some of this can be laid at the V-Sport Suspension package. The ATS coupe seen here is the Luxury model - one step above the base model. It carries a base price of $41,395. Our test car was loaded with $12,055 in options, bringing the as-tested price to $54,445. You might be wondering why not jump into the Premium Luxury or Premium Performance if you’re planning to spend that much cash. That is because those two trims only come with the 3.6L V6. If you want the 2.0L turbo, you have to go either the base ATS or Luxury. If I was to buy this car, I would skip the V-Sport suspension package, performance exhaust kit, slotted rotor and brake pad upgrade, and the 18-inch wheels. That would drop the price to a somewhat reasonable $48,490. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the ATS Coupe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas (Author's Note: And that is the final review for 2017. (Hooray!) I'll be revealing my favorite vehicles before the end of the year, so stay tuned. As for 2018, there will be a mix of some leftover 2017 models mixed in with the first batch of 2018 models. Expect to see reviews start back up around the Detroit Auto Show. In the meantime, have a safe and joyous holiday. -WM) Year: 2017 Make: Cadillac Model: ATS Coupe Trim: 2.0T Luxury Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DI VVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 272 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 3,000 - 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - Curb Weight: 3,571 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, Michigan Base Price: $41,395 As Tested Price: $54,445 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: V-Sport Suspension Package - $2,265.00 Performance Exhaust Kit - $1,650.00 Safety & Security Package - $1,500.00 Morello Red Semi-Aniline Leather - $1,295.00 Slotted Rotor and Brake Pad Upgrade Package - $1,190.00 Power Sunroof - $1,050.00 18" Bright Machined-Finish Alloy Wheels - $850.00 Black Chrome Accented Grille - $820.00 V-Series Rear Spoiler - $665.00 Phantom Gray Metallic - $595.00 Black Chrome Rear Trim - $175.00
  16. It feels a bit odd to be spending some time in the 2017 Cadillac ATS coupe after driving the CT6 earlier this year. In a way, it felt like I was stepping back into the past where Cadillac was making some dumb decisions that ultimately would hurt their vehicles. The ATS coupe is a prime example of this where Cadillac had a legitimate challenger to likes of the BMW 3/4-Series and Audi A5 in terms of performance and handling. But some bone-headed decisions would regulate it to the mid-pack. The ATS Coupe is still quite the looker. It features the classic rear-wheel drive proportions of a long front end and a short rear deck.The low roofline and raised belt line give off an impression of aggressive elegance. Our test car came with a set of machined-finished, 18-inch wheels that help the design pop. Move inside and it is clear that the interior hasn’t aged so well. For example, the sheet of piano black trim with the silver capacitive touch buttons really look out of place. The trim is also a magnet for fingerprints. Cadillac’s designers deserve a bit of credit for providing a nice mix of materials such as the Bordello Red leather upholstery, suede microfiber covering parts of the dash and door panels, and carbon fiber trim. The front seats are very comfortable for long trips and do an excellent job of holding you in during an enthusiastic drive. The rear seats are best left to be used for additional storage as leg and headroom are minuscule. Trunk space is quite small for the class at 10.4 cubic feet. CUE is still a bit of a mixed bag. While the overall usability is better with quicker response times and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the touch capacitive buttons are still hit and miss in terms of responding. Power comes from a 2.0L turbo-four producing 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet. We had the eight-speed automatic that was introduced last year, but a six-speed manual is available as an option. The 2.0L turbo is a punchy performer. Power comes at a smooth and steady rate. The engine does lose some points under hard acceleration as it is not refined as some competitors. The eight-speed automatic is the weak point for the ATS. It is slow to downshift when you need the thrust to pass a slower vehicle. We have to assume this comes down to the programming which is tuned more for fuel economy than performance. Gear changes, for the most part, are seamless. One area that Cadillac hasn’t messed with is the ATS’ handling. The coupe is a willing accomplice down a twisty road with sharp reflexes, little body roll, and steering that provides the right balance of steering feel and weight. We had the optional V-Sport Suspension package which adds a performance suspension and a set of summer-only, run-flat tires which only improves the handling. The downside to this handling goodness is a very stiff ride. Compared to the last ATS we drove (not the ATS-V), this coupe transmitted more bumps and imperfections, making for a very uncomfortable ride. Some of this can be laid at the V-Sport Suspension package. The ATS coupe seen here is the Luxury model - one step above the base model. It carries a base price of $41,395. Our test car was loaded with $12,055 in options, bringing the as-tested price to $54,445. You might be wondering why not jump into the Premium Luxury or Premium Performance if you’re planning to spend that much cash. That is because those two trims only come with the 3.6L V6. If you want the 2.0L turbo, you have to go either the base ATS or Luxury. If I was to buy this car, I would skip the V-Sport suspension package, performance exhaust kit, slotted rotor and brake pad upgrade, and the 18-inch wheels. That would drop the price to a somewhat reasonable $48,490. Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the ATS Coupe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas (Author's Note: And that is the final review for 2017. (Hooray!) I'll be revealing my favorite vehicles before the end of the year, so stay tuned. As for 2018, there will be a mix of some leftover 2017 models mixed in with the first batch of 2018 models. Expect to see reviews start back up around the Detroit Auto Show. In the meantime, have a safe and joyous holiday. -WM) Year: 2017 Make: Cadillac Model: ATS Coupe Trim: 2.0T Luxury Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DI VVT Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 272 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 3,000 - 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - Curb Weight: 3,571 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, Michigan Base Price: $41,395 As Tested Price: $54,445 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: V-Sport Suspension Package - $2,265.00 Performance Exhaust Kit - $1,650.00 Safety & Security Package - $1,500.00 Morello Red Semi-Aniline Leather - $1,295.00 Slotted Rotor and Brake Pad Upgrade Package - $1,190.00 Power Sunroof - $1,050.00 18" Bright Machined-Finish Alloy Wheels - $850.00 Black Chrome Accented Grille - $820.00 V-Series Rear Spoiler - $665.00 Phantom Gray Metallic - $595.00 Black Chrome Rear Trim - $175.00 View full article
  17. One thing Jeep is very good at is providing different variations of their models to fit a buyer’s desire and budget. The Grand Cherokee is an excellent example with seven different models on offer. Jeep is using this same strategy for the Cherokee with seven different trims ranging from the base Sport to luxurious Overland. We spent some time in the Overland to see if a luxury version of the Cherokee makes any sense. The Overland model stands out from other Cherokees as the lower body cladding is painted in the same color as the body. Depending on what color you select, it will either make the Cherokee look good or just a giant blob - the latter being the case for our silver test vehicle. A set of 18-inch polished aluminum wheels come standard and add a nice touch of class. Compared to other Cherokee’s I’ve driven, the Overland does feel a little bit more luxurious. This comes down to some of the appointments used such as cream leather upholstery for the seats and door panels, a texture dash cover finished in brown, and accent stitching. Overland models get power seats for driver and passenger. This makes it easy to find a comfortable position thanks to the adjustments on offer. Backseat passengers also get their own set of adjustments - reclining, and sliding the seat forward and back. Passengers will have no complaints in terms of space or overall comfort. One area that a fair number of people will complain about is cargo space. The Cherokee is towards the bottom of the class with only 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 54.9 cubic feet when folded. This comes down Jeep making certain compromises to be able to fit all of the off-road hardware to the Cherokee. The 8.4-inch UConnect system fitted to the Cherokee is the previous-generation version. While you do miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect still comes with one of easiest interfaces to wrap your head around with large touch buttons and redundant physical shortcut buttons. Powering the Cherokee Overland is a 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s Active Drive II 4WD system. With this Cherokee tipping the scales at 4,046 pounds, the V6 is the right engine for the job. It offers enough performance for everyday driving and is one of the most refined engines in the class. The nine-speed automatic provides smooth and quick upshifts. Downshifts are another story as the transmission seems somewhat reluctant whenever merging or making a pass. The Cherokee has some of the worst fuel economy numbers in the class with EPA figures of 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I was able to eek out 22 MPG during my week of driving in mostly urban areas. Ride comfort is a plus point to the Cherokee as the suspension absorbs most impacts from bumps and other road imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. One area that Cherokee does surprisingly well is in handling. Despite its off-road credentials, the Cherokee handles with confidence with a limited amount of body roll. The steering is precise and has some decent weight. Still, the Cherokee lacks the fun element you would find in competitors such as the Mazda CX-5. The Overland trim is quite expensive with a starting price of $38,690 with 4WD. This particular model seen here came with an as-tested price of $43,690 with a few options ticked such as the Active Drive II system, Technology Package (includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, parking assist, and rain-sensing wipers), and a panoramic sunroof. For that kind of cash, you can get into a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 that offers slightly more power and returns similar fuel economy figures. The Overland is nice a variant of the Cherokee. But there is no way it can justify a price tag of nearly $44,000. If you really want a nice Cherokee, drop down to the Limited and go easy on the options list. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Cherokee, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Jeep Model: Cherokee Trim: Overland Engine: 3.2L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, 4WD Horsepower @ RPM: 271 @ 6,500 Torque @ RPM: 239 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21 Curb Weight: 4,046 lbs Location of Manufacture: Belvidere, Illinois Base Price: $37,695 As Tested Price: $43,690 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge) Options: CommandView Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - $1,755.00 Technology Group - $1,645.00 Jeep Active Drive II - $1,205.00 Heavy Duty Package Group - $295.00 View full article
