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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

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.

2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because Ford’s forte tilts toward trucks, people sometimes forget that it builds some impressive performance cars, including hopped-up versions of standard fare like the 2017 Fusion V6 Sport.

Its hottest piece of performance machinery is the GT, a purpose-built super car that can be driven on the track or street. But it is intended for racing conglomerates or enthusiasts with mega-bucks, given its price tag north of $450,000.

17FusionSport_35_HRNo, we’re talking here about pavement and boondocks blasters that real people can buy — or at least finance for longer than it will take to get their kids through graduate school: Things like the Ford Raptor, a monster off-road truck intended for places like the Baja 1000 in Mexico’s lower California.

More to the point here, there’s the Ford Focus RS, a plebian hot rod that can rocket to 60 mph in less than five seconds thanks to its all-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox and 350-hp 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine — all at a price between $37,000 and $40,000.

Though affordable for many enthusiasts, it is rude and crude, something like the Harley-Davidson of hatchbacks. There likely are those who would appreciate a bit more refinement, which is where the new Fusion V6 sport slots in.

17FusionSport_14_HRIt uses the same twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine that also powers some versions of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, which is way bigger and heavier. In the Fusion, it delivers 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque funneled through a beefy 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Using all four wheels to deliver power is a fine idea. Sending all that grunt just to the front wheels likely would fry those tires and result in such heavy torque steer that it would rip the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands.

Moreover, the Fusion Sport also has (guess what?) a sport mode. A simple button resides in the center of the rotary knob on the center console that controls the transmission. Select “drive” and you still can hammer the throttle to send the Fusion to 60 mph in around five seconds.

17FusionSport_10_HRBut push that S button and a bunch of things happen. The automatically adaptive shock absorbers tighten up, the steering takes more effort, the engine reacts more quickly to throttle inputs and the 6-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine on the boil by shifting at higher rpms.

If you choose, you also can use the steering wheel paddles to shift for yourself — but the system doesn’t trust you. Keep your foot in it too long and it will shift anyway to avoid triggering a power shutoff. But on up-and-down twisting mountain curves, it usually will hold the gear you select.

Even in the Sport mode, however, the Fusion has a settled and flexible ride so you can tool around the city and suburbs in comfort, thanks to that adaptive damping.

17FusionSport_09_HROther sport-oriented cars have selectable driving modes, so some enthusiasts might not cotton to the Fusion’s system, which packages all the good stuff in one small button. But it means you don’t have to try to figure out what you want while underway. It’s the full gorilla without distraction.

Obviously, this doesn’t come cheap. But the Fusion Sport actually is not all that expensive given its performance. The base price of the tester was $34,350, which is about average price of new cars these days. With options, it topped out at $41,350.

That encompassed a full suite of safety and driving assists: automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear-view camera, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic parallel or perpendicular parking, voice-activated navigation with an eight-inch center touch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

17FusionSport_31_HRThere’s plenty of comfort for four. But the center-rear seat, as in most sedans these days, is compromised by a hard cushion and restricted head and foot space.

A welcome safety feature that is receiving increased attention: If you inadvertently leave the Fusion Sport in “Drive” when you turn off the engine, it automatically kicks the transmission into “Park.” Some other vehicles simply roll away.

One cool thing about the Fusion Sport is that it is a stealth car. It doesn’t have a spoiler or badges that scream performance. The main tip-off is the shiny black grille with a chrome frame. But only the cognoscenti will notice that. You can surprise some lead-foots in the stoplight sprints.

17FusionSport_41_HRSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:7-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 325 hp, 380 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,130 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/26/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,350.
  • Price as tested: $41,350.

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.

17FusionSport_42_HRPhotos (c) Ford.

2018 Toyota Camry: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though it’s nothing like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, the 2018 Toyota Camry could perform a similar function.

It is an all-new four-door sedan that is intended to slow the tsunami of crossover sport utility vehicles that threaten to inundate the marketplace.

Sure, Toyota has plenty of its own SUVs and crossovers, including the truck-based Sequoia, Land Cruiser and 4Runner, and the crossover Highlander, RAV4 and C-HR to tantalize buyers. But it also has demonstrated strength with the Camry, the best-selling midsize sedan for 15 straight years.

