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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

2019 Infiniti QX80 Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like people, sport utility vehicles operate at their best when they stick to the straight and narrow. That’s especially true for big guys like the 2019 Infiniti QX80.

The reason is that full-size SUVs often are the machines of choice for families that eschew minivans but need space and towing capability for vacation jaunts. For that, the QX80 has solid qualifications. Given its size — 17.5 feet long and 6 feet 4 inches tall — it is powerful, quiet and easy to drive.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

However, it has a tendency to wander in straight-line freeway driving, requiring frequent small steering corrections to keep tracking true. That’s not much of a problem on short trips but can contribute to driver fatigue over long distances.

Though its gender has not been established, the QX80 is celebrating its quinceañerawith this model, which had its debut in 2004 as the QX56. It tops the SUV lineup at Infiniti, the luxury division of Japan’s Nissan.

Despite an age that matches a girl’s 15thbirthday in Spanish-speaking countries, the QX80 has something of the feel of a senior citizen. It uses a classic body-on-frame construction, not unlike that of all the big pickup trucks on the market. And though it is equipped with a modern suspension system and a full suite of computerized safety innovations, it has something of an old-fashioned feel.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Some clues: The parking brake is one of those step-on affairs, where you stomp on a pedal with your left foot, instead of modern electronic controls. Second-row captain’s chairs on the tested seven-passenger Limited models do not have fore-and-aft adjustments to improve third-row knee and foot space, and the seatbacks recline only a few inches.

The split third-row seats fold with the touch of button but you have to hold your finger on it until it gets where it’s going. No one-touch control here. And the seats don’t fold flat, leaving a bunny-hill incline to welcome your extra cargo.

Then there’s the matter of getting back to the third row. Though the second-row captain’s chairs on the tested Limited model flip up and out of the way, scrambling into the third-row seats should be reserved for teenagers and younger kids. Also, they should be skinny because there are three seatbelts back there.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

There’s just 17 cubic feet of space behind the third row of seats, although the QX80 can carry a payload of 1,460 lbs and it can tow a trailer of up to 8,500 lbs.

One old-fashioned component is welcome. In an era when small turbocharged four-cylinder engines are taking over even in big pickup trucks, the QX80 soldiers on with a solid, burbling V8 engine. It delivers 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque from 5.6-liters of displacement.

It makes the driving experience feel effortless. Need to change a lane quickly without neck-snapping your passengers, simply step a bit forcefully on the loud pedal and crank the steering wheel. The power surges instantly and smoothly, with no hint of dreaded turbo lag.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

The downside, of course, hits the purse or wallet. With nearly three tons of metal and other ingredients to move, the QX80 guzzled premium fuel like an elephant in a pool of spring water. City/highway/combined consumption is rated by the EPA at 13/19/15 mpg.

That likely won’t matter much to the buyers who can afford the tested Limited model. Though you can find a QX80 with a base price of $66,395, the Limited came with a $91,095 base price. With a few minor options, the bottom-line sticker came to $91,950.

No surprise, that amount of money brings a load of equipment, including the seven-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control, all-wheel drive, self-leveling rear suspension system, 22-inch aluminum alloy wheels, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, motorized steering wheel adjustments, adaptive LED lighting, Bose audio with navigation and SXM satellite radio, and adaptive cruise control.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Full safety equipment includes pre-collision intervention with pedestrian detection forward and back, lane departure prevention, blind-spot warning, active head restraints, electronic brake force distribution and pre-crash adjustable front seat belts.

Styling, of course, always lies in the eyes of the beholders. Suffice to say that the QX80 presents an imposing, almost intimidating appearance to other, smaller vehicles on the highways. It is, however, up against a host of similar three-row SUVs and even crossovers that span the utility segment from middle-class to luxury.

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Infiniti QX80 Limited four-door sport utility vehicle
  • Engine: 5.6-liter V8; 400 hp, 413 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 151/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,930 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,460 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 8,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption (premium gasoline): 13/19/15 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $91,095.
  • Price as tested: $91,950.

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

2019 INFINITI QX80 LIMITED

Photos (c) Infiniti

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4MATIC: A Driveways Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In an era when the prevailing trend is toward SUV-style vehicles that perch driver and passengers up high, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS parks their butts down close to the pavement.

