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The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Welcome to The Review Garage!

Garages provide shelter for cars, bikes, tools and overflow from your household. They can also be meeting places, project centers, studios and dream catchers.

The Review Garage will gather car, truck, SUV and motorcycle reviews from several experienced writers. We’ll also feature photographs, travel stories, driving advice and auction reports. If we see a cool car on the road, we’ll share a photo and a story. We’ll gather accessories, tools and garage gadgets, put them through their paces and tell you what we think.

Mostly, we’ll talk about cars, the automotive lifestyle, and anything else that you might talk about in your garage with your friends.

Join us. Make yourself comfortable. Hand me that wrench, and grab yourself a beer. Let’s hang out.

Featured post

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige MPV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With apologies to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who never experienced the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Just don’t call me a minivan.

That pejorative never passes the lips of Kia’s advertising people or resides anywhere in the brand’s press releases. Nope. The new Carnival is an MPV, for multi-purpose vehicle. 

Obviously, that’s because the powers at South Korea’s Kia likely are convinced that a minivan description amounts to the kiss of low sales, if not death, for their new creation. Never mind that any objective assessment, reiterated here, enshrines minivans as the most useful passenger vehicles on the planet.

But Kia would like to convince everyone that the Carnival is an extension of their own Telluride, which now is the hottest crossover sport utility vehicle on the market. In fact, it is designed to resemble that crossover, though few people will be fooled.

Crossover SUVs threaten to overwhelm the vehicle market in the United States, if not the world. An example is Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, which has abandoned traditional sedans in favor of its four crossovers: Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator. Other manufacturers are in the queue.

Over in the minivan corral, the numbers are few: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager — all worthy competitors. You also can count smaller passenger vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Ram Pro-Master City and Nissan NV200. In 2020, minivans accounted for less than 2% of vehicle sales in the United States.

Kia entered the minivan skirmish in 2002 with the Sedona, which was called the “Carnival” in other world markets. It lasted into 2021 and now has been replaced in the U.S. by the all-new 2022 Carnival.

In the top-line version tested for this review, the Carnival is a fully rendered MPV with such amenities as second-row recliner seats and built-in entertainment screens. It has reasonably comfortable (especially for smaller humans) third-row seats that flip-fold both forward and backward into the floor to increase cargo space.

It’s a big vehicle, with 168 cubic feet of space for passengers and 40 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, which expands to 87 cubic feet with the third row folded. At 16 feet 11 inches long, it’s only four inches longer than the Telluride. But it looks and feels much bigger, with 208 cubic feet of total interior volume compared to the Telluride’s 188. The Carnival also is 278 pounds heavier.

But it’s anything but porky. Its suspension system and tires deliver a smooth and quiet ride, and the handling is crisp and balanced with responsive steering. Of course, you don’t want to fling it around curves as if it were a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Audi RS-3. 

The Carnival is powered by a 290-hp V6 engine with gasoline direct injection that makes 262 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Power is delivered to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is not yet available.

Even with a curb weight of 4,760 pounds, the Carnival can be punched to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to independent tests. It also can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The EPA rates the Carnival’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/26/22 mpg. There are no hybrid versions yet, which would enhance fuel economy. All of the new Toyota Sienna versions feature hybrid power trains, and the Chrysler Pacifica offers a plug-in hybrid.

There are five versions, or trim levels, of the Carnival: the LX, with a starting price of $33,275, including the destination charge; LXS, $35,275; EX, $38,775; SX, $42,275, and the tested SX Prestige, $47,275. 

2022 Carnival

The SX Prestige was so luxurious and well equipped, including a panoramic sunroof with dual front and rear openings, that it listed only one option: Astra Blue Paint at $495, which brought the as-tested price to  $47,770. Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety and driver assist technology. One notable: Safe Exit Assist, which sounds a warning and locks a rear door after a stop if the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear.

The Carnival also features blind spot cameras that switch on with the directional signals and replace the speedometer and tachometer; forward collision avoidance; blind-spot collision avoidance; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance; lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige four-door multi-purpose vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6, gasoline direct injection; 290 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/ cargo volume: 168/40 cubic feet (87).
  • Weight: 4,760 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,275.
  • Price as tested: $47,770.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Kia

2022 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Prestige: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s becoming a truism that the South Koreans build great automobiles like the 2022 Genesis G70. But the impression in the U.S. is  based on only three closely associated brands.

