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


by Jason Fogelson

I’m always happy to share my opinions about cars and the car business. Every once in a while, someone invites me into their studio to do just that. This week, I was a guest panelist on Autoline After Hours (episode #413). Also on the panel was Mike Austin from Hagerty. You can watch the one-hour webcast or listen to it as a podcast here.

jmcelroy_bigJohn McElroy is the host of Autoline After Hours. Here’s an excerpt from his bio on the Autoline site: “John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis. He is also the host of the television program “Autoline This Week,” an Emmy Award-winning, weekly half-hour discussion program featuring top automotive executives and journalists. And he co-hosts “Autoline After Hours,” a weekly live webcast that focuses on new cars and technology… McElroy also broadcasts three radio segments daily on WWJ Newsradio 950, the CBS affiliate in Detroit. He writes a blog for and a monthly op-ed article for Ward’s Auto World.”

The first part of the show this week was a conversation with Tim Clyde, the CEO of Katzkin Automotive Leather. Katzkin brought a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited outfitted with Katzkin leather seats — a great package that you can order from the MOPAR Accessories catalog when you buy a new Wrangler at the dealership. I have toured the Katzkin factory in California, and have a Katzkin interior in my wife’s 2012 Mazda3 — so I was able to participate in the conversation with some first-hand knowledge.

After the Katzkin discussion, Tim Clyde left the set, and McElroy, Austin and I had a free-form conversation about some of the automotive news of the day. All three of us had been to a Ford press conference earlier that day, and so we talked about the current state of the company and future plans. The conversation then ranged to the upcoming New York Auto Show, Fred Diaz’s appointment as CEO at Mitsubishi North America, and how potential tariffs might effect the US auto business.

I had a great time participating in the show. McElroy is an excellent host, directing the conversation with probing questions and (best of all) listening very well. Before I knew it, the hour was complete, and I had escaped without saying anything dumb.

Take a look at if you’re interested in the latest automotive news. There’s a ton of content on the site, and it’s professionally produced and presented. I hope they ask me back again.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any cook who uses all-purpose flour will understand the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, which stands out as an all-purpose automobile.

It is a compact four-door hatchback sedan which seats four adults comfortably — five in a pinch — and has ample cargo space — 25 cubic feet, or about double that in the trunk of a typical compact notchback sedan.

On a day trip with another couple? Open the hatch and toss all your bags, purses, sweaters, ponchos and umbrellas inside. There’s room left over for shopping spree items. Also, at 14 feet 3 inches long, the Elantra GT parks easily almost anywhere.

2018 Elantra GT

Want to cruise your state and visit historical sites? Load your valises and makeup cases into the cargo hold and forget them until you check in for the night. Any overflow can go on the back seat or you can fold the split rear seatback.

Need to help the kid move into the college dorm? Drop both rear seatbacks, load the stuff up to the headliner and hope there are a few square inches for a view to the rear. Adjust your outside mirrors to minimize blind spots.

Of course, there’s nothing unique about the utility of a compact four-door hatchback, which maximizes interior space. With a total of 122 cubic feet of area inside — 97 for passengers — the Elantra GT actually qualifies as a large car according to the government’s size classifications.

Large-30103-2018ElantraGTSportMoreover, there are plenty of choices out there. What distinguishes the Elantra GT is how well it integrates all of those practical touches into a pleasant, quality conveyance that lightens a chore, eases a commute, and delivers fuel economy, comfort, power and handling on multiple all-day drives.

The GT is one of half a dozen Elantra models. Four are sedans, including the tantalizing and inexpensive Elantra Sport. The others are the GT hatchback, tested here, and its more powerful sibling, the GT Sport. Sport models feature a 201-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The non-Sport GT model, though less powerful, has plenty of punch for its all-purpose duties: a 161-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 150 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates to 60 mph in about eight seconds, which is modest by modern standards. The $4,000 upgrade to the GT Sport’s power train gets you a zero-to-60 time of about 6.5 seconds.

2018 Elantra GT

Either engine is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The GT tested here had a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, which costs $1,000 more than the manual.

