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  1. I’ve driven my fair share of Challengers on both extremes - from the standard V6 to the high-performance SRT and Hellcat models. But I never had any time behind the wheel of the R/T with its 5.7 V8. That changed in the summer when a bright orange Charger R/T Shaker was dropped off for a week. This allowed me to ask a question that has been sitting in my head for some time: Is the R/T the best bang for your buck in the Challenger family? The Shaker sets itself apart from other Challenger models with the use of a ‘Shaker’ scoop that prominently pops up from the hood. There is also a blackout treatment on several trim pieces and wheels that make it look even more imposing on the road. Along with the scoop, the Shaker package does add a new cold-air intake seated right in front of the driver’s side corner. This addition should boost the output of the 5.7L HEMI V8 (372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque when paired with the eight-speed automatic. But FCA’s spec sheet doesn’t say anything about the Shaker Package adding more oomph or not. When you first start up the R/T Shaker, it makes presence known with a deep and loud exhaust note. I had to do a double-take the first time as I was wondering if I was given either an R/T Scat Pack or a Hellcat by mistake. While it may lack the high power numbers of the 6.4 and supercharged 6.2 V8s, the 5.7 is no slouch. 60 mph comes in at just over five seconds and power is seemingly available at any speed. My tester came with the optional Performance Handling Group that adds upgraded springs, sway bars, and a set of Bilstein shocks. This does improve the handling by a fair amount with less body roll. But it doesn’t feel nimble due to a curb weight of around 4,158 pounds. The steering has a quick response, but there is a noticeable lack of road feedback. If you want your muscle car to have some handling, consider the Camaro or Mustang. Nothing new to report on the Challenger’s interior. It still has the angled center stack, retro-inspired gauges, and easy to use UConnect infotainment system. The seats are where the Challenger loses some points as it feels like you’re sitting on top of cinderblocks. The Shaker package is surprisingly good value, adding $2,500 to the base price of the R/T which begins at $34,295. But you’ll need to be careful on the option sheet, or you’ll end up with something quite expensive. My tester came with an as-tested price of $46,555, which is $300 more than an R/T Scat Pack Widebody with the 6.4 HEMI V8. The Dodge Challenger is getting up there in age and sadly cannot compete with the likes of the Camaro and Mustang in terms of handling. But Dodge is still able to offer a lot of performance in the form of the R/T. With a potent V8 engine, old school styling, and different packages like the Shaker to make your Challenger stand out, the R/T is possibly the best value and well-rounded model in the lineup. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Dodge Model: Challenger Trim: R/T Engine: 5.7 HEMI VVT V8 Engine Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 372 @ 5,200 Torque @ RPM: 400 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19 Curb Weight: 4,158 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $34,295 As Tested Price: $46,555 (Includes $1,495.00 Destination Charge) Options: "Shaker" Package - $2,500.00 TorqueFlite Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,595.00 Performance Handling Group - $1,495.00 Driver Convenience Group - $1,295.00 Power Sunroof - $1,295.00 UConnect 4C Nav with 8.4-inch Display - $1,095.00 Alpine Sound Group with Subwoofer - $995.00 Shakedown Graphics - $495.00
  2. I’ve driven my fair share of Challengers on both extremes - from the standard V6 to the high-performance SRT and Hellcat models. But I never had any time behind the wheel of the R/T with its 5.7 V8. That changed in the summer when a bright orange Charger R/T Shaker was dropped off for a week. This allowed me to ask a question that has been sitting in my head for some time: Is the R/T the best bang for your buck in the Challenger family? The Shaker sets itself apart from other Challenger models with the use of a ‘Shaker’ scoop that prominently pops up from the hood. There is also a blackout treatment on several trim pieces and wheels that make it look even more imposing on the road. Along with the scoop, the Shaker package does add a new cold-air intake seated right in front of the driver’s side corner. This addition should boost the output of the 5.7L HEMI V8 (372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque when paired with the eight-speed automatic. But FCA’s spec sheet doesn’t say anything about the Shaker Package adding more oomph or not. When you first start up the R/T Shaker, it makes presence known with a deep and loud exhaust note. I had to do a double-take the first time as I was wondering if I was given either an R/T Scat Pack or a Hellcat by mistake. While it may lack the high power numbers of the 6.4 and supercharged 6.2 V8s, the 5.7 is no slouch. 60 mph comes in at just over five seconds and power is seemingly available at any speed. My tester came with the optional Performance Handling Group that adds upgraded springs, sway bars, and a set of Bilstein shocks. This does improve the handling by a fair amount with less body roll. But it doesn’t feel nimble due to a curb weight of around 4,158 pounds. The steering has a quick response, but there is a noticeable lack of road feedback. If you want your muscle car to have some handling, consider the Camaro or Mustang. Nothing new to report on the Challenger’s interior. It still has the angled center stack, retro-inspired gauges, and easy to use UConnect infotainment system. The seats are where the Challenger loses some points as it feels like you’re sitting on top of cinderblocks. The Shaker package is surprisingly good value, adding $2,500 to the base price of the R/T which begins at $34,295. But you’ll need to be careful on the option sheet, or you’ll end up with something quite expensive. My tester came with an as-tested price of $46,555, which is $300 more than an R/T Scat Pack Widebody with the 6.4 HEMI V8. The Dodge Challenger is getting up there in age and sadly cannot compete with the likes of the Camaro and Mustang in terms of handling. But Dodge is still able to offer a lot of performance in the form of the R/T. With a potent V8 engine, old school styling, and different packages like the Shaker to make your Challenger stand out, the R/T is possibly the best value and well-rounded model in the lineup. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2019 Make: Dodge Model: Challenger Trim: R/T Engine: 5.7 HEMI VVT V8 Engine Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 372 @ 5,200 Torque @ RPM: 400 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19 Curb Weight: 4,158 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $34,295 As Tested Price: $46,555 (Includes $1,495.00 Destination Charge) Options: "Shaker" Package - $2,500.00 TorqueFlite Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,595.00 Performance Handling Group - $1,495.00 Driver Convenience Group - $1,295.00 Power Sunroof - $1,295.00 UConnect 4C Nav with 8.4-inch Display - $1,095.00 Alpine Sound Group with Subwoofer - $995.00 Shakedown Graphics - $495.00 View full article
  3. The CX-30 certainly takes the cake for being visually distinctive. The flowing lines, taut proportions, and certain design traits like the narrow headlights make for an expressive model. There is a major downside to the CX-30's design; outward visibility. Due to the low roofline and thick c-pillars, rear visibility can be best described as looking out of a mailbox slot. Thankfully, all CX-30s get a backup camera, and Premium models and above get blind-spot monitoring. Inside, Mazda may have crafted the best interior for the subcompact crossover class. It is a simple design, but the use of premium materials helps elevate it. The positioning of the various controls also deserves praise as they are within easy reach. An 8.8-inch screen running Mazda's new infotainment system is standard on all models. Unlike the previous system where you had the choice of using either a touchscreen or control knob, Mazda has decided to only use the knob. This decision does mean doing various tasks will take a few extra steps. But I didn't mind so much as the interface is easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. While those sitting in the front will find plenty of space to find that comfortable position, those in the back will not be so lucky. Head and legroom is tight for most people. Cargo space is about average for the class, measuring 20.2 cubic feet. Most CX-30s will come equipped with 2.5L four-cylinder producing 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and in my tester, all-wheel drive. Those looking for more power can step up to the turbocharged version with 250 hp. The base engine is perfectly suited for most driving situations with power being available when needed. The six-speed automatic is very smart and knows when to up or downshift depending on the situation. My only issue is that I wished Mazda did a little bit more work on the engine's NVH levels. Found it to be somewhat high during moderate to hard acceleration. Fuel economy for the CX-30 AWD is rated at 24 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the landed at just over 28 MPG. For driving enjoyment, the CX-30 cannot be beaten. Minimal body roll and sharp steering will make anyone grin on a winding road. The downside to the fun driving is a stiff ride. Over various bumps and potholes, the CX-30's suspension isn't fully able to cope with minimizing the impacts. The CX-30 is slightly more expensive than other models in the class with a starting price of $23,225 for a base front-wheel drive model. But you do a lot of standard equipment such as LED lighting, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and rain-sensing wipers. My Premium AWD tester comes in at $31,700 with the destination charge. Again, a bit expensive, but Mazda does include a lot of features for the money. The Premium gets a heads-up display, adaptive front lights, leather seats, 12-speaker Bose audio system, and a power liftgate. When my week with the CX-30 was coming to a close, I found myself feeling very split. On one hand, the CX-30 has a design that stands out, impressive handling, and an interior that makes it feel more expensive than it is. But the poor rear visibility, firm ride, and high price put it right in the mid-pack of a growing and competitive segment. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-30, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2021 Make: Mazda Model: CX-30 Trim: Premium AWD Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-valve Skyactiv-G four-cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 186 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/31/26 Curb Weight: 3,388 lbs Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Mexico Base Price: $29,950 As Tested Price: $31,700 (Includes $1,100.00 Destination Charge) Options: Frameless Auto-dim Mirror w/Homelink - $375.00 Cargo Cover - $150.00 Floor Mats, All-Weather - $125.00 View full article