  18. William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland

    One thing Jeep is very good at is providing different variations of their models to fit a buyer’s desire and budget. The Grand Cherokee is an excellent example with seven different models on offer. Jeep is using this same strategy for the Cherokee with seven different trims ranging from the base Sport to luxurious Overland. We spent some time in the Overland to see if a luxury version of the Cherokee makes any sense. The Overland model stands out from other Cherokees as the lower body cladding is painted in the same color as the body. Depending on what color you select, it will either make the Cherokee look good or just a giant blob - the latter being the case for our silver test vehicle. A set of 18-inch polished aluminum wheels come standard and add a nice touch of class. Compared to other Cherokee’s I’ve driven, the Overland does feel a little bit more luxurious. This comes down to some of the appointments used such as cream leather upholstery for the seats and door panels, a texture dash cover finished in brown, and accent stitching. Overland models get power seats for driver and passenger. This makes it easy to find a comfortable position thanks to the adjustments on offer. Backseat passengers also get their own set of adjustments - reclining, and sliding the seat forward and back. Passengers will have no complaints in terms of space or overall comfort. One area that a fair number of people will complain about is cargo space. The Cherokee is towards the bottom of the class with only 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 54.9 cubic feet when folded. This comes down Jeep making certain compromises to be able to fit all of the off-road hardware to the Cherokee. The 8.4-inch UConnect system fitted to the Cherokee is the previous-generation version. While you do miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect still comes with one of easiest interfaces to wrap your head around with large touch buttons and redundant physical shortcut buttons. Powering the Cherokee Overland is a 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s Active Drive II 4WD system. With this Cherokee tipping the scales at 4,046 pounds, the V6 is the right engine for the job. It offers enough performance for everyday driving and is one of the most refined engines in the class. The nine-speed automatic provides smooth and quick upshifts. Downshifts are another story as the transmission seems somewhat reluctant whenever merging or making a pass. The Cherokee has some of the worst fuel economy numbers in the class with EPA figures of 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I was able to eek out 22 MPG during my week of driving in mostly urban areas. Ride comfort is a plus point to the Cherokee as the suspension absorbs most impacts from bumps and other road imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. One area that Cherokee does surprisingly well is in handling. Despite its off-road credentials, the Cherokee handles with confidence with a limited amount of body roll. The steering is precise and has some decent weight. Still, the Cherokee lacks the fun element you would find in competitors such as the Mazda CX-5. The Overland trim is quite expensive with a starting price of $38,690 with 4WD. This particular model seen here came with an as-tested price of $43,690 with a few options ticked such as the Active Drive II system, Technology Package (includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, parking assist, and rain-sensing wipers), and a panoramic sunroof. For that kind of cash, you can get into a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 that offers slightly more power and returns similar fuel economy figures. The Overland is nice a variant of the Cherokee. But there is no way it can justify a price tag of nearly $44,000. If you really want a nice Cherokee, drop down to the Limited and go easy on the options list. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Cherokee, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Jeep Model: Cherokee Trim: Overland Engine: 3.2L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, 4WD Horsepower @ RPM: 271 @ 6,500 Torque @ RPM: 239 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21 Curb Weight: 4,046 lbs Location of Manufacture: Belvidere, Illinois Base Price: $37,695 As Tested Price: $43,690 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge) Options: CommandView Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - $1,755.00 Technology Group - $1,645.00 Jeep Active Drive II - $1,205.00 Heavy Duty Package Group - $295.00
  19. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

    Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider. Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing. The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for. Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds. Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission. Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive. The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion. The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine. EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG. If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider. In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no. Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Fiat Model: 124 Spider Trim: Abarth Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29 Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $28,195 As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00 View full article
  20. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

    Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider. Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing. The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for. Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds. Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission. Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive. The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion. The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine. EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG. If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider. In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no. Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Fiat Model: 124 Spider Trim: Abarth Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29 Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $28,195 As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00
  21. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4X4

    There are some vehicles that leave you scratching your head, wondering why is anyone buying them. A perfect example is the previous-generation Jeep Compass. The model had a long list of negatives ranging from a very cheap interior to powertrains that could be beaten by a snail. But a number of folks bought the Compass and its sister car, the Patriot, in droves. It offered the looks and the image of owning a Jeep vehicle without the downsides of owning something that provided a rough ride or was too expensive. Almost a decade later, we have the new Compass which hopes to right the wrongs of the previous model. We spent a week in the Limited trim to see if Jeep was able to. First impressions seem promising when it comes to the exterior. There is a lot of Grand Cherokee in the Compass’ shape with similar profiles, angled front end, and rear tailgate. Our Limited tester came with 18-inch aluminum wheels and two-tone paint that helps make the model pop. Compared to the last Compass, the new model is slightly shorter (173.2 vs. 175.1-inches). A big complaint about the Compass/Patriot was their interiors. It was easy to tell they were built to the lowest cost possible with cheap plastics, a short list of standard features, and odd design decisions. The new Compass thankfully fixes many of those mistakes. Step inside and it becomes quite clear that Jeep focused on making the Compass a special place to be in. Again, there is a lot of Grand Cherokee influence with a similar dash design and the extensive use of soft-touch materials. We like the contrasting trim pieces around the vents that help make the interior not feel as dark. One thing we’re not so keen on is the low placement of HVAC and audio controls in the center stack. It is a bit of reach to adjust the temperature or change the volume. In terms of seating, you feel that you’re sitting on top of the Compass, not inside it. This is due to Jeep raising the seats to provide the high-riding experience of an SUV. The front seats provide decent support for long trips and optional power adjustments make it easier to find the right position. In the back, there is plenty of legroom for those over 6-feet. Headroom is tight for taller passengers if you get the optional panoramic sunroof. Cargo space measures out to 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61 cubic feet folded. Our test Compass came with the 8.4-inch UConnect system. Recently updated for the 2018 model year, the system features an updated interface and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike other FCA vehicles equipped with UConnect, the system in the Compass was problematic. For starters, the system had trouble trying to pair an iPhone 7 Plus via Bluetooth. The system would try to connect to the phone for about 30 seconds and then give up. On the third attempt, UConnect froze and I had to shut off the vehicle and walk away for a minute before the system turned off. After doing some troubleshooting, I realized that I had too many UConnect pairings on my phone and deleted them all. After this, the system was able to connect to connect to my phone with no issues. Yes, this is only a problem to those of us who review a number of new cars. But other problems with this system would pop up such as the system taking a few moments to bring up certain functions, being unable to find my iPod or iPhone when plugged in, and the system crashing when I was trying to bring up navigation. I believe these most of these issues are isolated to this vehicle, but it doesn’t leave a good impression with the new version of UConnect. There is only one engine available for the Compass, a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Our Limited came equipped with a nine-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive models have the choice between a six-speed manual or automatic. This engine has been a weak point in many Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ vehicles we have driven and the Compass is no exception. Acceleration is very anemic as the engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. The engine is