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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

Maserati and Alfa Romeo What’s New Event: A DriveWays Review

by Frank A. Aukofer

Pontiac, Mich. — Call it a candy store for car nuts. Every summer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles invites a jumble of journalists to its proving grounds in Chelsea, Mich., to drive all the new Ram truck, Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models. It’s an intense one-day event.

But this year, the company added a day to focus on two of its lesser-known but very expensive brands: Maserati and Alfa Romeo of Italy. That event was conducted at the M1 Concourse, a private facility in downtown Pontiac that includes a 1.5-mile road racing track.

It was a day of alternating heavy thunderstorms, cloudy weather and bright sunshine. Undaunted, the attendees drove Maserati and Alfa Romeo models on street drives, the racetrack and an autocross course. Exclusive on the autocross was Alfa’s 4C, a mid-engine two-seat sports roadster without power steering that has a starting price of $67,495.

Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. With a curb weight of just 2,467 lbs, it’s quick.

But the 4C is a twitchy beast, so loud an occupant cannot hear the expensive audio system. Some critics, including this one, consider it to be a terribly awkward conveyance. But it also has a devoted band of followers who love it for — who knows?

Way more civilized was the Maserati Gran Turismo, a high-performance ultra-luxury four-seat convertible powered by a 454-hp, 4.7-liter V8 engine with 384 lb-ft of torque. With rear-wheel drive, it has a six-speed automatic transmission with five selectable driving modes.

There are two versions in either coupe or convertible form: Convertible MC (for Maserati Corse), which starts at $166,575, including the destination charge. The Sport starts  at $154,075. Each price includes a $1,700 federal gas guzzler tax. Zero to 60 mph times are less than five seconds.

Also available for track driving was the Maserati Quattroporte sedan, which offers six models ranging in price from $109,675 to $140,975. They are powered by either of two engines: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with 424 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 with 523 hp and 524 lb-ft of torque. All versions use an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Other Maserati lines were the smaller Ghibli sedan and the Levante crossover sport utility vehicle. Each comes in six different versions. The Ghibli’s prices range from $76,475 to $89,275, including destination charges. The Levante starts at $77,475 and runs up to the top-line Trofeo model at $171,475.

Ghibli models have a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. Lower trim levels get 345 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. More expensive models have 369 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually.

Levante all-wheel-drive crossovers offer a 3.0-liter turbo V6 with either 345 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque or 414 horsepower and 438 pound-feet of torque. The bad boy on the block, however, is the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 with 550 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. All versions use an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode.

More familiar to aficionados, mainly because of more publicity, were the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan and the Stelvio crossover sport utility vehicle. Depending on the version, both are offered with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

The Giulia, which competes with the 3-Series BMW, Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, comes in 11 different trim levels, five with rear-drive and seven with all-wheel drive. Prices range from $39,440 for the base rear-drive Giulia up to $75,245 for the superb all-wheel drive Quadrifoglio (Italian for four-leaf clover).

Lower trim levels are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque. The Quadrifoglio is equipped with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque.

Think of the Stelvio hatchback as a taller version of the Giulia. It uses the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as the Giulia, and the Quadrifoglio model has the 2.9-liter V6. Prices range from $41,440 for the base rear-drive version up to $81,590 for the all-wheel drive Quadrifoglio. Transmissions are eight-speed automatics with manual-shift modes.

With the resulting publicity from the event in Pontiac, Mich., no doubt at least some buyers with deep pockets or high credit ratings will become aware of the plush and high-performing Maserati Levante crossover and the company’s other offerings. The same should be true for the better-known Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio.

Neither vehicle line has had a huge impact in the U.S. marketplace so far. In 2017, Alfa Romeo stores sold a total of 12,031 vehicles, including 407 4Cs, 8,903 Giulias and 2,271 Stelvios. Maserati’s total was 13,697, including 8,249 cars and 5,448 Levante crossovers.

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

Photos (c) FCA North America.

2018 Audi A4 allroad: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’re done with conventional sedans and station wagons but not quite ready for a tall crossover sport utility vehicle, take a look at a ‘tweener like the 2018 Audi A4 allroad.

It is a station wagon, yes, but taller — though not as tall as the crossovers that are steadily taking over the marketplace to the point where sedans and wagons are an endangered species.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-582Unfortunately, tall wagons are few in number and mostly  tilted toward the luxury class. Besides the A4 allroad, they are the Volvo V60 and V90 Cross Country models, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and the Buick Regal TourX.

