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The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Welcome to The Review Garage!

Garages provide shelter for cars, bikes, tools and overflow from your household. They can also be meeting places, project centers, studios and dream catchers.

The Review Garage will gather car, truck, SUV and motorcycle reviews from several experienced writers. We’ll also feature photographs, travel stories, driving advice and auction reports. If we see a cool car on the road, we’ll share a photo and a story. We’ll gather accessories, tools and garage gadgets, put them through their paces and tell you what we think.

Mostly, we’ll talk about cars, the automotive lifestyle, and anything else that you might talk about in your garage with your friends.

Join us. Make yourself comfortable. Hand me that wrench, and grab yourself a beer. Let’s hang out.

Featured post

2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The most compelling thing about the 2017 Jaguar XE 2.0 diesel is that it’s a Jaguar. That means it has style, emotion, a stiff structure, accurate steering and a hefty price tag.

JagLAMotorShow2015Image18111518-resize-1024x683But because it’s a diesel, even turbocharged, its orientation is toward fuel economy. Acceleration, not so much. Yet it works capably for both chasing around and highway cruising without undue spending at the fuel pumps.

That’s the point of a diesel, of course, and the XE delivers with a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 30/40/34 mpg. You decide for yourself whether that’s enough of a return from a base price of $46,395 and, as tested for this review, $55,485.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111510-resize-1024x1536The monkey wrench in the gears is the current disenchantment with diesel engines, thanks to the scandal in which Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests for nearly 11 million diesel-engine vehicles world-wide, including about 500,000 in the United States.

If that’s not a concern, and you value the cachet of a British luxury sedan with superb handling, okay drivetrain performance, and exceptional fuel economy over blistering acceleration and autobahn no-limit cruising, the Jaguar XE 20d is worth a test drive.

It scores on styling, with clean lines outside and an unmistakable Jaguar look, as well as inside where there are luxury appointments and supportive comfort on seats covered in quality leather. Though it has seatbelts for five, figure on carrying only four medium to small adults.

Because of a smallish door opening, it takes effort to squeeze into the back seat, where there’s barely enough head and knee room for an average-sized human. Forget about the center-rear position, which is negated by a giant floor hump and a high, hard cushion.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111511-resize-1024x652Up front is way better, where power seats deliver a multitude of adjustments and the seatbacks have prominent bolsters to hold the torso in place during cornering.

Not all is well with the XE 2.0d. It has two shortcomings that should never be seen on a car in this price and performance category: a flimsy translucent cloth sunshade that allows too much sunlight through the sunroof and sun visors that do not extend to block sunlight from the side. Also, the tester lacked adaptive cruise control, common now on less expensive machinery.

Instruments and controls are highlighted by the characteristic Jaguar automatic transmission shifter, a yeasty knob that rises like a small cake from the center console. It works intuitively once you get used to it, and features both “drive” and “sport” modes. The latter mode recalibrates the eight-speed automatic transmission to shift at higher rpms.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111512-resize-1024x1536If manual shifting is your choice, paddles are mounted on the steering wheel. However, as with many of these units, the Jaguar version doesn’t trust the driver. If you hold onto a gear too long, the transmission will shift for you. That’s not necessarily bad. You’d hit a rev limiter in any case; otherwise you could trash the engine.

With some turbo lag, the best you can do with the XE 2.0d in the 0-to-60-mph sprint is in the mid-eight seconds, according to independent instrumented tests. Though the engine delivers 180 hp and 318 lb-ft of torque, the Jag’s nearly two-ton weight cannot be overcome.

Interestingly, the Jaguar XE 2.0d compares with the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sport, which at $23,615 costs less than half the money. They are both about the same size, within inches of overall length and a few cubic feet of interior space.

JagXE17MYAWDLocationImage18111508-resize-1024x397The Impreza is 15 feet 2 inches long — three inches shorter than the Jag. Passenger/trunk space is 100/12 cubic feet compared to the XE’s 92/15 cubic feet. But the XE weighs 3,945 pounds; the Impreza checks in at 3,179 — 766 pounds lighter.

