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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 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.

2019 Toyota Avalon XLE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_01_5CF27B2780DED002CBCEA6227F0A922FBEB5CE66Where once it was Toyota’s flagship cruiser, the 2019 Avalon presents itself as more of a sleek and agile littoral combat ship. 

A flagship, of course, need not be a leviathan. It is wherever the admiral chooses to hang his gold-braided cap — just as Air Force One is whatever aircraft the president happens to be traveling in.

The Avalon, introduced in 1994, for many years was a large car, sometimes described as Toyota’s Buick. It had the distinction of being the only modern sedan that could seat three passengers comfortably in the back seat, with a flat floor and proper cushions. 

In 2013, it was downsized to its current state as a midsize car. It continues in that configuration for 2019, now barely larger than its popular — and lower-priced — sibling, the Toyota Camry.

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_04_273E4BB13CD0F09E282FFAADB0DA5E06642C627AA perennial best-seller, the Camry nests neatly in the midsize class with 114 cubic feet of interior volume, divided 99 for passengers and 15 in the trunk. The 2019 Avalon has but five cubic feet more: 103 for passengers and 16 in the trunk. It also is four inches longer than the Camry.

Distinctions come in appointments and equipment. The Camry can be outfitted like a near-luxury premium sedan, while the Avalon has higher, Lexus-like aspirations, though it has joined the crowd with a center-rear seat that is little more than an uncomfortable perch. Outboard back seats, however, offer plenty of head and knee room.

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_05_6BA11AEFE2642816FE3E96BB928D5E51B3596371For 2019, its fifth-generation iteration, the Avalon, in the words of group vice-president Ed Laukes, “was re-created from the ground up.” It is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor and sports new exterior and interior styling. There’s LED lighting all around, an adaptive suspension system, distinctively different grilles for sport and luxury-oriented models, and seven trim levels.

They are the XLE, the focus here, and the Limited, whose grilles are filled with horizontal bars; the sport-oriented XSE and Touring, with gleaming, piano-black mesh grilles, and three Hybrid models in XLE, XSE and Limited Trim. Prices, exclusive of options, range from $36,395 to $43,395, including destination charges.

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_19_51745B7A0870921B0D7C6E518F76F20092194C49In a move that should win more economy-oriented customers, Hybrid models cost just $1,000 more than their gasoline counterparts in all trim levels. EPA city/highway/combined XLE Hybrid fuel economy is rated at 43/44/44 mpg. XSE and Limited get 43/43/43. Moreover, the Hybrid now has the same trunk size as the non-hybrids.

Though all versions were available, the lowest-price XLE gasoline model was chosen for this review because comes with all basic Avalon goodness. The test car did not arrive with a navigation system, so you must use your smart phone’s. But there are USB power ports for everybody to constantly navigate if they wish.

The XLE also lacks frosting that comes on other trim levels. Among the missing: Leather upholstery, genuine wood interior trim, paddle shifters, acoustic windshield and side glass up front, head-up display, rear cross-traffic braking and a birds-eye view rear camera.

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_15_89A8C9A4A12D0FFB4CC16984BC3740355DF2C43ABut the XLE does have Toyota’s manufactured Softex upholstery; Entune infotainment system with Apple Car Play, Bluetooth and SXM satellite radio; three-mode drive system (Eco, Normal, Sport) and Toyota’s Safety Sense system, which includes pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptable radar cruise control, lane departure mitigation and blind-spot detection.

All non-hybrid versions share a new 301-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers 267 lb-ft of torque. It is connected to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination provides a smooth, quiet surge of power that never feels out of breath.

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_20_66CD41A099F8726F2D9F9D4A7BC0F8EE224DAFCCOn the road, the XLE test car cruised serenely with no intrusion of mechanical or wind noise, and only minimal sounds from the tires on rough pavement. The front seats were comfortable on the artificial Softex surface, with good seatback bolstering for cornering. 

A touch of a button selects Eco, Normal and Sport settings, which adjust shift points, ride comfort, steering and suspension settings. 

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_22_DFC1F2E8E1D17C5746E64E55E9847033D876711FThe tested XLE came with a suggested delivered price of $36,395. It had two options: a $1,000 motorized sunroof and a $680 upgraded JBL audio system for a total sticker price of $38,075, which is only about $3,500 more than the average transaction price of a new car in this era.

For that, you can buy premium surroundings, modern styling, strong performance and comfort in a flagship car that competes handily against the likes of the Buick La Crosse and Nissan Maxima — and, if you’re on a tight budget, maybe even a Lexus ES.  