With dazzling white paint that reflected sunlight and helped the air conditioning cope with Florida temperatures, the South Korean-made GT displayed handsome, European-oriented styling. It came with a starting price of $21,235 that included a solid list of features: basic safety equipment, the six-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple Car Play infotainment, an eight-inch center screen, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a rear-view camera.

But the tester also was equipped with two options packages that elevated the features and price but fell short on safety equipment. The $1,800 Style package added blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert along with dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with pushbutton starting, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support.

2018 Elantra GT

An additional $4,300 for the Tech package brought a panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights and taillights, navigation system, electronic parking brake, Hyundai’s Bluelink telematics services, premium Infinity audio system, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a smart-phone charging pad.

All of that brought the GT’s tested price to $27,460, not overly expensive in an era when the average price of a new car is more than $34,000.

2018 Elantra GT

Although the GT uses a relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system (the GT Sport has a more sophisticated independent multilink rear suspension), the handling is fuss free and the GT tracks cleanly on the freeway and cruises easily at speeds of more than 75 mph.

On smooth paved surfaces, the Elantra GT is quiet and fatigue-free over long distances. However, rougher pavement transmits noises that make their annoying way through the tires and suspension system into the cabin.

A major shortcoming is that some modern safety measures are available only on the more expensive GT Sport with its Tech package, which includes such desirable equipment as forward collision warning, emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

2018 Elantra GT
2018 Elantra GT


  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 0-liter four-cylinder, 161 hp, 150 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 3 inches
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,925 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,235.
  • Price as tested: $27,460.

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

2018 Elantra GT

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Range Rover Velar: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Moneyed people can be picky, which likely is one reason for the all-new 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar compact sport utility vehicle.

That’s a mouthful, but needed because all of the company’s SUVs bear the Land Rover name. The storied British company was founded after World War II and is renowned world-wide for building vehicles that can traverse almost any terrain.

Land Rover now is part of Jaguar Land Rover, still British but owned by Tata Motors of India, which has nurtured both brands to new respect in the global automotive industry.

rrvelar18mystatic070817004Land Rovers may bend — as in allowing lights or clutches to burn out in the Serengeti — but they almost never break down completely.

In recent times, with computerization and more sophisticated designs, they still project an aura of a vehicle that can go anywhere, any time. But they have morphed into the stuff of a different call of duty, one in which they serve the famous and wealthy on their rounds of country clubs and five-star resorts.

Though the Land Rover people assert that a surprising number of their customers take their expensive machines off-road purely for entertainment, it is quite likely any number of them never negotiate anything other than a paved highway or parking lot.

rrvelar18mystatic070817010For 2018, the company’s lineup has been simplified, bereft of any of those confusing alphanumeric designations. There are 11 models and trim levels, all bearing the Land Rover name. On the larger side are the Discovery and Discovery Sport models, two with 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines.

There also are eight versions of the Land Rover Range Rover: Evoque, the new Velar, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Smallest is the Evoque, which is the outlier of the bunch with a convertible model as well as hard tops with two or four doors and a choice of all-wheel or front-wheel drive. To satisfy customers who want their Rover just so, the Velar slots between the Evoque and Range Rover.

Though the new Velar — the name was cobbled up from letters in the Land Rover name — is classified as a compact SUV, it tilts toward midsize. Passenger space amounts to 99 cubic feet — about what you find in a midsize sedan. But it also has a whopping 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. It competes against the compact Audi Q5 and BMW X3, as well as the midsize Audi Q7 and BMW X5.

rrvelar18my281glhdinteriordetails010317The Velar, which shares its underpinnings with the Jaguar F-Pace, embodies a new design language for Range Rover vehicles. Aimed at the on-road driving experience, it is more streamlined with seating for the driver down lower than on other Land Rover vehicles.

Though you can order a four-cylinder Velar with a base price of about $51,000, the tested model was the R-Dynamic HSE P380, which has a single price of $78,095 that includes a full load of optional equipment.

