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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

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Call them the brute and the ballet master. They are the 2020 Dodge Charger Widebody models: the SRT Hellcat and the Scat Pack.

No tutus allowed, they were introduced in full roar in wine country, California, around Napa Valley and at the Sonoma Raceway near the city of the same name. It is 2.5 miles and a dozen of sometimes blind corners and 160 feet of elevation changes.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody

Dodge has a Challenger lineup as well but nobody can challenge the fact that this automaker is the champion of mass-produced performance cars, including the Hellcat, the fastest four-door you can find.

Not that we have to tell Dodge enthusiasts, but the SRT Hellcat V8 pumps out 707 hp and can nail 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and the quarter mile in 10.96 seconds, with a top speed of 196 mph. Those are Dodge specs, but who’s to argue?

That’s the brute. The ballet master is the Scat Pack, powered by the 6.4-liter (392 cubic inches) Hemi V8 engine that delivers 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, enough to hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds.

New aggressive and modern Widebody exterior, optional on Charger Scat Pack features new front and rear fascias with integrated fender flares, adding 3.5 inches of width over the wider wheels and tires.

It is the focus here as the most affordable and best handling of the two, though the tester had a base price of $41,490 and a bottom-line sticker price of $58,245. But never mind. There are plenty of other Chargers for other income brackets, including a basic SXT model that looks almost the same for $31,390, including the destination fee.

Both the $71,140 Hellcat and the Scat Pack came with the Widebody package, which adds fender flares and 20-inch wheels that are 11 inches wide. The treatment stretches the Widebody models to a width of 6 feet 6 inches at the haunches.

Powering the 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody is the naturally aspirated 392 cubic-inch HEMI® V-8 with best-in-class 485 horsepower

It’s reminiscent of 1959, when Pontiac introduced its Wide-Track models. The idea was to stress stability and handling, though there were few decent handling U.S. cars in the 1950s and 1960s. As race driver and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby once opined: “Great motors. Couldn’t turn, couldn’t stop.”

That cannot be said any more of American muscle cars, and the 2020 Charger Scat Pack Widebody is the prime example. Though it is nearly 17 feet long and weighs 385 pounds more than two tons, it is one of the sweetest handling machines you can find.

The 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody features an available new leather flat-bottom steering wheel

With the driver cosseted in well-bolstered suede sport seats that grip the torso, aided by well-weighted power steering, sport suspension upgrades and sticky tires on the 20X11-inch wheels, the Scat Pack Widebody calmly gobbles curves and corners on the road and race track.

Though you can use the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters, there’s no need. The eight-speed automatic transmission picks the proper gear for the situation all by itself. And Brembo performance disc brakes engineered by Dodge stop the Scat Pack Widebody in 107 feet from 60 mph, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Beyond its menacing stance, the newly designed front fascia on the Charger Scat Pack Widebody includes a new mail-slot grille, providing the most direct route for cool air to travel into the radiator, to maintain ideal operating temperature even in the hottest conditions.

One principle behind all the Charger models, as expressed by the Dodge boys, is to provide a four-door sedan that a family can drive from coast to coast but also delivers exhilarating performance.

But if you do plan to undertake long-distance travel, the Scat Pack Widebody may not be the choice unless you enjoy the constant burbling of a powerful V8 engine. You can mitigate it somewhat because the Scat Pack has five selectable driving modes, the noisiest of which is the Sport setting, which holds transmission shifts to higher rpms. Better to select one of the more sedate, even economical, modes.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody features Scat Pack Bee badge on the deck lid

Classified as a large car by the federal government because of its interior volume, the Scat Pack Widebody has 105 cubic feet for passengers and a big, well-finished trunk of 17 cubic feet. There was no spare wheel, likely to aid front to rear weight distribution. An air pump nestled beneath the trunk floor.

For traveling, the back seat is comfortable for only two. The center-rear passenger must contend with a hard cushion, giant floor hump and intrusion of the center console.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody

The Widebody models are distinguished by a so-called mail slot grille with openings designed to enhance brake and engine cooling. The fender flares accommodate the wide tires.

Mark Trostle, Fiat Chrysler’s head of performance, passenger and utility vehicle design, described the new Hellcat and Scat Pack Widebody models: “The goal was to make them badass, intimidating and timeless.”