They are Kia, partly owned by Hyundai, and Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand. Together, they deliver 29 different models, including sedans, hatchbacks, crossover sport utility vehicles and even a pickup truck, with a broad range of performance characteristics and prices from economy to luxury.

The newest brand is Genesis. It started out as a high-end trim level for Hyundai but became a separate brand in 2015. The 2022 lineup consists of the G70, G80 and G90 sedans, and the GV70 and GV80 crossovers.

Of those, the G70 has received the most plaudits from reviewers. It is a compact performance/luxury sedan — actually a bit smaller than the economy-oriented Hyundai Elantra. But the G70 competes directly, at lower prices, with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A5 Sportback. It also rivals the Kia Stinger, with which it shares some components. 

There are six G70 versions, all with turbocharged engines. The two four-cylinder base models, 2.0T Standard and 2.0T Prestige, have 252 horsepower and carry price tags of $38,570 and $42,570, respectively. Both have eight-speed automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive.

The other four, including the Sport Prestige model tested for this review, are powered by 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo engines that make 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. They also have eight-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift modes and rear-wheel drive. Add about $2,000 for all-wheel drive on all models.

The tested Sport Prestige had a base price of $43,125 and, with options, a tested price of  $51,945. Other 3.3 versions: Standard, $43,145; Sport Advanced, $47,445, and Launch Edition, $51,445.

Visuals are important, and the G70 grabs attention with sleek, fastback lines and new front and rear styling. Like an Olympic sharpshooter, this Genesis has competitors locked in its sights. 

The stylish look carries over to the interior, which features quality materials, design, and workmanship. Seats on the tester were upholstered in quilted and perforated Nappa leather. Front seats have good bolstering for spirited driving on curving roads and deliver support and comfort for long distance driving. The tester came with a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and  large glass sunroof with an opaque motorized sunshade. 

In back, there’s room and comfort for two smaller adults in the outboard seats, though getting in and out takes some agility because feet catch between the door frame and the seat. The center seat position is impossible because of a large floor hump, hard cushion, and intrusion of the center console. In fairness, this is not uncommon in many smaller sedans.

Where the tested G70 shines is in overall performance. The twin-turbo V6 engine and quick-shifting eight-speed automatic combine to hustle this beauty to 60 mph in the four-second range.

There are five easily dialed drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Custom, and Sport Plus. The last is a track mode and turns off the traction control. On twisting roads, the G70 stays planted with tactile steering feedback.

The Sport modes keep the engine on the boil for rapid response, though if you get your foot deep into the throttle it’s almost as if the other modes switch instantly to Sport, so you can putter around town in Eco knowing that the power is poised to respond quickly.

With the G70’s bias toward sporting performance and handling, the ride can get a bit choppy on pockmarked roads, though the adaptive shock absorbers do a decent job of canceling some of the rougher stuff. The different drive modes don’t seem to have much of an effect on the ride.

Genesis G70 Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Equipment on he tested Sport Prestige includes premium Brembo brakes, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear occupant warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology, head-up display and a 360-degree view exterior camera. There’s also dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and 19-inch custom alloy wheels.

A 10.3-center screen displays infotainment functions, including navigation, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In short, the G70 comes with nearly everything expected in a performance/luxury sedan. Though it doesn’t have the cachet of a BMW or Mercedes, it performs as well or better than other compact luxury/sport sedans at lower prices.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Prestige four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque. 
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 94/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,880 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/27/21 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.  
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,125.
  • Price as tested: $51,945.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Genesis

2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hyundai jumped the gun in the race for buyers of compact crossover sport utility vehicles with its fully redesigned 2022 Tucson, which features eye-catching body sculpting and creative lighting, among many new features.

Moreover, this new contender comes in 10 different versions, called trim levels in the industry, including three hybrids and price tags ranging from $26,135 for the base SE model to $38,704 for the top-line Limited Hybrid version with all-wheel drive tested for this review. Hybrids come with all-wheel drive and other models also are available with front-wheel drive. Prices include the destination charge.

Even with its 38 grand as-tested price, the Tucson Limited Hybrid sells for less than the average price of a new car in the United States — now more than $40,000 — and presents itself more as a small luxury crossover than an economical utility vehicle, which it also can claim.