It is powered by a 380-hp, 3.0-liter V6 supercharged engine that delivers 332 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel this all-wheel-drive, 4,675-lb metal sculpture to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

22.12.16   V1
22.12.16 V1

Despite its bulk, the Velar has a sprightly feel in traffic. If you turn off the stop-start system, which was the preference here, there’s no hesitation off the line when you punch the gas pedal. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and you can shift for yourself with paddles on the steering wheel.

The Velar exudes luxury. Seats are supportive and comfortable, upholstered in soft leather. Sound deadening materials eliminate most road and wind noise, though some engine sounds intrude through the firewall under hard acceleration.

rrvelar18mystaticaccessories070817025Infotainment functions are controlled by two 10-inch touch screens that eliminate almost all buttons and switches. However, the screens themselves incorporate 41 (count ’em) virtual buttons. There also are another 16 buttons and switches on the steering wheel, so figure on a lengthy study period to learn the whole megillah.

One cool feature: a shockproof and waterproof “activity key” that substitutes for the ignition remote. Leave the remote in the Velar while you go swimming or kayaking; the activity key will get you back in the driver’s seat.

The Velar’s panoramic sunshade, following a current fad, is made of a cheesy cloth that admits too much sunlight. And the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides.


  • Model: 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE P380 four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, supercharged, 380 hp, 332 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,675 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $78,095.
  • Price as tested: $78,095.

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

rrvelar18mystatic070817005Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid fulfills its green role as an electrified passenger car. But it hardly seems worth the bother given its limited range on electric power.

It can travel an estimated 20 miles on its 6.4 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery when fully charged. But in a week of driving in a variety of traffic, the tested C350e never managed more than single-digit electric miles. The best range shown on the instruments after a full charge was 19 but it only managed eight miles before the gasoline engine fired up. With a 240-volt charger, the 350e charges in less than two hours.

Overall, however, the C350e does get a 51 miles per gallon equivalent rating on combined gasoline and electric power (MPGe) and, on gasoline only, delivers a city/highway/combined rating of 35/40/30 miles to the gallon.

15A224-1200x800The C350e plug-in hybrid four-door sedan, with a $48,895 base price, comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine linked to a 60 kW-h electric motor. Total system horsepower is 275, with 443 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic with a manual shift mode,

A standard C300 sedan comes with a base price of $41,245, or $7,440 less. Its 241-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission get a city/highway/combined EPA rating of 24/33/27 mpg.

Of course, any Mercedes-Benz gets more expensive once you start tacking on optional equipment. The tested 350e came with $16,350 worth, sending the bottom-line price to $65,235.

15C274_425-1200x800Standard equipment included an air suspension system, regenerative braking, keyless pushbutton starting, leather upholstery, linden wood trim, a seven-inch color display screen, Bluetooth connectivity, a motorized glass sunroof, power folding side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive braking with brake assist, rear-view camera, automatic headlights, pedestrian warning, and LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights.

Individual options included blue metallic paint ($720), heated and ventilated front seats ($1,030), panoramic sunroof ($1,000), head-up display ($990), Burmester surround-sound audio ($850), interior LED ambient lighting ($310), air balance system ($350), hands-free trunk access ($250), active lighting with high-beam assist ($800), and parking assist with a surround-view camera ($1,090).

The test car also arrived with options packages: Nappa leather upholstery, the company’s “designo” interior trim and triple memory settings for the powered front passenger seat ($3,800); navigation and multimedia infotainment system with SXM satellite weather and traffic information ($2,200), and a driver assistance package that included adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane keeping and cross traffic assist, and pre-safe braking ($2,250). It’s a load but not unusual among German luxury cars.

15C274_428-1200x800The exterior styling could be described as Mercedes Modern Family, making the compact C350e look much like a smaller version of its S-Class flagship sedan.

On the road, all is as expected. This Mercedes is solid and quiet with that heavy and accurate steering feel characteristic of many of its siblings and cousins over the years. Comfort, with well-bolstered front seats, is first-class. The back seats, with less head and knee room, don’t quite measure up and the panoramic sunroof shade is made of a flimsy fabric that admits too much sunshine.