There’s no argument here.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 6.4 liter (392 cubic inches) V8; 485 hp, 475 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall Length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • Width: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 105/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,385 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Est. 15/24/18 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,490.
  • Price as tested: $58,245.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody in F8 Green exterior color with Satin Black Painted hood, roof and deckli.

Photos (c) FCA North America

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Los Angeles, CASparks are flying at Ford. Hot on the tailgate of the company’s all-new electric Mustang Mach-E, the company’s  Lincoln division brought its compact luxury sparkler: the 2021 Corsair Grand Touring crossover sport utility vehicle.

It was introduced here following the debut of the Mustang Mach-E, both in connection with the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve Appearance Package

The Grand Touring is not as avant garde as its Mustang cousin but qualifies as a somewhat electric, a plug-in hybrid that can run up to 25 miles on purely battery power. Of course, for hybrid running it has a gasoline engine as well.

It was a rapid addition to the lineup of the existing Corsair, itself introduced only seven months ago at the New York Auto Show, and furthers the company’s electrification ambitions. Lincoln now has a full lineup of SUVs and crossovers, including hybrid versions of the three-row Aviator.

The new Corsair Grand Touring doesn’t turn heads initially. Except for a unique “Spirit Blue” grille, 20-inch wheels and some trim items, it looks like the existing Corsair models, which are the replacement for Lincoln’s previous MKC crossover.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Like the other Lincolns, the emphasis is on serenity and sanctuary. In addition to designing a quiet, stress-free driving ambiance,  including noise canceling technology and additional insulation, the designers also are focused on what role music can play to enhance the experience.

Though there was no opportunity to drive the Grand Touring at its grand opening here, it doubtless will be similar to that of the other models, only with a smaller impact on the environment. Though no fuel economy numbers were available, a guesstimate here is that the miles per gallon equivalent could work out to 70 MPGe in electric driving and more than 30 miles to the gallon in hybrid mode.

2020 Lincoln Corsair

A 14.4-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, mounted under the passenger compartment, provides the electric power. Recharging from a level II, 240-volt charger takes three to four hours, Lincoln says. It takes 10-11 hours from a standard 110-volt household outlet.

The gasoline-engine Corsair has selectable driving modes for different conditions that adjust multiple functions, including shift points, and steering and suspension systems. They are labeled Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep Conditions.

The Grand Touring hybrid adds two modes: Preserve EV helps recharge the battery up to 75 percent while continuing to use both the engine and motor to deliver full performance. Pure EV puts the Corsair in full electric mode. When the battery runs down, the gasoline engine automatically switches on for hybrid driving.

2020 2.3L Corsair

All-wheel drive is standard on the Grand Touring, with an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and a second electric motor integrated into the continuously-variable automatic transmission. In hybrid mode, they work seamlessly with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine to make 266 hp.

As with other Corsair models, the Grand Touring comes with Lincoln’s “phone as a key” technology, which operates from a smart phone app to lock and unlock doors, open the lift gate and operate interior functions.

2020 Corsair at NYIAS

Also, Lincoln Co-Pilot 360, a driver assist system that includes pre-collision emergency braking, roadside speed sign recognition, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering, emergency evasive steering assist, reverse braking assist, and active parking assist to park the Corsair automatically in perpendicular or parallel spaces.

Estimated to start at more than $50,000, the Corsair Grand Touring will go on sale in the summer of 2020. It will be built at the company’s Louisville (KY) Assembly Plant.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve Appearance Package

Photos (c) Lincoln

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Even as Lincoln advertises heavily to clear out stocks of the current MKC model, it is poised to charm customers with the all-new 2020 Lincoln Corsair, the MKC’s replacement.

With it, the luxury division of Ford Motor Co. fills out its cadre of sport utility vehicles, including three crossover SUVs, now with their old letter designations eliminated, and the traditional body-on-frame Navigator SUV.

2020 2.0L Corsair

Moving up in size from the compact Corsair are the midsize Nautilus and three-row Aviator (formerly MKX and MKT), with the full-size Navigator at the top. Although the Corsair could be considered the entry-level model, it is anything but that. Abounding with modern technology and conveniences, as well as plush passenger accommodations, it would be comfortable in any upscale automotive troupe.