All of these offer all-wheel drive and a lower center of gravity for more sporting handling than most crossovers. They also are slightly taller than their station wagon brethren.

The Audi allroad is the granddaddy of the tall wagons, dating back nearly two decades in A6 and A4 trim. For 2018, as in 2017, the A4 allroad arrives with a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 273 lb-ft of torque.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sends the power to Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system, now with a new wrinkle. For economy, it operates in front-wheel drive under normal conditions. As soon as slippage is detected, it switches instantly and seamlessly in milliseconds to all-wheel drive.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-583We know this only because we have been told verbally and in the literature. Driving the A4 allroad, you never detect the changeover. The twin-clutch automatic is similarly quick, said by Audi to shift in 1/100thof a second.

All of this conspires to launch the allroad to 60 miles an hour in less than six seconds, according to Audi and independent tests. Top speed is governed at 128 mph, though most owners likely will never bother to experience it.

However, the rapid acceleration can’t happen if you allow the engine stop-start to be turned on. Then you get that dreaded hesitation off the line, although it doesn’t shudder as much on the allroad than on some other vehicles. Fortunately, the stop-start can be turned off, though you must do it every time you start the engine.

Of course, you don’t buy a tall wagon like the A4 allroad to compete in autocrosses or bounce over trackless terrain like a Jeep or Land Rover. However, it is equipped with five driver-selectable drive modes, including an off-road setting that optimizes transmission shifting, steering and adaptive suspension settings that enhance performance off the pavement.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-571Besides off-road, the other settings are comfort, automatic, individual and dynamic, with the last the tightest for on-road performance. The individual setting can be tailored for the driver.

Most owners are unlikely to do much off-roading in any case. The allroad, like other Audi models, is a classy, luxury vehicle to be polished and admired, not bashed and scratched.

The quattro all-wheel drive does impart an ambiance of confidence in foul weather conditions, especially deep snow, and does so with the panache of a quiet butler in a palace, always ready with a tray full of capabilities.

One of those, of course, is utility. The allroad has midsize sedan space for passengers, though the center-rear position, as is usual in almost every vehicle, is cramped and uncomfortable. But the big payoff lies in cargo space. There’s 24 cubic feet of it behind the second-row seats, more than enough for everyday favorite things. Flop the rear seatbacks and it expands to 59 cubic feet to haul the dorm room stuff of a new college freshman.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-578Though it is a luxury vehicle, the allroad is not outrageously expensive given its features. The base price is $45,475 and, with options that included a Premium Plus package, the tested price came to $53,750.

That covers full safety equipment, including Audi’s pre-sense collision avoidance system, which detects objects and pedestrians, and can bring the allroad to a stop anywhere under 25 mph — a boon in modern urban stop-and-go traffic.

Other equipment included LED lighting all around, Audi telematics with navigation, Bang & Olufsen audio with SXM satellite radio, tri-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats, eight-way power front seats with memory settings, power tailgate, garage-door opener, heated and folding outside mirrors, and a parking assistance system.

However, the equipment did not include such items as adaptive cruise control, lane departure mitigation or blind-spot warning.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-592Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi A4 allroad 2.0T quattro S tronic four-door station wagon.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/24 cubic feet. (59)
  • Weight: 3,815 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,475.
  • Price as tested: $53,750.

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

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-570Photos (c) Audi.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 Momentum: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the debut of its new XC40, Volvo is the proud parent of triplets vying for attention in the crossover sport-utility class.

The first of three all-new luxury entries from the Swedish manufacturer was the three-row, full-size 2016 XC90. Next came the midsize XC60. Separately, each won top awards from the North American Car of the Year jury, an independent organization of automotive journalists from the US and Canada.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Now we have the 2019 XC40, smaller and lower-priced, but with many of the same qualities that jury members found in its siblings. It is luxurious with exhilarating performance, quiet and comfortable ride, decent handling and state-of-the art embellishments.

One is Pilot Assist, Volvo’s semi-autonomous system. It uses adaptive cruise control and lane-departure mitigation to take over driving chores, though the driver must pay attention and maintain contact with the steering wheel.

The other is the optional Park Assist Pilot, which automatically backs the XC40 into either a parallel or perpendicular parking space. It takes practice, requires a bit more space than a skilled driver would need, and the driver must do all the braking.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观

Though Volvo now is owned by Geely Holding Corporation of China, it operates independently and without much apparent interference from the owner. The Swedish designers and engineers have cleverly delivered three different crossovers that essentially use the same engines and transmissions.

The engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a configuration that is becoming ubiquitous among manufacturers around the world as it replaces V6 and even V8 engines. In the XC90 and XC60, it delivers 316 hp and 296 or 295 lb-ft of torque; in the new XC40, the horsepower is 248 and the torque is rated at 258 lb-ft.

All three of the Volvo crossovers use an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode to deliver the power to all four wheels.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Two versions of the XC40 were available at the introduction: the tested T5 AWD Momentum, with a starting price of $36,195, and the R-Design, which costs an additional $2,500. Later in the model year, Volvo will offer a less-powerful T4 version with front-wheel drive at a starting price of $34,195.

With a substantial list of options, including the aforementioned Pilot and Park Assist systems, the tested XC40 had a bottom-line sticker price of $44,315. Full safety equipment included a collision avoidance system that detects, pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals.

New Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid

Other features included a panoramic glass sunroof, leather upholstery, hands-free power tailgate, blind-spot warning, dual-zone automatic climate control, inductive smart phone charging, an overhead surround-view camera, 19-inch alloy wheels, SXM satellite radio, configurable cargo area and an “ice white” painted roof topping a pale blue body.

With rear vision from the driver’s seat restricted by wide roof pillars and large back-seat headrests, the equipment included a nifty — and welcome — feature. A touch of an icon on the center screen drops the headrests below the top of the seatback. The rear seatbacks also can be folded by touching buttons inside the cargo area, which then expands from 21 to 58 cubic feet.

From the outside, the XC40 exhibits modern, flowing styling that includes doors that wrap over the rocker panels, a clamshell hood design and a cutesy touch: a tiny Swedish flag made of rubber that peeks out from under the hood on the left side.

Park and Pay application in the Volvo XC60

Inside, like its siblings, the XC40’s center screen uses swipe and tap features familiar to anyone who uses a tablet or smart phone. It takes a bit of learning and should not be used underway by the driver because it can be distracting. You must divert your attention in order to tap small rectangles on the screen for different functions.

Two interior shortcomings include a perforated cloth sunscreen for the panoramic glass roof which allows too much sunlight to intrude. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side.

New Volvo XC40 - interior

The interior exudes luxury with comfortable, supportive and well-bolstered seats; large door pockets made possible by relocating speakers for the upscale audio that includes SXM satellite radio, and even a small, easily emptied trash bin in the center console. The back seat delivers ample room for two but the center-rear position should be avoided.

Overall, the XC40 is a formidable contender against luxury compact crossovers that include the Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Infiniti QX30.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 248 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,855 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,195.
  • Price as tested: $44,315.

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

XC40 teaser

Photos (c) Volvo.

 

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

When you buck the automotive tide, like the classy 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake does, you’re either in the vanguard of a fruitful pursuit or on your way to a flop.

That’s because the Sportbrake is a station wagon — also called a hatchback by some — a body style that was long ago rejected by American buyers after the introduction of the minivan in the mid-1980s and, later, the advent of the sport utility vehicle and its car-based variant, the crossover.

jxfsb18myrsport20dsiliconsilver161017002-resize-1024x682SUVs and crossovers threaten to take over the market across the board, from economy to luxury. Ford announced recently that it was dropping conventional sedans to concentrate on those two configurations and its hot-selling pickup trucks.

Even ultra-luxury manufacturers are getting into the game. Bentley markets its Bentayga and Lamborghini has its Urus, both crossover SUVs with price tags starting around $200,000. And even Rolls-Royce reportedly will introduce a crossover starting at around $700,000.

Jaguar sells its compact two-row F-Pace crossover at a price just shy of $50,000, with options. But the Jaguar/Land Rover company has expertise in SUVs, large and small, so a bigger Jaguar crossover or SUV is likely.

jxfsb18myrsport20dsiliconsilver161017041-resize-1024x682A note about nomenclature: Generally, an SUV is a tall body-on-frame vehicle with rear- or four-wheel drive. Crossovers are built like cars, with unit bodies and front- or all-wheel drive. Most manufacturers (and the buying public) like to lump them together as SUVs.

The new Jaguar Sportbrake wagon — the S trim with all-wheel drive — is an outlier along with a few other marketplace entries: the new Buick Regal TourX, the Audi A4 Allroad, the BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon and a few others.