The 350e is surprisingly sprightly, more than you expect from a hybrid, which given the short electric-only range is likely the way most owners will treat it. Instead of plugging it in to get those few miles, most owners likely will skip the plug-in part.

15C274_423-1200x800There are four driving modes:

  • E-mode. All-electric driving until the battery runs down.
  • Gasoline operation alone with boosts of electric power.
  • E-save. Mainly gasoline with little or no help from the electric motor to preserve battery energy for later use.

*Charge. The gasoline engine is running but some of its energy transfers to the battery pack to extend electric range.

Whatever. Mercedes rates the 350e’s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time at 5.8 seconds, which is not in drag race territory but better than most vehicles an owner will encounter. However, hybrid owners do not have much of a reputation for stoplight sprinting.

15C274_405-1200x800Given current pump prices, it’s not likely that many luxury-car buyers would be swayed by the 350e’s decent fuel economy. But it also has good performance and road manners and is a marker on the way to widespread use of electrified vehicles.

Still, the preference here would be for a non-plug-in, standard hybrid to get this performance for fewer dollars.


  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e Plug-in Hybrid four-door sedan.
  • Engine/motor:0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline; 60 kW-h electric motor; combined 275 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 91/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,924 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined gasoline fuel consumption: 35/40/30; 51 MPGe combined on gasoline/electric.
  • Electric range: 20 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $48,895.
  • Price as tested: $65,235.

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

15C274_002-1200x800Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz.

2018 Audi TT RS Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

There are cars, family cars, sports cars, utility cars, plain cars, fancy cars, big cars, little cars and, of course, light trucks. Then there are fantasy cars, of which the 2018 Audi TT RS Coupe is one.

It’s not as much of a fantasy as the new 1,500-hp Bugatti Chiron, priced at nearly $3 million. Or even of the McLaren P1 at $1.15 million. At just over $74,000, however, the TT RS can fulfill the fantasies of platoons of car nuts.

Audi TT RS Coupé

It is a tidy and powerful fastback sports coupe with all-wheel drive and a 400-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine that delivers 354 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel its 3,270-lb mass to 60 mph in about three and one-half seconds, with a top speed of 174.

The power gets to the pavement through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Unfortunately for some fantasizers, the TT RS no longer offers a six-speed manual gearbox. That deficiency is becoming more common as automatics continually improve.

Mollifying some of the discontent, this rapid-shifting Audi transmission can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. But computer controlled dual-clutch automatics shift more expertly, depending on the conditions and driver input, than even professional drivers. In the end, the paddles are useful more for entertainment or holding a given gear on twisting mountain roads.

Audi TT RS Coupé

As might be deduced, the TT RS is not for everyone. At 4 feet 5 inches tall, the roofline is so low that you have to duck so you don’t bang your noggin crawling inside. Best to point the bum toward the seat bottom, fold yourself in half and back in.

Once there, you are treated to supportive and comfortable front seats with plenty of bolstering to hug the torso. They are upholstered in diamond-quilted, perforated leather with a three-position heating system that warms up quickly. However, the warming did not extend to the steering wheel.

Don’t bother to look for the now ubiquitous center screen that on most cars displays and controls navigation, vehicle information and entertainment functions. On the TT RS, Audi has located all of those functions, along with the speedometer, tachometer, backup camera, and power and torque readouts, on a 12.3-inch digital screen right in the driver’s line of sight behind the steering wheel.

Audi TT RS Coupé

It’s all very compact and easy to read without taking your eyes off the road as much as you must with a center screen. Moreover, there are different screens that you can choose to emphasize what you wish to see. But some displays are tiny and the spokes of the flat-bottom steering-occasionally block some of the readouts.

Overall, the TT RS is a cute and stylish little sportster with styling that hints at high performance but doesn’t come across as aggressive. To the uninitiated, it could simply be a small hatchback coupe that surprises other motorists when it rockets away from a stoplight.