2018_Toyota_Camry_LE_02_B20AA139B42DE10B882933077ECC41B939043174_lowThough it has declined recently as customers flock to crossovers and SUVs, it still is a giant in the marketplace. In 2015, Camry sales totaled 429,355. That dropped to 388,618 in 2016 and, in 2017, sales have been running at an annual rate of about 355,000.

So, there’s no hint that Toyota plans to ease off on its development of standard sedans, which once were the gold standard in the U.S.

In the mid-1980s, Ford’s Taurus owned the midsize sedan segment. But it eased off development of the brand to focus on its more profitable F-Series pickup trucks, which  became the all-time best seller. Meanwhile, the Taurus withered and died, though the name later was resurrected on other cars.

2018_Toyota_Camry_LE_01_D12DD6C73DE47B4C2ED8846274C98762B7FEFAE0_lowThere’s no way Toyota will let that happen to the Camry, even though the leadership there recognizes that it may not return to its past sales glory. Plus there’s the possibility that the crossover fad may fade.

Enter the 2018 Camry, which the company says is the best it has produced in the marque’s 33 year history. It is chockablock full of new styling, safety, entertainment and other innovations to tantalize buyers, many of whom are attracted to the name because of its enviable reputation for long-term durability and reliability.

2018_Toyota_Camry_XSE_09_AE8B0ED5B895414D0555DD4A239A2999ADC67F74_lowBut this Camry also has the looks, value and feel to appeal to a broad swath of the motoring public. There are 10 versions with three different power trains, two transmissions and starting prices that range from the base L at $24,380 to $35,835 for the XSE V6. There are three hybrid trim levels: HV LE at $28,685, HV SE at $30,385 and HV XLE at $33,235.

Four of the 10 were driven for this review: HV LE hybrid; SE four-cylinder; XSE V6; and LE four-cylinder. The last is likely to be the best seller. Like the other four-cylinder models, its 2.5-liter engine makes 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, which is more than adequate for any driving situation on public roads. Its city/highway/combined fuel consumption is EPA rated at 28/39/32 mpg.

2018_Toyota_Camry_XSE_21_17AE8D8EFBA9C2A3F36077CBDE608FAADE3F17DE_lowFor customers who seek more sporting sensations, Toyota offers the Camry S versions, which offer tighter steering, a slightly stiffer suspension system and more aggressive transmission shifting. There are four trim levels with hybrid, four-cylinder and V6 power trains.

Gasoline-engine models all get the power to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission which can be manually shifted with steering wheel paddles on S models. Hybrids use a smooth gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission.

2018_Toyota_Camry_XSE_28_D229B971678531D0B838E34892EBD78A38583C8E_lowIn the Camry tradition, all of the 2018 models display stylish interiors with quality trim and workmanship. The LE’s seats, covered in soft but durable cloth, are supportive and comfortable for long-distance cruising. The outboard back seats have abundant head and knee room, and the center-rear position, despite a hard cushion and floor hump, can accommodate an adult.

The steering is precise, with a good on-center feel. Along with the Camry’s new double-wishbone independent rear suspension system, it contributes to capable handling on twisting roads.

2018_Toyota_Camry_XSE_29_C882F1ECBF650B53C14056C4946BDD4CD3966813_lowThe ride is cushy without being mushy and the only noticeable intrusion is some engine noise under hard acceleration. If you’d like something quieter, you can order the gasoline-electric hybrid, which has a fuel economy rating of 51/53/52 mpg. But in LE trim, it costs $3,800 more.

Toyota’s Safety Sense is standard and includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, brake hold, hill-start assist and automatic headlight high beams. Other safety equipment, such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, is standard on more expensive trim levels.

Two gripes: When the transmission is inadvertently left in “drive” and the engine is turned off, the Camry does not automatically shift into “park.” It rolls. And big C-hinges in the trunk are unprotected and could squish luggage.

Overall, however, this new Camry has the stuff to resist the crossover deluge.