also very noisy when accelerating but thankfully quiets down when cruising at a steady speed. The nine-speed automatic is well-behaved for the most part as it smoothly and quickly upshifts to help boost fuel economy. There is some hesitation when it comes to downshifting. Fuel economy is not a strong suit for the Compass. EPA ratings for the nine-speed and AWD combination stands at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. Our average for the week landed at 23 MPG. The tall height may hint that the Compass is a bit of handful when cornering, but the model is surprisingly agile. There is some lean when cornering, but the Compass feels planted and controlled. The steering feels nicely weighted and responds quickly to inputs. In terms of the ride, the Compass’ suspension is able to smooth over most bumps with no issue. We sadly didn’t get the chance to try the Compass’ off-road capability. AWD models come with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system that offers four different driving modes that alter various settings. Those who have taken the Compass off the beaten path say it is surprisingly capable. The second-generation Jeep Compass is worlds better than the original model. A lot of the changes made to this model have been for the better with a sharp-looking exterior, pleasant interior, and surprising driving dynamics. But there are two issues that hold the Compass back from reaching greatness. First is the 2.4 four-cylinder engine which feels sluggish and fuel economy is somewhat poor. FCA really needs to come up with a replacement for the 2.4 ASAP. Second is the price. The Compass Limited starts at $28,995 and our as-tested price came to $34,955. This makes a bit of a poor value, especially when the Hyundai Tucson Limited we reviewed a few weeks ago was only $300 more. Given the choice, we would pick the Hyundai. Despite the changes made by the Jeep, the Compass is relegated to mid-pack. If they can get a new engine and work on the value argument, then the Compass could be a real threat. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Compass, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Jeep Model: Compass Trim: Limited 4X4 Engine: 2.4L MultiAir 16-Valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,327 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico Base Price: $28,995 As Tested Price: $34,955 (Includes $1,095 Destination Charge) Options: 19" x 7.5" Polished Black Pocket Aluminum Wheels - $895.00 Advanced Safety & Lighting Group - $895.00 Navigation Group - $895.00 Safety and Security Group - $745.00 Beats Premium Audio System - $695.00 Power Liftgate - $495.00 Compact Spare Tire - $245.00
  22. William Maley

    Review: 2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4X4

    There are some vehicles that leave you scratching your head, wondering why is anyone buying them. A perfect example is the previous-generation Jeep Compass. The model had a long list of negatives ranging from a very cheap interior to powertrains that could be beaten by a snail. But a number of folks bought the Compass and its sister car, the Patriot, in droves. It offered the looks and the image of owning a Jeep vehicle without the downsides of owning something that provided a rough ride or was too expensive. Almost a decade later, we have the new Compass which hopes to right the wrongs of the previous model. We spent a week in the Limited trim to see if Jeep was able to. First impressions seem promising when it comes to the exterior. There is a lot of Grand Cherokee in the Compass’ shape with similar profiles, angled front end, and rear tailgate. Our Limited tester came with 18-inch aluminum wheels and two-tone paint that helps make the model pop. Compared to the last Compass, the new model is slightly shorter (173.2 vs. 175.1-inches). A big complaint about the Compass/Patriot was their interiors. It was easy to tell they were built to the lowest cost possible with cheap plastics, a short list of standard features, and odd design decisions. The new Compass thankfully fixes many of those mistakes. Step inside and it becomes quite clear that Jeep focused on making the Compass a special place to be in. Again, there is a lot of Grand Cherokee influence with a similar dash design and the extensive use of soft-touch materials. We like the contrasting trim pieces around the vents that help make the interior not feel as dark. One thing we’re not so keen on is the low placement of HVAC and audio controls in the center stack. It is a bit of reach to adjust the temperature or change the volume. In terms of seating, you feel that you’re sitting on top of the Compass, not inside it. This is due to Jeep raising the seats to provide the high-riding experience of an SUV. The front seats provide decent support for long trips and optional power adjustments make it easier to find the right position. In the back, there is plenty of legroom for those over 6-feet. Headroom is tight for taller passengers if you get the optional panoramic sunroof. Cargo space measures out to 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61 cubic feet folded. Our test Compass came with the 8.4-inch UConnect system. Recently updated for the 2018 model year, the system features an updated interface and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike other FCA vehicles equipped with UConnect, the system in the Compass was problematic. For starters, the system had trouble trying to pair an iPhone 7 Plus via Bluetooth. The system would try to connect to the phone for about 30 seconds and then give up. On the third attempt, UConnect froze and I had to shut off the vehicle and walk away for