It’s been that way since Mercedes invented the so-called four-door coupe genre in 2004 — the idea being to deliver sensuous coupe styling with the convenience of a couple of rear doors for those occasional double dates.

If you are one who appreciates eye candy, the tested CLS 450 4MATIC Coupe — its official title — presents handsome and aggressive new styling that reinforces the kinship with its more expensive version from the Mercedes high-performance AMG division.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

On the other hand, the streamlined, low-slung body envelops a tight package. You must duck and twist to get in and out, especially in the back seat. There’s 93 cubic feet of space for passengers, with limited head and legroom, and a shallow trunk of just 12 cubic feet, which earns the CLS a compact car classification.

The new car now has seat belts for five with the fifth in the center-rear. But you wonder why the designers bothered. With its all-wheel drive, there’s a giant floor hump and a seat more suited to a small backpack than a person. Ground clearance is less than four inches, so watch those driveway entrance bumps.

The CLS returns to a Mercedes tradition with an all-new inline six-cylinder engine that replaces the previous twin-turbo V8. Inline sixes characteristically deliver exceptional smoothness, and the CLS obliges. The new turbocharged 3.0-liter makes 362 hp with 369 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Providing additional spurts of power is a 48-volt electric starter-generator that delivers 21 hp and also enables a sophisticated and unobtrusive engine stop-start system. Not that many CLS buyers would pay much attention, but the EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 23/30/26 mpg of premium gasoline.

On the road, the CLS 4MATIC acts more like a sports car than a luxury cruiser. With its air-suspension system and precise steering, it carves corners like an expert butcher with a Thanksgiving turkey. There are five drive modes, each of which can be selected instantly underway with the touch of a button on the center console. There’s no need to take eyes off the road or the head-up display.

The modes are labeled Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. The last can be tailored with the Mercedes COMAND (cq) system but it is best done while parked. In Sport and Sport Plus, acceleration is enhanced by holding shifts to higher rpms, and the suspension and steering tighten.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

In all the driving modes except for Sport and Sport Plus, the nine-speed automatic transmission starts in second gear to enhance fuel economy. If you need to get off the line quickly, select one of the Sport modes, which will get you to 60 mph in slightly more than five seconds, according to the manufacturer. Top speed is rated at 130 mph.

No Mercedes is bargain-priced, but the tested CLS makes a mockery of the sticker price. This one started at $72,695, including the destination charge, but after the options were added up the bottom line came to $100,730. The $28,035 worth of options could buy you a nice compact crossover SUV.

The tester had so-called “design” packages totaling $6,200 that included perforated leather upholstery in Macchiato Beige and Titian Red with piano black lacquer and wood interior trim. Also on the options list were a $5,400 Burmester surround-sound audio system, the $1,900 air suspension, and packages totaling  $2,150 to enhance warmth, comfort and acoustics.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety measures, including the head-up display, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist and active emergency stopping. The last brings the CLS to a stop if the system detects that the driver is not actively driving while using the adaptive cruise control and the active steering assist.

Though popular early on, with 14,835 U.S. sales in 2005, the CLS has been on a roller coaster since, dropping to just 1,839 sales in 2017. The 2019 model could reverse the skid if there are enough luxury car intenders with fat purses or healthy credit ratings who have not yet been bitten by the crossover sport utility bug.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4MATIC Coupe four-door.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged; 362 hp, 369 lb-ft torque; with 48-volt, 21-hp starter-generator.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 4 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,350 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $72,695.
  • Price as tested: $100,730.

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

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

2018 Los Angeles Auto Show: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Los Angeles, Calif. —Volkswagen and Volvo appeared as the Yin and Yang of Automobility LA, the curtain raiser for the annual Los Angeles Auto Show.

compressJeff-0873Volkswagen displayed a block-long clutch of 36 museum-quality and new Bugs dating from the early years after World War II until the 1970s, as well as to honor the final passing of the beloved Beetle. The 2019 models — a coupe and a convertible — are the last.

Volvo, on the other hand, staked out a large and almost empty space, bragging that it was a world first at the LA Show without a single car on the stand. The point was to demonstrate Volvo’s vision of what the future car might be. More on that later.