At 13 feet 9 inches long, the TT RS has quick and athletic moves enhanced by Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, a performance-tuned suspension system and sticky summer tires, though the tires are of dubious value in the cold and snowy weather much of the country experienced this winter. Better to have two sets of tires for winter and summer or good all-season rubber.

images-original-3139-2018+TT+RS+7With all its performance, the TT RS can be used as an unassuming daily driver. It is what used to be called a Plus Two, which means it has a vestigial back seat that is suitable mainly for backpacks and watermelons. There’s 12 cubic feet of space for cargo under the hatch and the rear seatbacks can be folded to more than double that.

Base price of the tested TT RS with subdued “Nardo Gray” paint was $65,875, which included basic safety equipment, the Audi virtual cockpit, automatic climate control, HD and SXM satellite radio, LED running lights and taillights, folding and heated outside mirrors with auto-dimming, and a garage-door opener, among other features.

Stand-alone extras and options packages brought the as-tested price up to $74,025. Included were Audi’s multimedia and navigation system, Bang & Olufsen audio, 20-inch forged alloy wheels, sport exhaust system, the summer performance tires, leather-covered console and armrests, carbon-fiber inlays and brake calipers painted red.

Overall, if you can live with the tight quarters and the high price, the Audi TT RS is what westerners would call an engaging little critter.


  • Model: 2018 Audi TT RS Coupe Quattro S tronic two-door sports hatchback.
  • Engine:5-liter five-cylinder, turbocharged 400 hp, 354 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 74/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,270 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/29/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $65,875.
  • Price as tested: $74,025.

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

images-original-3138-2018+TT+RS+8Photos (c) Audi.

2018 BMW X3 xDrive 30i: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The most important and difficult thing in the automotive business is an institutional ability to predict the future. Bavarian Motor Works has actually managed some of that soothsaying, of which the 2018 BMW X3 xDrive 30i is a prime example.

Starting with the X5 in 1999, the German manufacturer has expanded its lineup of crossover sport utility vehicles to plug every size and power niche in the premium category—to the point where there are now seven distinct models: X1, new X2, X3 reviewed here, X4, X5, X6 and the upcoming X7, plus higher performance versions.

BMW_X3_Performance_Center-001Whether the company was reacting to a trend or sucking its collective thumb contemplating where the market was headed, it has caught the wave of buyer infatuation with crossover SUVs, which are proliferating in every price class.

It remains to be seen whether this is a passing fad, but no matter. BMW also has a garage full of sedans, coupes, convertibles and sports cars in case there’s a course correction. We’ll skip self-driving cars for now.

Meanwhile, the company, which manufactures many of its crossovers at its plant in Spartanburg, S.C., entices high-end customers with machines like the new X3 xDrive 30i and the higher-performance — and higher-priced — X3 M40i.

P90263768_highResA note about BMW nomenclature: a lower-case i identifies a sedan like the 330i or 550i, the i3 electric car, or even the i8 hybrid sports car. If a capital X precedes a number, it is what BMW calls a “sports activity vehicle,” known in the business as a crossover SUV. A lower-case x, as in xDrive, designates any BMW with all-wheel drive. Oh, there’s also the Z4 two-seat sports car. And if there’s an M somewhere in the title, it’s a higher-performance or better decorated model. Write it down.

The model numbers actually don’t mean much anymore. You might assume that the tested X3 xDrive 30i comes with a 3.0-liter engine. Nope. Because modern engines with turbocharging are getting smaller, this one actually delivers 248 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor.

Step up to the higher-performance X3 M40i and the engine actually is a 3.0-liter V6 with twin turbochargers that makes 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Enough said.

BMW_X3_Performance_Center-003Back to the subject, the U.S.-built X3 30i. This is a nicely executed compact crossover with the power and features expected in this category. However, as with other automakers, BMW has an extensive options list and charges extra for equipment that is standard elsewhere.