A crossover is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) built like a car, with unit body construction. An SUV is built with the body mounted on a frame, like a pickup truck. The Tucson is an example of the former; the Chevrolet Tahoe or Jeep Wrangler are traditional rugged SUVs.

Coming or going, the Tucson is a grabber. Its grille is highlighted by 10 (count ’em) LED daytime running lights. Hyundai says the idea was to craft a recognizable work of art. On the road, if a Tucson overtakes your vehicle, you will witness a tail gate that sports a full-width light bar and angular bright brake lights.

For all of its luxury and technological highlights, this Tucson will not disappoint at the gasoline pumps. It delivers a 37/36/37 mpg city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy rating, which some new owners already have exceeded.

The power train consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 90-hp electric motor. Together, they deliver 261 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, meaning this Tucson will never be embarrassed in the stoplight sprints or freeway wrangling. 

For peace of mind, every Tucson comes with modern safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. The tested Limited Hybrid also was equipped with adaptive cruise control and lane-following assist, blind-spot warning, driver attention detection and warning, rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance alert, and front and rear parking assist warning.

Inside, driver and passengers of the Limited Hybrid are treated to quality materials, well-designed equipment and accents, including perforated leather upholstery, and topped off by a panoramic sunroof. A large center screen handles infotainment functions. However, all controls are either touchscreen or pushbutton. You have to look at the screen to select functions, which could be distracting. A few knobs would be welcome for things like radio volume.

Outboard back seats are big and comfortable with plenty of head room and knee room. However, as usual in too many vehicles, the forlorn center rear passenger gets treated to a hard, high cushion and a big floor hump. 

With the rear seatbacks in place, the tested Tucson had 39 cubic feet of space for cargo, more than any conventional sedan on the market. To nearly double that, simply fold the seatbacks almost flat. There’s no spare wheel under the cargo floor — just a “tire mobility kit.” So, figure on calling for emergency service.

The Tucson Hybrid’s forte is serene distance cruising, with the gasoline engine and electric motor quietly working in concert. But it also is no slouch on twisting roads, though it would be a mistake to assume it handles like a sports sedan. However, with a supple suspension system mated to compatible tires, it is capable and secure with a comfortable ride.

Hyundai also offers a Tucson plug-in hybrid, which can deliver up to 32 miles of purely electric operation. An onboard charger can top up the battery in about two hours with a level two 240-volt connection. But once the electric juice dries up it simply switches to regular hybrid operation, so the current better choice is a standard hybrid like the tester, which doesn’t need to be plugged in.

The new Tucson competes in tough company against the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-30, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and the Kia Sportage from Hyundai’s sister division. It should prove to be a formidable foe.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 180 hp, 195 lb-ft torque; 90 hp electric motor. Total system: 261 hp, 224 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/39 cubic feet.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • Weight: 3,695 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 37/36/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,535.
  • Price as tested: $38,704.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Hyundai

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The all-new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander comes with a description that a 2-year-old child would enjoy: “I-Fu-Do-Do.” The company says it’s a product concept that means “authentic and majestic.”

Not sure whether the tested Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC, a three-row crossover sport utility vehicle, is majestic. But it is an attractive, capable, and comfortable rendering of Mitsubishi’s goal to deliver quality, strength and confidence.

It’s cultural. And who’s to argue? The Japanese produce some of the finest motor vehicles, though they are increasingly challenged by the South Koreans — and Americans, and Europeans.

According to a well-placed and impeccable source, “I-Fu-Do-Do” at Mitsubishi is “Kinda like Mazda’s ‘rider and horse as one.’ It’s a high-level concept that led the development of the vehicle. Not a literal translation, but a Japanese higher-level concept.”

We’re not smoking anything here. Concepts are important to automotive designers and engineers, who spend entire careers to divine what customers in the future will embrace.

As a new rendering of Mitsubishi’s flagship vehicle, the company went to great lengths to include everything anyone might expect in a modern automobile, and even some hardly anybody would expect.

For example, in addition to a suite of engineering and insulation measures designed to, among other things, reduce tire noise and deliver a quiet and comfortable ride, the Mitsubishi engineers also devised a system to suppress vibrations through the steering wheel. 