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_03_540C6FDEA0A1B56E3465637BD7C81DC1CF458198Specifications

    • Model: 2019 Toyota Avalon XLE four-door sedan.
    • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 301 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
    • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
    • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 103/16 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 3,560 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/32/26 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $36,395.
    • Price as tested: $38,075.

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

2019_Toyota_Avalon_Touring_09_97C18ACC5684FA36FFE6C5D558CC0C5D83D1AD79Photos (c) Toyota.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

In any automotive era, the hot-rodders will eventually rise to the bait, as they have with the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition with its 6.2L Performance Package.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s post-World War II gear-heads stuffing V8 engines into 1930s Ford Model A coupes, or modern street racers hopping up old Honda Civic Si hatchbacks. Someone will always figure out a way to dredge artistry and performance out of pedestrian machinery.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

That’s expected, but the hop-up imperative has become institutionalized. The German luxury manufacturers — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi — all have performance divisions to inject their already hot machines with ever more power.

Now, with the new Tahoe RST, Ford’s Raptor pickup truck and the mind-boggling Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the blastoff mindset has insinuated itself into the biggest of the big vehicles that were originally designed to simply tow, carry and haul lots of stuff on and off the road.

Which brings us to the Tahoe RST (rally sport truck), a monster SUV based on the Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck. It comes with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine that delivers 460 lb-ft of torque through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. 

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

It has four driver-selectable drive modes: two-wheel drive for leisurely highway cruising, full-time all-wheel drive for nasty conditions, and locked four-wheel drive with high and low ranges for off-road forays. In short, there’s not much it cannot handle. Moreover, it can tow loads up to 8,100 pounds. 

Equipment also includes GM’s magnetic ride control, an active suspension setup that takes readings of road conditions and electronically adjusts the shock absorbers in milliseconds. It works in concert with gloss black 22-inch aluminum wheels.

Still, don’t expect a cushy ride. This fundamentally is a truck outfitted for performance despite its monster size, so the ride gets harsh and choppy except on pool-table smooth surfaces. If you’re a truck person, you’ll grin from ear to ear. If you have more of a comfortable sedan or crossover SUV orientation, it likely will produce a frown.

Chevrolet Unveils Tahoe RST

The biggest drawback — or enhancement, depending on your preference — of the Tahoe RST Edition is its sheer size. It stretches 17 feet in length and weighs 5,631 pounds. With that big V8 engine it doesn’t bow to anything — zero to 60 miles an hour arrives in less than six seconds — but don’t expect to toss it around like a sports sedan or performance-oriented crossover.

Nope. The RST works best when it is driven deliberately, in slow motion with well-planned moves. That way, with practice, its bulky dimensions come under control. Moreover, it is surprisingly docile in urban traffic given the power lurking under the hood. 

2015-Chevrolet-Tahoe-InteriorPowerFoldFlatSeats-004If you must demonstrate performance, it’s best to do it in a straight line. Punch the pedal at a stoplight and all those horses will pin you back in the seat. Choose either two-wheel drive or automatic all-wheel drive. Either way, the RST Edition gets off the line with little or no wheel spin. 

For all of its truck and performance credentials, the Tahoe RST Edition comes equipped as well as many luxury cars. There’s tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, heated and ventilated front seats, rolling WiFi, head-up display, wireless smart phone charging, and an eight-inch center screen for navigation and infotainment functions,   including Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

None of this, of course, comes cheap. The tested RST Edition had a starting price of $66,425. With the equipment mentioned, along with other options, the bottom-line sticker price came to $78,450—not a territory for many middle-class buyers.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ

However, if you are not captivated by the awesome performance, which by the way takes its toll in fuel economy, there are lesser Tahoe versions that would be more friendly to the family budget. The RST has a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 14/22/17 miles to the gallon.

The tester was a seven-passenger model with two captain’s chairs in the second row. Working with the power tailgate raised, a touch of a switch folds the rear seatbacks and the third-row seats to produce a flat load floor with nearly 98 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Seats in the first two rows deliver comfort and support. But the  third-row seats are impossible for anyone but small children, watermelons or backpacks. There’s little knee room and no help because the second-row seats do not adjust fore and aft.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Brembo brake package

Specifications

    • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition four-door sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 420 hp, 460 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: 10-speed automatic.
    • Overall length: 17 feet.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 122/15 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 5,631 pounds.
    • Towing capability: 8,100 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 14/22/17 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $66,425.
    • Price as tested: $78,450.