Lincoln emphasizes the serenity of the Corsair’s interior, and it delivers that. If you did not have to occupy yourself with driving, certainly a pleasant enough pursuit in itself, you could simply relax inside and practice mindfulness in sumptuous surroundings.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Lincoln says the Corsair name comes from the Latin “cursus,” meaning “journey.” But to old-timers — among those likely to take this new crossover seriously — the name evokes the F4U Corsair, the beautiful gull-winged fighter plane that fought battles around Pacific islands from aircraft carriers with U.S. Marine pilots in World War II.

But the F4U was a raucous, noisy beast and a killing machine. The Lincoln Corsair is calm, quiet and built for genteel living and driving enjoyment. That, however, does not mean it is averse to high performance and athletic moves.

There are five trim levels, with the standard front-wheel drive model priced at $36,940, including the destination charge. Add $2,200 for all-wheel drive. Driven for this review, one of two, was a top-line all-wheel drive Reserve II with all the goodies that topped $60,110. But you can be well satisfied for less.

2020 Corsair Interior

More to the point and the focus here was an all-wheel drive Reserve model with the standard 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 280 lb-ft of torque, the twisting force that makes an engine feel powerful under acceleration. An eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode gets the power to the pavement.

Well equipped, the 2.0-liter Reserve came with a base price of $44,825 and, with options that included an active suspension system, a comprehensive head-up display and a technology package, it came with a bottom-line sticker price of $54,375.

2020 Corsair Interior

For an additional $1,140 you can order the 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder, which makes 295 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. It obviously is more powerful than the 2.0-liter but it is doubtful that any Corsair buyer would be disappointed with either one. Both engines are smooth, quiet and up to any motoring situation.

Four-cylinder engines of around 2.0 liters, especially with turbochargers, are the 21st century successors to the lumbering V6 and V8 engines of yesteryear. Not only are they more powerful, they deliver exceptional fuel economy. On the EPA’s city/highway/combined cycle, Lincoln’s 2.0-liter delivers 21/29/24 mpg and the 2.3-liter is rated at 21/28/24.

Though you wouldn’t equate it with a sports car, the tested 2.0-liter Corsair performed admirably. It was quiet on the highways and byways, with brisk acceleration and passing power, tight steering with responsive moves and a comfortable, non-jarring ride.

All-New 2020 Corsair Reserve with Beyond Blue Interior Package

There are five selectable drive modes that adjust multiple functions, including shift points, steering and suspension system, among others. They are descriptively labeled Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep.

Inside, the multi-adjustable front seats, upholstered with leather, were supportive for long-distance cruising, and heated for cold weather.

All-New 2020 Corsair Reserve with Beyond Blue Interior Package

The back seat is uncommonly roomy for a compact crossover, though the center-rear passenger suffers from a hard cushion and compromised foot room.

Many functions can be controlled from Lincoln’s “phone as a key” technology, which works hand-free from an app on smart phones, including locking and unlocking doors, opening the lift gate, starting and driving, and operating interior features.

2020 Corsair Interior

The Corsair comes standard with driver assist features called Lincoln Co-Pilot 360. They include pre-collision emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist. blind-spot warning, and automatic high-beam headlights. There’s also Wi-Fi and wireless charging for mobile devices.

An option, called “Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus,” adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering, roadside speed sign recognition, emergency evasive steering assist, reverse braking assist, and active parking assist, which automatically parks the Corsair in parallel or perpendicular spaces.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 250 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 103/28 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,842 pounds.
  • Towing capability: Up to 3,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,825.
  • Price as tested: $54,375.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 2.0L Corsair

Photos (c) Lincoln

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hawthorne, CA — With an event that would have done justice to a herd of stampeding wild horses, the Ford Motor Co. unveiled its newest and most radical Mustang, an all-electric crossover SUV named the Mach-E.

More than 600 witnesses, including automotive journalists from around the world and  a host of Ford supporters, engineers and designers, gathered Sunday evening, November 17, in an airport hanger in this suburb southwest of Los Angeles. Presiding was none other than William Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford and Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Co.

Mustang Mach-E 15Mr. Ford has a reputation as an environmentalist, and pronounced this new machine as “a new Ford for a new age,” a non-polluting vehicle that, as some naysayers might point out, gets its electric power from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels.