Everywhere you look, there are unexpected features, given the Outlander’s price point. Examples: six selectable drive modes on all-wheel drive models — Eco, Normal, Tarmac, Gravel, Snow and Mud. Garnishing on the rocker panels to reduce dirt that clings to trousers and dresses when passengers swing legs out to exit. Both A and C USB ports. Smartphone stowage for every seat. Side window shades in the second-row seat. Outside mirrors that automatically tilt downward for backup parking. A smartphone app to locate the Outlander in a crowded parking lot.

The new-car window sticker for the tested Outlander, called the Monroney after the senator who introduced the 1958 law requiring it, is numbingly extensive, with 108 separate items of equipment, features and options. The tester had a starting price of $34,940 and a bottom-line sticker of $37,995.

Taking a cue from South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia, the Outlander also comes with the best warranty in motordom: Five years and 60,000 miles overall limited warranty, and 10 years and 100,000 miles on the engine and transmission. 

The Outlander competes in the compact class against such worthy crossovers as the Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV-4. But it looks bigger with a prominent, almost menacing grille set off by triple stacked headlights on both sides, and a new one-piece hexagonal tailgate with horizontal T-shaped taillights.

The tested Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC comes with all-wheel drive and a 181-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 181 lb-ft of torque. With more than 3,800 pounds to move, it’s not the fastest in stoplight sprints but it’s not embarrassed on the public roads. 

Power gets to the pavement via a continuously variable automatic transmission that has no shift hesitations in sedate driving. But if you punch the loud pedal for a quick getaway, it incorporates shift points to feel like a conventional automatic. There’s also an eight-speed manual shift mode controlled by steering-wheel paddles, adding an entertainment quotient.

Handling and ride are first rate, with composed tracking around mountain curves and cutbacks. Front seats deliver support and comfort with substantial bolstering to hold the body in place. Straight line highway cruising is uneventful.

Second-row outboard seats mimic the front seats and even the center position is not as horrible as those on many other vehicles. There’s still a high, hard cushion, but the floor hump is shallow so there’s space for feet.

The third row should be saved for emergencies or small items like purses and pets. Fortunately, the second-row seats have adequate fore and aft travel. Run them all the way forward and the third row has some tiny foot space. 

Really old-timers will recall that Mitsubishi produced the Japanese A6M Zero fighter plane that battled American aircraft in the Pacific in World War II. Now Japan is a staunch ally and an Olympics host, and the company has evolved into a conglomerate that produces quality merchandise for the world, including the tested Outlander.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter direct injection four-cylinder; 181 hp, 181 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with eight-speed manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 121/12 cubic feet (34, 78, seats folded).
  • Weight: 3,803 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,940.
  • Price as tested: $37,995.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Mitsubishi

2021 Audi RS 7: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s tempting to describe the 2021 Audi RS 7 in disparate ways: a hair-trigger pistol in a silk holster. An explosive creampuff. An iron fist in a velvet glove.

They are all accurate, more or less. This four-door fastback, so low slung a five-footer can peer over the top, can be driven as softly as a cushy limousine or as harshly as a track or road racer without adjusting anything except the pressure of the right foot on the accelerator pedal.

It extracts gobs of power from its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine: 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch it to 60 mph north or south of three seconds. Top speed on the test car was 155 but the capability can be increased to 190 if you order the optional track-capable carbon ceramic brakes.

Power gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. The transmission can be manually shifted with steering-wheel paddles, though there are likely few humans who could beat the automatic.

Even without the carbon-ceramic grabbers, Car and Driver magazine reported that its testers were able to haul the 4,947-pound RS 7 to a stop from 70 mph in 171 feet, which it judged as impressive. In short, this hatchback sedan is the whole nine yards.

Fuel economy, given the power available, is respectable. City/highway/combined EPA numbers are  15/22/17 miles to the gallon, though to get maximum performance and economy, premium gasoline is required.

There are no different versions, or trim levels. The one you get has a starting price of $115,045. With options, the tester’s bottom-line sticker came to $125,140. If you want something less intimidating, check out the Audi S 7 and A 7. 

What you get for the money, besides the scintillating performance, are luxury accouterments. The tested RS 7 had beautiful perforated and embossed leather upholstery covering supportive and comfortable seats with good bolstering to hold the torso in place. 

In back, the outboard seats are positioned way down to afford head room under the low roof, making it a bit awkward for some people to access. Comfort back there, however, is available only for two. The center-rear seat is a hard perch aggravated by a large floor hump, so the poor soul must splay feet on both sides. It’s not a place for even a short trip.