  4. The CX-30 certainly takes the cake for being visually distinctive. The flowing lines, taut proportions, and certain design traits like the narrow headlights make for an expressive model. There is a major downside to the CX-30's design; outward visibility. Due to the low roofline and thick c-pillars, rear visibility can be best described as looking out of a mailbox slot. Thankfully, all CX-30s get a backup camera, and Premium models and above get blind-spot monitoring. Inside, Mazda may have crafted the best interior for the subcompact crossover class. It is a simple design, but the use of premium materials helps elevate it. The positioning of the various controls also deserves praise as they are within easy reach. An 8.8-inch screen running Mazda's new infotainment system is standard on all models. Unlike the previous system where you had the choice of using either a touchscreen or control knob, Mazda has decided to only use the knob. This decision does mean doing various tasks will take a few extra steps. But I didn't mind so much as the interface is easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. While those sitting in the front will find plenty of space to find that comfortable position, those in the back will not be so lucky. Head and legroom is tight for most people. Cargo space is about average for the class, measuring 20.2 cubic feet. Most CX-30s will come equipped with 2.5L four-cylinder producing 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and in my tester, all-wheel drive. Those looking for more power can step up to the turbocharged version with 250 hp. The base engine is perfectly suited for most driving situations with power being available when needed. The six-speed automatic is very smart and knows when to up or downshift depending on the situation. My only issue is that I wished Mazda did a little bit more work on the engine's NVH levels. Found it to be somewhat high during moderate to hard acceleration. Fuel economy for the CX-30 AWD is rated at 24 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the landed at just over 28 MPG. For driving enjoyment, the CX-30 cannot be beaten. Minimal body roll and sharp steering will make anyone grin on a winding road. The downside to the fun driving is a stiff ride. Over various bumps and potholes, the CX-30's suspension isn't fully able to cope with minimizing the impacts. The CX-30 is slightly more expensive than other models in the class with a starting price of $23,225 for a base front-wheel drive model. But you do a lot of standard equipment such as LED lighting, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and rain-sensing wipers. My Premium AWD tester comes in at $31,700 with the destination charge. Again, a bit expensive, but Mazda does include a lot of features for the money. The Premium gets a heads-up display, adaptive front lights, leather seats, 12-speaker Bose audio system, and a power liftgate. When my week with the CX-30 was coming to a close, I found myself feeling very split. On one hand, the CX-30 has a design that stands out, impressive handling, and an interior that makes it feel more expensive than it is. But the poor rear visibility, firm ride, and high price put it right in the mid-pack of a growing and competitive segment. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-30, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2021 Make: Mazda Model: CX-30 Trim: Premium AWD Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-valve Skyactiv-G four-cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 186 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/31/26 Curb Weight: 3,388 lbs Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Mexico Base Price: $29,950 As Tested Price: $31,700 (Includes $1,100.00 Destination Charge) Options: Frameless Auto-dim Mirror w/Homelink - $375.00 Cargo Cover - $150.00 Floor Mats, All-Weather - $125.00
  5. Even though this shape has been around for a few years, the XC90 still looks very fresh. The minimalist boxy profile proudly shows off the various design traits such as the "Thor Hammer" headlights, slightly altered grille, and large wheels for the Inscription model. This was the first Volvo model where I felt slightly disappointed with the interior. Not because of the material choice or design, but rather the color. The black leather and dark trim make the interior feel cheap, not something you want in an SUV costing over $90,000. A colleague of mine had a similar XC90, but with a light beige color which makes the vehicle feel luxurious. Aside from this, the XC90 follows other Volvo's in terms of comfort. The front and second-row seats provide are very supportive on any trip. Head and legroom is plentiful for most passengers sitting in the second-row. The third-row is best reserved for either small kids or emergencies. My particular XC90 came with the T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain. It's comprised of the 2.0L twin-charged (turbo and supercharged) four-cylinder and two electric motors. Total output is rated at 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. For a model that tips the scales at over 5,000 lbs, the T8 powertrain shrugs it off. When both powertrains are activated, the XC90 moves like a rocket. Making any sort of pass or merging is no problem. The electric-only range is slightly disappointing with the EPA rating it at 18 miles. For comparison, Lincoln's Aviator PHEV gets 21 miles per charge. During my week, I was able to eke out 21 miles in mostly city and some rural driving. Recharging on 110V took around 8 to 10 hours with the battery fully depleted. Getting a 220V charger drops the charging time to around 2.5 hours. In terms of fuel economy, the XC90 T8 is rated at 55 MPGe with both powertrains, and 27 MPG with the gas engine alone. My average for the week landed around 43. The XC90 surprised me in terms of handling. I was expecting a fair amount of body roll and feeling a bit overwhelmed. But it felt alright on a winding road with minimal roll. Credit the optional four-corner air suspension which also does an amazing job with smoothing out various ruts and bumps. I came away somewhat impressed with the XC90. The T8 powertrain is the star of this vehicle as it moves this SUV like it weighs nothing, and returns decent fuel economy figures. The exterior still looks fresh and the ride/handling is impressive if you order the optional air suspension. Where the XC90 falters is in electric-only range; the interior feeling quite drab when getting a dark color; and the price tag. Volvo V90 Inscription Take the V60 and add a few more inches in length, and you have the V90. The clean and smoothed-over boxy shape is still one of the best-looking shapes in a very small field of wagons. Inside, the V90 is the pinnacle of luxury. My tester was the Inscription which included Nappa leather for the seats and wood trim. Unlike the XC90, the V90 came with a light color for the interior which made it feel more expensive. Most passengers will not complain about the V90's space or comfort. No matter where you find yourself sitting, there is more than enough head and legroom. Cargo space is also plentiful with 33.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 59.3 when folded down. For powertrains, the V90 is only available with the T5 (turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder) or T6 (twin-charged 2.0L four-cylinder). My tester came with the latter, which also adds all-wheel drive. Like other Volvos I have sampled with this engine, the T6 is quite potent. No matter the driving situation, the twin-charged setup can get up to speed in no time. EPA rates the V90 T6 at 21 City/32 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed slightly below the combined figure at 25. The V90 makes no pretensions of being sporty with steering feeling very light. Body roll is kept under control, but that's due to the optional air suspension fitted to this vehicle. Ride comfort is top notch with barely a bump or road imperfection making its way inside. Complaints? I do wish for more physical controls with the Volvo Sensus infotainment system. It would make doing certain tasks such as changing the fan speed or turning the heated/ventilated front seats on or off much easier. The V90 is an excellent alternative to crossovers as it offers practicality and space, but with better fuel economy and handling. But I have some bad news concerning the V90. Volvo announced earlier this year that 2021 will be the last year for this model in U.S. Despite being only available via special order from a dealer, sales were dismal - 153 units sold through the first half of this year. I can understand why Volvo is pulling the V90 from the U.S., but it is a shame. At least the Cross Country model will still be around. Disclaimer: Volvo Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2020 Make: Volvo Model: XC90 Trim: T8 Inscription Engine: Twin-Charged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor on Rear Axle Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 314 @ 5,700 (gas engine); 87 @ 0 (electric motor); 400 (combined) Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 2,200 (gas), 177 @ 0 (electric); 472 (combined) Fuel Economy: MPGe Combined/Gas Combined - 55/27 Curb Weight: 5,142 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gothenburg, Sweden Base Price: $74,795 As Tested Price: $86,790 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound - $3,200.00 Luxury Package - $3,100.00 Advanced Package - $2,450.00 4-Corner Air Suspension - $1,800.00 21" 8-Multi Spoke Wheels - $800.00 Metallic Paint - $645.00 Year: 2021 Make: Volvo Model: V90 Trim: T6 Inscription Engine: Twin-Charged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 316 @ 5,700 Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 2,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/32/25 Curb Weight: 4,291 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gothenburg, Sweden Base Price: $57,780 As Tested Price: $67,740 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound - $3,200.00 Advanced Package - $1,500.00 4-Corner Air Suspension - $1,200.00 21" 8-Multi Spoke Wheels - $800.00 Metallic Paint - $645.00 Massage in Front Seat - $500.00 Air Quality with Advanced Air Cleaner - $250.00 View full article