The event was both a gamble and a bold leap into the future for the storied automobile manufacturer, which made a calculated decision to trade on the name of its original and still popular pony car, the Mustang, which was introduced in 1964 with a small six-cylinder engine and a three-speed floor-mounted stick shift, and without air conditioning.

Mustang Mach-E 05Contrast that with the 2021 electric Mustang Mach-E, which goes into production next year with a choice of all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive and powered by one or two electric motors that in the top performance model can hit 60 mph in three seconds, faster than the current top performing Mustang Shelby GT500 — and without any of the ear-splitting exhaust sounds.

More realistically for consumers, Ford says the Mach-E, depending on the model, will deliver 225 to 332 hp and 306 to 417 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels or all four wheels. It will have a range of 210 to 230 miles in rear-drive or all-wheel drive trim. The former will deliver a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time in the low six-second range; the latter in the mid-five second  range.

Mustang Family PhotoMost important, from the company’s view, is the presence. The Mach-E, for all of its four-door crossover utility, looks like a Mustang from the outside with a comfortable and accommodating interior that, with its infotainment functions, vaguely resembles a Tesla, with a giant center screen.

At 15 feet 6 inches long and 5 feet 3 inches tall, the Mach-E slots into the heart of the crossover SUV category, somewhere between a compact and midsize. It has adequate space inside for four, and even the fifth center-rear passenger can plant his or her feet on a flat floor. Cargo space behind the rear seats totals 29 cubic feet and more than doubles to 60 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

Mustang Mach-E 26With production not scheduled until sometime in 2020, the Mach-E for now is something of a dream. It is Ford’s first foray into an all-electric vehicle. To the company’s credit, it could have introduced a battery-electric power train into an existing vehicle like the Escape compact crossover but chose instead to make a bold leap.

At this stage of the betting on the future, there were no specific prices announced for the Mach-E. Unofficially, the word at the debut was that the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E would start at around $45,000 for the base rear-wheel drive model and climb to around $65,000 for the ultimate performance all-wheel drive version. Under current law, it would be eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500, as well as other state and local credits.

Mustang Mach-E 27To inject a note of celebrity into the occasion, the company brought a rousing performance by the Detroit Youth Choir of TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” along with Idris Elba, the English actor, producer, writer, musician and rapper, who recalled that he had worked for Ford in Dagenham, England, and said he still felt like a member of the Ford family.

If Ford gets its way, the Mach-E could considerably expand that family.

Mustang Mach-E 14Disclaimer: This preview was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Mustang Mach-E 04 GTPhotos (c) Ford

Movie Review: ‘Ford v Ferrari’

by Tod Mesirow

If you love cars, and speed, and racing – then you have to not only see “Ford v Ferrari” on a big screen, you have to put it on your list of films to buy.

Because it’s the closest cinematic representation of what it is probably like to drive like a maniac, and win.

I say probably because really, I’ve never done anything like what they do in this film.

And how difficult it is to succeed on all levels – the story, the acting, the drama, the recreating of a storied era in automotive history – and putting the audience in the driver’s seat as they hurtle around a course at breakneck speeds.

Bravo to director James Mangold and his team, who have been with him for many movies.

I was fortunate enough to see a screening at the Director’s Guild of America’s refurbished theater and hallelujah for that.

The sound system has a speaker for every other row, and speakers lining the front of the theater and the back.

And they were all put to great use.

After the screening, there was a Q&A with not just Mangold, but editors, casting people, composers, production designer, sound person, and others.  I’m sure I have some titles wrong.

Tracy Letts and Josh Lucas in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.
Tracy Letts and Josh Lucas in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

But it was clear that they were all committed to making a film that came as close as humanly and technologically possible to capturing the feeling of driving, of racing, of being part of what has become a legendary time.  When Ford tried to buy Ferrari, was spurned, and then took on Ferrari on their home turf – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the proving ground for automotive excellence.

Probably anyone reading this knows the story – Ford’s Lee Iacocca tapped Carroll Shelby to create the car that would beat Enzo Ferrari.  Shelby wanted the mercurial genius driver/mechanic Ken Miles to drive for him.