But there’s a modicum of practicality lurking among the luxurious appointments. Open the rear hatch and access 25 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the rear seatbacks nearly flat and the cargo area almost doubles. However, despite the sharply angled backlight, there is no rear window wiper. 

The RS 7 comes with full safety equipment, as well as a comprehensive digital gauge cluster that includes instant readouts for power and torque. The infotainment system operates with touch screens that unfortunately require a firm touch to operate, which means the driver can be distracted to aim fingers accurately. But there’s also voice recognition. Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, along with wireless smart phone charging. A subscription Wi-Fi hot spot  is available.

The RS 7 has impeccable manners, whether tootling around downtown, commuting to the suburbs or rocketing around curves on a deserted mountain roadway. As noted, the power is on tap for any circumstance, yet you can feather-foot the throttle for docile motoring in comfort.

Buttressing this package is an adaptive air suspension and four-wheel steering. Both contribute to the controlled ride and confident handling. The tester had an optional driver assistance package that included a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and Audi’s intersection assist, which monitors cross traffic.

The tested RS 7 came with an optional exterior black optics package, black outside mirror housings, summer performance tires on 22-inch matte titanium wheels, and red brake calipers. There also was a $500 sport exhaust system, which this reviewer could have done without.

Fortunately, the exhaust notes are most raucous under hard acceleration. In more sedate motoring, the RS 7 runs quietly enough to allow easy listening to the 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and the SXM satellite radio.

Whether you’re entranced by the whole nine yards, the complete ball of wax or the full megillah, the Audi RS 7 will suit up.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Audi RS 7 four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 4.0-liter V8, turbocharged; 591 hp, 590 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 95/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,947 pounds.
  • Height: 4 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/22/17. Premium gasoline required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $115,045.
  • Price as tested: $125,140.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Audi

2021 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though it’s among the runners-up for pure driving pleasure, the 2021 Infiniti Q50 can satisfy almost anyone who enjoys driving for its own sake. 

Most of those enthusiasts likely would concede that the best vehicles for their preferred pursuit are sports cars. However, it’s a tradeoff because they have limitations of two seats and truncated luggage space.

The runners-up are compact and midsize sports sedans like the Q50 Signature Edition tested for this review. Many aficionadoes even prefer them for their additional space for up five passengers and the capability to accommodate luggage in a trunk or under a rear hatch.

Examples of the Q50’s competition are the Audi A4 and A5, as well as their higher performance S and RS models; BMW 3-Series and M versions; Mercedes-Benz C-Class and AMG models; Alfa-Romeo Giulia; Cadillac CT-4, CT-5, and Blackwing versions; Acura TLX; Honda Civic Type R; Genesis G70; Subaru BRZ, and Volkswagen Golf GTI/R.

There even are subcompacts that qualify as sports sedans, as witness the Audi A3, S3, and a current favorite here, the Audi RS3, about as sweet a driver as you’ll find anywhere. However, it has a price tag north of $65,000.

The 2021 Infiniti Q50 is not quite as dear. But the tested Signature Edition checked in at $52,800, which included $1,575 worth of options: exterior “welcome lighting,” rear USB charging ports, trunk area enhancements and premium paint.

Sports sedan qualifications start with the Q50’s 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that punches out 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission sends the power to all four wheels. There’s a manual shift mode, but curiously no steering-wheel paddles. You shift with the shifter.

Standard equipment includes most everything a customer might want. Safety items include emergency braking and collision warning, backup collision intervention, blind-spot and lane-departure warning, around-view camera with moving-object detection, adaptive cruise control and hill start assist. 

Convenience and comfort features include dual-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery, remote engine starting, motorized glass sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated outside mirrors, and LED headlights and fog lights.

Inside, the Q50 displays a comfortable ambiance with quality materials and workmanship. The black dash is highlighted with yellow stitching. Over-and-under center touch screens handle navigation and infotainment functions. Buttons control climate functions. Instruments feature big analog displays that are easy to read day or night. 

On the road, the Q50 delivers a comfortable ride, which might be its main drawback. It seems as if the suspension tuning and tires were set up more toward the luxury than the sport side of the spectrum. That’s not to say it’s a slug on handling. It goes where you point it with good steering feedback; its turn-in on sharp curves at high speeds is not as quick as some of the competition. But it is  companionable as a daily driver.

