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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

2017 Ford Edge Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like their products, vehicle manufacturers historically develop recognizable characteristics, as Ford does with the 2017 Edge crossover sport utility vehicle.

Over the years, the Ford Motor Co. acquired a reputation for expertise with pickup trucks and station wagons. Its F-Series pickup has held the sales championship among all cars and light trucks for 40 years in a row. Though station wagons have fallen out of favor, the company built many excellent wagons over the years.

The full-size Country Squire, for example, had a run of 41 years, ending in 1991 when Ford introduced the Explorer as the country trended away from wagons and toward sport utility vehicles. Unlike the Country Squire, the Explorer started as a truck-based vehicle with optional four-wheel drive, taller and wagon-like, but not a wagon. Now it, too, has morphed into a car-based crossover.

In its time, the Explorer became the most successful SUV in the U.S. market. Its best year came in 2000, with sales of more than 445,000. More than seven million have been sold over the years.

2017 Ford Edge

The Edge, on the other hand, is a relative youngster, celebrating its first decade in 2017. It resides in the middle of Ford’s lineup of four crossovers and one full-size truck-based SUV, the Expedition. Others are the crossovers: the compact Escape, the best seller with 307,069 sold in 2016, the midsize Edge (134,588) and full-size Explorer (248,507) with three rows of seats. The Flex (SALES FIGURES) fills out the lineup as a three-row wagon.

With the Edge, Ford shows that it has not lost its touch in designing desirable wagon-like, family friendly crossovers. There are four trim levels, starting with the SE with front-wheel drive at $29,845. Add $1,495 for all-wheel drive. Other starting prices are the SEL at $32,685, Titanium at $36,495 and the tested Sport at $41,795.

There are three engine choices: 245-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 280-hp, 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 and the 315-hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged V6. The last is standard equipment on the tested Edge Sport. All use a six-speed automatic transmission.

2017 Ford Edge

The Sport also comes with all-wheel drive, a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel and Ford’s innovative adaptive steering, which changes the steering ratio based on the wheel position and the vehicle’s speed. Housed in the steering wheel with the air bag, the system weighs just two pounds and can automatically vary the left-to-right lock-to-lock from 2 to 2.6 turns.

However, as sophisticated as it is, most drivers would be hard-pressed to notice any difference unless an adaptive steering Edge were driven immediately after one without the feature.

What it does is impart an unobtrusive, relaxed feeling of straight-line control in long-distance highway driving, which is the Edge Sport’s forte. It responds quickly to steering corrections and emergency moves when needed.

2017 Ford Edge

With deep and supportive seats upholstered in suede-like cloth trimmed with leather, along with a supple suspension system that delivers a comfortable ride, driver and passengers can settle back on an all-day trip. The interior is quiet with little intrusion of mechanical, road or wind noise. Rolling Wi-Fi would be welcome but the tester was not equipped with it.

Primarily, the Explorer Sport is a fine family vacation machine. Though it’s a five-passenger, two-row crossover, the back-seat passengers have plenty of head and knee room with seatbacks that recline. Even the center-rear position, which is punishing in most vehicles, is usable though not as comfortable as the outboard back seats.

Behind the rear seats, a cavernous cargo area can swallow 39 cubic feet of luggage, food and drink, coolers, and beach chairs and umbrellas. On the Sport, the lift-gate is motorized for added convenience loading and unloading.

2017 Ford Edge

Standard equipment includes Ford’s Sync3 touch screen with voice activation to control infotainment and other functions, along with pushbutton starting, perforated leather upholstery, satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, hill start assist and a garage door opener.

The Sync3 system improves on the earlier Ford MyTouch system. On the Sport, the touch screen worked in concert with in-dash displays that could be controlled from the steering wheel. But it takes some skill to set up and should not be tinkered with while driving.

The tested Edge Sport also had option packages that included adaptive cruise control, voice-activated navigation, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, remote starting, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, split-view rear camera rain-sensing windshield wipers and active parking assist. All of that brought the as-tested price to $47,925.

2017 Ford Edge

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Edge Sport AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:7-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 315 hp, 350 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 117/39 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,337 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,795.
  • Price as tested: $47,925.

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

2017 Ford Edge

Photos (c) Ford.

2018 BMW 230i xDrive Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With automobiles, especially an expensive sport coupe like the 2018 BMW 230i xDrive, it’s all about the return on investment.

It is the same in business as well, but there the focus is on profits measured in dollars. With cars, it’s about the tangibles and intangibles they deliver.