It’s a classic story of creative v corporate culture – and Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby, Christian Bale as Ken Miles, and Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II kill it with their performances.  Jon Bernthal portrays Lee Iacocca with a confident touch.

ford-v-ferrari-DF-01366_R_CC_CROP_rgb
Matt Damon and Christian Bale on the set of Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

The production built more than 30 cars for the film.  They also used multi-million dollar cars in various scenes as part of the set.  The attention to detail was significant.  They recorded a period-correct Ferrari and GT 40 on a track – with microphones all over the cars, and all over the track.

Sound is the third dimension of visual media, and this film proves it.

There were four locations for the race itself. Recreating Le Mans in the 60s was no easy task, obviously, but it was impossible to tell it wasn’t one track with a race filmed on one day.

The editors started three months before filming happened to build pre-visualization of the race itself.

For one scene at a Ford factory, the production bought 21 Ford Falcons and restored them.  They built F1s from scratch.

Yes, it’s a film.  Yes there were parts left out, or truncated.

But as a piece of cinematic excellence, automotive genre – it’s spectacular.

Not since McQueen’s film “Le Mans” in 1971 has anything come close.

See it on a big screen.  Then you can buy it later and watch it again and again.

Which is what I plan to do.

Tracy Letts in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.
Tracy Letts in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

Photos: 20th Century Fox

“Ford v Ferrari” opens nationwide on Friday, November 15, 2019.

2020 Audi Q3 S line Quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If Audi adopted warm-blooded names for its vehicles, this new SUV could be christened Border Collie instead of the 2020 Q3 S line 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige.

German manufacturers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are fond of obtuse engineering-style descriptions of their vehicles. They may be thrilling to techies everywhere but for the rest of us personal names would paint a better picture.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-5678Case in point: the Q3. As crossover sport utility vehicles go, it’s analogous to the world-famous herding dog, the Border Collie. It’s smart, small, fast, changes directions quickly, stops immediately and is always willing to eagerly chase the sheep-like vehicles clogging the nation’s highways.

It also happens to be a luxury-oriented sporting machine with a price tag that won’t knock some wannabe owners out of the queue.

All-new for 2019, the 2020 model continues without a price increase but with standard tri-zone climate control and four USB ports.

Though the base price is $36,995, the tested Q3 had the Prestige package, which bumped it to $43,895 and, with options, a bottom-line sticker of $45,340 — not unreasonable in these times for a luxury or near-luxury crossover.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6053Of course, for that price you can get a mid-size crossover with three rows of seats like the new Kia Telluride, while the Q3 is classified as a small SUV. It has comfortable room for four and an uncomfortable seat with a giant floor hump for an ill-fated fifth passenger in the center-rear.

That’s not uncommon. On the plus side, the Q3 eschews the current cliché in luxury cars and crossovers of a perforated cheesecloth-like shade that admits too much heat and sunlight through the panoramic glass sunroof. The Q3’s thankfully is opaque, the way the shade gods intended.

Despite its classification as small, the Q3 has the interior space of a midsize car, divided into 95 cubic feet for passengers and 24 cubic feet for cargo under the rear hatch. The carpeted cargo space doubles with the rear seatbacks folded flat. Beneath the cargo floor lies a full-size temporary-use wheel and tire.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6050Audi’s Quattro full-time all-wheel drive is standard. Power pulses from the Q3’s turbocharged 228-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 257 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic with a Tiptronic manual-shifting mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

There are five selectable drive modes — comfort, automatic, dynamic, off-road and individual — that allow the driver to tailor handling, shifting and other performance preferences.

Audi lists the zero-to-60 mph run at 7.0 seconds with a top track speed of 130 mph. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel economy at 19/27/22 mpg.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6061In real-world driving, the Q3 feels powerful off the line, on freeway on-ramps and passing on two-lane highways. It has a nimble feel with  responsive steering and little body roll through fast curves.

Inside, the front seats are comfortable with solid support, including adjustable thigh cushions. The sun visors actually slide on their support rods to block sun from the side — unlike too many European luxury cars that do not bother installing such a desirable convenience.

On the other hand, don’t try fiddling with the infotainment system and the center touch screen without the owner’s manual close by. Even simple functions like setting and finding a pre-set for a favorite radio or SXM satellite radio station is a frustrating experience without detailed instructions.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-4348Moreover, the touch screen can be difficult and distracting, especially while under way. First you have to look to find what you want, then give it a determined push with a finger because it requires pressure with the touch. If you simply tap it, there’s no response.