In Europe, station wagons are often regarded as a step up from a standard four-door sedan. Enthusiasts like them, especially the sport-oriented models like the new Jaguar Sportbrake, because they look great, are practical and, best of all, handle like sports sedans. Most crossovers and SUVs, though they deliver satisfactory handling in daily driving, have higher centers of gravity that can make them feel tippy when pushed hard.

jxfsb18myrsport20pfirenzered161017067-resize-1024x670The Jaguar Sportbrake name is derived from what the British, back in the mid-20thcentury, called a Shooting Brake — usually a small two-door hatchback like a Volvo P-1800 or an MG-B GT.

With a stylish and streamlined profile, the tested Sportbrake S with all-wheel drive is impressive at first sight. It is 16 feet 3 inches long with ample interior room: 107 cubic feet of space for passengers with a cargo area of 22 cubic feet that expands to 67 cubic feet with rear seatbacks folded.

Comfort is first-class for the driver and three passengers, with good seatback bolsters in front to hold the torso in spirited driving. However, with a large center hump and a hard cushion, a fifth passenger in back gets disrespected. Outward vision to the rear is restricted by big back headrests and fat rear pillars, so outside mirror adjustment is critical even with the blind-spot warning.

jagxfsportbrake18my140617104accipadlargelowres-resize-1024x970The tested Sportbrake S with all-wheel drive gets its power from a 380-hp supercharged V6 engine that delivers 332 lb-ft of torque. The muscle gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel. EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy is rated at 18/25/21 mpg.

Acceleration to 60 mph arrives in a claimed 5.3 seconds, with a top speed of 121 mph. There’s some minor hesitation off the line unless you keep the revs up before releasing the brake.

But the beauty of the Sportbrake lies in the precision steering and handling. Despite its stretched length, it responds quickly to driver inputs and changes direction like a smaller sports sedan.

jagxfsportbrake18my140617111acclowres-resize-1024x810Contributing to the handling is a rear air-suspension system and automated torque vectoring, which judiciously applies the inside brakes to move the Sportbrake more smoothly around corners and curves.

With a starting price of $71,445, this Jaguar is up in nosebleed price territory. But it includes full safety equipment, leather seating and such equipment as a panoramic glass sunroof, though the sunroof shade is one of those trendy, cheesecloth-like perforated fabrics that admit too much sunlight. Sun shades should be opaque.

Options included adaptive cruise control, Wi-Fi hotspot, surround-sound audio system, four-zone climate control and other luxury touches that brought the price up to $84,245.

jagxfsportbrake18my140617074acclowres-resize-1024x822Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD four-door station wagon.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter V6, supercharged, 380 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/cargo volume: 107/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,045 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $71,445.
  • Price as tested: $84,245.

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

jxfsb18myrsport20dsiliconsilver161017031-resize-1024x682Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not well-known in the U.S., Japan’s Mitsubishi, with its 2018 Outlander PHEV, bows to no automaker in the realm of technological development.

For openers, the plug-in hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle uses a gasoline engine and two electric motors to drive all four wheels. With an app, you can control vehicle climate settings and other functions like battery charging remotely from your smart phone. Communication is direct; a WiFi hot spot is not needed.

2018 Outlander PHEV Named New England Motor Press Association's

There are two standard 120-volt plugs onboard that deliver 1,500 watts of power from the drive battery, enough to run household appliances like toasters, mixers, small refrigerators, electric grills and coffee makers while tailgating.

Mitsubishi — the name means “three diamonds” — has not been a major player in the U.S. It sells a couple of cars — the Lancer and Mirage — along with two smaller crossovers, the Outlander Sport and Eclipse Cross. It also previously sold an electric car, the iMIEV. Overall sales in 2017 totaled 103,578, the first time in more than a decade that it topped 100,000. That included 35,409 Outlanders, its best seller. The new plug-in should enhance that.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The tester was the top-of-the-line Outlander GT with S-AWC, which stands for Super All-Wheel Control — or full-time all-wheel drive. There’s also a four-wheel drive lock mode that mimics a center differential lock for off-road terrain.

The main engine is a 117-hp, 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder that delivers 137 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels along with an 80-hp electric motor with 101 lb-ft of torque.

Driving the rear wheels is another 80-hp electric motor with 144 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a gasoline-fueled generator that boosts the electric motors and helps charge the onboard lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted under the cabin and does not intrude on passenger space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Because electric motors deliver their maximum torque as soon as they are switched on, there’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission. It’s described simply as single-speed automatics front and rear.

All of this works seamlessly. The only indication that this is a complicated plug-in hybrid is when you press the ignition button and a dashboard light reads “ready.” On the road, the Outlander automatically cycles among three hybrid modes. The driver also can physically switch into economy, battery-save and battery-charge modes.