Buy a minivan and you get practicality for family vacations. Buy a BMW 230i xDrive and practicality flies out the window. The return on that investment comes in driving enjoyment, preferably with two people on board.

This compact two-door coupe, though it delivers strong performance, capable handling and decent fuel economy, has a cramped back seat. And because the front seatbacks move minimally forward, it requires athletic ability to access.

Offsetting that is a large trunk of almost 14 feet that can swallow a couple’s luggage for a week. If the trip is longer or you have a lot of stuff, the rear seatbacks fold to expand the cargo-carrying capability to 53 cubic feet.

Arguably, the 230i xDrive, which is the lowest-price sedan in the BMW lineup, is the lineage successor to the 1967 BMW1600-2, which had a bigger and more accommodating back seat. Car and Driver Magazine  trumpeted it as “the World’s Best $2,500 Car.” It was a boxy two-door with a cavernous trunk that in this writer’s family was big enough to conceal all of Santa Claus’s gifts for four children.

It had an 84-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that drove the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. Its independent suspension system and rack-and-pinion steering delivered great handling and the capability to hammer steadily over railroad tracks at 100 mph, all while delivering fuel economy in the mid-20s.

P90258121Contrast the 1600-2 (later joined by the more powerful 2002) with the tested 2018 230i xDrive and you see a great deal of price creep. The writer’s 1600-2, with options, had a $2,850 price tag, which has inflated over the years to $20,920 in 2017. The 2018 230i—the lowest-priced sedan in BMW’s expensive lineup—starts at $34,145, much of the difference because of modern emissions, safety and convenience requirements.

The tested xDrive, which is BMW-speak for all-wheel drive, started at $37,795. With $12,520 in options, it ended up with a $50,315 price tag.

Whether that investment delivers a substantial return depends on the individual owner’s delight and involvement, and whether he or she concludes that it merits the “ultimate driving machine” label. But the 230i xDrive is a sweet piece of machinery.

Its tidy size—three inches shy of 15 feet long—and quick steering makes for confident moves in city and freeway traffic. Need to make a quick lane change or dodge a clueless and careless driver intruding into your lane? A flick of steering and tap on the throttle and the troubles are gone.

Open highway cruising is relaxing. A supple ride, supportive sport seats with good seatback bolstering and a quiet interior means you can put on many miles without fatigue.

The engine is a 248-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 258 pound-feet of torque, or twisting force. Power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. For traditionalists, the 230i xDrive can be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Though the engine slurps premium gasoline, city/highway/combined fuel consumption with the automatic works out to 24/33/27 mpg.

The test car was well equipped with optional leather upholstery (leatherette is standard), navigation system, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, motorized glass sunroof, power front seats with memory settings, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, WiFi hot spot and Apple CarPlay. A $2,300 track handling package included an adaptive suspension system, sport brakes and variable steering.

Still, there were shortcomings. On the automatic settings, the air conditioning could not keep up on a hot day. Fortunately, BMW included a knob that delivered a manual maximum air conditioning blast. However, with a capable system it should not be needed.

In addition, the infotainment system is needlessly complicated, sun visors did not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side, and there was no blind spot warning, though it is not needed if the outside mirrors are properly adjusted.

For those drivers who value a car for visceral entertainment as opposed to pedestrian competence, the 230i xDrive returns a bonus on the investment.

P90258118Specifications

  • Model: 2018 BMW 230i xDrive two-door coupe.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 248 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 90/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,483 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/33/27 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,795.
  • Price as tested: $50,315.

Disclaimer: This test drive was based on a loan of the vehicle from the manufacturer. It was driven by the author in circumstances similar to everyday driving by consumers.

Photos (c) BMW.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With a reservoir of affection from loyal fans, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek boosts the Japanese company’s relentless climb up the staircase to automotive nirvana.

Few vehicle manufacturers have been as successful as Subaru since industry sales tanked in the 2007-2009 recession. When other nameplates sagged and struggled, Subaru surged. Starting in 2008, its sales increased every year until they reached 615,132 in 2016.

In 2012, Subaru introduced the Crosstrek XV, a small crossover sport utility vehicle based on the same platform as the Impreza sedan and hatchback. It, too, has succeeded with sales up every year since, reaching 99,677 in 2016.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-Front_in_motionSubaru insiders credit a chunk of the success to an epiphany that many owners loved their cars for their durability and reliability, and expected them to last a long time. The company morphed those sentiments into advertising that equated ownership with love.