Volvo Cars at Automobility LA - This is not a car
Volvo Cars at Automobility LA – This is not a car

The two unusual efforts by the manufacturers summarized the multiple-personality character of this year’s show, as when Honda unveiled the Passport crossover alongside its new Talon, a side-by-side off-roader. The show runs through Dec. 9, 2018.

Another major effort: With the backdrop of a tiny house powered by a Nissan Leaf electric car, the company crammed a half-day of big picture views by knowledgeable speakers and panels on the future of what it calls Intelligent Mobility, with the goal of zero emissions and zero fatalities.

The discussions by the experts of a motorized electric future, adaptive technologies and innovations would fill a fat magazine. But it all seemed more of an altruistic education forum than a typical auto show sales pitch.

compressJIM_1858One example: a “fireside chat” about, and rides on, Lime Scooters, one of the companies producing the electric scooters that seem to be popping up everywhere in urban America as an alternative to standard and powered bicycles, skateboards, roller blades and Segways.

One intriguing notion: When self-driving vehicles are perfected and widespread—still a long way off—it could solve parking problems. Your car would drive you to the supermarket or store, drive itself back home and then return to pick you up.

For those interested, most of the information and discussions can be found at #NissanFuturesLA, @NissanUSA, @Nissan Electric and Nissan USA on Facebook.

To enhance that, stroll with us as we mosey through the LA Auto Show, including the Technology Center, which consisted of a very large tent covering a side street and a lineup of food trucks that served different ethnic breakfasts to assorted journalists and hangers-on.

compressJIM_9511The breakfasts were so-so but the array of old Volkswagens could bring tears to the eyes of the guys and gals who had never owned one but wished they had. It seemed as if anyone who ever had a Type 113 Standard or other Bug felt a personal connection to what one book called “Small Wonder.”

Walk to the South Hall at the Convention Center and pass Audi, Lincoln, Acura and Infiniti. Turn right into empty space with Volvo signs. What happened? Had the vehicles been in accidents?

Nope. At the back was an alcove with a small open pod for four people with reclining chairs and a table in between.

It was a mockup of the passenger area of a future self-driving automobile: no steering wheel, controls or instruments. Simply a quiet, climate-controlled space for relaxation and transportation.

compressJIM_1632Without an engine or wheels, this Volvo wasn’t going anywhere. But it wasn’t alone. Over in the West Hall was a large area for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which included a customized Dodge Challenger, bright red, with no top and, instead of wheels, skis underneath.

This was a whimsical vision of the high-tech future of Santa Claus’s sleigh on Christmas Eve and Day, delivering gifts to millions of kids around the world.

But this one wasn’t going anywhere either. With no way to get that 800 horsepower to the ground — or snow — it looked as if Santa needed to hook up Dasher, Dancer, Vixen and the others anyway. The Dodge Boys had thoughtfully provided tow hooks on the skis.

compressJIM_1598There were several other head shakers. Kia displayed a version of its high-performance Stinger — except that it had right-hand drive and the colors of the Queensland, Australia, Police Service. Interesting but not many potential sales here.

Another was the humongous Karlmann King, looking something like a stealth bomber with a matte gray paint job, angled body panels everywhere and, at $2.2 million, billed as the world’s most expensive SUV.

There were plenty of more conventional machines as well, including a Hyundai Nexo, sitting almost unnoticed in the crowd as Hyundai did a glitzy introduction of the Palisade, its new midsize three-row SUV. The Nexo is a hydrogen powered SUV, not introduced yet.

compressJeff-6077Over at Hyundai’s sister company’s stand, Kia rolled out its version of the Palisade, called the Telluride. But it focused most of the presentation on the latest version of its quirky and popular Soul.

And Nissan was not completely altruistic. It used the LA Auto Show to introduce its new Murano Crossover and Maxima sports sedan, which of course it would like to sell in very large numbers.AutoMobilityLA_SAB-black

Images (c) Automobility LA

2019 Hyundai Veloster N: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Now fielding the 2019 Veloster N, Hyundai could be whistled for encroachment.

It has happened before. The South Korean manufacturer has been steadily and successfully insinuating its products into almost every space in the automotive firmament: sedans of various sizes and power trains, crossover sport utility vehicles and even luxury cars. The last, Genesis, became its own luxury brand.