Independent tests place the Q50’s zero-to-60-mph acceleration time in the five-second range — certainly acceptable in this era. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/27/22 mpg.

Front seats deliver support and comfort for spirited driving, with good bolstering to hold the torso in place. The back seats offer welcoming accommodations for two in the outboard seats. But as usual in most cars with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Q50’s center-rear seat—there to qualify it for five passengers — should be reserved for knapsacks or capuchin monkeys. Any comfort is compromised by a giant floor hump, intrusion of the center console and a cushion so hard and high the poor passenger’s noggin bumps the headliner-covered metal roof.

Though the Q50 looks like a compact, it has midsize interior space as defined by the EPA. There’s 100 cubic feet for passengers with a trunk of 14 cubic feet, well carpeted to avoid damaging any contents. There’s no spare so figure on calling for help if there’s a flat. 

The Q50’s design with a traditional trunk provides a template that enables stylists. Though not a neck-snapping head turner, this well-designed machine qualifies as eye candy. However, in this view it also could be an Audi-style fastback with a hatchback to enhance the utility side of the equation even further without affecting the performance personality.

Like other manufacturers, Infiniti concentrates on its crossover sport utility vehicles as sedans fade in the marketplace. The Q50 is the company’s sole surviving four-door sedan. But it’s still a worthy competitor.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 300 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 100/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,025 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $51,225.
  • Price as tested: $52,800.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Infiniti

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Once regarded as a truncated version of the historic Chevrolet Suburban, the all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe has become a distinct competitor in the full-size sport utility realm, especially in the four-wheel drive Z71 trim tested for this review.

The Suburban has been with us as a premier hauler of family and cargo since 1934, probably a week or two before most of its buyers were born. Over the years, it was the choice of anyone who needed lots of space for passengers and cargo, as well as brute force towing capability.

For Chevrolet and General Motors, the Suburban functioned as a bulwark against the increasingly popular minivan, popularized in the mid-1980s by Chrysler. But it always retained its muscular personality, and spun off other iterations, including the luxury Cadillac Escalade and the GMC Yukon — no surprise because they were based on the same platform as General Motors’ Silverado and Sierra full-size pickup trucks.

That’s either a positive or negative depending on the chores you want to assign to your big boomer. Full-size SUVs can carry the same number of passengers and cargo as a now-traditional minivan. And they can tow heavier trailers and handle heavier loads. But big SUVs lose to the minivan on fuel economy, handling and comfort. On a beach trip, the kids in back likely would prefer a Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, or the all-new Kia Carnival, which masquerades as an SUV.

On the other hand, if you’re regularly towing your 27-foot party barge for a family cruise on Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California, you’d likely choose the Chevrolet Tahoe or some other lunker like the Ford Expedition MAX, Nissan Armada, or Toyota Sequoia.

The Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71 that is the subject here did not arrive as the Suburban’s sibling until 1994 — a somewhat smaller and slightly less expensive alternative. At the outset, the two vehicles seemed alike except that the Tahoe looked like a Suburban with about 15 inches whacked off the back end.

But now, all-new for 2021, the Tahoe comes with well-balanced styling and a personality all its own despite its family resemblance to big brother — or sister — Suburban.

In an era when manufacturers are trending toward smaller turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the 2021 Tahoe Z71 continues with good old-fashioned Detroit muscle — a pushrod 5.3-liter V8 engine with 355 hp and 358 lb-ft of torque. It sends its power to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission.      

The combination guarantees that you will never feel at a disadvantage either in the hiccups of plugged up/high speed interstate travel or urban puddling around. But no matter how you are driving, don’t count on competing with any economy cars. The tested Tahoe Z71 has a city/highway/combined EPA fuel consumption rating of 16/20/18 mpg, and almost everybody will get less.

But there’s quiet comfort in cruising. Buttressed with an air suspension system and adaptive shock absorbers, the tested Tahoe exhibited good handling for its size, cruised quietly and comfortably for long distances at Interstate speeds and featured mostly fatigue-free seating. 

The air suspension system also enabled a larger cabin with 178 cubic feet of space for up to seven passengers and 25 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row. Both the second and third rows can be folded to greatly expand the cargo capacity. Third-row seats have power folding.