2018_Toyota_Camry_XLE_07_3691F27FD618DAA4DAFBDC4B43CD3E0FBADC0D2B_lowSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 Toyota Camry LE four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter four-cylinder, 203 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 99/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,296 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/39/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $24,885.
  • Price as tested: $28,275.

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

2018_Toyota_Camry_SE_09_BCA4F22E6A0E552FA10C39DCBD381DA118C35E3D_lowPhotos (c) Toyota.

2018 Volvo XC60: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sweden’s Volvo resumes its unprecedented product push with the 2018 XC60 crossover sport utility vehicle, another in  a string of solid contenders.

It endured a long drought as the company adjusted to new ownership and sought a fresh path to success as a competitor in the luxury sedan, station wagon and crossover sport utility categories.

The new Volvo XC60

In mid-2015, the onslaught started with the well-received 2016 XC90 three-row crossover, followed by the S90 sedan, V90 station wagon and the V90 Cross Country, a rugged all-wheel drive version of the V90 wagon.

Now Volvo loyalists have another choice in the new two-row XC60 crossover, a solid performer that handles competently and delivers a creamy smooth and quiet ride.

The interior is estate-level plush — the sort of place where you don’t mind spending long hours and many miles. Workmanship and materials epitomize top quality, including genuine driftwood trim finished to a silvery satin sheen.

The new Volvo XC60

Although the redesigned XC60 competes in the luxury compact class against BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, it looks and feels more like a midsize crossover. It is a bit longer than the best-selling compact Honda CR-V and weighs about 500 lbs more. However, its passenger/cargo volume is less than that of the CR-V, owing mainly to its posh surroundings and sound deadening materials.

The X60 features three different drive systems, though all use versions of the company’s efficient 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Power is sent to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

The new Volvo XC60

Over many years, Volvo’s vehicles were powered by engines with four, five, six and even eight cylinders. After Geely of China bought the company in 2010, its engineers and designers embarked on a mission of efficiency and cutting-edge safety innovations. Geely smartly pumped in money but left the Volvo experts to their own devices.

To that end, Volvo has abandoned all but its family of 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines. This fits an industry trend of designing smaller engines with fewer cylinders that deliver greater power and fuel economy. Much of it is made possible by clever computer software, though the engines also were engineered to be stronger.

The new Volvo XC60

On the new XC60, three powertrains embrace the all-wheel drive and versions of the four-banger: The base T5’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder delivers 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Step up to the T6 and the four gets both turbocharging and supercharging for a 316-hp output with 295 lb-ft of torque.

Both turbochargers and superchargers enhance power by forcing air and fuel into the cylinders. The supercharger is engine-driven and boosts power off the line. The turbo, which runs off exhaust gases, does the same as the engine revolutions rise.

The new Volvo XC60

There’s a third XC60 choice: the T8, which is a hybrid that sends the 2.0-liter engine’s power to the front wheels while an electric motor drives the rear wheels. The total system makes 400 hp and a zero-to-60 miles an hour acceleration time of 4.9 seconds, according to Volvo’s specifications. The T6 runs to 60 in 5.6 seconds and the T5 in 6.4 seconds.

Each of the three power train choices comes with three trim levels: Momentum; R-Design; and Inscription. The base T5 Momentum starts at $42,495 and the price ranges up to $57,695 for the T8 Inscription eAWD  hybrid model. Tested for this review was the T6 Inscription, which started at $49,695.

The new Volvo XC60

Not surprisingly, there are plenty of extras. The tester, for example, came with the $1,800 air-suspension system, $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins audio system, and option packages that included adaptive cruise control; a rear surround-view camera; head-up windshield display; heated windshield wipers; headlight washers, and heated and cooled front seats with massagers and power-adjustable bolsters.

However, you don’t have to pay extra for the XC60’s panoramic sunroof, which comes standard on all versions. Yet you will not be able to totally block sunlight because the sunroof shade is made of a perforated cloth. Moreover, you will have to tolerate sun visors that do not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side — something that is standard on many less expensive vehicles.