Now Hyundai is intruding into the small but image-important “hot hatch” group of relatively inexpensive high-performance hatchbacks. There are only a few, the most familiar of which is the Volkswagen GTI, with competition from the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus ST.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

What these machines have in common is that they are based on practical runabouts for people on tight budgets. Emulating the kids who buy old Honda Civics and hop them up to be faster and more agile, the automakers do the same to create new excitements.

The GTI, for example, is based on the ubiquitous Golf, Volkswagen’s entry-level U.S. offering. Similarly, Hyundai already marketed the Veloster, a compact hatchback with two conventional doors in the front and a single third door in back on the passenger side. Despite its unusual layout, it has been reasonably successful, though slipping lately with 12,658 sales in 2017 and running at an annual rate of 10,581 in 2018.

Now it should get a boost as it vies for the “hot hatch” title with the N, which stands for Namyang, the site of Hyundai’s technology center in South Korea. The N also obliquely refers to the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the famed test track in Germany where some of the N’s development was carried out.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

Under the tutelage of Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s head of vehicle performance, the Veloster was not simply given additional power. Biermann, formerly chief of BMW’s M performance group, took a holistic approach to give the Veloster a stiffer chassis, sophisticated racing suspension system, more accurate steering with enhanced feedback, tires with more grip and, of course, robust power.

The goal, Bierman says, was to give the Veloster “real racetrack capability” in a machine that is easy and entertaining for novices to drive on the track and in everyday environments.

Power comes from a gasoline direct injection, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 250 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. A six-speed manual gearbox — the only transmission available so far — sends the force to the front wheels.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

To make things even easier for inexperienced drivers, the transmission comes with automatic rev-matching. On downshifts, the system raises the engine revolutions to match the speed of the car—particularly useful during braking on racetrack corners. Launch control also is included, which minimizes wheel spin on acceleration runs. Hyundai doesn’t publish zero-to-60 miles an hour times, but an educated estimate is in the five-second range.

Overall, the stick shift is delightful, with easy, short throws of the shift lever on both upshifts and downshifts. The rev-matching eliminates  jerkiness from sloppy shifting. Along with brake-induced torque vectoring to hasten maneuvers around corners, the system infuses the N with forgiving and delightful manners on a road-racing course.

Biermann says that’s what the Veloster is all about. He calls it accessible and affordable high performance for average drivers. To keep the cost reasonable, the N uses in-house brakes instead of something like Brembo racing brakes, although high-performance brake pads are available for serious racers.

Large-31055-2019VelosterN

Base prices for Veloster N will start at $27,785, including the destination charge. A special performance package tacks on an additional $2,000 and bumps the horsepower to 275. It includes a special “corner carving” differential, 19-inch alloy wheels, Pirelli P Zero performance tires, larger brake rotors and variable exhaust valves.

Standard equipment on all Velosters includes full modern safety equipment, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Super Sport tires, LED headlights and taillights, automatic climate control, Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity, and premium audio with SXM satellite radio.

So no enthusiast will mistake the N from its lower-performing siblings, it comes with exclusive styling of the grille and front fascia, as well as special rear treatments, including a spoiler with brake light.

N prices are lower than those of the 306-hp Honda Civic Type R and the 220-hp Volkswagen GTI Autobahn, both of which have prices in the mid to high $30,000 range. More comparable to the N is the Ford Focus ST, which starts in the mid-$20,000 range.

Large-33464-2019VelosterNSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster N three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 275 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with rev-matching and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet.
  • Height: 4 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,117 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,785.
  • Price as tested: $29,885. 

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

Large-31123-2019VelosterNPhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE: A DriveWays Review…

byFrank A. Aukofer

There’s no better indication of the relentless onslaught by crossover utility vehicles than the 2019 Toyota RAV4, which arrives with a medley of 13 stylish versions, including gasoline and hybrid powertrains with all-wheel or front-wheel drive.

As it teases the public with the all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan — the company’s all-time best-seller with 45 million copies sold since its introduction in 1966 — the RAV4 has muscled its way to the top of the compact crossover category.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_02Last year it outsold the Corolla and the company’s onetime best-seller, the midsize Camry sedan. In 2018, the RAV4 is selling at an annual rate of about 424,000, outpacing the Camry’s 348,000 and the Corolla’s 309,000. The latter includes the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback.