The tested Z71, with standard four-wheel drive, came with a $5,735 off-road package of options that included the air suspension, magnetic ride control and a heavy-duty radiator for enhanced cooling. The package also featured an advanced trailering system with hitch guidance and trailer brake control. 

Safety equipment on the tester, both standard and optional, included automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, following-distance indicator, lane-change alert with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning.

Inside, the Z71 offered a complement of infotainment, comfort and convenience functions. Among them: tri-zone automatic climate control, wireless smart phone charging, Wi-Fi, five USB ports, SXM satellite radio, nine-speaker Bose audio system, and a rear window that opens independently of the power rear hatch for convenience in loading smaller items.

The Z71 is one of six versions, called trim levels in the industry, that have starting prices from $51,195 to $71,220, including destination charges, with the Z71 in the middle of the range at $60,495. With options, the tested Tahoe Z71 topped out at $68,940.

Specifications 

  • Model: 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71 four-door sport utility vehicle. 
  • Engine: 5.3-liter Ecotec V8, 355 hp, 358 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 178/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,865 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,600 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/20/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $60,495.
  • Price as tested: $68,940.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Chevrolet

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s easy to conclude that Hyundai decided to go over the top with the 2021 Palisade three-row crossover sport utility vehicle. After making its debut as a 2020 model, the Palisade scored plaudits all over the automotive multiverse along with its fraternal cousin, the Kia Telluride. In any number of ratings and reviews, the two crossovers were ranked one and/or two in the midsize, three-row crossover category.

It’s getting to be a familiar story. The two South Korean companies are part of the same family and lately have consistently delivered desirable vehicles with high-grade content and competitive prices. They share engineering, engines, and drive trains but follow their own instincts on styling and other ingredients. 

For the 2021 model year, Hyundai upped the ante with a new top-line trim level, called the Palisade Calligraphy. The former top Limited has been relegated to secondary status along with the less expensive SEL and SE versions.

The Calligraphy, with striking exterior styling highlighted by an intimidating in-your-face grille with triangle accents and eye-catching alloy wheels, has tilted into the luxury category despite its more bourgeois price tag.

Inside, the Calligraphy’s luxurious personality encompasses a variety of quality materials including quilted leather trim on the doors and faux wood accents. Also: perforated leather upholstery and steering wheel; rear side sunshades; heated and ventilated seats; a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, SXM satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The center console expands the storage area with cup holder surrounds that fold into the console inside and are spring loaded. If you need to secure a cup you simply touch a button, and they snap into place.

Full safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping and lane-following assist, adaptive cruise control, and a clever blind-spot warning system built into the instrument cluster. When you click the left or right turn signal, the rear view on either side shows up, substituting briefly for the speedometer or tachometer.

You can check the blind spots on both sides without looking at the outside mirrors. However, though innovative, the system is unnecessary if you are among the rare motorists who know how to properly adjust the outside mirrors, which are the original blind sport monitors.

The Calligraphy tested for this review carried an opening price tag of $48,935. But it was so well equipped there was only one option: $215 for carpeted floor mats. All-wheel drive is standard. The lesser trim levels, with both front drive or optional all-wheel drive, are the SE, which starts at $33,800 including the destination charge; SEL, at $36,510, and Limited, $46,460.

There’s power aplenty from a 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine that delivers 262 lb-ft of torque, enough to move this 4,387-pound beauty to 60 mph in a snippet under seven seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph. An eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters gets the power to the pavement.

There are five selectable drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Eco, Smart, and Snow. Comfort provides a slightly softer ride and Sport delivers slightly crisper handling. But you have to pay close attention to notice the differences. Either works well in everyday driving.

Traveling, the Palisade was an amiable companion. It cruised quietly with confident handling and fatigue-free long-distance motoring, though it’s not particularly anxious to challenge twisting mountain roads.

The tested Calligraphy was a seven-passenger model with generous space and captain’s chairs in the second row. They were as comfortable and supportive as the front seats, with multiple adjustments and enough travel to provide knee room to passengers in the third row. 

The third row sits on a raised platform about four inches higher than the second-row floor. But there’s still enough head room for modest sized humans and knee room if the second-row seats are moved forward. There are three seatbelts back there, but passengers better be skinny or kids. 