The stated range primarily on electric power is 22 miles. But you’ll seldom get that unless you have a feather foot on the throttle. In conventional urban driving, the test vehicle usually delivered less than 20 miles. Overall range — gasoline and electric — is stated at 310 miles. The EPA rating is 74 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent in hybrid running, and 25 mpg in gasoline operation.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It takes up to eight hours to the charge the battery pack from a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you have access to a 240-volt charger, it takes about four hours. The Outlander PHEV also is capable of handling a level 3 fast charger, which can deliver an 80% charge in 25 minutes.

The tested Outlander came with a full suite of safety equipment, including forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, multi-view rear camera with overhead view and automatic headlight high beams.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Press Launch

Other equipment included LED running lights and taillights, leather upholstery with heated front seats, motorized glass sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers with wiper de-icer, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, auto-dimming inside mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The base price of the tester was $41,190. With a modest list of options, the suggested delivered price came to $42,185. However, it did not include a navigation system. Shortcomings included sun visors that did not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the side, and power front seats without lumbar adjustments.

On the road, in addition to the silent running on electricity, the Outlander PHEV exhibited a decent ride and handling for a midsize crossover. The front seats were supportive but a tad hard. Out back, the outboard seats were similar to the fronts. The seat bottoms flipped up to allow the seatbacks to fold flat to expand the cargo area’s 30 cubic feet of space to 78 cubic feet. However, the headrests must be removed to attain maximum space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 117 hp, 137 lb-ft torque. Two electric motors: front 80 hp, 101 lb-ft torque; rear 80 hp, 144 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,178 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA miles per gallon equivalent: 74 MPGe; 25 mpg gasoline only.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,190.
  • Price as tested:$42,185.

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

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Photos (c) Mitsubishi.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Refinement appears to be the order of the day at the Jeep Division of Fiat Chrysler, adeptly achieved by the 2019 Cherokee Trailhawk Elite with its new look and on-road performance.

Sometimes it seems as if nearly every buyer wants to end up with a stylish sport utility — or a crossover version of one. But crossovers, built with unit bodies like automobiles, are mostly wannabes when it comes to venturing into the boondocks. They usually have all-wheel drive and decent ground clearance, but the capabilities end there.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Not so the Jeep Cherokee. Like every Jeep, it has solid off-road credentials, abetted by such enhancements as four-wheel drive with a low range and lockable rear differential, crawl speed capability, hill descent control and skid plates — all there to match up against rocks, snow, sand and mud.

At the same time, it’s a decent highway cruiser with a new 270-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 295 lb-ft of torque — useful both for difficult slow-motion off-road adventures and on-road acceleration off the line, which happens without that dreaded turbo lag.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

However, there is hesitation if you use the default engine stop-start system. Fortunately, the stop-start can be disabled by simply touching a button on the dash, which was the preference of this driver.

The engine sends its power to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. However, the system negates some of the satisfaction that comes with the absence of turbo lag. Though the Cherokee gets quickly off the line, punching the gas pedal underway to downshift into a passing gear usually results in an annoying lurch before the power comes on.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Though mechanical and road sounds are mostly muted during freeway cruising, plenty of engine noise intrudes during hard acceleration. The ride, as might be expected with a solidly sprung off-road capable vehicle, is choppy on all but the smoothest roads.

However, that suspension system stiffness, along with stable steering, paid off in capable handling with little body lean on curving roads as long as the Cherokee was not pushed too hard.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

With a curb weight of 4,260 lbs, including that off-road hardware, the tested Cherokee Trailhawk was anything but an economy vehicle. On the government’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption ratings, it managed just 20/26/22 mpg on premium gasoline.

The most noticeable styling change from the 2018 Cherokee is its front face. It has Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille but the low-down headlights have been relocated and combined with the daytime running lights, giving it more of a family resemblance to its bigger sibling, the Grand Cherokee.

173091_0050_Ds8et5sinrd3lvaomkev7m4d7n7Inside, the tested Cherokee Trailhawk Elite was fitted out as well as some luxury SUVs. Standard and optional equipment included collision alert with automatic braking, rear and parallel parking assist, blind-spot warning, cross traffic alerts, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, navigation system, memory setting for the power driver’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, panoramic glass sunroof and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Infotainment functions are displayed on FCA’s UConnect 8.4-inch center touch screen. The system has been praised by critics for its ease of use. However, there have been criticisms of the quality of the Cherokee’s audio for hands-free telephone calls.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Inside accommodations included multiple seat adjustments and a fat-rimmed steering wheel for a confident grip. Front seats were comfortable and supportive with big seatback bolsters to hold the torso in off-road rocking and pitching.