That’s likely why the Impreza’s 0-to-60 acceleration time is nearly identical to the XE’s, despite the fact that its 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed gasoline engine is rated at 152 hp, 28 less than the Jag’s. But the Impreza lags in a comparison of fuel economy at 27/36/30 miles to the gallon.

Subaru likes to think of its vehicles as the low-calorie versions of Audi’s all-wheel-drive cars and crossovers. Every Subaru model comes with all-wheel drive standard. Likely it also could now compare its Impreza Sport with the Jaguar XE diesel.

But there are intangibles. The Jaguar XE 20d exudes that indefinable heft and feel common to quality luxury/sports sedans. You pay for it, but for some people that’s the clincher.

JAGUARXEGRAHAMBELL01-resize-1024x684Specifications:

  • Model: 2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD Prestige four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, 180 hp, 318 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 92/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,945 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,395.
  • Price as tested: $55,485.

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

jagxemostbeautifulcarawardimage28011501Photos (c) Jaguar.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like a Major League Baseball team with strong hitters, Chevrolet continues its winning streak with the 2018 Equinox compact crossover sport utility vehicle.

Moreover, there hasn’t been a strikeout or even an error in a string that includes the Impala, Malibu and Cruze. It is the strongest lineup that the General Motors mainstay has fielded in its history.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-018When it was introduced as a 2005 model, the Equinox was something of an anomaly: a bit bigger than a compact crossover like the sales-leading Honda CR-V but smaller than the midsize versions like the Ford Edge.

For 2018, it slots neatly into the compact class, which, along with its crossover brethren, constitutes the most popular vehicle configuration in the U.S. market. Compact and midsize sedans are no longer the champs.

Equinox hasn’t lost any interior space but is nearly six inches shorter and almost 400 pounds lighter than its predecessor. One result: there no longer are any six-cylinder engines in the lineup; the tested Equinox uses a 170-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 203 lb-ft of torque. Later in the model year, a 252-hp 2.0-liter four-banger and a 137-hp diesel engine will be added.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-016The 1.5-liter engine — tiny by traditional measures — is used in other Chevrolets as well, including the desirable new-generation Malibu. To send the power to the front wheels or all four wheels, Chevy installs its competent six-speed automatic transmission.

Short on muscular power, the Equinox feels quicker than its sub nine-second 0-to-60 mph acceleration time. Turbo lag is nonexistent. The torque, or twisting force, is more than adequate for stoplight sprints, on-ramp acceleration and freeway lane-swapping. To enhance fuel economy, it uses a stop-start system to shut down the engine at stoplights.

Many stop-start systems tend to be annoying, restarting the engine with a shudder or with so much hesitation it feels as if the engine bogs down. That’s not the case with the Equinox. It engages instantly and smoothly, so there’s no anxiety getting a jump off the line. That’s a good thing, because the stop-start system cannot be disengaged.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-023The Equinox also shines with effortless handling. There’s good grip and almost no lean around corners and it changes lanes smartly and smoothly without tossing passengers around.

Inside, the Equinox delivers generous head and knee room for five people, plus 30 cubic feet of cargo space that expands to 64 cubic feet if the rear seatbacks are folded flat. There’s also a bit of extra out-of-sight stash space under the cargo floor. A power tailgate can be adjusted for height from a button on the driver’s door.

Front seats are supportive for long-distance comfort with modest bolsters on the seatbacks to hold the torso in cornering. Outboard back seats offer full comfort and even the center-rear position, a punishing place on most vehicles, is half-way decent thanks to a flat floor and minimal intrusion of the front console, though the seat itself is flat and hard.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-017Tested for this review was the topmost Premier trim line with all-wheel drive. It’s a bit pricey for a compact crossover with a starting sticker of $35,330 and, with options, a bottom line of $39,645. However, the interior had an upscale look with quality materials and trim.