  6. Even though this shape has been around for a few years, the XC90 still looks very fresh. The minimalist boxy profile proudly shows off the various design traits such as the "Thor Hammer" headlights, slightly altered grille, and large wheels for the Inscription model. This was the first Volvo model where I felt slightly disappointed with the interior. Not because of the material choice or design, but rather the color. The black leather and dark trim make the interior feel cheap, not something you want in an SUV costing over $90,000. A colleague of mine had a similar XC90, but with a light beige color which makes the vehicle feel luxurious. Aside from this, the XC90 follows other Volvo's in terms of comfort. The front and second-row seats provide are very supportive on any trip. Head and legroom is plentiful for most passengers sitting in the second-row. The third-row is best reserved for either small kids or emergencies. My particular XC90 came with the T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain. It's comprised of the 2.0L twin-charged (turbo and supercharged) four-cylinder and two electric motors. Total output is rated at 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. For a model that tips the scales at over 5,000 lbs, the T8 powertrain shrugs it off. When both powertrains are activated, the XC90 moves like a rocket. Making any sort of pass or merging is no problem. The electric-only range is slightly disappointing with the EPA rating it at 18 miles. For comparison, Lincoln's Aviator PHEV gets 21 miles per charge. During my week, I was able to eke out 21 miles in mostly city and some rural driving. Recharging on 110V took around 8 to 10 hours with the battery fully depleted. Getting a 220V charger drops the charging time to around 2.5 hours. In terms of fuel economy, the XC90 T8 is rated at 55 MPGe with both powertrains, and 27 MPG with the gas engine alone. My average for the week landed around 43. The XC90 surprised me in terms of handling. I was expecting a fair amount of body roll and feeling a bit overwhelmed. But it felt alright on a winding road with minimal roll. Credit the optional four-corner air suspension which also does an amazing job with smoothing out various ruts and bumps. I came away somewhat impressed with the XC90. The T8 powertrain is the star of this vehicle as it moves this SUV like it weighs nothing, and returns decent fuel economy figures. The exterior still looks fresh and the ride/handling is impressive if you order the optional air suspension. Where the XC90 falters is in electric-only range; the interior feeling quite drab when getting a dark color; and the price tag. Volvo V90 Inscription Take the V60 and add a few more inches in length, and you have the V90. The clean and smoothed-over boxy shape is still one of the best-looking shapes in a very small field of wagons. Inside, the V90 is the pinnacle of luxury. My tester was the Inscription which included Nappa leather for the seats and wood trim. Unlike the XC90, the V90 came with a light color for the interior which made it feel more expensive. Most passengers will not complain about the V90's space or comfort. No matter where you find yourself sitting, there is more than enough head and legroom. Cargo space is also plentiful with 33.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 59.3 when folded down. For powertrains, the V90 is only available with the T5 (turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder) or T6 (twin-charged 2.0L four-cylinder). My tester came with the latter, which also adds all-wheel drive. Like other Volvos I have sampled with this engine, the T6 is quite potent. No matter the driving situation, the twin-charged setup can get up to speed in no time. EPA rates the V90 T6 at 21 City/32 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed slightly below the combined figure at 25. The V90 makes no pretensions of being sporty with steering feeling very light. Body roll is kept under control, but that's due to the optional air suspension fitted to this vehicle. Ride comfort is top notch with barely a bump or road imperfection making its way inside. Complaints? I do wish for more physical controls with the Volvo Sensus infotainment system. It would make doing certain tasks such as changing the fan speed or turning the heated/ventilated front seats on or off much easier. The V90 is an excellent alternative to crossovers as it offers practicality and space, but with better fuel economy and handling. But I have some bad news concerning the V90. Volvo announced earlier this year that 2021 will be the last year for this model in U.S. Despite being only available via special order from a dealer, sales were dismal - 153 units sold through the first half of this year. I can understand why Volvo is pulling the V90 from the U.S., but it is a shame. At least the Cross Country model will still be around. Disclaimer: Volvo Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2020 Make: Volvo Model: XC90 Trim: T8 Inscription Engine: Twin-Charged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor on Rear Axle Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 314 @ 5,700 (gas engine); 87 @ 0 (electric motor); 400 (combined) Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 2,200 (gas), 177 @ 0 (electric); 472 (combined) Fuel Economy: MPGe Combined/Gas Combined - 55/27 Curb Weight: 5,142 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gothenburg, Sweden Base Price: $74,795 As Tested Price: $86,790 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound - $3,200.00 Luxury Package - $3,100.00 Advanced Package - $2,450.00 4-Corner Air Suspension - $1,800.00 21" 8-Multi Spoke Wheels - $800.00 Metallic Paint - $645.00 Year: 2021 Make: Volvo Model: V90 Trim: T6 Inscription Engine: Twin-Charged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 316 @ 5,700 Torque @ RPM: 295 @ 2,200 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/32/25 Curb Weight: 4,291 lbs Location of Manufacture: Gothenburg, Sweden Base Price: $57,780 As Tested Price: $67,740 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound - $3,200.00 Advanced Package - $1,500.00 4-Corner Air Suspension - $1,200.00 21" 8-Multi Spoke Wheels - $800.00 Metallic Paint - $645.00 Massage in Front Seat - $500.00 Air Quality with Advanced Air Cleaner - $250.00
  7. When Toyota introduced the Prius C back in 2012, it served two purposes. It was the entry-level model for then growing Prius family (Prius, Prius Plug-In, and Prius V). Plus, it was part of a small group of vehicles that could achieve almost 50 mpg if driven efficiently. But Toyota really hasn’t made any changes to the Prius C since it was launched, only making minor changes to the feature set for the past few years. Meanwhile, the rest of the Prius lineup has undergone significant changes with models either being dropped (Prius V) or being redesigned (Prius). For 2018, Toyota has decided to take the Prius C out of its deep freeze and make some changes. But is that enough considering larger hybrid models return higher fuel economy figures, and are slightly more expensive? The answer is no. Toyota has given the Prius C a much needed exterior update with a revised front end (new hood shape and slimmer grille), crossover-esq design touches (black wheel arches, faux skid plates, and a set of roof rails), and a set of 15-inch alloy wheels. The Prius C is one of the few Toyota models that come in a number of vibrant colors like the Tangerine Orange on this tester. It did make it look like a giant Jack-O-Lantern, but it also gave this small model some personality. The Prius C’s interior design is a bit odd. While it lacks some of the craziness found in the standard Prius (see the Storm Trooper inspired center console and stack), there are some decisions that left me scratching my head. For example, there is a storage shelf behind the steering wheel. I not sure what you can put in there aside from spare change or snacks to eat while on the move. Almost all of the materials used in the Prius C are hard plastics. Usually, I would be giving this pass considering it is a subcompact vehicle and this one of the sacrifices needed to meet the low price. But this particular Prius C has an as-tested price of $26,479. For that price, I do wish Toyota had stuck some soft-touch material to ease some of the pain on the wallet. The manual adjustments weren’t the smoothest and it took me a few days to find a position that didn’t have me constantly fidgeting around. This is disappointing considering the seat itself is nice to sit on with soft padding and decent support for long trips. In the back seat, headroom is surprisingly good due to the tall height of the roof. Like other subcompacts, the Prius C’s rear legroom is on the tight side. All Prius Cs come with a 6.1-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Higher end models like my Four tester come with navigation. The screen is a bit on the small side, which makes it hard to hit some of the touchscreen buttons. At least the screen is easy to read and bright. One slight disappointment is the slowness of the system. Compared to other hybrid vehicles, Entune is a few ticks slower when going through the various screens. The Prius C’s hybrid powertrain is comprised of a 1.5L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder, 45 kW electric motor, Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack, and a CVT. Total output is rated at 99 horsepower. If your driving takes place mostly in urban areas, then the Prius C is a fine car. At speeds under 45 mph, the powertrain gets the vehicle moving a decent clip. But there is a fair amount of buzzing coming from the engine and CVT. On rural roads and highways, the limited performance of hybrid powertrain makes itself known as the model records a 0-60 mph of over 12 seconds. Passing is best done when there are no vehicles appearing in your eyesight. EPA fuel economy figures for the Prius C are 48 City/43 Highway/46 Combined. The figures are disappointing when you consider the likes of the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq return higher figures - 54/50/52 for the Prius and 55/54/55 in the Ioniq. My average for the Prius C was 49.6 mpg, very disappointing when compared to the 60 mpg in the Prius and 62 mpg in the Ioniq Blue I have reviewed previously. The reason for the poor fuel economy showing in the Prius C comes down Toyota not making any changes to the powertrain since its launch in 2012. Handling in the Prius C is quite surprising with excellent body control and feeling quite nimble around the corners. The low-rolling resistance tires will complain if you decide to push it. Where the Prius C shines is in an urban area where the compact size and tight turning radius make it easy to navigate tight spots. Ride quality is about average with most bumps being smoothed over. One item to be aware of is the abundance of road and wind noise. Be prepared to crank the radio up to drown out most of the road noise. We come now to the Prius C’s big problem. The base C One begins at $20,630. My Four tester begins at $24,965, which already makes it a tough sell when you consider that the larger Prius Two is only $280 less and returns higher fuel economy figures. With a couple of options and destination, the as-tested price came to $26,479. Again, you can get into larger Prius or the Hyundai Ioniq that not only offer better fuel economy figures but more features for a similar price. Gallery: 2018 Toyota Prius C Four Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius C, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Toyota Model: Prius C Trim: Four Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive: 1.5L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i, Electric Motor, Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery Pack Driveline: eCVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 73 @ 4,800 (Gas); 60 @ 0 (Electric) Torque @ RPM: 82 @ 4,000 (Gas); 125 @ 0 (Electric) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 48/43/46 Curb Weight: 2,530 lbs Location of Manufacture: Isawa, Iwate, Japan Base Price: $24,965 As Tested Price: $26,479 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: Special Color - $395.00 Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat - $224.00