Volvo continues its traditional emphasis on safety, working toward the goal that by 2020 nobody will be killed or severely injured in one of its vehicles. The XC60 has a full complement of features, including a new lane departure mitigation system that will steer away from an oncoming car.

The new Volvo XC60

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged, 316 hp, 295 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: 100/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,045 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: estimated 22/28/24 on premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,695.
  • Price as tested: $60,040.

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

The new Volvo XC60

Photos (c) Volvo.

 

2017 Kia Soul Exclaim: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

Always a good and faithful servant, the 2017 Kia Soul gets some fire in the belly.

It comes in the guise of a 201-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 195 pound-feet of torque. It is the most power ever in the Soul’s brief history as a mainstay of the South Korean manufacturer’s lineup of sedans, hatchbacks, crossover sport utility vehicles and the Sedona minivan.

2017 Soul Turbo

But it’s going about its new role in a covert way. It is not a separate Soul. Rather, it is one of a trinity of trims. The $16,950 base version comes with a 130-horsepower, naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The midlevel $20,650 Plus has a 161-horsepower, 2.0-liter four.

To get the turbo engine, you must order the top-line Exclaim, which Kia identifies simply with an exclamation point (!). In an expression of modesty—or perhaps cachet for the cognoscenti—the Exclaim carries no turbo identification badges. So it could surprise some lead foots in stoplight sprints.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts with limited bucks, the Exclaim does not offer a manual gearbox. The easy-shifting six-speed stick comes only on the base Soul. A six-speed automatic transmission costs an extra $1,600 on the base model and is standard on the Plus.

2017 Soul Turbo
2017 Soul Turbo

Order the turbo Exclaim and the only transmission is a performance-oriented seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which delivers snappy shifts and a manual mode to shift for yourself, though there are no steering-wheel shift paddles. If you must have a manual gearbox, Kia will happily direct you to its Forte 5 hatchback, offered with the six-speed stick or seven-speed twin-clutch automatic.

Kia likes to refer to the Soul as a crossover SUV. Strictly speaking, however, it doesn’t fit the definition because it has front-wheel drive and does not offer all-wheel drive. In that respect, it is similar to the new Toyota C-HR and Kia Niro, both of which are front-drive only.

2017 Soul Turbo

But the Soul does qualify as unique in the marketplace, though it used to have competition from the Nissan Cube and now-defunct Scion xB, both of which were squared-off hatchbacks.

Since its introduction in 2009, the Soul has been an unqualified success for Kia. When 2017 closes out, it will be on the threshold of a million sales in the United States. The new Exclaim turbo likely will contribute substantially to that milestone.

Likely nobody buys a Soul for sport. Its essence, or soul if you will, is that of a roomy, comfortable and economical car with up-high seating and tidy exterior dimensions that make it easy to maneuver and park. The bonus is its interior volume of 125 cubic feet, which the government classifies as a large car.

2017 Soul Turbo

Twenty-four of those cubes await behind the second row seatback, which is about double what you get in a typical compact sedan. Fold the seatbacks, the space jumps to 61 cubic feet and the Soul becomes a small cargo truck with seats up front for two soul-mates.

That’s true of all Soul models, of course. What the Exclaim adds, though not without extra cost, is a sporting personality. With the snap-shifting twin-clutch automatic, it gets a solid leap off the line and nails 60 mph in a smidgen more than seven seconds, according to an instrumented test by Car and Driver Magazine. Top speed is 125 mph.

2017 Soul Turbo

The performance ingredient continues with handling and braking. Though the Soul would not be much of a challenge on twisting roads to some sports sedans and two-seaters, it hustles around curves confidently with little body lean.

Moreover, the Exclaim qualifies as frugal by modern standards. City/highway/combined EPA-certified fuel consumption works out to 26/31/28 mpg on regular gasoline. Its $23,500 base price is about 10 grand less than the average price of a new car these days. The tester was so well equipped that the only option in its $23,620 delivered price was $120 for carpeted floor mats.

2017 Soul Turbo

At that price, the Exclaim is uncommonly well equipped with features that cost extra even on some luxury cars, including: 18-inch alloy wheels, flat-bottom sport steering wheel, automatic climate control, stability management, hill-start assist, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, Bluetooth connectivity, SXM satellite radio, push-button starting with smart key, and power windows, locks and outside mirrors.