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

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

Photos (c) General Motors.

2018 Buick Regal TourX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

There are several clues that the 2018 Buick Regal TourX has its roots in foreign soil, not in the United States. The biggest is that it is a station wagon.

Wait. A Buick station wagon, something we’ve not seen since the big Roadmaster of two decades ago? Yup.

American buyers, who embraced big station wagons for 50 years after World War II as essential family haulers, all but abandoned them after the inventions of the minivan, sport utility vehicle and crossover SUV.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

A notable flop in recent years was the Dodge Magnum, a rear-wheel drive wagon with some performance chops that was introduced as a 2005 model but lasted only until 2008.

Still, a few manufacturers — none of them American — persisted in building wagons, mainly because they continued to be popular in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, many buyers regard a station wagon as a step up from a traditional sedan, though they too are starting to succumb to the allure of crossover SUVs.

Note that traditional SUVs are based on pickup trucks, with rear- or all-wheel drive and body-on-frame construction. Crossovers usually have front- or all-wheel drive and the unit-body construction of traditional sedans. For example, the Chevrolet Tahoe is an SUV; the Chevy Equinox is a crossover.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Yet despite the fact that some foreign manufacturers — Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Subaru — tested the U.S. market with wagons, all of them fizzled. Subaru finessed the situation by converting its Legacy wagon into the Outback by jacking it up for better ground clearance and calling it a crossover SUV. Currently, a few lonely automakers still persist here with wagons, including Sweden’s Volvo and Germany’s Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.

So, the Buick Regal TourX comes as something of a surprise, especially coming in the tire tracks of the Regal Sportback, a four-door hatchback with fastback styling that resembles the Audi A5 and A7, as well as the new Kia Stinger.

As with many automobiles in an industry that has become globalized, the Regal TourX is an ethnic amalgam. Based on the Opel Insignia, it is built in Germany with a U.S. engine and a Japanese transmission. Only about a quarter of its components come from the U.S. and Canada.

2018-Buick-Regal-TourX-011A couple of minor tipoffs to its origins: as with some other European cars, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side, and the steering wheel telescopes but does not tilt.

Nearly 16.5 feet long with streamlined styling, the Buick TourX displays the modern attributes that could herald a station wagon comeback. It has 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seatbacks, which expands to 74 cubic feet if you fold the seatbacks. With its low profile comes a low lift-over height, which facilitates loading.

It also comes standard with all-wheel drive, which will come in handy in slippery conditions. But don’t think of the TourX as an off-road vehicle. There’s only 5.8 inches of ground clearance, where the Subaru Outback has 8.7 inches.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

The Outback is one of only a couple of competitors. It has comparable interior space to the TourX, though it’s a foot shorter. It also is less expensive. The only other competitor is the Volvo V60, which has a new model that arrives in 2018.

Motivating the new TourX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is becoming an industry standard. In this application, it makes 250 hp with 295 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

In daily driving, the TourX proves itself to be a responsive companion in traffic, though there’s hesitation off the line because of the stop-start technology that shuts off the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy. The city/highway/combined fuel consumption, as rated by the EPA, is 21/29/24 mpg.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Handling is nearly up to midsize sports sedan standards, with a solid steering feel around corners and good straight-line tracking. The brakes are excellent with a strong pedal feel. One minor drawback: the TourX’s length requires searches for generous parking spaces.

The tested TourX Essence was well equipped with a base price of $36,015. With options that included adaptive cruise control, forward pedestrian alert, automatic braking and collision alert; rear cross-traffic alert and park assist; blind-spot warning; premium audio, HD radio, and navigation and infotainment systems, the bottom-line sticker came to $40,950.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Specifications

  • Model:2018 Buick Regal TourX Essence AWD four-door station wagon.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 250 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission:Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:16 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:101/33 cubic feet (74).
  • Weight:3,745 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption:21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge:$36,015.
  • Price as tested:$40,950.

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

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Photos (c) General Motors.

Autoline

by Jason Fogelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

2018 Elantra GT

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Elantra GT

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

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

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

2018 Elantra GT

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

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

2018 Elantra GT

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

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

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

2018 Elantra GT
2018 Elantra GT

Specifications

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

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

2018 Elantra GT

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Range Rover Velar: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22.12.16   V1
22.12.16 V1

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

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

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

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

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

rrvelar18mystaticaccessories070817026Specifications

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

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

rrvelar18mystatic070817005Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15C274_423-1200x800There are four driving modes:

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

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

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

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

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

15C274_616-1200x800Specifications

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

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

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

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