  8. The Mazda6 is a prime example of how making various improvements throughout the lifecycle can make a vehicle. Since the first model I drove back in 2014, Mazda has been messing around with various aspects such as the interior and NVH levels. Last year saw Mazda make some key changes to 6 with the big news being the introduction of a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder from the CX-9 crossover. This was to address one of the major shortcomings of the sedan, lackluster performance when it comes to making a pass or merging onto a freeway. There are some other minor changes to go with the updated engine that help make the Mazda6 feel a bit more rounded. The turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder produces 227 horsepower (250 on premium fuel) and 310 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic to the front wheels. I praised this engine in the CX-9 I drove back in the summer with a linear flow of power and no hint of turbo lag. Those carry over to the 6, along with the feeling of confidence that you’ll be able to pass or merge onto a freeway without any issue. It was quite startling how quick the 6 accelerated from 45 to 70 on a freeway on-ramp, only taking a few seconds. The six-speed automatic works seamlessly with the turbo engine, providing snappy up and downshifts. One other trait of the turbo engine I was impressed with was NVH levels. There was barely any engine noise or the whoosh of the turbo when accelerating. Mazda hasn’t messed with the 6’s chassis with the addition of the turbo engine. It still has the planted feeling and minimal body roll that imparts a lot of confidence to a driver. Steering is quick and provides the right balance of weight and feel. One surprise is how the 2018 model rides slightly better than the 2017 model as bumps are better isolated. This might be Exterior enhancements are small with a new grille design, LED headlights, and the 19-inch wheels. But they do a surprising job of keeping of the 6’s exterior looking fresh. The enhancements for the interior really help Mazda’s ambition to become more premium. The dash has been slightly restyled and now comes with stitched upholstery and natural wood trim. The climate control system has been redesigned that makes it slightly easier to use. Mazda has started rolling out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility on the 6 for 2018 via an update. My test car had had the update, but I was unable to try it out as I could not pick the option in the system. I’m not sure of the issue, but I hope to try it once again in a future Mazda product. The turbo engine is only available on the Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. My test 6 was the top-line Signature that carries a base price of $34,750. With destination and some options, the as-tested price came to $36,140. If I was to buy one, I would drop down to the Grand Touring Reserve which begins at $31,750. I would lose out on the 360-degree camera system, Nappa leather upholstery, and digital gauge cluster. But I would keep a number of desirable features such as the ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, heads-up display, and power front seats. Every Mazda6 review has seen me come to the same conclusion; the sedan is so close to being considered one of the best, but it is missing a certain thing. But this conclusion is different. Mazda has been able to fix the various issues I have complained about over the past few years and now have a very compelling midsize sedan. It's a shame that the 6 along with other midsize sedans are being overshadowed by the likes of crossovers. But for those who still have their heart set on a sedan, then I have no issue in recommending the 6 as an option worthy of consideration. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas 2018 Mazda6 Signature Gallery Year: 2018 Make: Mazda Model: 6 Trim: Signature Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 227 @ 5,000 (Regular), 250 @ 5,000 (Premium) Torque @ RPM: 310 @ 2,000 rpm Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight: 3,560 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan Base Price: $34,750 As Tested Price: $36,140 (Includes $890.00 Destination Charge) Options: Machine Gray Paint - $300.00 Scuff Plates - $125.00 Cargo Mat - $75.00
  9. “Despite the positives, the Ioniq finds itself between a rock and hard place.” That was how I closed my review of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq SEL earlier this year. Despite me finding a lot to like about this hybrid, I found myself struggling as determining whether it was better or worse than the Toyota Prius. A few weeks ago, another Ioniq arrived in my driveway for a weeklong evaluation. This particular variant is the base Blue model, which is positioned as the mileage champ in the Ioniq lineup. Maybe this model could sway me in one direction or the other. EPA figures stand at 57 City/59 Highway/58 Combined, up 2/5/3 when compared to the Ioniq SEL I drove last year. My average for the week was an impressive 62 mpg - a huge increase over the 45 mpg in the last Ioniq I drove. Why the massive difference in average fuel economy? It comes down to the weather. The Blue was driven in a week where the average temperature was around 80 degrees, whereas the SEL was driven in conditions where it was below freezing. The warmer temps allowed the vehicle to rely more on electric power only. I would estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the miles driven in the Ioniq was just on electric only. The powertrain is unchanged in the Blue. There’s a 1.6L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine, a 32 kW electric motor, and a Lithium-ion Polymer battery that produces a total output of 139 horsepower. This is paired with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. I had no issues with keeping up with traffic as the powertrain delivered decent acceleration. The dual-clutch delivered smooth and quick shifts. Handling is a strong point to the Ioniq as it delivers little body roll and responds quickly to steering inputs. Ride quality could be better as the Ioniq does let in more jolts than the Kia Niro or Toyota Prius. Another area the Ioniq doesn’t fare so well in us noise isolation. There is a fair amount of tire roar that comes inside at speeds above 50 mph. Telling the Ioniq Blue apart from the other models is quite easy. The front end has a plain black grille and vents in the bumper where the LED foglights would reside. 15-inch wheels with aero wheel covers come standard. Aside from some missing features such as power adjustments for the driver’s seat, the interior of the Ioniq Blue is the same as the SEL. That means a simple and clean dash design, a set of front seats that become a bit uncomfortable during long trips, and a tight back seat for tall passengers. For being a base model, the Blue comes well equipped. There is a proximity key, push-button start, 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and automatic headlights. How much? The Blue begins at $22,220, and my tester came to an as-tested price of $23,210 with destination and optional floor mats. As my week with the Ioniq Blue came to a close, I came to the realization that I liked it slightly more than the Prius. A lot of it comes down to the Ioniq offering better performance while returning just as impressive fuel economy figures as the Prius I drove back in 2016. The high amount of features for a low price also favors the Ioniq. I still do think the Ioniq is in a bit of tough spot due to the large appetite for crossovers. This is evident when you compare the sales of the Ioniq to its sister model, the Kia Niro. Through the end of July, the Niro outsold the Ioniq by 6,716 units. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Ioniq, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Hyundai Model: Ioniq Trim: Blue Engine: 1.6L GDI Atkinson-Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor, Lithium-ion Polymer Battery Pack Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 104 @ 5,700 (Gas); 43 @ 0 (Electric); 139 (Total) Torque @ RPM: 109 @ 4,000 (Gas); 125 @ 0 (Electric) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 57/59/58 Curb Weight: 2,996 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $22,200 As Tested Price: $23,210 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