The fastest growing vehicles now are small crossover SUVs. Though they offer all-wheel drive, many are sold with front-drive. If that’s the choice, the Soul is a fine alternative.

2017 Soul Turbo

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Kia Soul Exclaim four-door hatchback.
  • Engine:6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,250 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/31/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,500.
  • Price as tested: $23,620.

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

2017 Soul Turbo

Photos (c) Kia.

Bentley Drivers Club Event: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Washington, DC — For one afternoon, the residence of the British ambassador to the United States turned into a showplace for vintage Bentley automobiles.

IMG_1012
1928 Bentley 4-1/2 Litre

It also became a way station for a stalwart cadre of Bentley classic owners from the United Kingdom, Australia and the U.S. who drove their ancient — and a few modern — Bentleys through seven states, starting in New Orleans and ending in Baltimore on May 20.

Amazingly, the drivers and their partners, many of them spouses, said their Bentleys — at least five were 92, 93 and 94 years old from 1923, 1924 and 1925 — performed flawlessly. They reported one minor accident that bent a fender and a snapped U-joint or two on the propeller shaft of another car.

IMG_1024EDIT
1930 Bentley Speed Six

Many of the owners were similarly vintage, in their 60s and 70s, obviously well off enough to afford the cost of shipping their cars long distances over oceans. It was less expensive but no less daunting for American owners. One from California estimated that the tour cost him $12,000. The event was organized by the Bentley Drivers Club of the UK. There were 30 Bentleys in all, including a flawless 2010 Azure convertible with just 10,000 miles on the odometer. No doubt those drivers traveled more comfortably than Vera Forsyth and Morris Avent of Bath, England, who made the trip in Avent’s 1925 Model 3 roadster.

The trip took a month and covered about 2,500 miles. Participants did not caravan but met each evening at the same accommodations. It was the fifth such tour organized by the UK Drivers Club — this one through the southeastern U.S. Earlier trips went through other areas of the country.

IMG_1028EDIT
Ambassador Kim Darroch and wife Vanessa with a 1928 Bentley 4-1/2 Litre

For the British Embassy in Washington, it would not do for the Bentley aficionados to pass so close without recognition. So the participants and their cars were invited to the residence of Ambassador Kim Darroch on Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest D.C., which informally is called Embassy Row.

The gathering and reception started in late afternoon, smack in the middle of rush hour. Traffic on Embassy Row stopped as the vintage Bentleys made their way through security onto the residence grounds.

Inside the cars were arrayed on the lawn and in courtyards while their owners attended a reception in the residence where they sipped tea, champagne and Pimm’s, a mildly alcoholic traditional British cocktail, and nibbled on finger sandwiches and scones.

IMG_1021EDIT
1935 Bentley 3-1/2 Litre

The residence resembles a castle with ornate rooms festooned with artwork, magnificent staircases and classical furnishings. Manicured gardens surround the residence — not unlike the homes of royalty in the UK.

Ambassador Darroch and wife Vanessa mingled with the guests and wandered among some of the vintage Bentleys. In a brief talk, Darroch confessed that his first car way back was a Triumph Herald. He said that although he did not own a Bentley, he now had become a user — from the back seat with a chauffeur.

Of the Bentley marque, Darroch quoted Winston Churchill as saying that he was a man of simple tastes, “easily satisfied with the best.” It was a certain applause line.

IMG_1006EDIT

1938 Bentley 8-Litre

Photos (c) Frank A. Aukofer

 

2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Two common reactions emerge when people see the 2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible. If the person knows little about the brand or model, it’s “Wow.” One who is more informed asks, “Why?”

The latter folk recall the ill-fated Nissan Murano convertible, called the Cross Cabriolet, which was spun off in 2011 from the company’s midsize crossover sport utility vehicle. Its size and bulbous styling did not translate well into chop-top treatment and it vanished after the 2014 model year.