Comfort was similar in the outboard back seats, with okay head and knee room for average-sized adults. However, the center rear position was severely compromised by a hard cushion, big floor hump and the intrusion of the center console.

Rear seatbacks fold nearly flat for additional cargo space. The Cherokee Trailhawk has 102 cubic feet of space for passengers—about what you find in a midsize sedan—and 25 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat. A full-sized spare wheel and tire is stashed underneath the cargo floor.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite came with a starting price of $34,765, including the $1,445 destination charge. With options, the suggested delivered price was $41,245. Competitors include the Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, GMC Terrain Denali AWD and Jeep’s own Wrangler Unlimited four-door, which also has been considerably refined for on-road performance, making it a contender as a family wagon.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4X4 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 270 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and selectable four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 103/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,260 pounds.
  • Towing capability: Up to 4,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,765.
  • Price as tested: $41,245.

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

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Photos (c) FCA North America.

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

2017_Mazda3_57If the 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring were a lot more expensive,  it likely would be regarded as an exclusive high-class sedan. 

A longstanding favorite of driving enthusiasts, the Mazda3 is a quality compact with exceptional overall performance and many desirable features. Yet in 2017, it came in 10th in sales against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Kia Forte, Volkswagen Jetta and Subaru Impreza.

Total Mazda3 sales amounted to a respectable 75,018, which included both conventional sedans and hatchbacks. Leading the compact pack was the Honda Civic with 377,286 sold, or more than five times as many as the Mazda3. In 9th place was the Subaru Impreza, an exceptional compact in its own right with standard all-wheel drive, which totaled 86,043 sales.

2017_Mazda3_exterior_005Sedans and hatchbacks are losing ground to sport utility vehicles, especially the car-based crossovers. At Mazda, for example, the CX-5 midsize crossover outsells all of the Mazda cars, including the Mazda3, Mazda6 and the MX-5 Miata two-seat sports car.

Still, there’s a solid cadre of American customers who prefer sedans — especially those with some sporting credentials — for pure driving enjoyment. That’s where a car like the Mazda3 Grand Touring comes in.

2017_Mazda3_55There are two versions: a five-door hatchback and the subject here, the traditional four-door notchback sedan, which comes with a choice of two engines. The base model, which is no slouch, is equipped with a 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Grand Touring model, the subject here, uses a 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 185 lb-ft of torque. It is the torque, or twisting force, that delivers the excitement of strong acceleration off the line. The Grand Touring moves to 60 mph in about seven seconds, more than respectable for a compact sedan in the Mazda3’s price range.

Autodesk VRED Design 2016 SR1-SP4

For enthusiasts who like to shift for themselves, the tested Grand Touring arrived with steering-wheel mounted paddles to manually shift the six-speed automatic transmission. Though the transmission did fine on its own, the paddles were useful for holding gears on twisting, hilly roads.

With a starting price of $25,070, the tested Grand Touring with its six-speed automatic transmission is a bit more expensive than some of its compact competitors. Spiffed up with a short list of options, it came with a $28,470 bottom-line sticker.

2017_Mazda3_51That’s roughly $5,000 less than the average price of a new car these days. Yet it’s a complete package, with a full suite of safety equipment, including lane keeping warning and assist; low-speed automatic collision braking; blind-spot warning; adaptive cruise control; rear cross-traffic alert, and tire-pressure monitoring.

One of the options deserves a separate mention. It is Mazda’s adjustable  head-up display, which uses a separate screen that rises up from the top of the dashboard into the driver’s line of sight. In addition to a digital speedometer, it also reads traffic signs like speed limits and shows other information.

A center-mounted seven-inch color touch screen displays navigation and an array of vehicle functions as well as satellite radio and other entertainment data. Selections can be made from the screen or by using a rotary knob mounted on the center console. 

2017_Mazda3_36The Grand Touring sedan’s exterior styling borders on the generic for compact sedans, handsome without being offbeat or offensive. Where it stands out is in the interior materials, design and execution. The heated leather-covered sport seats on the test car showed quality workmanship and offered long-distance support and comfort up front.

However, the back seat was tight on knee and headroom for average-sized humans. Though there were seatbelts for three, the center-rear position should be reserved for emergency situations. The small trunk’s exposed hinges could damage contents.