  10. The 2018 Subaru Legacy finds itself in a difficult spot. Like other midsize sedans, the Legacy has been seeing its sales fall down as more buyers are trending towards trucks and utility vehicles. But Subaru is trying to stop the bleeding somewhat by introducing an updated Legacy with various improvements to the exterior and mechanical bits. Is it enough? Compared to the last Legacy I drove in 2015, the 2018 model has some minor changes. The front now comes with a wider grille, updated design for the headlights, and a new bumper. The 2.5i Sport adds blacked-out trim, fog lights, and a set of 18-inch wheels with painted inserts. This helps makes the very plain design stand-out slightly more. Subaru’s safe approach to design continues inside. There are only a couple of changes like a new steering wheel and updated controls for the climate system. While it lacks in overall excitement, the Legacy’s earns top marks in overall usability as controls are easy to find and reach. Material quality sees an improvement as Subaru has added more soft-touch plastics throughout. The Legacy’s interior feels quite spacious thanks in part to a large glass area and thin roof pillars. Those sitting in the front will find the seats to be a little too firm, but they do provide an excellent amount of support for any trip. The back seat has more than enough legroom for tall passengers. The same cannot be said for headroom as those over six-feet will find their heads touching the liner. Open up the trunk to find 15 cubic feet of space, slightly smaller than the Hyundai Sonata I reviewed a few weeks back. My Sport tester came with an 8-inch touchscreen featuring Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system. The system gains an upgraded processor to address complaints of Starlink being somewhat slow. It makes a big difference as the system starts up much faster and is more responsive when going to different functions. The system also earns points for being easy to use with large touchscreen tiles and shortcut buttons on either side. I did have an issue of Starlink not recognizing my iPhone 7 Plus. The system saw something was plugged into the USB port, but couldn’t figure out what it was. It took a reset of my phone and restarting the vehicle before it would work. After this, Starlink had no issues finding my phone and bringing up the CarPlay interface. Under the hood is a 2.5L boxer-four producing 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT and Symmetrical all-wheel drive. Around town, the engine is very responsive and gets up to speed a decent clip. On the highway, the 2.5 struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. A lot of the slowness can be attributed to the Legacy’s weight. My 2.5i Sport tips the scales at 3,538 pounds. This is 143 pounds heavier than a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE four-cylinder that I recently drove. The CVT Subaru uses is one of the best in the business. It doesn’t have the rubber-band issue - engine RPMs rise at a quick rate before falling during acceleration - and has been calibrated to have ‘steps’ to mimic a regular six-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy figures for the Legacy 2.5i are 25 City/34 Highway/29 Combined. I saw an average of 28.2 mpg on a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. Despite this model being badged as a ‘Sport’, the Legacy doesn’t fully live up to this. There is a fair amount body lean when cornering and the steering is a bit too light in terms of weight. At least the AWD system provides tenacious grip to keep you on the road. You would be forgiven if you thought the Legacy was a luxury sedan due to its ride quality. Most bumps and imperfections are soaked up by the suspension. This comes down to a new set of dampers being fitted for 2018. Another improvement comes in the form of noise isolation. Subaru has added more sound-insulating material and acoustic glass for the 2018 model. The end result is barely any tire of wind noise coming inside. Some engine whine does come inside during hard acceleration. Subaru still leads the pack when it comes to active safety. The optional EyeSight driver-assist suite uses stereo cameras to see the road ahead and feed that data to the adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking systems. The adaptive cruise control system is one of the best as the system is able to adjust the speed and distance in a very smooth manner whenever the system detects a vehicle in front. The 2.5i Sport begins at $26,345. My tester came equipped with an option package that included the EyeSight suite, Blind-Spot Monitoring, Rear Active Braking, and Navigation for $2,095. That brings the as-tested price to $29,300. Taking into consideration the long list of standard equipment and the sporty touches, the Sport offers a lot of value. Subaru’s changes to the 2018 Legacy help improve what we would consider being a competent midsize sedan. There lies the problem with the Legacy. Unlike other manufacturers that have stepped their efforts in terms of design, features, and other elements to try and draw people back to midsize sedans, Subaru just did the basics and didn’t bring forth something compelling. Previously, you could argue that all-wheel drive was the Legacy’s trump card. But considering how many crossovers have that as an option, it just doesn’t work anymore. Subaru better have something special for the next-generation model due out in 2020 or we might have another casualty. Disclaimer: Subaru Provided the Legacy, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Subaru Model: Legacy Trim: 2.5i Sport Engine: 2.5L DOHC Boxer-Four Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,800 Torque @ RPM: 174 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/29 Curb Weight: 3,538 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lafayette, Indiana Base Price: $26,345 As Tested Price: $29,300 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge) Options: EyeSight + Blind Spot Monitoring + Reverse Automatic Braking + High Beam Assist + Navigation - $2,095
  11. Sport is one of the most misused terms in the automotive segment. It could mean that a vehicle has been given a once-over in terms of the engine and suspension to give it an edge. But it could also mean that a vehicle has been gifted a body kit to make it look sporty. This brings us to the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport. Which version of sport did they decide to go with? Exterior changes on the G80 Sport are small with a copper grille surround, mesh grille, a more aggressive front bumper, 19-inch multi-spoke wheels, quad-exhaust tips, and exclusive colors like the Polar Ice on this vehicle. The small changes really transform the G80 into something a bit sinister. Inside, the G80 Sport swaps the standard steering wheel for a three-spoke sport version, new transmission selector, aluminum pedals, and carbon-fiber accents. The rest of the interior is standard G80 with a clean dash, controls within easy reach, and plenty of rear legroom. Headroom is at a premium due to the standard sunroof. Passengers in the front get a set of sport seats with increased bolstering. It makes a huge difference as you don’t feel like you’re going to fall out on a twisty road. The seats also retain the long road-trip comfort that I have praised previously in the G80 3.8. Sport models come with a 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system and controller knob. This system is towards the top of the class with an intuitive interface and fast processing for various functions. One of biggest complaints with the last G80 I reviewed was the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. This has been addressed in 2018 model as both come standard. Genesis has also added a second USB port for those sitting in the front which means you’re not fighting with your passenger as to who gets to charge their phone. Now, they just need to add some for those in the back seat. Power comes from a new 3.3L twin-turbo V6 engine producing 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up with an eight-speed automatic and in my test car, Genesis’ HTRAC all-wheel drive system. Rear-wheel drive is standard. When you step on the accelerator, you might not think that a turbo engine resides under the hood as there is no turbo lag or a deaden throttle response. The engine just gets up and goes on its merry way. It would have been nice if there was some sort of exhaust note to go with the new engine. No complaints about the eight-speed automatic. It delivers smooth and quick shifts. Fuel economy is still a weak point for Genesis. The Sport with AWD is rated by the EPA at 17 City/24 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed around 19.8 mpg with a 60/40 mix of city and highway driving. Opting for RWD only boosts the highway figure to 25. For the suspension, Genesis retuned the Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system to help minimize body motions. It makes some difference when the car is put into Sport mode and dampers firm up to reduce body motion. But it cannot fully overcome the biggest problem with the G80, weight. The Sport AWD tester tips the scales 4,674 pounds. Sticking with RWD only drops overall weight by 155 pounds. It is noticeable around corners as the G80 doesn’t glide, but lumbers. The steering would have benefited greatly from having a bit more weight and feel. On the upside, the G80 Sport’s ride is surprisingly smooth. Despite the larger wheels and altered CDC system, most bumps and imperfections were turned into mere ripples. The Sport sits between the 3.8L and 5.0L in the G80 lineup. Pricing begins at $55,250 for the RWD model and $57,750 for the HTRAC AWD model. This particular test car came to an as-tested price of $58,725 after destination. This is an impressive value when you take into consideration the long list of standard equipment - heated and ventilated front seats, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, color heads-up display, LED head and taillights, sunshades for the rear passengers, multi-view camera system, and adaptive cruise control. Plus, all Genesis models have a 3 year/36,000 mile complimentary maintenance plan and service valet which pickups your vehicle to be serviced. For the most part, the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport delivers on ‘sport’ with an aggressive exterior and punchy twin-turbo V6. Ultimately, the handling is where the G80 Sport falters somewhat. I think if Genesis was able to put the G80 on a bit of a diet, it would do wonders. But that doesn’t look like that will happen until the next-generation model that is expected to arrive in the next few years. Disclaimer: Genesis Provided the G80 Sport, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Genesis Model: G80 Trim: Sport AWD Engine: 3.3L Twin Turbo DOHC 24-Valve V6 with D-CVVT Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 365 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 376 @ 1,300-4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/24/20 Curb Weight: 4,674 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $57,750 As Tested Price: $58,725 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  12. (Author’s Note: Before you ask, no this isn’t a typo. I really did drive a 2017 Tacoma in 2018. Due to some circumstances, the Tacoma took the place of another vehicle at the last minute. I didn’t realize it was a 2017 model until I saw the sticker. I’ll make note of the changes for 2018 towards the end of the piece.) I’ll likely make some people annoyed with this line: The Toyota Tacoma is the Jeep Wrangler of the pickup world. Before