Crossovers like the Crosstrek are generally described as SUV-like vehicles built with unit bodies like cars, where traditional SUVs are built like trucks with body-on-frame construction. Usually, crossovers have front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive but all Subaru cars and crossovers, with the exception of the rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, come standard with all-wheel drive.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd_Red-FrontAs newer compact and subcompact crossovers threaten to engulf the marketplace, the 2018 Crosstrek (the SV designation has been dropped) is positioned to expand its reach as well.

In concept and size, the new generation Crosstrek is the same as the original, which made its debut as a 2013 model. But the 2018 is built on an all-new platform that will be used for Subaru vehicles world-wide and, according to company officials, it is 95% new with 80% new parts and a 70% more rigid structure.

A test drive fortified the claim. Though the original Crosstrek was a modestly capable vehicle, it did not have an overall aura of substance. In contrast, the new car has a rigid, solid feel. The steering, suspension system and tires contribute to confident handling and stable straight-line tracking. The Crosstrek also employs torque vectoring, which adjusts wheel speed in cornering.

18MY_Crosstrek_Lmtd-interior5The weak point is the power train, which despite a new 152-hp 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine, does not differ much from the 148-hp engine in the original Crosstrek.

With a horizontally opposed engine, also referred to as a boxer or flat engine, the cylinders lie supine on both sides of the crankshaft instead of leaning or standing upright as on V or in-line engines. The squat design results in a lower center of gravity for better control.

The Crosstrek’s relaxed power is not as noticeable with the continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) as with the 6-speed manual gearbox.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-interior_2toneOn modest uphill highway stretches with the manual transmission, the driver often finds that downshifts to as low as third gear are required as the engine struggles to supply enough power. It’s as if the drivetrain were designed to maximize fuel economy over performance.

The power shortage is not nearly as noticeable with the CVT, which uses belts and pulleys to seamlessly adjust engine revolutions as needed. There are two CVT versions. On lower trim levels, the CVT adjusts to enhance acceleration and off-road performance. On the Limited model tested here, the CVT came with a computerized 7-speed manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

Although the Crosstrek is not designed as an all-out boondocks buddy, it does have enough ground clearance and capability to handle some off-road territory, as well as delivering confident performance in snow and other foul weather conditions.

18MY_Crosstrek_Lmtd-2tone_rear_seatWith the manual gearbox, the all-wheel drive system distributes power 50-50 to the front and rear wheels. If slippage occurs, it automatically transfers the power to the wheels with the most traction.

On CVT equipped models, the system automatically adjusts the torque distribution based on available traction, acceleration and deceleration. There’s also a hill-descent control to maintain traction at low speeds downhill.

18MY_Crosstrek-engineThe 2018 Crosstrek arrives with three trim levels: Base, at $22,710 including the destination charge; Premium, at $23,510; and Limited, at $27,210. Both the base and Premium versions come with the new 6-speed manual gearbox (up from a 5-speed before). The CVT is a $1,000 option, but is standard on the Limited.

Premium and Limited models can be equipped with Subaru’s optional EyeSight driver assist technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision braking, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-Rear_in_motionSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter 4-cylinder, 152 hp, 145 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with 7-speed manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,230 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/33/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,210.
  • Price as tested: $30,655.

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

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-wheelPhotos (c) Subaru.

2018 Genesis G80 AWD 3.3T Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

To be more descriptive, the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport could have been named Increment.

When you’re building a new luxury brand, as Hyundai of South Korea is doing, you need to take it incrementally, or in steps.

The G80 AWD 3.3T Sport, the subject here, is the second step in a process that has caused some confusion among buyers but likely will shake out eventually.

Genesis G80 Sport

The original Genesis was a full-size, rear-drive sedan introduced as the flagship of the Hyundai lineup in 2008. Since then, the company has ramped up its reputation for quality, reliability and a diversity of interesting vehicles. In 2012, it took on the reigning Big Guys — BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc. — with the Equus, a full-size, full-yacht luxury car.

With the Equus and the Genesis, Hyundai had the makings of a separate luxury brand, following in the tire tracks of Acura, which arrived from Honda in 1986, and Toyota and Nissan, which spun off the Lexus and Infiniti brands in1989.

It can be dicey. Lexus has been an unqualified success. Acura and Infiniti, despite a plethora of desirable vehicles, have struggled to have their names spoken in the same breath with Jaguar or Audi. Mazda tried with Amati in 1992 but flopped.