With the buying public’s appetite for crossovers, that should continue for the foreseeable future. The RAV4’s major competitors — the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape — will be in the chase, though the Rogue is an anomaly because Nissan lumps two different vehicles — the Rogue and Rogue Sport — into a single sales statistic.

Other competitors, including the Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Compass, Dodge Journey, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, should continue strong but with lower numbers.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Group_04The array of new RAV4 models starts with the front-wheel drive LE trim level at $26,545 and ranges up to the all-wheel drive Hybrid Limited with a base price of $36,745. However, options increase the prices on all versions, up to $40,375 for the top-line Hybrid Limited. Prices include a $1,045 destination charge.

All RAV4 trim levels come with Toyota’s second-generation Safety Sense suite of active safety capabilities and technologies, including pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, automatic headlight high beams, lane-departure warning and mitigation, and lane tracing and road sign assists.

Also standard on all RAV4s is Toyota’s Entune 3.0 multimedia system, which includes Wi-Fi with capabilities for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as Apple Car Play compatibility. The system uses a seven-inch touch screen.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_45Of the 13 RAV4 versions, four are hybrids: LE, XLE, sporty XSE and Limited. There also are four gasoline-engine models with front-wheel drive: LE, XLE, XLE Premium and Limited. The remaining nine versions, including all of the hybrids, come with all-wheel drive. That includes a separate, gasoline-only Adventure with a price tag of $33,945 that can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Gasoline models are powered by a new 203-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 lb-ft of torque. They come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Hybrids use a different tune of the 2.5-liter engine with 176 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque working with an electric motor. Combined, the system delivers 219 horsepower. The transmission is a continuously-variable automatic. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 41/37/39 mpg.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_59Though other models were driven, the focus of this review is on the more economically-priced but well equipped XLE model with front-wheel drive. It has an EPA fuel economy rating of 27/34/29 mpg. The starting price is $28,345 and options boost the sticker to $31,545.

Standard equipment included a motorized sunroof, power rear lift gate, folding outside power mirrors with blind spot warning, Bluetooth connectivity, LED outside lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton starting and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Option packages provided an upgraded Entune system with SXM satellite radio, eight-inch touch screen, eight-way power driver’s seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated steering wheel and front seats, and five USB ports.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_47The RAV4 has passenger space that rivals that of a midsize sedan along with 38 cubic feet for cargo. The back seats are split 60-40 and recline as well as fold for additional cargo.

Inside, the tester delivered long-distance comfort and space for four passengers. The fifth person in the center-rear has a less comfortable seat but OK head and knee room. Seats all-around were upholstered in sturdy cloth with contrasting stitching. Armrests and trim were of soft-touch material.

On the road, the tested RAV4 exhibited more than adequate acceleration in passing, abetting an unscientific estimate of a zero to 60 mph acceleration time in the neighborhood of eight seconds. The more powerful hybrid was a bit quicker.

The cabin was quiet with little intrusion of mechanical or road noise on smooth roads, though rough pavement sounds reverberated inside. Handling was secure around curves with steady tracking in straight-line driving. The brake pedal felt a bit soft, especially on hybrid models, but stopping was not affected.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_08Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE four-door crossover utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 203 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/38 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,380 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,345.
  • Price as tested: $31,545.

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

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_06Photos (c) Toyota

2019 Lexus UX 250h: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Not inclined to be a cowboy trailing the fast-moving herd of small luxury crossover SUVs, Lexus introduces its 2019 UX with a choice of conventional or hybrid power trains.

This is not its first rodeo. Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, marketed the CT200h, a compact hybrid hatchback with the same powertrain as the popular Toyota Prius, from 2011 to 2017.

D55_5157Now it rides into the fray with the UX against subcompact crossovers like the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Lincoln MKC, Volvo XC40, Infiniti QX30 and BMW X1. The entry-level UX slots below the compact NX and gives Lexus a full array of crossovers and SUVs. Unlike SUVs, constructed like trucks with bodies on frames, crossovers are built with unit bodies like automobiles.

Lexus crossovers now include the UX, NX and the midsize RX. At the top of the lineup are the GX and LX, both truck-based SUVs.

Lexus identifies the UX as an urban crossover, which suggests that it is not intended as a long-distance traveler. But that could be said about many small vehicles that owners customarily drive across country. The UX can certainly do the same.