you start getting banging on your keyboard, telling me how I am wrong, allow me to make my case. The two models have a number of similarities; off-road pedigree, not changing much in terms of design or mechanicals; and somewhat uncomfortable when driven on the road. Since our last review of the Tacoma, not much has changed with the exterior. The TRD Off-Road package does make the Tacoma look somewhat mean with a new grille, 16-inch wheels wrapped meaty off-road tires, and a khaki paint color that looks like it came from an army base. The Tacoma’s interior is very user-friendly with a comprehensive and simple dash layout. Most controls are where you expect to find them and in easy reach. But some controls are placed in some odd locations. A key example is the hill descent control which is next to the dome lights on the ceiling. Comfort is still almost nonexistent in the Tacoma. The front seats are quite firm and provide decent support. No height adjustment means a fair number of people will need to make comprises in comfort to find the right seating position. The back seat can fit adults, provided you don’t have anyone tall sitting in the front. Otherwise, legroom becomes very scarce. Under the hood is a 3.5L V6 producing 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. At low speeds, the engine pulls quite strongly and smoothly. It is very different when traveling on the highway as the engine really needs to be worked to get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. Part of this comes down to the automatic which likes to quickly upshift to maximize fuel economy. There is a ‘sport’ mode on the transmission that locks out fifth and sixth gear, but only improves performance marginally. Fuel economy is towards the bottom with EPA figures of 18 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. My average for the week landed around 19.5 mpg. TRD Off-Road brings forth a retuned suspension setup featuring a set of Bilstein shocks. Usually, this makes the ride is somewhat softer. But in the Tacoma, the ride is quite choppy on any surface that isn’t smooth. Steering is very slow and heavy, making tight maneuvers a bit difficult. A fair amount of wind and road noise is apparent. Any changes to be aware of for the 2018 Tacoma? The only change of note is the addition of Toyota Safety Sense-P. This suite of active safety features includes automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. The TRD Off-Road will set you back $35,515 for the Double Cab with the Long Bed - the 2018 model is about $1,410 more. With a few options, our as-tested price came to $40,617. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Tacoma, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: Tacoma Double Cab with Long Bed Trim: TRD Off-Road Engine: 3.5L D-4S V6 with Dual VVT-i Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 278 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 265 @ 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/23/20 Curb Weight: 4,480 lbs Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, TX Base Price: $35,515 As Tested Price: $40,617 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium & Technology Package - $3,035.00 Tonneau Cover - $650.00 Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill Protector - $208.00 Mudguards - $129.00 Bed Mat - $120.00
  13. Is it possible to teach an old car new tricks? That’s the question Chrysler believes it has answered with the 2018 300. The current-generation model has been with since 2012, though the platform it uses goes back to nineties. Chrysler has been making various improvements to it with an updated look, new transmission, and revised trims. Spending a week with the 2018 300S, I found there were a number of things that make it a worthy contender. But there were some issues that made me leery of fully recommending this model. Somehow, the Chrysler 300’s design just gets better with age. The boxy shape of the body is complemented by a large mesh grille, slim headlights, and a clean looking rear. The S trim adds a hint of aggression with side skirts, rear spoiler, and multi-spoke 20-inch wheels. The green color and bronze trim pieces on this vehicle received a number of comments from the peanut gallery during my week. They ranged from what 1940’s army base did the 300 come from to some comparing it to appliances from the late sixties to early seventies. While I do applaud the chutzpah of the person who decided to go with this combination, I think the bronze accents are a bit much. Thankfully, they are an option and one I recommend skipping. Inside, the 300 isn’t aging so well. Most of the interior is fitted with cheap and somewhat flimsy plastics, very disappointing on a vehicle with a nearly $50,000 price tag. The soft-touch plastic used on the dashboard looks somewhat out of place with its textured pattern. For 2018, the 300 gets the new UConnect 4 system. The key changes are updated graphics and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Thankfully, the updated UConnect system retains the logical layout with large touchscreen buttons and menu structure that we like so much. Our 300S tester came equipped with the base 3.6L V6 engine. Unlike most 300s equipped with this engine, the S gets slightly more power (300 horsepower and 284 pound-feet vs. 292 and 280). This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive. Rear-wheel drive comes standard. Despite the small boost in power, the V6 in the 300S feels similar to other 300s and Dodge Charger/Challengers we have driven. On paper, the V6 is somewhat slow to the competition with a 0-60 time of over six seconds. But on the road, it doesn’t show any sign of sluggishness. There is enough power for most driving situations such as making a pass or leaving a stoplight. This is likely helped by the eight-speed automatic which provides quick and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is slightly disappointing if you opt for the AWD with EPA figures of 18 City/27 Highway/21 Combined. My average for the week landed around 20.4 mpg on a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving. S models differ from other 300s in the suspension. Chrysler uses a stiffer setup on the S to improve handling. It does show a marked improvement with less body lean and the chassis is willing to play. But it isn’t a vehicle you want to push around as the 300’s weight is very noticeable when cornering. The stiffer suspension will mean a slightly rougher ride. The 20-inch wheels that come standard on the S doesn’t help matters. As I mentioned earlier, this particular 300S is quite expensive with an as-tested price of $49,660 with destination. It isn’t worth the money considering you can get into a well-optioned Buick LaCrosse or Kia Cadenza for similar prices and feel you got your money’s worth. Also, Dodge offers the Charger R/T Scat Pack and Daytona 392 with 6.4L V8 that provide more performance for less money. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the 300S AWD, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Chrysler Model: 300 Trim: S AWD Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 300 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 264 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/27/21 Curb Weight: 4,267 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $38,295 As Tested Price: $49,660 (Includes $1,095 Destination Charge) Options: 300S Premium Group - $3,495 300S Premium Group 2 - $1,895 SafetyTec Plus Group - $1,695 S Model Appearance Group - $1,495 Beats Audio Group - $995 300S Alloy Package - $695
  14. It feels somewhat weird to be writing a review of the 2018 Ram 1500 as the 2019 model begins to slowly roll out to dealers. Ram is trying their best get the 2018s out the door. At the time of this writing, Ram is offering up to $12,356 bonus cash on certain 1500 models. Seems very tempting, but are there some other reasons to consider the older 1500 over the new one? Design is very subjective. One person may like the design of a vehicle, while the another may think it is quite ugly. Case in point, I’m not a fan of 2019 Ram 1500. The new shape makes the Ram look like any other pickup truck on sale. At least the 2018 model still retains the big-rig styling that was introduced with the 1994 Ram 1500. The front end is in your face with a large grille, square headlights, and muscular hood. The side profile shows off a set of 20-inch wheels standard on the Limited and the optional RamBox storage system. That isn’t to say the 2018 Ram 1500 doesn’t have design issues either. The Limited trim swaps the standard crosshair grille for one that features ‘RAM’ in big letters. It is just a bit much and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the truck. Since our last review of the Ram 1500 in 2016, not much has changed in the interior. It still has one of cleanest layout for controls and material quality is quite high. Some will snicker at the belt-buckle seat pockets and a ‘Limited’ badge stitched in the center console, but thankfully those touches are only on the higher end models. I do wish Ram would put in a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel as it would make easier to find a comfortable driving position. The adjustable pedals alleviate this issue somewhat. One change I was glad to see was the newest version of UConnect being installed on the 2018 model. This brings an updated interface and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The new interface makes UConnect even easier to use with clearer text and brighter screen. Integration with Apple CarPlay is one the best as it only took a few seconds for the system to find my phone and bring up the CarPlay interface. If you decide to go with the Limited, the only engine on offer is the 5.7L HEMI V8 with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and four-wheel drive complete the powertrain. Those wanting other options will need to drop down to one of the lower trims. On paper, the HEMI V8 seems like a capable performer with close to 400 horsepower. On the road, the HEMI doesn’t quite match up to those expectations. Despite having a muscle car snarl when accelerating, the HEMI V8 is noticeably slower than competitors. As an example, the Ram 1500 took a few ticks longer to hit 70 mph than the previous GM or Toyota full-size trucks I have driven. I cannot pinpoint the possible culprit to this, but I have the feeling the truck’s curb weight and the eight-speed automatic play a role. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2018 Ram 1500 with the HEMI V8 and four-wheel drive are 15 City/21 Highway/17 Combined. My average for the week landed at 14.7 mpg in mostly city driving. Ram still holds an edge when it comes to the ride quality. The coil-spring setup for the rear suspension gives the truck a ride quality more akin to a sedan with most bumps being smoothed over. This truck also came with an optional air suspension which lowers the truck at highway speeds to improve fuel economy. It also makes getting in and out of the Ram 1500 slightly easier. One item I hope Ram has improved with the 2019 model is the steering. The system used in the 2018 Ram 1500 is quite slow and light, meaning it takes more effort to do simple tasks such as pulling into a parking spot. The Ram 1500 Limited is only available in one configuration - Crew Cab, 5’7” cargo bed, 5.7L HEMI V8, and 4WD. Base price is $56,375, with our test truck coming in at $63,870. For most folks, I would recommend dropping down to the likes of the Big Horn or Laramie as they offer more configuration options in terms of powertrains, cabs, and features. Aside from the deep discounts being on offer for the 2018 Ram 1500, deciding whether to go for the old or new model will come down to personal desires. For some, seeing the various improvements and the shiny new body will draw them towards the 2019 model. For others, the deep discounts and being a proven product will bring them over to the 2018 model. I fall into the latter category at the moment, but it might change whenever I get the chance to drive the 2019 Ram 1500. Disclaimer: Ram Provided the 1500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2018 Make: Ram Model: 1500 Trim: Limited Engine: 5.7L HEMI VVT V8 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 395 @ 5,600 Torque @ RPM: 410 @ 3,950 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/21/17 Curb Weight: 5,387 lbs Location of Manufacture: Warren, MI Base Price: $53,595 As Tested Price: $63,870 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge and $300 Suede Headliner Delete Credit) Options: Limited Package 26V - $3,200.00 Limited Tungsten Edition - $1,825.00 Ram Box Cargo Management System - $1,295.00 Power Sunroof - $1,095.00 Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover - $595.00 Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle - $435.00 Single Disc Remote CD Player $345.00 Trailer Brake Control - $295.00 3.92 Rear Axle Ratio - $95.00
  15. 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
  16. I have been on record of not liking the 2.0L turbo-four Lexus uses in a number of their vehicles. Previous reviews have highlighted the horrendous turbo lag and power falling off a cliff after a certain point on the rpm band. But after spending a week with the 2017 Lexus GS 200t, I found that Lexus may have fixed one of the big issues with this engine. A quick refresher on the turbo 2.0L. The engine has ratings of 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission on offer. The engine feels quite punchy when the boost kicks in as it moves the 3,805 pound sedan without breaking a sweat. Another positive is how quiet and refined the engine is during acceleration and at cruise. There are a couple of downsides. As I mentioned in the RC 200t review, the engine does run out of steam at higher rpms which makes merging onto a freeway slightly tricky. The transmission programming in the ‘Normal’ drive mode leans heavily towards boosting fuel economy with rapid upshifts and slow downshifts. This was easily remedied by putting the GS into the ‘Sport’ drive mode. EPA fuel economy figures for the GS 200t at 22 City/32 Highway/26 Combined. I only averaged a very disappointing 19.2 mpg for the week. A lot of this can be attributed to the cold snap where the high temperature at the times was around 10 to 15 degrees. This meant I was running the vehicle at idle for a fair amount of time to warm it up. The GS 200t’s suspension provides a mostly smooth ride with only a couple of bumps making their way inside. Road and wind noise are almost nonexistent. I cannot really comment on the GS 200t’s handling as most of the roads were snow-covered during the week and the Michelin GreenX tires were more keen on spinning in the snow than actually getting the car moving. A set of all-seasons or snow tires would have done wonders for it. Reading through some other reviews, the consensus seems to be the GS shows little body roll and has decent steering weight. Lexus updated the GS’ styling back in 2016 with a revised front end, complete with a spindle grille and upside-down eyelash LED lighting. I’m usually not a fan of the standard insert for the spindle grille - like the mesh insert on the F-Sport. But I will admit the slat grille on this particular model works quite well. Other changes include new wheels (18-inches on our tester) and taillights. The interior hasn’t really changed since I last drove the GS back in 2013. In certain respects, this is ok. The design still holds up with the brushed-metal accents and textured black trim. Material quality is top notch as well with many surfaces being covered in soft-touch plastics and leather. Seating offers the right amount of support and comfort needed for long trips. The only downside is the large transmission tunnel that eats into rear legroom. The GS still uses the first-generation Lexus Enform infotainment system, complete with the joystick controller. The controller is a pain to use with an inconsistent feeling when using it to move around the system. At times, you’ll find yourself either overshooting or not selecting the function because of the vague feeling provided by the controller. This hurts an otherwise pretty good system with a modern design and large 12.3-inch screen with the ability of split-screen viewing. The base price of the 2017 GS 200t is $46,310. Our test vehicle came equipped with a few options such as navigation, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, power trunk, and 18-inch wheels that raised the price to a very reasonable $52,295. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the GS 200t, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Lexus Model: GS Trim: 200t Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve with Dual VVT-iW Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 241 @ 5,800 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,650-4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/32/26 Curb Weight: 3,805 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan Base Price: $46,310 As Tested Price: $52,295 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge and $1,730 Navigation Package Credit) Options: Navigation w/12.3-inch screen with Lexus Enform - $1,730.00 Premium Package - $1,400.00 Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System - $1,380.00 18" All Season Tires - $905.00 Intuitive Park Assist - $500.00 Illuminated Door Sills - $425.00 One-Touch Power Trunk - $400.00
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order. The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this. Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen. The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout. Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort. The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids. Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain. Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove. The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway. You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside. The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll. One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Toyota Model: Highlander Trim: XLE AWD Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600 Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22 Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana Base Price: $39,980 As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00 Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00 Body Side Molding - $209.00
  23. We had high hopes for the Hyundai Tucson when we did a first drive back in August 2015. But when we did our full review last April, we ended it by saying the model wasn’t “the slam dunk we thought it was.” This was due to some key issues such as a small cargo area, a tough value argument and a dual-clutch transmission having some hesitating issues. A year later, we find ourselves revisiting the Tucson. There has been a software update to the transmission, along with some minor changes to the infotainment system and interior. A quick refresher on the Tucson’s powertrain lineup: A 2.0L four-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque is used on the base SE and SE Plus. The rest of the Tucson lineup features a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic comes standard on the 2.0L, while the turbo 1.6 gets a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine does show some turbo lag when leaving a stop, but it will soon pick up steam and move the Tucson at a pretty decent rate. The engine doesn’t feel overtaxed when you need to make a pass. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission still has issues. While Hyundai has reduced some of the hesitation issues we experienced in the last Tucson via a software update, there is still a fair amount of this when leaving from a dead stop. We also noticed some rough upshifts during our week. At least the ride and handling characteristics have not changed since our last test. The Tucson still provides one of the smoothest rides in the class, even with the Limited’s 19-inch wheels. It doesn’t flinch when going around a corner as body motions are kept in check. A Mazda CX-5 would be more fun to drive as it is quicker when transitioning from one corner to another and the steering has the right amount of weight and feel. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. The interior remains mostly unchanged except for a couple of minor things. The 8-inch touchscreen system now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We’re impressed with how fast the system was able to find the iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface. The other change deals with more soft-touch materials being added to various parts of the interior. There is still a fair amount of hard plastics, even on the high-end Limited model which is very disappointing. There is still a lot to like about the Tucson’s interior. Space is plentiful for those sitting in the front or rear seats, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The list of standard equipment is quite extensive as well. Limited models get automatic headlights, power and heated front seats, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push-button start, and blind-spot monitoring. Cargo space still trails competitors with only 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61.9 cubic feet when folded. The CR-V offers 35.2 and 70.9 cubic feet respectively. The Limited seen here came with a $35,210 as-tested price, which is about average for a fully-loaded crossover in this class. But the Tucson becomes a bit of a tough sell when dropping to the lower trims as you cannot get certain features. As we noted in our full review last year, “if you want navigation or dual-zone climate control on the Sport, you’re out of luck.” Despite some of the changes made for 2017, our verdict is much the same as the 2016 Tucson. There is a lot to like about the Tucson, but there are still some issues the company needs to address - smoothing out the dual-clutch and trying to make the model a better value. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Tucson, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Hyundai Model: Tucson Trim: Limited AWD Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500 Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/28/25 Curb Weight: 3,686 lbs Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea Base Price: $31,175 As Tested Price: $35,201 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) Options: Ultimate Package - $2,750.00 Cargo Cover - $190.00 Reversible Cargo Tray - $100.00 Rear Bumper Applique - $70.00 First Aid Kit - $30.00