Genesis G80 Sport

Hyundai at least merits a medal for bravery. That could happen regardless of whether the Genesis nameplate succeeds. It’s too early to tell, but there’s little question that Genesis has delivered competitive, quality products, though they are but a blip on the sales charts, selling at an annual rate of fewer than 20,000 together in 2017.

With the arrival of the G80, there now are two Genesis models. The top of the line is the full-size G90, formerly the Hyundai Equus.

GENESIS DEBUTS 2018 G80 SPORT TRIM WITH 3.3-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE STYLING

For now, the 2018 G80 shares the same power train with the G90. It also is classified as a full-size car by the EPA. It is 16 feet 5 inches long with 106 cubic feet of space for passengers and a trunk of 15 cubic feet. The G90 is six inches longer at 17 feet one inch, 113 cubic feet for passengers and 16 cubic feet of trunk volume.

Both cars use an 8-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. But the personalities of the G80 and G90 are quite different, especially given the enhancements of the tested G80 Sport with all-wheel drive.

Genesis G80 Sport

This is an attractive, satisfying luxury car with few faults and a more than competitive price. At $58,725, the test car likely would be out of reach for many buyers. But against its chosen competitors, it is a bargain.

For example, though BMW owners might sniff at the comparison, the G80 Sport stacks up well — though not in every category — against the BMW 540i xDrive, reviewed recently in this column.

Both have all-wheel drive; twin-turbo V6 engines with similar hp of 365 for the Genesis and 335 for the 540i; eight-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift modes; the Genesis is two inches longer at 16 feet 5 inches, with an interior volume of 121 cubic feet compared to the BMW’s 117; the BMW weighs about 500 lbs less at 4,170 lbs, and the BMW’s combined fuel economy is 23 mpg compared to 20 for the Genesis.

Genesis G80 Sport

The big difference is the price. Fully equipped, the Genesis’s sticker price of $58,725 was less than the BMW’s base price of $59,745. With options, however, the BMW’s bottom line price came to $82,360.

Another comparison, to the Cadillac CT6 Platinum with all-wheel drive: twin-turbo V6, 404 hp, 8-speed automatic transmission, 17-feet long, 122 cubic feet interior volume, weight of 4,370 lbs and combined fuel economy of 21 mpg. The Caddy’s bottom-line sticker: $91,580.

Genesis G80 Sport

You could argue that the 540i delivers better driving dynamics and the Caddy may have more luxurious touches, but the G80 is no slouch, with three driving modes: Eco; Normal; and Sport. Using the last, it will accelerate to 60 mph in the five-second range with a top speed of 135.

It is a handsome car with an imposing grille and sensuous lines; Lexus-like interior silence and comfortable ride; roomy and well-bolstered seating for four (forget the center-rear position); panoramic sunroof with an opaque sunshade of a suede-like material; intuitive touch-screen infotainment functions with backup buttons; and organic safety equipment.

There’s nothing not to like. But the Genesis brand sorely needs a crossover sport utility vehicle.

Genesis G80 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Genesis G80 AWD 3.3T Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:3-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 365 hp, 375 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/15 cubic feet
  • Weight: 4,690 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,725.
  • Price as tested: $58,725.

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

Genesis G80 Sport

Photos (c) Genesis.

2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE Td6: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

More than anything, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport imparts a feeling of superiority.

It’s not unlike imagining yourself in an episode of “The Crown,” with the trappings of Buckingham Palace. Or living in “Downton Abbey,” though more like Lady Edith Grantham instead of cook Beryl Patmore.

RangeRoverSportTd6048The superior feelings arise from the storied reputation of Great Britain’ s Land Rovers — and their Range Rover offspring — which are among the most capable passenger vehicles anywhere.

Obviously, there are others with the competences to evoke similar emotions, notably America’s Jeep. But Jeep produces workmanlike and middle-class vehicles, like the go-anywhere Wrangler and even high-performance versions of the Grand Cherokee.

Land Rover hews to the luxury side of the road in its modern iterations. It was not always so. After the company started in the wake of World War II, its vehicles were ubiquitous in rugged, road-less areas in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

RangeRoverSportTd6051Now you’re as likely to see a Land Rover or Range Rover parked next to high-end designer stores as negotiating the desert terrain of Moab, Utah.

Driven for this review was the 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6, a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle. It is the direct descendant of the Land Rovers of the 1950s and 1960s, including the 88 Series made famous in the movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” The Sport can even be ordered with diesel power — a $1,500 option — like many of its predecessors.