The Q3 comes with a comprehensive suite of safety enhancements, though it does not include forward emergency braking. The Pre-Sense system helps prepare the Q3 for an impact, including closing the windows and the panoramic sunroof, as well as pre-tensioning the front seatbelts. Visual and acoustic warnings alert the driver.

Other equipment on the tested Q3 included lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and a rear camera with overhead view.

Faithful to its luxury orientation, the tested Q3 Prestige came equipped with a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, leather upholstery with heated seats, navigation system, parking assist, LED headlights and taillights, power rear hatch, stop-start idle system, genuine wood trim, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6051Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Audi Q3 S line 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 228 hp, 257 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 95/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,916 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,895.
  • Price as tested: $45,340.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-4345Photos (c) Audi

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With three new models on the agenda in one of the most picturesque areas in Canada, they could have called it the International Volvo Appreciation Event.

Moreover, it’s safe to say that the attending automotive critics did more than appreciate the 2020 XC90 and XC60 crossover SUVs. They drove them hundreds of kilometers in the area of Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies.

MY2020 Volvo Model Program - Banff LocationThe all-wheel-drive V60 wagon demonstrated its chops with runs up and down dirt roads on Kicking Horse mountain, which in the winter is a magnet for skiers, while the XC models dodged airplanes and sky divers on an impromptu performance course at a local airport near Golden, British Columbia.

There also were many miles/kilometers in the XC versions on smooth highways that were bereft of traffic but delivered curves, elevation changes and straightaways — ideal for evaluating new vehicles.

Driven for this review were Volvo’s best-selling crossover, the XC60, and the updated 2020 XC90, flagship of the Swedish manufacturer’s SUV lineup, in R-Design trim. It comes with a 316-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 295 lb-ft of torque, enough to move this three-row crossover easily though without much adrenaline rush.

 

New Care by Volvo AdditionsThe XC90 can be ordered with what Volvo calls “tailored wool blend upholstery,” an innovative addition for people like this reviewer who prefer sitting on quality cloth instead of real or faux-leather that needs to be heated and cooled. The fabric is made from wool and other recycled material and is comfortable over a broad range of temperatures.

With its three rows of seats, the XC90 can be ordered with a second-row bench seat to accommodate seven passengers or with second-row captain’s chairs for six passengers. The latter would be the choice for ease of entry to the third row, which should be reserved for children or teeny adults.

MY2020 Volvo Model Program - Banff Location

Also driven — the focus here — was the performance-oriented Polestar Engineered XC60 T8 midsize two-row crossover with all-wheel drive. It is a hybrid with a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged gasoline engine paired with an 87-hp electric motor that drives the rear wheels. The system makes 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Though both the XC90 and the XC60 have tactile, well weighted steering and a good handling feel, the Polestar Engineered model gets the driver’s juices flowing. It’s fast, with an advertised zero to 60 mph acceleration time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 140.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffMoreover, it comes with upgraded performance brakes, highlighted by calipers painted gold that shine through the wheel spokes. Hammer the brakes hard in a simulated panic stop and the 4,733-pound crossover is almost nonchalant in reducing speed with minimal nosedive and squirrelly moves.

Enhancing the tested XC60’s handling is an Öhlins system that enables an owner to manually fine-tune the suspension system with outside adjustments at each corner. Most other systems have three or four combined settings controlled from the driver’s seat.

Cruising on the smooth Canadian highways was mostly a quiet time, with little intrusion of wind or mechanical noise. Tire noise also was minimal except on some rougher roads.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffInside, the XC60 Polestar Engineered featured Volvo’s trademark supportive and comfortable seats, optimized for long-distance cruising. Interior appointments displayed quality materials and good workmanship. The large center screen has vertical format and must be distractingly swiped side to side to access different menus.

Volvo has a negative mindset in two areas: As with other European luxury vehicles, the sunshade for the panoramic roof is made of a perforated cloth that admits too much light and heat. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. These shortcomings were present on both the XC60 and XC90.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffHowever, Volvo continues its emphasis on safety, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the three-point seatbelt, which first appeared on Volvo cars. The tested XC60 also had automatic forward braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large-animal detection; lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control. Volvo also offers Pilot Assist, a  partially automated self-driving system.