  24. Chrysler isn’t the first, let alone the tenth automaker you would think of building a hybrid vehicle. Yet, they stunned the world last year as they introduced a plug-in hybrid version of the new Pacifica minivan. It currently holds the title of being the only full-size hybrid minivan sold in the world. On paper, the Pacifica Hybrid makes a good case for itself. Being able to travel up to 33 miles on electric power alone and returning a combined fuel economy figure of 83 MPGe. But how does it fare in the real world? The Pacifica Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a modified version of the 3.6L V6 that runs on the Atkinson cycle for improved efficiency; two electric motors and a 16-kW lithium-ion battery pack. Total output stands at 260 horsepower. Even though the Pacifica Hybrid is about 600 pounds more than the standard model, it doesn’t feel like it. The instant torque from the electric motors moves the van at a very brisk rate when leaving a stop. The gas engine will kick on when the battery is depleted or when more power is needed such as merging onto a highway. The transition between electric and hybrid power is barely noticeable. When the gas engine is on, it has more than enough power to get you moving on your way. An odd omission from the Pacifica Hybrid is being able to switch between electric and hybrid modes like you can do in other PHEVs. The van will automatically do it. This is a bit disappointing as some drivers would like to conserve battery when driving on a highway for example. The key numbers to be aware of are 33 miles and 84 MPGe on electric power, and 32 MPG when running on hybrid power. During my week, I was able to go about 34 miles on electric power alone and saw an average of 32 MPG for the week. Considering how big and heavy this van is, these numbers are quite impressive. Recharging times for the Pacifica Hybrid are 2 hours when plugged into a 240V outlet, or 16 hours for a 120V outlet. FCA is right on the money for the 120V time as it took around 16 hours for the van to be fully recharged. There isn’t any difference between how the Pacifica Hybrid rides and handles to the standard Pacifica. Both exhibit a smooth ride, no matter the road surface. Going around a corner is not a big deal as body roll is kept very much in check. There are only a few things that separate the Pacifica Hybrid from the standard model. Aside from the charging door, the hybrid gets a different grille and wheel design. While the Pacifica Hybrid is designed to carry families, you would think differently after sitting inside. Our Platinum tester was kitted out with leather on the seats, contrasting stitching, and an abundance of soft-touch materials. This interior gives certain luxury cars a run for their money. No matter where you’re sitting in the Pacifica Hybrid, there is plenty of head and legroom on offer. Comfort is also a major plus point as all of the seats provide excellent support for long trips. One downside to the hybrid powertrain is the loss of the Stow n’ Go seats for the second row. That space is taken up by the large battery pack. At least you can remove the second-row seats, but be prepared to have another person help you as they are heavy. At least the third-row seats do fold into the floor. There isn’t anything different with the 8.4-inch UConnect system aside from the usual screens you would expect on hybrid such as a power diagram. This system is very simple to operate, but the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto leaves us slightly disappointed. Thankfully, this will be addressed with the 2018 model year as both become standard across the Pacifica lineup. We also had the chance to try out UConnect Access. This smartphone application allows you to check on how much charge is left on the battery, set up a charging schedule, trip information, remote lock and start, and vehicle location. While it is nice to have a key information within easy reach, it takes a long time for the application to pull it. We found on average that it took a good minute or two before updated information would arrive. For all of this tech, it comes at a price. The base Pacifica Hybrid Premium rings up at $41,995. Our Platinum tester came to $47,885 with an optional panoramic sunroof. That’s a lot of cash for a minivan, even one with a hybrid powertrain. But with the Platinum, you’re getting everything - navigation, rear-seat entertainment system, heated and ventilated front seats, and a ton of safety equipment. There is also the $7,500 federal tax credit and other incentives from various states that might sway some folks. But those only come into play when it comes time to do taxes. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Chrysler Model: Pacifica Hybrid Trim: Platinum Engine: 3.6L V6 eHybrid System Driveline: eFlite EVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ N/A (Combined) Torque @ RPM: N/A Fuel Economy: Gas + Electric Combined, Gas Combined - 84 MPGe, 32 MPG Curb Weight: 4,987 lbs Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario Base Price: $44,995 As Tested Price: $47,885 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tri-Pane Panaromic Sunroof - $1,795
  25. Lexus might not be the first choice when it comes to a compact luxury coupe. But when I drove the RC 350 F-Sport back in 2015, we found it to be a very capable coupe. Aside from the creamsicle paint color, the RC impressed me with distinctive styling, punchy V6, and sharp handling. Two years later, I find myself revisiting the RC - this time with the base 2.0L turbo-four engine. As I would find out during our week, there is a lot to like about the standard RC. But there is one glaring issue that would make me look at a competitor. The standard RC’s design somehow balances a handsome shape with extroverted details. The front features the widest version of the spindle grille, slits in the front bumper, and LED lighting under the headlights. Bulging fenders and rounded roofline make the RC stand out from the crowd. There are only two things I would change about this RC. First is the color. The silver paint on our tester makes the RC a bit dull to look at. Something more vibrant such as a red would really help out. We would also swap the 5-spoke, 18-inch wheels for the wheels found on the F-Sport package. The interior hasn’t changed since we last drove the RC and that’s both a good and bad thing. The good is that the RC still has the IS’ dash design which makes the vehicle’s sporting intentions clear. It is easy to find a comfortable position in the front seats thanks to the power adjustments on offer. The bad? It begins with the infotainment system. A 7-inch screen is nestled far back in the dash, making it hard to read at a quick glance. I wished Lexus had upgraded the screen to the 10.2-inch version found in the refreshed IS. The optional Remote Touch system is a bit frustrating to use as you have be very precise when making your selection. One slip of the finger and you’ll end up with a different selection. Don’t expect to carry passengers in the RC’s backseat as leg room is non-existent. It's better to use it as a place for cargo. What is that glaring issue I mentioned at the beginning? That would be the turbo 2.0L. It produces 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power delivery can best be described as the engine delivers enough oomph to move the vehicle from a stop, before falling off a cliff. There isn’t that rush of power throughout the rpm band that you would have in another model such as the Cadillac ATS 2.0T. On the upside, the 2.0L turbo in the RC didn’t have the horrendous turbo lag that I experienced in the IS 200t last year. The eight-speed automatic that comes standard on rear-drive models delivers smooth gear changes. I did find myself wishing the gear changes were somewhat quicker when the RC is put into the Sport mode via the drive selector. The standard RC fits the definition of a ‘Gran Tourer’. It may not handle as well as the RC 350 F-Sport in the bends - there is little bit more body roll and the steering isn’t as direct. But most people who drive it will be ok with that as it is ‘just right’. On rough roads, the RC 200t excels as bumps are smoothed over. Wind noise is mostly nonexistent, while there is a fair amount of road noise coming inside. The 2017 RC 200t begins at $40,155. With a modest amount of options such as navigation, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control, the as-tested price came to $45,234. The RC 200t is mostly show and not much go. For some folks, that’s all they want. A coupe that stands out in and tells the world to look at me. For others, save up a bit more money and go for the 350. The added performance of the V6 gives the coupe the go it deserves. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RC 200t, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2017 Make: Lexus Model: RC Trim: 200t Engine: Turbo 2.0L DOHC 16-valve with Dual VVT-i Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 241 @ 5,800 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,650-4,400 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/32/26 Curb Weight: 3,737 lbs Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan Base Price: $40,155 As Tested Price: $45,234 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge) Options: Navigation System - $1,470.00 Premium Package - $1,240.00 Dynamic Radar Cruise Control w/Pre-Collison - $500.00 Illuminated Door Sills - $449.00 Windshield Deicer and Headlamp Cleaner - $220.00 Door Edge Guards - $115.00 All-Weather Floormats - $110.00

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