Equipment included full basic safety equipment plus forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic low-speed braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and a rearview camera with an overhead view. However, there was no radar cruise control.

Other items: a panoramic sunroof with one of the biggest openings anywhere, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot with GM’s OnStar communications system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen, SXM satellite radio, HD radio, dual-zone climate control, perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, electric parking brake and 19-inch alloy wheels.

2017-Chevrolet-Equinox-Pothole-Awareness-06Also included was Chevrolet’s innovative teen-driving parental control, which can set speed limits and audio volume, as well as produce a report card on the teen’s behavior behind the wheel.

One critical note: If you shut off the Equinox and forget to put the transmission in “Park,” the vehicle will roll as if it is in neutral. It should automatically shift into park. However, a chime sounds and a message appears to remind the driver to shift.

On the praiseworthy side, a chime and message reminds the driver to check the back seat when the Equinox is parked. It could save a child’s life.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-015Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 1.5T four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 170 hp, 203 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/30 cubic feet. (64)
  • Weight: 3,640 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,330.
  • Price as tested: $39,645.

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

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-013Photos (c) General Motors.

2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0 Sport illustrates what can happen to a pioneering car that leads the race but others catch up.

When it was introduced as a 2014 model, the Q50, especially in its S, or Sport iteration with all-wheel drive, was in the vanguard with new technology that placed it on the threshold of a self-driving car.

2018 INFINITI Q50

In fact, with its radar cruise control and direct adaptive steering (DAS), working seamlessly with a lane control system, the Q50 could be driven on a freeway with the driver’s hands off the steering wheel and feet resting comfortably away from the pedals. In fact, a test car driven for the 2014 model’s DriveWays review functioned perfectly that way in more than 10 miles of freeway driving.

DAS uses a drive-by-wire technology that sends the driver’s inputs to the steering wheel directly to the rack that turns the front wheels. The lane control system uses sensors to read lines on the road. If the car drifts to the left or right, the DAS keeps it in the lane. It also works to keep the car tracking around curves.

At the time, the Q50 was the only car that steered back into the lane. Other manufacturers mainly used computerized selective wheel braking. Simultaneously, the radar cruise control maintained a distance from the car ahead, down to a stop.

2018 INFINITI Q50

Both of those enhancements continue on the 2017 Q50 3.0T Sport AWD. The difference is that its competitors, along with some less expensive automobiles, have caught up and now have similar systems. The Q50 also has predictive front collision warning that not only monitors the car ahead but the one in front of that. If it senses a possible collision, it will slam on the brakes to avoid the impact. It also will warn the driver and automatically apply the brakes when the car is moving in reverse and another vehicle crosses its path. Infiniti claims reverse braking as a world first technology.

One thing has changed on all cars with lane departure mitigation: If a driver now decides to try hands-free driving, he receives visual or aural warnings to get his hands back on the wheel. It’s an obvious safety feature, even on the 2017 Q50 Sport. So, there’s no opportunity now to let the car drive itself.

2018 INFINITI Q50

The 2017 Q50 Sport’s midsize package mimics the 2014 model. It is the same length with almost the same passenger and trunk space, seats four comfortably (the center-rear passenger is severely disrespected) and delivers comparable performance.

However, there’s a new engine: a 3.0-liter V6 with twin turbochargers that delivers 300 horsepower. That’s a bit less than the 2014’s 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6, which had 328 horsepower. However, the fuel economy of the 2014 and 2017 models is identical at 19/27/22 miles to the gallon in city/highway/combined driving.

If you’re the sort of enthusiast who wants even more punch, Infiniti offers the Q50T Red Sport model, which squeezes 400 horsepower from the 3.0-liter V6.

2018 INFINITI Q50

As before, the transmission is a seven-speed automatic with a manual shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering column — a superior setup to those on the steering wheel itself because the paddles are always in the same place no matter where the wheel is turned.

The price has dropped from the 2014 S model, which had a starting sticker of $49,905 and, with options, checked in at $56,545. For the 2017 Q50 Sport model, Infiniti suggests a starting price of $47,555. With options, the version tested for this review came to $55,520.