The base price of the tester was $72,705, including the destination charge. A couple of options, including 22-inch alloy wheels, brought the sticker to $73,490.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - Banff

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged; paired with 87 hp electric motor; 415 combined horsepower, 494 pound-feet torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 100/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,733 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 4,409 pounds.
  • EPA city-highway combined fuel consumption: 27 mph on premium gasoline. Gasoline/electric combined, 57 mpg equivalent.
  • Electric-only range: Up to 17 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $72,075.
  • Price as tested: $73,490.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffPhotos (c) Volvo

2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its all-new 2020 Aviator crossover SUV, it appears that Lincoln has gone all-in to recapture its traditional reputation as a tier-one luxury brand, one vehicle at a time.

Joining the Navigator, Nautilus and upcoming Corsair, this is a noteworthy piece of automotive engineering and styling, as expansive as it is expensive, and fully comfortable and competitive in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities named Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Audi, Volvo and BMW.

"Fresh Take" Aviator CampaignThere was a 20th-century era when Lincoln automobiles competed against the most exclusive nameplates, including Packard, Duesenberg, Bentley, Chrysler and Cadillac. Though Lincolns were not the most expensive, its Zephyr models with V-12 engines were among the most beautiful and sought-after by wealthy artistes.

The new Aviator mimics that template, with a range of high-achieving models that somehow manage to undercut competitors on price — not that most of its buyers would worry about that. Some competitors of the priciest Black Label trim level of the Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid, with a sticker of  $90,645, run well into six figures.

2020 Lincoln AviatorFor those who can’t or won’t spend that much but still seek to motor behind an Aviator grille, the base rear-wheel drive model starts at $52,095 — almost reasonable in an era when the average new car goes out the door for somewhere around $36,000.

Though the Aviator starts out with rear-drive, it is not a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Like the vast majority of sport utility vehicles these days, it is a crossover, built with a frameless unit body like an automobile.

Of course, few manufacturers show their entry-level vehicle at the introduction so Lincoln rolled out a bevy of its best in Napa Valley, California. They included three versions of the non-hybrid Aviator: Reserve starting at $57,285, Reserve all-wheel drive at $59,795, and the subject here, the all-wheel drive Black Label with an opening sticker of $78,790 and a tested price of $83,540.

2020 Aviator Grand TouringThere also were two versions of the all-wheel-drive hybrid: Grand Touring at $84,365 with options and the aforementioned Black Label AWD at $90,645.

The plug-in hybrid Grand Touring is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers linked to a 75-kW electric motor. A 13.6-kWh battery pack is stashed under the floor and can deliver up to 18 miles of driving on electricity alone. Altogether, the system delivers 494 hp and a whopping 630 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force.

Never mind the Grand Touring’s 5,673-pound curb weight, this hulk is plenty fast, with neck-snapping acceleration off the line and powerful passing on two-lane roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorBut the non-hybrid Aviator is no slouch. Its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, sent through the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the hybrid. There’s a manual-shifting mode operated by paddles mounted on the steering wheel. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 17/24/20 mpg for the all-wheel drive versions.

Driven for this review was the Black Label edition with all-wheel drive. Given its nearly 17-foot length and heft, it handled beautifully and rode serenely on a variety of twisting, hilly roads and high-speed straightaways. Mechanical and wind noises were nearly nonexistent and foam-infused tires helped muffle noise from rough roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe tested Aviator looked the part of a luxury sport utility vehicle, with a sumptuous interior and fashionable appointments of high quality materials and careful workmanship. Among them: a Revel Ultimate 3D audio system with 28 (count ‘em) speakers, panoramic vista glass sunroof with powered shade, acoustic sound-deadening side glass, second-row captain’s chairs separated by a functional center console, and Lincoln’s Phone As a Key technology.

With the optional Air Glide suspension system, the Aviator automatically lowers to ease entry. Owners then can use their smart phones to unlock and unlock doors, start and drive the Aviator, open the tailgate and program settings for seats, mirrors and steering wheel adjustments as well as entertainment preferences.

2020 Lincoln AviatorIf a phone battery dies, a passcode can be entered on an exterior keypad and another code can be entered to start and drive. Extra key fobs also are provided and if a smart phone is lost or stolen, Phone As a Key can be deleted.