Desirable equipment, both standard and optional, included a motorized glass sunroof; dual-zone automatic climate control; LED headlights, fog lights and taillights; pushbutton starting; keyless locking, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

2017_Mazda3_37On the road, the test car cruised quietly except for engine noises that intruded under hard acceleration. The electric power steering felt nicely weighted and responsive around curves and maintained a strong line in straight freeway cruising. A supple suspension system, abetted by 18-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, helped the handling without sacrificing ride quality.

Mazda has long touted its SkyActiv technology, a holistic approach that covers every aspect of vehicle design, no matter how tiny. When you sweat the small stuff, you get something like the Mazda3 Grand Touring.

2017_Mazda3_56Specifications

    • Model: 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring four-door sedan.
    • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
    • Overall length: 15 feet.
    • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/12 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 3,100 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/36/30 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $25,070.
    • Price as tested: $28,470.

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

2017_Mazda3_27.jpgPhotos (c) Mazda.

 

2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

Large-31740-2018KonaStart with a blank screen or a clean sheet of paper, designers and engineers who understand the territory, and you can deliver a vehicle like the 2018 Hyundai Kona.

It is an all-new, sharply competitive compact crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean manufacturer, which arrives at a time when it targets the sweet spot in U.S. automotive preferences. All crossovers, but especially the affordable compacts and mid-sizes, are threatening to overwhelm the market.

They are proliferating like mechanical rabbits, as witness the Kona’s competitors, which include the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade.

Large-31653-2018Kona2.0-litermodelCrossover SUVs generally are described as vehicles built with car-like unit-body construction, with front-wheel or optional all-wheel drive, and configured like jacked-up station wagons with hatchbacks to access  the rear cargo areas. The definition doesn’t apply across the board because some, like the Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul, do not offer all-wheel drive.

The Kona, however, does have that as well as a comprehensive package that checks all the crossover boxes, and not only among the affordables. Its full range of features also makes it competitive with more expensive compacts.

For example, it offers such modern safety installations as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning and driver attention warning. Though included for improved handling on curving roads but which also qualifies as a safety feature, the Kona offers torque vectoring braking, which selectively applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.

Large-30381-2018KONANot all of this comes in the base package. To get different features, the buyer chooses from trim levels. There are four: Base S, with a $20,450 price tag, including the destination charge; SEL, at $22,100; Limited, $25,650, and the focus here, the top-Line Ultimate with Lime interior trim at $29,660.

Keeping options to a minimum is not a new concept, but the powers at Hyundai correctly decided that keeping pricing simple was customer-friendly. 

In all trim levels, the Kona delivers a rigid and tidy package that enhances handling, delivers unexpected stability and a comfortable and quiet ride. Fifty-two percent of its innards are constructed of high-strength steel and the body incorporates 375 feet of structural adhesives.

Large-31685-2018KonaIt’s apparent the first time you get behind the wheel. The tested Ultimate delivered a solid and planted feel. It also tracked true with few corrections needed from the nicely weighted steering. That same feel came through in a shorter drive of the less expensive all-wheel-drive SEL. 

All-wheel drive models share an independent, multi-link rear suspension system, which contributes the secure handling. Front-wheel drive versions use a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle. Front-drivers were not among the testers at the national press introduction in namesake Kona, an area on the big island of Hawai’i. But they are likely to be the models of choice in sunbelt areas.

Large-31647-2018KonaThe Kona is available with two drive trains. The S and SEL models come with a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 pound feet of torque mated to six-speed automatic transmission. The package delivers EPA-rated city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 25/30/27 miles to the gallon.

The Limited and tested Ultimate are equipped with a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 195 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic delivers instant, smooth shifts and rapid acceleration. The EPA rating is 26/29/27 mpg.

Though the S and SEL models have less power and slower acceleration, they share the body rigidity and stable feel with their more powerful siblings. Cornering is fuss-free with little body roll. The more powerful Limited and Ultimate models, with driver-selectable Normal and Sport modes that adjust transmission shifting and steering feel, are quicker. 

Large-31688-2018KonaLarge-31737-2018KonaTypically with Hyundai, the new Kona is uncommonly well-equipped. On the tested Ultimate model, they included LED gauges, a power driver’s seat, heated leather seats, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and an innovative head-up display screen that rises from the dashboard and offers comprehensive information on a screen mounted in the driver’s line of sight.

The eight-inch center touch screen displays vehicle functions as well as navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. In what Hyundai says is a first in the class, the Kona also offers wireless smart phone charging. It also is equipped with Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which offers a variety of services, including remote starting.