DSC_0497But its personality, as Lexus describes it, is that of a “creative urban explorer,” a runabout aimed to tantalize younger buyers more attuned to cityscapes than suburban/rural areas. Like others of its ilk, the UX has four doors, carries four passengers and a fifth uncomfortably center-rear, with 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat.

There are two versions: the front-wheel drive UX 200, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that makes 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The manufacturer estimates a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of 8.9 seconds with a top speed of 118 mph. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 29/37/33 mpg on regular fuel. Starting price is $33,025, including the destination charge.

DSC_0197The other, the focus here, is the hybrid UX 250h, which comes with all-wheel drive. It is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine working with twin electric motor generators. The system delivers 181 hp on regular gasoline. All-wheel drive is automatically engaged by a small electric motor integrated into the rear differential.

An unusual apparent shortcoming: Lexus says the UX 250h’s all-wheel drive operates only up to 43 mph, after which it becomes a front-wheel drive vehicle.

According to Lexus, that’s because the UX all-wheel drive system is electronic instead of mechanical. It operates in all-wheel drive at lower speeds when needed and front-drive at higher speeds for optimal efficiency and fuel economy. But road conditions mitigated by all-wheel drive can get nasty at more than 43 mph.

DSC_0128The zero-to-60 acceleration time of 8.6 seconds is slightly better than the UX 200’s, with the top speed of 110 less than the UX 200. But the hybrid’s fuel economy rating is 41/38/39 and its starting price is $35,025, or $2,000 more than the UX 200’s.

The tested UX 250h came with options that included a navigation system, soft-touch interior trim called Washi, blind spot monitoring, a motorized sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, garage-door opener and an auto-dimming inside mirror. The options brought the as-tested price up to $38,900, and a spokesperson said a fully loaded UX250h could reach $41,000.

Both the UX 200 and the hybrid UX 250h are frisky around-town performers with acceleration that feels quicker than the numbers would indicate. They get the power to the pavement through continuously variable automatic transmissions, which sometimes can feel as if they are high-revving and slipping.

DSC_0170These do not. In the 200, the CVT uses a mechanical gear to get an initial boost off the line; in the 250h the boost comes from the electric motors. It can mimic the shift feel of a stepped 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. There is a noticeable loud growl under hard acceleration with the 200. The 250h hybrid is quieter and feels stronger, tighter and more planted overall.

Both UX models come standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which includes pre-collision warning and braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, adaptive radar cruse control and lane departure mitigation. Blind-spot warning is optional.

There are three trim packages: Premium, Luxury and F-Sport. The last, available on both the 200 and 250h, comes with suspension modifications and special 18-inch alloy wheels to enhance handling. The tradeoff is a stiffer though not punishing ride.

DSC_1306Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Lexus UX 250h four-door crossover SUV.
  • Engine/motors: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline with two electric motor-generators; 181 system hp.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic (CVT).
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 86/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,605 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 41/38/39 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,025.
  • Price as tested: $37,875.

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

D55_4132Photos (c) Lexus

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT TB Crew Cab: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With big pickup trucks like the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, it’s  about little things and loyalty.

Full-size pickups, of which there are six currently marketed in the U.S., do essentially the same things. They carry big loads, tow heavy trailers and serve as family conveyances. When you check the price tags of some models, you also realize they can substitute for luxury cars.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition to the Silverado, they are the GMC Sierra, Ford F-Series, Ram, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Each has its cadre of loyal followers. Many Ford owners would summarily reject a Chevy or a Titan, Ram devotees might sniff at a Silverado, and a Tundra guy would possibly ignore a GMC.

With brand loyalty and muscular hauling as givens, full-size pickup manufacturers seek to win new and conquest sales by concentrating on smaller things like tailgate design, interior luxury appointments and styling, built-in storage boxes, or even marginal increases in fuel economy.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition, the all-new Silverado seeks to impress potential buyers with its off-road capabilities, which is the sort of activity usually associated with smaller vehicles like Jeeps, sport utility vehicles and even some crossover SUVs.

That was the point of an introductory exercise that Chevrolet organized to advance the notion that the Silverado, despite its humongous size — more than 19 feet long and weighing over 5,000 lbs — could conquer a dedicated off-road course.