The Aviator comes with full safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking, an adaptive suspension system that reads the road ahead to adjust for irregularities, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert.

"Fresh Take" Aviator Campaign

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 400 hp, 415 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 150/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,673 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $78,790.
  • Price as tested: $83,540.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Photos (c) Lincoln

 

2020 Nissan Versa SR: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any modern vehicle manufacturer can produce a good automobile if price is no object. The trick is to build a decent, affordable small car like the 2020 Nissan Versa.

The Versa has been around for more than a dozen years as Nissan’s entry-level economy car. Marketed as a subcompact but usually with the interior room of a larger car, it was offered as a four-door sedan and a hatchback, recently called the Versa Note.

Versa MMP4a-sourceIt has been consistently popular and in 2018 was the best seller  against the Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic and Spark, and Ford Fiesta.

For 2020, it may have a tougher uphill route because Nissan has axed the Note in favor of shunting shoppers toward its subcompact Kicks crossover sport utility vehicle, which some argue is more of a hatchback anyway because it does not offer all-wheel drive.

The 2020 Versa sedan is all-new, longer, lower and wider than its  frumpy predecessor, with more of a family resemblance to the midsize Altima. It even mimics European luxury brands by offering extra-cost exterior paint jobs.

One was the focus of this review, a top-line SR model done up in “Scarlett Ember,” one of eight colors. It cost an additional $395. Even at that, however, the test car had a bottom-line sticker of $20,040, about 15 grand less than the current average price of a new car.

Versa MMP10a-sourceBut if you have a tighter budget, you can order an entry-level Versa S with a base price of $15,625, including the destination charge. That’s with a five-speed manual gearbox. Add Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and the price jumps to $17,295.

That price covers full basic safety equipment plus automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, rear-view camera (without line markers) and high-beam headlight assist. It also includes Siri eyes-free Google assistant with voice recognition. All Versa models come with pushbutton starting.

The cool thing about the S is that, like cars everywhere, it is equipped with the basics anybody would need, including the 122-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 114 lb-ft of torque that delivers a government city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of  32/40/35 mpg with the CVT.

Versa MMP7a-sourceThat doesn’t sound like a hot car on paper and it is not. But the S and its sibling SV and SR trim levels are quite comfortable in any driving situation anyone is likely to encounter on American’s increasingly clogged streets and freeways.

You won’t win many stoplight drag races, but acceleration is strong enough for urban traffic, freeway merging and passing on two-lane roads as long as you allow enough space. The CVT transmission, which ordinarily has no shift points, is one of the better units of its kind, and Nissan incorporates a system called D-Step that adds a kick-down shift for more responsive passing power.

2020 Nissan Versa SV-1-sourceSurprisingly, the base S model rides comfortably and is nearly as quiet a highway cruiser as the SR test car, perhaps benefitting from smaller 15-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers and fatter tires than the 17-inch alloy wheels with skinnier sidewalls on the SR trim. There was little mechanical and wind noise, and the main intrusion — as on the top-line SR — came from the tires on the variety of irregular pavements found everywhere.

The tested top-line SR adds blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, remote starting, leather-wrapped steering wheel and LED headlights.

2020 Nissan Versa SV-2-sourceIt also came with Nissan’s back-seat warning system, which could save the life of a child or pet left in a closed car on a hot summer day. The system activates when you open a rear door to place a child or something else in back. Later, when you shut down the engine and leave the car, visual and audio warnings are activated to remind you to check.

With 89 cubic feet of space for passengers, the Versa SR delivered supportive and comfortable so-called “zero gravity” seats up front, with upgraded cloth upholstery, and adequate head and knee room in the outboard back seats for average-sized humans. However, as in most cars, the center-rear passenger gets an uncomfortable perch with a floor hump and intrusion of the center console.

The trunk is uncommonly large for a compact car, at 15 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks fold for additional cargo. However, the trunk lid’s C-hinges are not protected and could damage luggage and other contents.

2020 Nissan Versa

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Nissan Versa SR four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder; 122 hp, 114 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: D-Step Xtronic continuously-variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 89/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,729 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 32/40/35 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $19,135.
  • Price as tested: $20,040.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Versa MMP2a-sourcePhotos (c) Nissan

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