a minute before the system turned off. After doing some troubleshooting, I realized that I had too many UConnect pairings on my phone and deleted them all. After this, the system was able to connect to connect to my phone with no issues. Yes, this is only a problem to those of us who review a number of new cars. But other problems with this system would pop up such as the system taking a few moments to bring up certain functions, being unable to find my iPod or iPhone when plugged in, and the system crashing when I was trying to bring up navigation. I believe these most of these issues are isolated to this vehicle, but it doesn’t leave a good impression with the new version of UConnect. There is only one engine available for the Compass, a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. Our Limited came equipped with a nine-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive models have the choice between a six-speed manual or automatic. This engine has been a weak point in many Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ vehicles we have driven and the Compass is no exception. Acceleration is very anemic as the engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. The engine is also very noisy when accelerating but thankfully quiets down when cruising at a steady speed. The nine-speed automatic is well-behaved for the most part as it smoothly and quickly upshifts to help boost fuel economy. There is some hesitation when it comes to downshifting. Fuel economy is not a strong suit for the Compass. EPA ratings for the nine-speed and AWD combination stands at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. Our average for the week landed at 23 MPG. The tall height may hint that the Compass is a bit of handful when cornering, but the model is surprisingly agile. There is some lean when cornering, but the Compass feels planted and controlled. The steering feels nicely weighted and responds quickly to inputs. In terms of the ride, the Compass’ suspension is able to smooth over most bumps with no issue. We sadly didn’t get the chance to try the Compass’ off-road capability. AWD models come with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system that offers four different driving modes that alter various settings. Those who have taken the Compass off the beaten path say it is surprisingly capable. The second-generation Jeep Compass is worlds better than the original model. A lot of the changes made to this model have been for the better with a sharp-looking exterior, pleasant interior, and surprising driving dynamics. But there are two issues that hold the Compass back from reaching greatness. First is the 2.4 four-cylinder engine which feels sluggish and fuel economy is somewhat poor. FCA really needs to come up with a replacement for the 2.4 ASAP. Second is the price. The Compass Limited starts at $28,995 and our as-tested price came to $34,955. This makes a bit of a poor value, especially when the Hyundai Tucson Limited we reviewed a few weeks ago was only $300 more. Given the choice, we would pick the Hyundai. Despite the changes made by the Jeep, the Compass is relegated to mid-pack. If they can get a new engine and work on the value argument, then the Compass could be a real threat. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Compass, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Jeep Model: Compass Trim: Limited 4X4 Engine: 2.4L MultiAir 16-Valve Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,327 lbs Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico Base Price: $28,995 As Tested Price: $34,955 (Includes $1,095 Destination Charge) Options: 19" x 7.5" Polished Black Pocket Aluminum Wheels - $895.00 Advanced Safety & Lighting Group - $895.00 Navigation Group - $895.00 Safety and Security Group - $745.00 Beats Premium Audio System - $695.00 Power Liftgate - $495.00 Compact Spare Tire - $245.00 View full article
  23. William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

    Most wagon options in the U.S. fall under the slightly-lifted off-road category. The reason is quite simple as buyers like the looks and capability on offer when compared to standard wagons. Case in point is the latest member of the Golf family, the Alltrack. Volkswagen recently revealed that 75 percent of Golf SportWagens sold in the U.S. are Alltracks. We happen to be big fans of the Golf SportWagen as it builds upon many of strong points of the regular Golf by making it more practical. Can the Golf Alltrack do the same? The small changes made to the Golf Alltrack’s exterior help make it stand out somewhat. It begins with the slight 0.6-inch increase in ride height and a larger tire and wheel combination. Our SEL tester feature 18-inch wheels, while the S and SE make do with 17-inch wheels. Other exterior changes include new bumpers and lower body cladding. Volkswagen didn’t make any changes to the Alltrack’s interior which is a good thing. It retains the clean if a somewhat boring design that makes it easy to find the various controls. Build and material quality is very solid. SEL models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system and navigation. We like how fast the system is with switching between various functions, physical shortcut buttons, and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Car-Net loses some points for low-resolution graphics and the navigation system looking very dated. The seats are quite comfortable with excellent support and good bolstering to keep you planted when traversing down a winding road. Head and legroom are excellent in both rows of seats. A turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque provides the motivation for the Golf Alltrack. This is paired with a six-speed DSG transmission (a six-speed manual is available on the S and SE) and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Despite being about 300 pounds heavier than the SportWagen, the Alltrack doesn’t break a sweat. It feels just as fast as the SportWagen we drove last year with strong acceleration throughout the rpm band. The DSG still exhibits some sluggishness when leaving a stop, but improves when you’re up to speed with rapid and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is disappointing with EPA figures of 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. We saw an average of 25 MPG with a mix of 70 percent city and 30 percent highway driving. Ride and handling characteristics is much like the standard Golf and SportWagen. No matter the road surface, the Alltrack’s suspension was able to provide a comfortable ride. Around corners, the Alltrack does show a little bit of body roll. However, it feels as agile as the standard SportWagen and the steering is quick to respond to inputs. The Golf Alltrack begins at $25,850 for the base S with manual transmission. Our loaded SEL tester totaled $35,705 with the Driver Assistance and Light package. That’s a lot of money for a compact off-road wagon, especially considering you can get into a larger Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited with the excellent EyeSight active safety system for around the same money. If we were buying a Golf Alltrack, we would drop down to the S with the DSG and order the Driver Assistance package, bring the total price to just over $28,500. The Alltrack is a worthy addition to the Golf family as it provides something a bit more capable while retaining many of the plus points of the standard Golf. We do wish the DSG was smoother during low-speed driving and fuel economy was slightly better. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf Alltrack, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Volkswagen Model: Golf Alltrack Trim: SEL Engine: Turbocharged 1.8L TSI DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed DSG, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500 Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,351 lbs Location of Manufacture: N/A Base Price: $32,890 As Tested Price: $35,705 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: SEL Driver Assistance & Lighting Package - $1,995.00
  24. Most wagon options in the U.S. fall under the slightly-lifted off-road category. The reason is quite simple as buyers like the looks and capability on offer when compared to standard wagons. Case in point is the latest member of the Golf family, the Alltrack. Volkswagen recently revealed that 75 percent of Golf SportWagens sold in the U.S. are Alltracks. We happen to be big fans of the Golf SportWagen as it builds upon many of strong points of the regular Golf by making it more practical. Can the Golf Alltrack do the same? The small changes made to the Golf Alltrack’s exterior help make it stand out somewhat. It begins with the slight 0.6-inch increase in ride height and a larger tire and wheel combination. Our SEL tester feature 18-inch wheels, while the S and SE make do with 17-inch wheels. Other exterior changes include new bumpers and lower body cladding. Volkswagen didn’t make any changes to the Alltrack’s interior which is a good thing. It retains the clean if a somewhat boring design that makes it easy to find the various controls. Build and material quality is very solid. SEL models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system and navigation. We like how fast the system is with switching between various functions, physical shortcut buttons, and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Car-Net loses some points for low-resolution graphics and the navigation system looking very dated. The seats are quite comfortable with excellent support and good bolstering to keep you planted when traversing down a winding road. Head and legroom are excellent in both rows of seats. A turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque provides the motivation for the Golf Alltrack. This is paired with a six-speed DSG transmission (a six-speed manual is available on the S and SE) and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Despite being about 300 pounds heavier than the SportWagen, the Alltrack doesn’t break a sweat. It feels just as fast as the SportWagen we drove last year with strong acceleration throughout the rpm band. The DSG still exhibits some sluggishness when leaving a stop, but improves when you’re up to speed with rapid and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is disappointing with EPA figures of 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. We saw an average of 25 MPG with a mix of 70 percent city and 30 percent highway driving. Ride and handling characteristics is much like the standard Golf and SportWagen. No matter the road surface, the Alltrack’s suspension was able to provide a comfortable ride. Around corners, the Alltrack does show a little bit of body roll. However, it feels as agile as the standard SportWagen and the steering is quick to respond to inputs. The Golf Alltrack begins at $25,850 for the base S with manual transmission. Our loaded SEL tester totaled $35,705 with the Driver Assistance and Light package. That’s a lot of money for a compact off-road wagon, especially considering you can get into a larger Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited with the excellent EyeSight active safety system for around the same money. If we were buying a Golf Alltrack, we would drop down to the S with the DSG and order the Driver Assistance package, bring the total price to just over $28,500. The Alltrack is a worthy addition to the Golf family as it provides something a bit more capable while retaining many of the plus points of the standard Golf. We do wish the DSG was smoother during low-speed driving and fuel economy was slightly better. Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf Alltrack, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Volkswagen Model: Golf Alltrack Trim: SEL Engine: Turbocharged 1.8L TSI DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed DSG, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500 Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25 Curb Weight: 3,351 lbs Location of Manufacture: N/A Base Price: $32,890 As Tested Price: $35,705 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge) Options: SEL Driver Assistance & Lighting Package - $1,995.00 View full article
  25. William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim

    I happen to be a big fan of the Kia Soul. Its daring looks, spacious interior, and overall value make it an interesting option in the compact class. It seems many others would agree as the Soul is one of Kia’s best selling models. To help keep it up there, Kia has introduced a new turbo engine for the top-line Exclaim (!) model along with minor changes for 2017. Let's see how these changes affect the Soul. Aside from the turbo engine, Kia made some design tweaks to the Exclaim to have it stand out from other Soul trims. This includes a new front bumper, red accents, 18-inch alloy wheels, a twin-tip exhaust, and exclusive colors like this copper color seen here. The little changes really make the Soul stand out even further than before. Moving on to the turbo engine, it is a 1.6L four-cylinder packing 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is only paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. If you really want a manual with your turbo-four, Kia will gladly sell you a Forte5 SX which features the same engine. There is a brief moment of turbo lag when you step on the accelerator, but the engine comes into its own after this with power building smoothly. There are no issues with getting up to speed when merging or making a pass. The dual-clutch transmission is a bit of a mixed bag. In stop-and-go traffic, the transmission exhibits some jerkiness and lazy shifts. We also noticed the transmission was slow to respond in terms of downshifting, making us think the programming for this transmission was focused on fuel economy. At higher speeds, the transmission is better with rapid and smooth shifts. The turbo engine has the highest fuel economy fuel economy figures in the Soul lineup with an EPA rating of 26 City/31 Highway/28 Combined. We saw an average of 25.3 mpg during our week in mostly city driving, which is slightly disappointing. With the turbo engine and racy looks, you might think that this particular Soul is fun to drive. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that is not the case. Out on a winding road, the Soul is competent with minimal body roll and okay steering. This would be ok if it weren’t for the sporty image that is being portrayed by the exterior. We do wish that Kia had made some changes to the suspension to make it slightly sportier. The upside to not messing with the Soul’s suspension is it mostly retains the smooth and comfortable ride of other models. Mostly is the keyword as the 18-inch wheels do introduce some harshness to the Soul’s ride. There is a fair amount of wind and road noise, most of this due to the Soul’s boxy shape. The Soul’s interior is still as sharp looking as it first was when the current model was launched in 2013. Little touches such as the uniquely styled air vents and orange accent stitching give the Soul a bit of whimsy. The extensive use of soft-touch materials gives off an aura of quality. Driver and passenger get power seats which make finding a comfortable position very easy. Those sitting in the back will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom, due to the Soul’s boxy shape. Our test Soul came with optional Technology Package that includes an 8-inch touchscreen with Kia’s UVO infotainment system and navigation. It is beginning to show its age in terms of the graphics, but it is still one of the most intuitive systems on sale today. A simple layout and redundant physical buttons make it breeze to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is an added bonus. The Exclaim begins at $22,650 and comes well equipped. Standard features include automatic climate control, 7-inch touchscreen with UVO, Bluetooth, leather and cloth wrapped seats, push-button start with proximity key, and automatic headlights. Opt for the technology to get the 8-inch system, blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, heated seats and steering wheel, and power folding mirrors. For only $26,995, you get a nicely equipped vehicle. Our test vehicle is slightly more expensive at $27,620 due to an optional panoramic sunroof which we would skip. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Soul, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Kia Model: Soul Trim: ! (Exclaim) Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 201 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/31/28 Curb Weight: 3,232 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea Base Price: $22,650 As Tested Price: $27,620 (Includes $850.00 Destination Charge) Options: Technology Package - $3,000.00 Panoramic Sunroof - $1,000.00 Carpeted Floor Mars - $120.00

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