RangeRoverSportTd6077Though it can be equipped with a winch like the one that hauled the movie’s 88 up into a tree, the new Sport is as well outfitted as any luxury car. Amenities include automatic climate control, perforated leather seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, touch-screen infotainment interface with a navigation system, hands-free power tailgate, rear-view camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a panoramic sunroof.

With all that, the tested Sport likely is as capable off-road as any of its progenitors because it came with a powerful diesel engine and modern, computer-controlled off-road driver assists. Chief among them is Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which adjusts drivetrain components with driver-selectable settings for normal use, snow, mud and sand.

RangeRoverSportTd6083There’s also hill-descent control, emergency-brake assist, hill-start assist, low-traction launch and trailer stability control. The Sport can tow a load that weighs more than 7,700 pounds.

As a high-end HSE model, the tested Sport arrived with plenty of standard equipment and a long list of options, including quad-zone climate control, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, reverse traffic detection, lane keeping assist and adaptive headlights. All of this added up to a suggested delivered price of $86,445.

RangeRoverSportTd6103It is powered by a 254-hp turbocharged V6 diesel engine that develops a mighty 440 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, that likely could pull an elephant out of a mud hole — if one could be found on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Urea injection is used for pollution control.

Power gets to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. A single-speed electronic transfer case apportions the power.

The main thing you notice about the Sport HSE Td6 is what you don’t notice: Cabin noise. Land Rover’s designers and engineers have so muffled the diesel engine sounds that most people would be hard-pressed to guess that it is a compression-ignition oil burner.

RangeRoverSportTd6111What it delivers — as most diesels do — is improved fuel economy. The city/highway/combined fuel consumption of the tested Sport comes to 22/28/24 mpg — exceptional for a bulky vehicle that weighs 5,335 lbs.

On the road, however, you barely notice the bulk. The Sport has a hefty feel from its electric power steering and tracks well in a straight line. The air suspension system soaks up road irregularities.

A few quibbles are in order. The panoramic sunroof has a cheesy, perforated sunshade that admits too much sunlight. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides.

Visibility to the rear is restricted by large, back seat headrests, the collision warning sometimes voices false alarms and setting radio presets is needlessly complicated. On the plus side, if the driver forgets to shift out of “drive” when shutting off the engine, the transmission automatically shifts to “park.”

None of the quibbles, however, impinge much on the feeling of superiority.

RangeRoverSportTd6044Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter diesel V6, turbocharged, 254 hp, 440 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 108/28 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,335 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,715 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $73,645.
  • Price as tested: $86,445.

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

RangeRoverSportTd6063Photos (c) Land Rover.

2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Upsized to the point where it rivals the interior space of a midsize sedan, the 2018 MINI Cooper Countryman offers a practical and sporting driving experience in a tidy package.

It also delivers luxury in the tested S model with all-wheel drive, a more powerful engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

P90240629_highResIn modern parlance, the Countryman ALL4 is classified as a small crossover sport utility vehicle. It is British in origin, assembled in the Netherlands and uses an engine built in Germany. It is based on the BMW X1, no surprise because MINI is owned by the Bavarian Motor Works.

The Mini dates to the 1960s in Great Britain, where it pioneered the use of a transverse-mounted engine and front-wheel drive. Though only 10 feet long, its two-box design enabled it to carry four adults, though comfort depended on their size.

After BMW bought the company, it resurrected the Mini in 2001 and named it the MINI Cooper, using a name that had been attached to performance-oriented models. Now the performance models are labeled “John Cooper Works.” Like the original, the MINI Cooper started as a two-door sedan.

P90240631_highResBMW is a company seemingly dedicated to plugging every niche in the market so nearly two dozen MINI Cooper variants eventually appeared, including convertibles, a four-door, the Clubman, Paceman and, eventually, the Countryman.

There’s no mistaking any MINI for anything else. All models bear a familial resemblance. But the Countryman, since getting stretched by more than eight inches for 2017, now has gotten pudgy looking, though not to the point of turning off the brand’s fans.

Inside, it retains vestiges of the original MINI, though with changes. The large circular screen in the center, which once held the speedometer, now is a multifunction location. The speedometer, tachometer and other mainstay instruments reside behind the steering wheel and move up and down with it. However, the steering wheel does not telescope.