Large-31689-2018KonaSpecifications

    • Model: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD Lime four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 175 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
    • Overall length: 13 feet 8 inches.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 92/19 cubic feet. (46 2nd folded)
    • Weight: 3,344 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/29/27 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $29,660.
    • Price as tested: $29,775.

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

Large-31649-2018Kona2.0-litermodelPhotos (c) Hyundai.

2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

With a brand-new full-size pickup truck loaded with desirable features as the newly designed 2019 Ram 1500, the standout differences are distilled from increments and embellishments.

Big pickups have been getting better — and more popular — for at least a decade. For the Ram, the climb started in 2009 when it became a stand-alone brand after many years as the Dodge Ram.

In 2009, sales totaled 177,268. By 2017, sales had nearly tripled to 500,723, lifting it into the top triumvirate of full-size pickups—third in sales behind the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

One big factor in the Ram brand’s success was an embellishment — its adoption of styling that mimicked that of the tractors of the 18-wheelers that ply the nation’s highways.

Now, it could be argued that the 2019 Ram has fully matured, oozing with safety, convenience, comfort and entertainment embellishments that should make it shine during what promises to be a year of cutthroat competition, especially against perennial sales leader Ford, and Chevrolet, which has a new Silverado coming.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Pickup truck buyers are notoriously brand loyal. It’s rare for a Ford guy or gal to switch to a Chevrolet or GMC, or a Chevy customer to bail in favor of a Toyota Tundra or Nissan Titan. This new Ram, however, has the stuff to turn customers’ heads.

Though there will be many versions of the Ram 1500 from six models with a starting price of $33,340 for the base Tradesman, the version tested for this review at the national introduction in Scottsdale, Arizona, was the top-of-the-line Limited Crew Cab four-door with optional four-wheel drive.

It was powered by Fiat Chrysler’s venerable 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Power gets to the four corners through a new eight-speed automatic transmission. A dial on the dash enables the driver to choose rear-wheel drive or automatic all-wheel drive for highway duty, or locked four-wheel drive in high and low ranges for off-road adventures.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Other versions are in the works for later introduction, including V6 and V8 engines with a mild hybrid eTorque <sic> system that combines a motor generator with a 48-volt battery to enable stop-start for fuel economy. With rear-drive, the Ram has a city/highway/combined rating of 15/22/17 mpg.

Equipped as well as some luxury cars, the Limited had a base price of $60,630. With other options, including air suspension, panoramic sunroof and 22-inch aluminum alloy wheels, the sticker price came to $63,520 — also in luxury-car territory.

Except for its sheer size and weight — common now with full-size pickups — the new Ram can easily please anyone accustomed to luxury transportation. It is uncommonly quiet on the highway, with little intrusion of road, mechanical or wind noise.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Contributing to the hushed ambiance are clever engineering devices called active tuned mass modules (ATMM). Mounted on the side frame rails — which by the way are now 98% made of high-strength steel for rigidity and durability — the modules cancel out even miniscule vibrations when the Hemi engine switches automatically on the highway from eight- to four-cylinder operation for fuel economy.

Though you can’t toss it around like a sedan, the Ram drives smaller than its near 20-feet length and 2.5-ton weight would indicate. The steering is responsive and accurate, and the empty ride, abetted by the optional air suspension, frequency response shock absorbers and supportive seats, was comfortable for a big pickup.

2019 Ram 1500 – Rear Flat-load Floor

The Ram’s designers stretched the cab by four inches, most of which went into the back-seat area, where three people can sit with plenty of head and knee room thanks to a flat floor. An enjoyable bonus: the Ram now has a rear seatback, split two-thirds and one-third, that reclines for long-distance comfort. There’s also 5.3 cubic feet of storage space in the cabin.

Passenger volume totals 134 cubic feet and the 5-feet, 7-inch cargo box has 54 cubic feet of space. The tested Limited has a payload of 1,980 lbs and it is capable of towing up to 8,190 lbs.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

The tester came with FCA’s UConnect infotainment system with a 12-inch vertical screen that displays navigation and other functions, including an overhead surround-view camera that facilitates hooking up a trailer. Android Auto and Apple Car Play also are included, along with upgraded SXM satellite radio, 4G WiFi hotspot and what Ram claims is the most powerful Harman-Kardon audio system ever available in a pickup.

2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Limited 4×4 pickup truck.
  • Engine: 7-liter V8; 395 hp, 410 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with selectable four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 132/54 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,925 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,980 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 8,190 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/22/17 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $60,630.
  • Price as tested: $63,520.

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

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Photos (c) Ram.

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