For example: The $3,300 Premium package includes a heated steering wheel, navigation system and head-up display. Tack on another $350 for the heated front and rear seats. The $2,850 Convenience package gets you a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, lumbar support and SXM satellite radio.

Continuing: The $1,400 Dynamic Handling package includes M Sport brakes, dynamic adaptive shock absorbers and variable sport steering, while the $900 Driving Assistance package covers blind spot and lane departure warning. The Parking Assist package covers a surround-view camera, active parking assist and distance control.

P90263747_highResThere also are individual options, including $1,700 for Vernasca leather upholstery, $875 for a premium Harman Kardon audio system, $300 for Apple CarPlay, $500 for wireless device charging and $550 for metallic paint.

You get the picture. All of that brought the test X3’s base price of $43,445 up to $57,620. Of course, there also were many desirable items that were part of the standard equipment, including the eight-speed automatic transmission, driver-selectable driving modes, hill-descent control, automatic stop/start, garage-door opener, dark oak wood interior trim, leather-covered steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED low-beam headlights and fog lights, and a power tailgate.

P90263757_highResMuch of that, of course, is frosting that doesn’t affect the basic driving goodness of the X3, which hews to BMW’s traditional dedication to performance, handling and braking. The X3, however, also delivers a luxury ambiance enhanced by a quiet cabin. You hear the engine under hard acceleration but highway cruising at a steady speed is almost tranquil.

Overall, however, this is an inviting modern conveyance that delivers a competent, pleasurable and comfortable driving experience with a dose of excitement. With sales of 40,691 in 2017, it is BMW’s third-best selling model, behind the 3-Series compact sedan and midsize X5 crossover SUV.

X3 competitors include the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque and the Mercedes-Benz GLC.


  • Model: 2018 BMW X3 xDrive 30i four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 248 hp, 285 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/29 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,156 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/29/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,445.
  • Price as tested: $57,620.

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

P90263762_highResPhotos (c) BMW.

2018 Chicago Auto Show

by Jason Fogelson

I went to the 2018 Chicago Auto Show last week as a guest of Nissan, and I covered the event for Here’s a link to my article for them, which was entitled “Must See Vehicles from the 2018 Chicago Auto Show.”

I love going to the Chicago Auto Show. Of the major US new car shows, it is always the most relaxed and easy to navigate. The event happens at McCormick Place, a massive convention center, and the lucky journalists stay in one of the high-rise hotels that are connected to the building — which means that the weather is not a factor during the day. And that was a good thing this year, as the weather was cold, snow fell constantly and there was no reason for man nor beast to be outside.

The trip in was a pleasure, as Nissan invited Detroit-area-based journalists to travel to Chicago with them via Amtrak. Getting to my closest train station in Dearborn was a bit of a struggle, as the big snow storm extended across the Midwest and dropped several inches of the white stuff on the roads during the night before my departure. I had planned to take a Lyft or Uber for the 10-mile trip to the station, but when I was ready to leave, there were no willing drivers available. I had to wake my wife, who donned her winter coat over her pajamas without complaint and drove me through the snow-covered streets. The train trip to Chicago took about four hours, most of which I spent chatting with other journalists. Nissan shuttled us to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, where warm rooms awaited.

On the first night, I attended Nissan’s welcome party in an adjacent hotel ballroom, and then took an Uber to the Lexus party in an event space on the other side of downtown. Lexus had a 10th Anniversary F-Sport RC-F on display, along with a West Coast Customs replica of the Black Panther’s LC. An Uber back to the hotel afterwards, and on to bed.

In the morning, I attended the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) breakfast, with a keynote address from Subaru of America’s CEO, Thomas Doll. Then, it was off to the show, running from press conference to press conference. At the end of the day, my dogs were barking, but I still found the energy to jump on a shuttle to Geno’s East for the annual Mazda Pizza Party. I’m not really a deep dish guy, but it was a very nice meal and a good time hanging out with Mazda PR folk and auto journalists. I had a ticket for a music event, Sweet Home Chicago, but chose instead to return to the hotel for some rest.