RREvoqueConvLADRAFTND058-resize-1024x683But the Evoque ragtop could soldier on despite total sales so far of about 1,200. For one thing, it is a British Land Rover, with all of the cachet of the storied brand. With America’s Jeep, it has earned world-wide renown for its go-anywhere capabilities.

But both companies have strayed. Some Jeep models, even with all-wheel drive, don’t measure up to purpose-built versions like the Wrangler and Unlimited.

Similarly, for all of its off-road heritage, the Range Rover Evoque is not as Serengeti-ready as its siblings. When introduced, the Land Rover trail masters had to remove the front bumpers from the test vehicles to improve the approach angle for off-road obstacles. It obviously was intended as a small luxury crossover SUV.

RREvoqueConvLADRAFTND046-resize-1024x683That orientation bleeds over to more adept Land and Range Rovers. Many of them spend their lifetimes in garages of luxury homes, parked in front of designer stores or tooling majestically around in swanky shopping centers.

The Evoque convertible fits that paradigm, especially in the tested top-of-the-line HSE Dynamic version, which arrived with a comprehensive suite of safety and luxury equipment, much of it standard, especially Land Rover’s sophisticated systems that augment the all-wheel drive.

Among them: terrain response adjustable for different conditions, special off-road antilock braking system, and roll-stability and hill-descent controls. Others enhance on-road performance: torque-vectoring control, cornering-brake control, emergency brake-assist and hill-start assist.

RREVQConvertibleStatic09111507-resize-1024x768The tested Evoque also came with blind-spot warning, leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, pushbutton starting, automatic stop-start system, 19-inch alloy wheels, power seats and keyless locking.

Though you might find a base SE model at $51,470 — by itself out of reach for many buyers — the tested HSE Dynamic came with a $58,270 price tag. Add its long list of extras and it topped out at $69,685.

lrevoqueconvertiblespotifyimage20091605-resize-1024x683Options included lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, parallel parking assist, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, surround-view camera, SXM satellite radio, folding rear armrest with a ski pass-through and a heated steering wheel.

However, there were a couple of negatives. The sun visors did not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side. And with the obtuse controls on the center screen, owners should carefully read the owner’s manual or they may spend frustrating hours trying to figure out how to re-set the trip odometers or save favorite radio stations.

lrevoqueconvertiblespotifyimage20091610-resize-1024x721The Evoque convertible is set up for four people, though the back seat is tight. Moreover, it doesn’t have enough space for everybody’s luggage. Its trunk measures less than nine cubic feet because the convertible top boot gobbled space. So, the shallow trunk is down low with a lid that sticks straight out when opened, requiring the loader to duck underneath. Awkward.

Dropping or raising the top, however, is a breeze. A single switch folds it in about 18 seconds, even moving at up to about 30 miles an hour. It nestles into its cubby and forms its own cover. Raising the top takes a few seconds longer. There’s a wind blocker stashed in the trunk that can be manually installed, but you mostly don’t need it.

RREVQConvertibleInterior09111506-resize-1024x948Road performance is so-so. The Evoque convertible uses the same turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that was developed when Ford owned Land Rover. It delivers 240 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels through a 9-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

But at 4,525 pounds the convertible weighs about 400 pounds more than the two-door and four-door hardtop Evoque models. Though it boasts of a top speed of 130 mph, the zero to 60 mph acceleration time is more than eight seconds.

Of course, as a luxury convertible its orientation leans toward leisurely cruising on pleasant summer days. And it does have more off-road chops than other convertibles except for vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler or the fabled Land Rover Defender.

RREvoqueConvLADRAFTND007-resize-1024x683Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Range Rover Evoque HSE two-door convertible.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 240 hp, 250 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 87/9 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,525 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/28/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,270.
  • Price as tested: $69,685.

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

RREVQConvertibleDriving09111502-resize-1024x683Photos (c) Land Rover.

2017 Toyota Prius Three: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Although it continues to be a pokey performer against most other passenger cars, the 2017 Toyota Prius hybrid sparkles on ride and handling, safety, comfort and—most important to its buyers—fuel economy.