P90240757_highResFor 2018, the Countryman has been modestly modified. The fuel gauge has been re-designed and a toggle switch controls the drive modes: Sport, Normal and Eco. Previously, the modes were selected by a ring at the bottom of the automatic transmission shifter.

With 97 cubic feet of space for the driver and up to four passengers, the tested Countryman offered plenty of headroom and ample knee room for four, especially in the outboard back seat positions. However, the fifth passenger relegated to the center-rear position gets shortchanged on headroom, foot space and comfort.

P90240747_highResA negative is the perforated cloth sunshade for the panoramic glass sunroof, a current fad among luxury cars that admits too much hot sunlight. Sun shades should be opaque. The motorized front section of the sunroof opens to the sky; the back is fixed glass.

Front seat comfort is improved for many drivers by a thigh support that is manually adjustable for length. The front seats also have substantial bolsters to hold the torso in place during spirited driving.

That sort of motoring is the Countryman S ALL4’s strong suit, specially in the Sport mode, which delays transmission shifts to higher engine revolutions for more rapid acceleration. The steering and suspension system are oriented toward sharper handling, though the firm ride is not punishing.

P90240662_highResPower comes from a 189-hp 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 207 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four wheels through the snap-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel.

The engine emits a satisfying growl under hard acceleration, though some drivers used to muted sounds might find it annoying. Zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration time in the Sport mode is in the seven-second range.

A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard. The 8-speed automatic is a $1,500 option. The tested Countryman had a base price of $32,550. With other options that included parking assist, head-up display, power front seats with memory, power tailgate and “Chesterfield” leather upholstery with “British Oak” tanning, the suggested delivered price came to $41,050.

P90240630_highResStandard equipment included dynamic stability control, electronic brake force distribution, the panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, SXM satellite radio, Apple Car Play, LED fog lights and 18-inch alloy wheels.

If people find the pudgy look endearing and the price is not daunting, MINI buyers will find a lot to like.

P90240627_highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter 4-cylinder, turbocharged, 189 hp, 207 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,671 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/31/26 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $32,550.
  • Price as tested: $41,050.

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

P90240671_highResPhotos (c) MINI.

 

2017 BMW 540i xDrive: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

BMW rides the crest of the crossover sport utility wave, but persists in making certain it continues to anchor at least one model in nearly every market cove, as witness the 2017 BMW 540i xDrive sedan.

It is an expensive midsize four-door, nearly full-size by the government’s description, that has been substantially revamped to hang on in the face of declining sales — some of them lost to BMW’s own lineup of crossover SUVs.

P90237218_highResOverall, the Bavarian Motor Works offers six sedans and coupes, five crossovers, two sports cars — one of them a hybrid — and an electric car, the i3, with an optional gasoline range extender. Different trim levels and power trains broaden the choices.

Though BMW has always emphasized performance and handling, this new machine tilts more toward extravagance than some of its predecessors. It is quiet and lavishly appointed, though it retains power and solid driving dynamics.

BMW calls the 540i xDrive a “business sedan.” But it is a business steeped in comfort and luxury. With 98 cubic feet of passenger volume, there’s plenty of stretch space for four people in the front and back. A seatbelt is installed for a center-rear passenger but, as with most vehicles these days, the position is compromised by a hard cushion and floor hump.

P90237212_highResOut back, there’s a trunk of 19 cubic feet that would do justice to a larger car. It can easily swallow luggage for a long trip or golf bags for a foursome.

The engine is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder that makes 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

The 540i xDrive has both Sport and Comfort modes that alter suspension settings and shock absorbers automatically depending on inputs from the driver. Slow and easy activates the comfort setting; it switches to Sport when the driving is aggressive.

P90237235_highResIn keeping with its German heritage, the 540i xDrive oozes electronic and engineering wizardry, including a launch control system that enabled Car and Driver Magazine to record a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of 4.5 seconds. Top speed is governed at 128 mph.

If that’s not enough, BMW is releasing the 2018 M550i xDrive model  in the second half of 2017. It is powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine that delivers 445 hp and 456 lb-ft of torque. BMW says the M550i will get you to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds — six-tenths of a second quicker than the 540i xDrive. But its starting price is more than $13,000 higher.

P90237271_highResIn keeping with BMW practice, an extensive options list augments standard safety and convenience equipment. Some of it, including automatic evasive steering, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, brings the 540i xDrive closer to the eventual goal of the self-driving car. That prompted Consumer Reports to include an alert to buyers to make certain they heed all warnings and keep their hands on the wheel.