The next day, more press conferences, more snow, lots of writing. I made a quick swing through the show floor to take some photos (I’m sharing some here for your viewing), and prepared for my flight home. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans, as I got notices from Delta Airlines that my plane was delayed from a 4:45 pm departure to 9:00 pm. I decided to punt, and bought a ticket on the 5:40 pm Amtrak from Union Station back to Dearborn, because I was pretty sure I’d make it home — and it would be better than sleeping at O’Hare airport. I finally pulled in to Dearborn station at 1:00 am, and made it home by 2:00 am in an Uber.

All-in-all, an excellent trip, made a little bit frustrating by the weather. It could have been worse — I could still be sleeping at O’Hare.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.


2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s hard to escape the notion that the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is an imposter. Sure, it looks like a Jeep and has off-road chops. But its price tag suggests it might be a high-end Land Rover in Jeep’s clothing.

The rhino gray ghost of a test vehicle with its intimidating black wheels arrived with a price tag just $35 shy of 100 grand. That’s right: one hundred thousand dollars.

That would not be particularly daunting to Land Rover and Range Rover customers, many of whom have fat bank accounts or credit lines longer than a California freeway. Though Land Rovers are more than capable of traversing trackless terrain, they often are bought as luxury cars that never go off the pavement. Six-figure price tags are not unusual.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The tipoff for why this Jeep crawls into that territory is its name: Trackhawk, as in race track. It is powered by a 707-hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that develops 645 lb-ft of torque. It is connected to a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

That setup not only would provide enough power for any off-road duty, it likely could enable the Trackhawk to claw its way out of a coal mine. But most off-roading, especially if you follow the more difficult escapades of Land Rovers and Jeeps, is done at single-digit speeds, sometimes with spotters on foot to direct the path.

So, as with any of these super- and hyper-powerful vehicles that occasionally make their way into the marketplace, it’s mostly about customers who, no matter what, just got to have the meanest machines available — even if they will spend the bulk of their time crawling along in heavy traffic fender-to-fender with a Toyota Yaris or Kia Rio.

Powering the 2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine delivering 707 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque

With a few minor alterations, the Trackhawk’s engine is the same one that powers the Hellcat versions of the Dodge Charger and Challenger from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (which also owns Jeep). With a launch-control system to mitigate wheel spin, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, only about a second slower than the new 1,500-horsepower, $2.6 million Bugatti Chiron, billed as the world’s fastest production car.

The Trackhawk’s edge over its Challenger and Charger garage mates is its sport-utility configuration, which means it can seat five people, four of them comfortably while the unfortunate in the center-rear position simply endures. It also has 36 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat and it can tow trailers weighing up to 7,200 lbs.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

However, it also weighs 5,260 lbs, partly because it had to be strengthened considerably more than other Grand Cherokees. That includes a competition suspension system and reinforced drive train components. A stronger transfer case and transmission handle the engine’s massive torque, or twisting force. Of course, all that beef affects fuel economy. On the EPA’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption chart, the Trackhawk manages just 11/17/13 mpg.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Take to the public roads with moderate pressure on the throttle and the Trackhawk can seem as unassuming as a compact crossover SUV. It’s only when you punch the pedal that the supercharger gets the engine growling menacingly and your torso is shoved against the seatback.

The steering has a heavy feel, but the Trackhawk is obedient around curves. It rolls steadily in a straight line with no inclination to wander and require steering corrections. Brembo competition disc brakes, painted yellow, stop with authority. The ride is biased toward handling, but is not unduly rough.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

The Trackhawk has a starting price of $86,995, which includes such equipment as the competition suspension system and brakes, lane departure and collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot and cross traffic detection, connections for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, heated and powered tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front and back seats, and ventilated front seats.

Options that brought the tested price to $99,965 included a leather wrapped interior package, rear-seat entertainment system, dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof, high performance Harman Kardon audio system with 19 speakers, and 20-inch alloy wheels.

One minor problem: For some unknown reason, whenever the ignition was switched off and on again, the climate system defaulted to the high settings for the heated front seats and the heated steering wheel. They had to be turned off manually.