On the road, the midsize Q50T AWD performs competitively with other sports sedans in its class. Most are classified as compacts by the EPA and, like the Q50, have rear-wheel drive with optional all-wheel drive. Among them: Jaguar XE, BMW 330i, Mercedes-Benz C300 and Lexus IS. Others, which have front- or all-wheel drive, are the Acura TLX and Audi A4.

2018 INFINITI Q50

An entry luxury car, the 2017 Sport comes with a long list of standard equipment, including LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights; dual-zone automatic climate control; leather upholstery; memory settings for the power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and power front seats; SXM satellite radio; rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a motorized glass sunroof.

Options included a rear camera with overhead viewing (which Infiniti was first to offer), radar cruise control, blind-spot warning, and the aforementioned lane departure mitigation and radar cruise control.

2018 INFINITI Q50 makes its North American debut at the 2017 New

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 300 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 101/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,996 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,555.
  • Price as tested: $55,520.

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

2018 INFINITI Q50

Photos (c) Infiniti.

 

2017 Lincoln Continental: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Ford Motor Co. resurrected a storied luxury nameplate with the 2017 Lincoln Continental.

It didn’t happen without controversy. When the concept was introduced, the chief designer at Great Britain’s Bentley accused Lincoln of copy-catting the Bentley Flying Spur, a luxury sedan which, curiously enough, was built off the same platform as Bentley’s own Continental, a high-performance coupe and convertible.

17LincolnContinental_06_HRBut Bentley could not gripe about the name because Lincoln had an unassailable prior claim, having introduced its Continental in 1939 — also as a coupe and convertible. It carried on through 10 generations of sedans, coupes and convertibles, with arguably its most beautiful and famous the Continental coupe of 1956-57.

Lincoln canceled the Continental in 2002 as superfluous because it already had the big Town Car and the LS model, which did double duty as the British Jaguar S-Type at a time when Ford owned Jaguar.

Over the later years, Lincoln sagged as Ford neglected it, along with the now-defunct Mercury, to concentrate on high-profit models, especially the Ford F-Series pickup trucks. Lincoln was eclipsed by Cadillac and new luxury cars from Japan and Germany.

2017-Lincoln-Continental-Gary-Clark-Jr_L1390370-HI-RESAfter the recession of 2008, Ford started a campaign to recapture Lincoln’s aura, renaming its luxury division as the Lincoln Motor Co. Yet by 2012, its U.S. sales remained the lowest in a group of luxury and near-luxury vehicles behind Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.

Now with the livery-centric Town Car gone, the 2017 Continental reigns as Lincoln’s pinnacle in a competitive fleet of luxury cars and crossovers, as well as the full-size body-on-frame Navigator sport utility vehicle.

17LincolnContinental_09_HRThe new Continentals are starting to turn up as classy for-hire conveyances, though the complaint from drivers is that they do not have big enough trunks compared to the sturdy old body-on-frame Town Car sedans, which had a run from 1981 to 2011.

But Lincoln already has finessed that by revamping its full-size three-row crossover sport utility vehicle, the MKT, with the second row of seats moved back to provide additional leg room and the third row eliminated entirely for luggage space.

Oh, and just so everybody gets the message, that special MKT bears a Town Car badge.

17LincolnContinental_10_HRRegardless of any resemblance to the Bentley Flying Spur, the new Continental looks the part of a classic luxury car (though it sells for less money than most of its competitors, some of which break into six figures). The model tested for this review, the top-of-the-line AWD (all-wheel-drive) Reserve, came with a starting price of $57,000 and, with full safety equipment and a complement of optional convenience and luxury features, topped out at $75,020.

For luxury car fans, this is one to salivate over. It has a comfortable, even cushy, ride without inducing motion sickness like some of the big luxury sedans of yore. The tested Continental even had built-in massage therapy for the driver and front passenger, including settings to knead both the back and buttocks.