It is the most successful hybrid in history with more than 1.7 million sold in the United States since 1999. In 2016, sales totaled 136,632, down from 184,794 in 2015 as low gasoline prices prompted buyers to gravitate toward pickup trucks and more fuel-hungry automobiles.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_02_54CECFE89DE5799B719C2EAF21ECC6C6629C98A8Manufacturers, however, know that the price pendulum is likely to swing back, so they continue to develop more fuel efficient vehicles—from installing small displacement gasoline engines with improved power to developing more hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and even hydrogen-fueled cars.

Though it had a major overhaul a year ago, the 2017 model adds notable improvements that make it the best Prius ever. For one thing, it has a new independent rear suspension system that noticeably delivers a better ride and handling.

It also comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense package that includes forward collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure mitigation, adaptive radar cruise control and automatic headlight high beams.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_01_AAF3DB5F2B355991BFED40260A08D0B3A9EFBED5Perhaps as important for anyone who has driven an earlier Prius with leisurely—some would say sluggish—acceleration, the tested 2017 Prius Three model comes with driver selectable motoring modes: Eco, Normal and Power.

Though the zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration time hovers around the 10-second mark — nothing to brag about — punching the Power button changes the Prius’s personality. When you press the accelerator pedal, it focuses all the power from the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motor-generators on getting a quick leap off the line.

The gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) feels more connected as it sends the combined gasoline-electric 121 hp to the front wheels. Though you likely could get the same acceleration in the Eco or Normal modes if you floored the gas pedal, the Power mode feels faster without that effort.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_20_FEE01BFAD36558F540C52B796CBE1BF649CEFD85There are six trim levels: Prius Two; Two Eco; Three; Three Touring; and Four Touring. All arrive with the Toyota Safety Sense system as well as a rear-view camera, automatic climate control, keyless entry and starting, Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition with Siri hands-free and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player.

The tested Three, with a base price of $27,600, also came with a wireless phone-charging pad, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen, satellite and HD radio, and access to apps like Pandora and iHeart radio when paired with a smart phone.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_23_BE7056CC857683DB0C36C4741BE0034035103CEFWith options that included a motorized glass sunroof, color head-up display, navigation system and a cargo net, the tester had a sticker price of $30,186.

In a clever bit of engineering and styling, the Three combined alloy wheels with plastic wheel covers that looked as if they were part of the wheel itself.

Inside, the tested Prius featured white accents and an attractive as well as comfortable textured cloth upholstery. Cloth seating surfaces are always the choice here because they offer cool seating in the summer and warmth in the winter, obviating the need for such expensive add-ons as the heated and cooled seats needed for perforated leather upholstery.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_03_C1B3C5A53F5DE658B1632893021A0DC3BF624913With passenger space of 92 cubic feet and 25 cubic feet for cargo under the rear hatch — expandable to 66 cubic feet if the rear seatbacks are folded — the Prius Three is classified by the government as a midsize car. Up front, the seats are comfortable and supportive with enough manual adjustments, along with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, to accommodate almost any driver. There’s also ample space and comfort in the outboard back seats. The center-rear position is hampered by a small floor hump and a high, hard cushion — though it is usable for short trips.

Though the Prius is unlikely to be bested in popularity any time soon because of its enviable record of durability and reliability, other automakers have mounted serious challenges. One of the more formidable is the all-new Hyundai Ioniq. It is shorter by three inches than the Prius but boasts slightly more interior room — a large-car total of 123 cubic feet versus the Prius’s 117 cubic feet — the Ioniq delivers 139 combined horsepower and slightly better city/highway/combined fuel economy: 55/54/55 compared to the tested Prius’s 54/50/52. However, the Prius Eco model is rated at 58/53/56.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Toyota Prius Three hybrid four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine/Motors:8-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 95 hp, 105 lb-ft torque; two electric motor/generators; 121 hp combined. 0.7 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 92/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,120 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 54/50/52 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,600.
  • Price as tested: $30,186.

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

2016_Toyota_Prius_Four_Touring_10_AAE9E5026F0118D0FD09E2B9C088B827F27B8471Photos (c) Toyota.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel sedan, General Motors places a long-odds bet that oil-burning passenger vehicles have not met their end of days in the U.S. marketplace.