Third-row seats have powered reclining and seatback folding. There’s 18 cubic feet for cargo, accessed by a hands-free automatic tailgate, which expands to 46 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 86 cubic feet if you also fold the second row. Headrests drop automatically when you drop the seatbacks.

Besides the Telluride, the Palisade competes handily against the Ford Explorer, Buick Enclave, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 155/18 cubic feet. 
  • Weight: 4,387 pounds.
  • Towing capability: Maximum 5,000 pounds properly equipped.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $48,935.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Hyundai

2021 Lexus LS 500: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Musing for a description of the 2021 Lexus LS 500 luxury sedan, a Sherpa fleece blanket comes to mind. It’s cozy comfortable and bereft of objectionable traits.

Introduced in 1989, the LS commands the top tier of Lexus automobiles. Early on, the upscale nameplate from Japan’s Toyota was a full-size sedan with V8 power and rear-wheel drive. It was designed to compete against the best of the world’s luxury cohort, including Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Jaguar, Audi, Maserati, Volvo, BMW, and Lincoln — but not such nosebleed-priced machines as Rolls-Royce or Bentley.

It has held steady in the U.S., though sales dropped in 2020 as increasing numbers of buyers chose crossover sport utility vehicles. But it’s way different from the original. It originally was classified as a large car by the Environmental Protection Agency, defined as having more than 120 cubic feet of interior space, including the passenger cabin and the trunk.

For 2021, it has sleek, attractive styling but no longer is a large car. With a total of 115 cubic feet of interior room, divided 98/17 for passengers and trunk, it is classified as a midsize, like the Toyota Camry. Moreover, it should be regarded as a four-passenger vehicle, even though there’s a fifth seatbelt in back if you fold the center console/armrest into the seatback.

But that middle position is an aggressively uncomfortable perch, with a hard cushion, a shortage of head room and a large floor hump. It contrasts sharply to the powered 18-way adjustable, heated and cooled reclining outboard back seats, which offer the same support and comfort as the front seats. 

The center seat aside, the LX 500’s interior could qualify in any showing of a luxury limousine interior, with airy passenger space, leather upholstery and armrests, premium wood trim, navigation system, four-zone automatic climate control, $1,940 Mark Levinson audio system, power rear window sunshades and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Much of that comes with the optional $12,710 luxury package. All told, options on the tested LS 500 tacked $21,055 onto the base price of $77,025, bumping the bottom-line sticker to $98,080. That’s daunting for many prospective buyers but it’s still less than some of its European competitors — the Audi RS 7, for example, which can easily top $125,000.

LS options also included an adaptive air suspension system for all four wheels, which helped deliver a creamy ride as well as sharp handling and good steering feedback. Add the active noise canceling system and you have a posh conveyance that can carry you across the country with Sherpa blanket comfort and minimal distraction or annoyance.

Other equipment included Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SXM satellite radio and HD radio, all controlled with a high-resolution 12.3-inch touchscreen, which offers relief from the still installed console-mounted Lexus track pad, which can sometimes be irritating.

The LS 500’s motivation comes from a 3.4-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that quietly — except when you floor it–delivers 416 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Power makes its way to the rear wheels by way of a 10-speed automatic transmission that, if the spirit moves you, can be manually shifted with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. But why bother? The onboard computer deftly and unobtrusively manipulates gear selections and the smooth shifts expected in a luxury sedan.

 There’s also plenty of punch off the line. Zero to 60 mph ticks off at less than five seconds with a top speed of 136 mph. Of course, nobody should attempt the latter on any public road or even a racetrack because this cushy beauty doesn’t come with racing credentials.

Lexus and Toyota are leaders in emphasizing standard safety equipment and the LS 500 doesn’t disappoint. The tester came with a pre-collision system that included automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, intersection turning assist, active steering assist, front lateral side pre-collision protection and a comprehensive head-up display. It also had front cross-traffic alert, lane changing assist and all-speed dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed reduction.

Over the years, the Lexus LS has proved its mettle. It competes on a stage with expensive luxury stars, many of which can satisfy customers with 100 grand to spend or finance. For some buyers, part of the attraction is the Mercedes three-point star or the four rings of Audi. Lexus uses a simple stylized “L” inside an oval but is no less attractive.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Lexus LS 500 four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.4-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 416 hp, 442 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 98/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,740 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/29/22 mpg. Premium gasoline required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $77,025.
  • Price as tested: $98,080.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Lexus

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