It was located at the Monticello Motor Club in New York state, a vehicle-oriented country club for wealthy members who enjoy wringing out their exotic rides on a 4.1-mile road racing course. The complex also includes a moderately challenging off-road course where the racing is mostly limited to single-digit speeds as vehicles churn their way over ditches, berms, steep hills, creeks and frame-twisting mounds.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Tested on that course for this review was the 2019 Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab, powered by a 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 383 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, transferred to the dirt through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It came with the Z71 off-road equipment package that included a driver-selectable four-wheel drive system with a low range for tough terrain, along with a two-inch suspension lift, brawny shock absorbers, skid plates, automatic locking rear differential, hill start assist and hill descent control, and off-road tires on 18-inch wheels.

With all that and practiced drivers, the Silverado made short work of the off-road course. But it also is an accomplished pickup on the public roads with what Chevrolet claims is best-in-class cargo volume of 63 cubic feet in the short box on the four-door crew cab model, enough to carry 2,190 lbs of cargo. Properly equipped it can also tow up to 11,600 lbs.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Chevrolet, in its running battle with the all-aluminum Ford F-150, also emphasizes that the 2019 Silverado’s cargo bed uses a higher-strength steel floor than the previous model, along with a dozen tie-down points and a choice of four tailgate variants: standard manual lockable with key; lockable with lift assist; power lockable with automatic release, and an exclusive power up and down version.

Most big pickup trucks, and the Silverado is no exception, offer dizzying numbers of choices in how they are equipped. Besides the 63 cubic feet for cargo, the tested LT Trail Boss had a whopping 139 cubic feet of space for the driver, four passengers and indoor lockable storage cubbies.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

Of course, many Silverado buyers with no need to venture off the pavement likely will forego the Z71 off-road package, which is available as an option on any of the eight models. They range from a basic two-door work truck to the High Country version, which is equipped as well or better than some ultra-luxury cars, making for serene long-distance highway jaunts.

The GMC Sierra, essentially a fraternal twin of the Silverado in the General Motors family, also lards on the luxury touches in its full-size pickup line, especially in its Denali versions. Not to be undone by the Silverado’s four tailgate choices, it offers a six way tailgate that can double as a small table or chair for outdoor events.

There’s solid imperative for the Silverado and other full-size pickup trucks to pay attention to all the details. In 2017, highly profitable big pickups, including heavy-duty models, accounted for more than 2.4 million sales in the United States — or 14% of the entire car and light truck market.

 

The Durabed truck bed, standard on all 2019 Silverado 1500 models, includes larger cutouts in the GM-exclusive CornerStep bumpers to better accommodate steel-toed boots.

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab pickup truck.
  • Engine: 5.3-liter V8; 355 hp, 383 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 139/63 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,008 pounds.
  • Payload: 2,190 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 11,600 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/22/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,795.
  • Price as tested: $57,285.

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

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Photos (c) Chevrolet

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Now rounding out its lineup with the 2019 Volvo S60 sedan and V60 station wagon, the Swedish manufacturer likely has never seen an era when its name was more appropriate. In Latin, the word “volvo” means “I roll.”

Starting with its full-size XC90 three-seat crossover sport utility vehicle in 2016, Volvo is nearing completion of its plan to field a full line of new sedans, station wagons, crossover SUVs and hybrid models. There are now 10, from compact through midsize and large, plus different trim levels.

S60R-Design05The company also has set a goal of selling one million electrified vehicles by 2025. With the S60, it means all-wheel-drive T8 plug-in hybrid models with gasoline engines up front and electric motors at the rear wheels. As with all of its other vehicles, Volvo is sticking with 2.0-liter gasoline engines in various tunes with turbochargers and turbo/supercharger combinations.

Volvo also is among a few manufacturers that are bravely bucking the American aversion to station wagons and preference for tall crossover SUVs. The V60 is a wagon version of the S60 that, for now, still is built in Sweden.

The S60, now in its third generation, marks a milestone. It is the first Volvo ever built in the United States, in a new plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina, near Charleston. With 2.3 million square feet of space on a 1,600-acre campus, it represents a $1.8 billion investment and can produce up to 150,000 cars a year.

S60R-Design04As a premium brand, the S60 competes with the compact BMW 3-Series, Infiniti Q50, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS and Audi A4. The starting price of the base front-drive T5 Momentum model is $36,795.

Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. Volvo says it will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and deliver city/highway/combined fuel economy of 24/36/28 mpg on premium gasoline.

It is equipped with full modern safety equipment — a Volvo tradition — including oncoming lane collision and run-off road mitigation, automatic braking with pedestrian, cyclist and animal detection, and lane-keeping assist.

S60R-DesignInterior05Like all S60 sedans, the Momentum model comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard equipment, along with leatherette upholstery, audio system with SXM satellite radio, automatic climate control, power front seats and power-folding rear-seat headrests.

However, there are a couple of imperatives that Volvo has not adopted. The sun visors on the S60 and other Volvo models do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. And the sunshade for the panoramic sunroof, following a current cliché on luxury vehicles, is made of a flimsy perforated cheesecloth-like material that admits too much sunlight onto passengers’ heads. Sunshades should be opaque.

If your need or preference points toward all-wheel drive, add $4,500 to the price equation. The T6 Momentum AWD model starts at $41,295. The other two trim levels are the R-Design and Inscription.

S60R-DesignInterior08Driven for this review were two S60 sedans: T6 R-Design with all-wheel drive and T8 all-wheel drive Polestar. Also available was the V60 T6 Momentum all-wheel drive station wagon.

The first, the T6 all-wheel drive R-Design, came with a supercharged and turbocharged 316-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that made 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s good for a zero-to-60 acceleration time of 5.3 seconds and 21/32/25 mpg on premium gasoline. It started at $47,395 and, with options, had a $49,895 sticker.

Polestar Engineered is Volvo’s moniker for high performance machinery — in this case a hybrid gasoline/electric power train that includes the 2.0-liter four-banger, supercharged and turbocharged, with 328 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, mated to an electric motor at the rear wheels.

New Volvo V60 exteriorTogether, they deliver 417 hp with a zero-to-60 acceleration time of 4.3 seconds, according to Volvo, with city/highway/combined fuel economy of 27/34/30 mpg. Also, as a plug-in hybrid, the Polestar Engineered S60 can run up to 21 miles on electric power alone.

The new Volvo S60 sedans and V60 wagons present an almost dizzying array of choices. What all three of those tested have in common are a solid, flex-free chassis and a supple, sporting suspension system for fuss-free cornering, and plenty of power to go wheel-to-wheel with their premium competitors.

Oh, make sure to check out the “city weave” seat covering in Momentum models. It’s a comfortable, classy cloth that, to this reviewer, is preferable to leather.

S60R-Design005Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design AWD four-door sedan.
  • 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 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,780 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/32/25 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,395.
  • Price as tested: $49,895.

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

S60R-Design002Photos (c) Volvo

2018 Miami Auto Show: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Miami Beach, Fla. — One of the stars of the Miami International Auto Show in October was a modified Nissan Titan pickup truck that looked like a survival vehicle prowling the landscape in a dystopian future.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

But there were no machine guns or rockets for defense, and it was very much intended for offensive survival in the present. Called the “Ultimate Service Titan,” the truck was conceived, developed and manufactured by Nissan with the American Red Cross spelling out its requirements for hurricane and other disaster relief duties.

Based on the Titan XD Diesel Midnight Edition Crew Cab, the pickup has a special extended commercial-grade ladder frame, raised chassis for ground clearance and other enhanced off-road capabilities. It is powered by a 310-hp, 5.0-liter Cummins diesel engine that develops 555 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. To extend the range, the Ultimate Service Titan comes with a 75-gallon fuel tank.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

Substantial modifications transformed the four-door full-size truck into a mobile command center with a power generator and Wi-Fi hotspot for communications.

With a desk, couch and bed, the command center can function as an aid station with facilities to collect and deliver blood donations. It also can double as a shelter with food service. Equipment includes a microwave, stove, sink and refrigerator. Besides the bed inside for treatment or rest, there’s a tent on the command center roof.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

Nissan donated the Ultimate Service Titan to the Red Cross of South Florida, where it will be used by first responders. Though a one-of-a-kind now, it struck this observer as a vehicle with commercial possibilities.

Jeremy Meadows, a Nissan senior marketing manager, said the out-the-door cost of the truck was $125,000 — certainly affordable by many governmental and private disaster relief organizations.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

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