Except for heavy-duty trucks and long-distance 18-wheelers, Americans have never fully embraced diesels, remembering the days in the latter half of the 20th century when most diesels were smelly, slow and often wouldn’t start in cold weather.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Those negatives have gone away. Modern diesels, especially in luxury cars, behave unobtrusively and most drivers would be hard put to distinguish them from gasoline-engine automobiles.

Yet the old prejudices continue, now augmented by the scandal in which Volkswagen faked emissions tests for nearly 11 million diesel-engine vehicles world-wide, including about 500,000 in the U.S.

About half of the passenger vehicles in Europe use cheaper diesel fuel and get about a 30% improvement in mileage over comparable gas burners. They also get high marks for durability. But it is becoming increasingly expensive to scrub the foul emissions. The CEO of Sweden’s Volvo said recently that the company likely would not develop a new-generation diesel engine.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers the design, engineering and technological advancements of the 2016 Cruze sedan in a functional, sporty package with added cargo space.

Moreover, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have announced that they planned to ban diesel cars and vans from the centers of their cities by 2025 to reduce air pollution.

Cities in the U.S. have an easier clean-air pathway because only about 5.3 million of the 264 million passenger cars and light trucks on the road nation-wide are diesel-powered. In 2016, less than 1% of the total 17.5 million light vehicles sold were diesels.

It was a poor diesel sales year partly because of the Volkswagen scandal, which now has caused the German manufacturer to eschew diesels entirely in the U.S. That opens the way for Chevrolet and a few others to fill the gap for the remaining diesel enthusiasts, who might account for several hundred thousand annual sales.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280-2The Cruze is an ideal candidate for diesel power. It is a sedan (or hatchback) that resides in the compact class, just a few cubic feet shy of the interior space that would get it a midsize classification. Unlike its predecessors, the forgettable Cobalt and Cavalier, it was so carefully designed and engineered that it won one of the “10 Top Picks” in the Consumer Reports 2017 Annual Auto Issue.

Most impressive, according to CR, was that its testers managed 47 mpg in highway driving, though the EPA gave the Cruze a 42-mpg rating. That was with the standard 153-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with 177 lb-ft of torque.

The EPA rated the city/highway/combined mileage of the diesel Cruze tested here at 31/47/37 mpg. It is powered by a 137-hp 1.6-cylinder diesel (also turbocharged) that develops 240 lb-ft of torque.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers 47.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room with the back seats flipped down.

That number is what gives this Cruze a sense of performance in acceleration off the line because the torque, or twisting force, makes itself felt at lower engine revolutions than with the gasoline engine. A new nine-speed automatic transmission efficiently sends the power to the front wheels. (A more engaging six-speed manual gearbox costs $1,600 less).

But it’s no drag racer and it is encumbered somewhat by a mileage enhancing stop-start system, which builds in a bit of hesitation moving away from a stoplight. Unfortunately, it cannot be turned off but can be defeated by simply lifting a foot slightly off the brake pedal.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versatility of a hatch making it adaptable for urban to outdoor adventures.

There are other minor downsides to the Cruze diesel. Its engine noises are raucous—more so under hard acceleration. Its equipment is similar to the midlevel LT trim, which means it does not have automatic climate control or sun visors that slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side. That omission adds a couple of bucks to the profit margin, but why? Curiously, previous Cruze models did have a sliding sun visor—only on the driver’s side.

Other than that, the tester had a high level of equipment for its base price of $26,270. It included full safety equipment, pushbutton starting, air conditioning, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SXM satellite radio, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Options added lane departure and blind-spot warning, a motorized glass sunroof and leather upholstery for a $29,655 sticker.

Given the outstanding fuel economy of the gasoline Cruze, the question is whether buyers will spend the extra $2,795 for the diesel-engine model. But it’s there for those diesel devotees and others who might want one.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versatility of a hatch making it adaptable for urban to outdoor adventures.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel four-door sedan.
  • Engine:6-liter four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, 137 hp, 240 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,172 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/47/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,270.
  • Price as tested: $29,655.

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

cq5dam.web.1280.1280Photos (c) Chevrolet.

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