Other than that, the beast performed flawlessly.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk


  • Model: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:2-liter V8, supercharged, 707 hp, 645 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 106/36 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,260 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,200 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 11/17/13 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $86,995.
  • Price as tested: $99,965.

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

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Photos (c) Jeep.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir may become as popular in its own way as its cousin, the GMC Yukon Denali, but it already was famous in typographical circles as a modern sans-serif typeface or font.

However, it may be that the Avenir name was chosen because it is the French word for “future.” Either way, it represents Buick’s effort to push its three-row crossover sport utility even more upscale to mimic the Denali versions in its GMC sibling division at General Motors.

Denali models, named for a mountain and national park in Alaska, have been an unqualified success for GMC, which is primarily a manufacturer of trucks and SUVs. It seems that many of its customers are eager to pay more for luxurious surroundings, so the Denali trim is available on six GMC models, including the Acadia Denali, a striver that is named for not one but two US National Parks, with Acadia located in Maine.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

A luxury ambiance also is the purpose of the new Enclave Avenir, a new, upscale trim level of Buick’s seven-passenger crossover SUV. It delivers stylish, flowing lines and is roughly the same size as the Chevrolet Traverse but a bit larger than the GMC Acadia.

The Avenir doesn’t directly compete with the three-row Yukon Denali, which comes in two lengths and is a fully-realized SUV built like a burly pickup truck with a body-on-frame. But the Avenir, properly equipped like the one tested for this review, can tow up to 5,000 pounds and accommodate six adults in reasonable comfort. A seventh can squeeze into the third-row seat.

Unfortunately, access to that third row is difficult and only available through the right-rear door. Plus, it takes muscle to flip the right-side second-row seat forward for access to the third row. However, the second row consists of two captain’s chairs so more nimble family members can scurry between them and get back in steerage.

2018-Buick-Enclave-Avenir-016The immediate impression when first seated in the Enclave Avenir is the plush surroundings — soft and supportive leather seats, heated and ventilated up front with heated second row seats; memory settings for the driver’s seat; pushbutton starting with remote locking; powered third-row seat that folds with the touch of a button; tri-zone automatic climate control; power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; dual-pane panoramic sunroof; full infotainment functions including navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, inductive device charging; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio.

2018-Buick-Enclave-Avenir-014The tested Avenir also came with 20-inch aluminum wheels and a $2,095 technology package that included adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking that augmented the standard safety equipment of lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, front pedestrian braking, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree surround-vision camera.

However, the inside rear-view uses not a mirror but a camera, which makes for confusion because the driver’s eyes must constantly adjust for depth perception to see what’s going on. Better to stick with a standard mirror.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

On the road, the Enclave Avenir feels like the big vehicle it is. At 17 feet long and weighing 4,565 lbs, it is more of an easy-riding rolling comfort zone than a frisky conveyance with quick moves. In that sense, it’s just the thing for a long family road trip, mostly on freeways. Though it doesn’t have the interior dimensions of a minivan, it comes close. Among its competitors are similar luxury crossover SUVs like the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX70 and the Volvo XC90.

There’s 24 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third-row seat. Press a button to fold it and the space expands to 58 cubic feet. If you have to move something big like a side table, folding the second row as well opens 98 cubic feet of cargo space.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

The Avenir’s 310-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine with 266 lb-ft of torque is more than adequate to any motoring task, from merging onto freeways or passing on two-lane roads. It runs on regular grade gasoline.

The Avenir is available with standard front-wheel drive or—as on the version tested here — all-wheel drive. Power gets to the wheels through an easy-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It is controlled by a new shift lever that requires some attention before you learn to use it without thinking about it.

Overall, the Enclave Avenir would work for anyone with a minivan aversion and a desire for luxury. The tester started at $56,690 with a bottom-line sticker of $59,435.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir


  • Model: 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD 1SP four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, 310 hp, 266 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,565 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/25/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $56,690.
  • Price as tested: $59,435.

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

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Photos (c) Buick.

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