The tested 540i xDrive had a starting sticker price of $59,745, including the destination charge. Options tacked on an additional $22,615 for a bottom line price of $82,360. More than $8,000 of the options related to driver assistance and handling functions.

Another option, priced at $750, allows for remote control parking. It only works in straight-line forward and back movements, as in backing into a parking space or garage. The driver controls the movements from outside with a special remote control. It is mainly useful in a space so narrow a driver would not be able exit or enter the car.

P90237268_highResFor another $190, tested 540i came with gesture control, which enables the use of gestures, as well as a controller and voice commands, to activate various functions.

At the higher end of the options spectrum, the test car was equipped with a Bowers & Wilkins high-performance audio system with a price tag of $4,200. An M-Sport package, at $2,600, included suspension system modifications and appearance items.

With a curb weight of more than two tons, the 540i has the heft and feel common to expensive luxury sedans. That, of course, goes to the bottom line of fuel economy. Its city/highway/combined gasoline consumption, as published by the EPA, works out to 20/29/23 mpg — not daunting for anyone who can pay the price or make the lease payments.

P90237216_highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 BMW 540i xDrive four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged, 335 hp, 332 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 98/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,170 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/29/23 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $59,745.
  • Price as tested: $82,360.

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

P90237229_highResPhotos (c) BMW.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reinforces its incursion into the luxury/performance class with the all-new 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

It is part of a determined push to rebuild the storied Italian brand. It started with the 4C coupe and roadster, continued with the Giulia compact sedan and now takes on high-end crossover SUVs: Porsche Macan, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Sport

The Stelvio, named for the highest mountain pass in the Italian Alps where 12 highway miles encompass 48 hairpin turns, is a crossover version of the Giulia. They share the same wheelbase—the distance between the front and rear axles—though the Stelvio is two inches longer at 15 feet 5 inches.

Like its sibling, the Stelvio is a stellar performer with quick throttle response, rapid acceleration, precise steering and accurate handling. For now, it comes in two versions, both with a 280-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 306 lb-ft of torque, enough to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds with a top speed of 144 mph, according to Alfa Romeo’s specifications.

The company markets the Stelvio as a midsize crossover but its size belies that. It fits into the EPA’s “small” classification, which includes small and medium-sized SUVs like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Moreover, its 89 cubic feet of passenger volume actually is less than the Giulia’s 94 cubic feet, though the Stelvio has a larger cargo area of 39 cubic feet compared to the Giulia’s trunk of 13 cubic feet.

There’s plenty of space up front and, on the tested Ti Sport model, beautifully bolstered leather sport seats. But the back seat passengers do not fare as well. In the outboard seats, head and knee room are tight and the seatbacks do not recline. The center-rear position is cramped and nearly unusable.

But the Stelvio is biased toward sport. It has a 50/50 front and rear weight distribution, and the standard all-wheel-drive system can automatically shift 100% of the power to the rear wheels for optimum performance. In nasty weather conditions, the system can send 60% of the power to the front wheels.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Road clearance is 8.1 inches, which provides some confidence in the unlikely event an owner ventures off-road. But the Stelvio has no other boondocks assists. It is first and foremost a roadie, competing in what currently is the hottest segment of the market from popular-priced to big-bucks luxury.

It offers three driving modes, controlled by a knob on the center console: Dynamic; natural; and advanced efficiency. The last enhances fuel economy by, among other things, shifting the 8-speed automatic transmission at lower engine revolutions.

The natural setting is slightly more aggressive. But the dynamic setting is the choice for maximum performance, including shifts at higher revs, quicker response to throttle inputs, tighter steering, enhanced braking and driver-oriented stability control.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Both the base Stelvio and the upscale Ti can be ordered as Sport versions, the main difference being large aluminum paddles mounted on the steering column to manually shift the automatic transmission. Though every Stelvio can be manually shifted, only the Sport versions get the paddles.

None of this, as might be expected, comes cheap. The base Stelvio has a starting price of $42,990, which includes leather upholstery, power seats for the driver and front passenger, automatic climate control, remote locking and a power lift gate. Add $1,800 for the Sport version and you get the paddle shifters. There’s also a luxury-oriented Ti Lusso.

The tested Ti Sport model started at $47,490. With options that included adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, automatic-high headlight beams, auto-dimming mirrors and an infrared-heated windshield, the tester’s bottom line came to $55,240.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Other than the usual question mark about Italian build quality and whether the Stelvio will deliver a confident owner experience, there are a few quibbles with the opening act: The tight back seat with no reclining seatbacks, a cheesecloth-like sunroof shade and a fussy navigation system whose traveling instructions underway block the trip odometer.

Enthusiasts with plenty of bucks await next year’s debut of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, analogous to the sedan of the same name, which sports a V6 engine with 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. That Stelvio should hit the showrooms with a price above $80,000.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 280 hp, 306 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:
  • Weight: 4,004 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/24 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,490.
  • Price as tested: $55,240.

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

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Lusso

Photos (c) Alfa Romeo.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Volkswagen ups its game in the crossover SUV arena with a triple-double by a new player, the 2018 Tiguan.

It has nothing to do with points, rebounds, assists or blocked shots in a basketball game, though the German manufacturer would be delighted if the Tiguan managed some steals from competitors.

To that end, it has doubled its overall warranty to 72,000 miles and six years from the standard 36,000 miles and three years. It also has added a third row of seats to all Tiguans, standard on front-wheel drive models and a $500 option on all-wheel-drive models.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7316It’s all part of VW’s effort to win over new fans and rebuild trust among existing ones who were angered and disillusioned by the company’s cheating on diesel-engine emissions. Not surprisingly, the new Tiguan is powered by a gasoline engine, though a gasoline/electric hybrid could eventually follow.

The Tiguan’s triple-double certainly enhances its appeal, although the South Korean Hyundai and Kia brands currently offer an overall warranty of 60,000 miles and five years, as well as 10 years and 100,000 miles on the engine and transmission.

For now, the Tiguan’s power comes from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that delivers 184 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission. City/highway/combined fuel economy is 21/27/23 mpg.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7283The Tiguan plays in the current automotive version of March Madness, in which crossover sport utility vehicles of all sizes are knocking sedans out of the game. That’s particularly true in the compact cluster where the Tiguan competes against such proven competitors as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5.

With the new Tiguan, VW reckons that it now can brag that it is a family-oriented full-line company. It joins the midsize Touareg and new full-size Atlas, along with the Golf Sportwagen, Golf hatchbacks, Beetle, and Jetta, CC and Passat sedans.

The new Tiguan is nearly 11 inches longer than its predecessor, now stretching to 15 feet 5 inches in length. That delivered enough space for the third row, which increases the passenger capacity to seven. However, the third row should be reserved for athletic small children and forbidden to senior citizens of any age. It takes a gymnast’s twists and turns to get back there, where there’s barely enough space for backpacks and watermelons.

2018_tiguan_-_s_7268Likely most owners will reserve the third row for dire emergencies and simply leave it folded to expand the cargo area, which in two-row versions has 38 cubic feet of space, about triple what you find in compact sedans.

The Tiguan comes in four trim levels with a starting price of $24,245 for the base S and ranging up to $38,450 for the all-wheel-drive top-of-the-line SEL Premium. The focus here is on the two-row all-wheel-drive SE, which carried a price tag of $31,280.

To get all the goodies like navigation, lane departure and collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, rear camera, SXM satellite radio and other safety, connectivity and convenience items, you must order one of the more expensive versions.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7325Accommodations vary with cloth seats on the S, leatherette on SE and SEL, and leather on the SEL Premium. The choice here was for the comfortable and supportive cloth seats on the S, which look durable enough to survive many years. The leatherette should be durable as well, though it is less comfortable for long distances, especially in summer.

The Tiguan has a character that owners often refer to as its German feel. It tracks cleanly down the road, has a suspension system that absorbs bumps and, with accurate steering, handles curving roads without fuss. In addition, the ride is comfortable and very quiet with little intrusion of mechanical, road or wind noise.

2018_tiguan_-_sel_premium_7290A couple of quibbles are in order. The CD changer, in a nod to the past, resides in the glove compartment. Also, on models with the panoramic sunroof, the shade is made of a flimsy material that mimics cheesecloth and allows too much sunlight to intrude. Sun shades should be opaque.

Another cheesy item that saves a couple of bucks: The driver’s side sun visor slides on its support rod to fully block sun from the side; the passenger does not get the same courtesy because that visor is rigidly fixed.

Overall, this is an improved and more competitive Tiguan in a tough fight.

2018_tiguan_-_s_7266Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter 4-cylinder, turbocharged, 184 hp, 221 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/38 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,858 lbs.
  • Payload: 970 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,280.
  • Price as tested: $31,280.

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

2018_tiguan_-_s_7265Photos (c) Volkswagen.

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