1421874_17_LNC_CTN_200097_RHS_Hires_RGB_160803Three engines are available, each linked to a six-speed automatic transmission: 245-hp twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6, 305-hp 3.5-liter V6 and the top 400-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 on the tested Reserve model.

Though the Continental is nearly 17 feet long and weighs 4,547 pounds, it is not a slug in urban traffic, and is blessed with relatively nimble handling. The all-wheel drive incorporates dynamic torque-vectoring — a system that selectively applies the rear-wheel brakes to ease handling around corners. Even so, it’s not the sort of car you’d use to chase sports cars or even small sports sedans on curving mountain roads.

As a premier luxury car, the Continental comes with state-of-the art safety and convenience equipment. They include a twin-panel glass sunroof, backup camera with a 360-degree overhead view, pre-collision detection and warning, three-zone automatic climate control, and electronic door latching and opening. Inside or outside, merely touching the button opens the door.

1395139_17_LNC_CTN_200135_CHL_Hires_RGB_160620One caution: Don’t mess with the entertainment and information systems, including the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, without a thorough briefing or detailed reading of the owner’s manual. Trying to access some of the obtuse functions without instructions can be infuriating.

The Continental’s forte is as a boulevardier around the city and suburbs, and as a long-distance road car. Settle into the soft leather seats, tune in the satellite radio or your choice of music from your own smart phone, set the adaptive cruise control and make sure the lane departure warning is activated. You’re in for a pleasant, quiet trip without fatigue.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Reserve four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 400 hp, 400 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,547 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/24/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,000.
  • Price as tested: $75,020.

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

17_LNC_CTN_200200Photos (c) Lincoln.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Not only does the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport give its maker a promising addition to an extensive lineup of cars, trucks, crossovers and an SUV, it has the potential to boost the Rogue to the top of the sales heap.

All-new (to the U.S.), the crossover Sport is smaller than its compact sibling. Its length is a foot shorter, height six inches shorter and the interior volume is smaller by about nine cubic feet — almost all of it from the cargo area. It also is lighter by couple of hundred pounds and has a less powerful engine.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

The Rogue Sport has been sold as the Qashqai around the world since 2006. The name comes from an area in Iran and one source says it translates as “a horse with a white forehead.” Nissan Americanized it to bolster the Rogue lineup.

There’s the opportunity. Because it uses the same Rogue name, the Sport’s sales likely will be combined with the larger model. It would be as if the subcompact crossover Honda HR-V’s sales were lumped in with the best-selling compact CR-V.

In 2016, Honda CR-V sales totaled 357,335, compared to the Rogue’s 329,904. However, the Rogue, which is Nissan’s best seller, has been nipping away at the CR-V and passed it in the first quarter of 2017 with 101,421 sales compared to 94,057 for the CR-V.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

A quarter, of course, does not necessarily portend what will happen over an entire calendar year. But the addition of the Rogue Sport to the Rogue’s sales statistics enhances its prospects to overtake the leader.

It is possible that the Rogue and Rogue Sport numbers will be reported separately. But an analogous precedent could be the Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, whose sales are combined. The former is a large, three-row crossover and the latter is a midsize, two-row crossover.

However it is viewed, the new Rogue Sport is an intriguing vehicle. Its tidier dimensions and lighter weight make for nimble handling in urban traffic and clogged freeways. The 141-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, sending its power through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), provides decent acceleration off the line and good passing power thanks to Nissan’s D-Step tuning of the CVT, which mimics the kick-down passing gear of a standard automatic.

2017_Nissan_Rogue_Sport_18
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The Rogue Sport delivers spacious comfort up front with seats that offer support for long-distance driving. In back, the outboard seats have enough head and knee room for average-sized humans, though the center-rear position—as in most vehicles these days—is substantially less comfortable with foot room limited by a floor hump.

Out back, there’s a cargo area of 23 cubic feet, about double what you’d find in a compact sedan. Fold the rear seatbacks and the cargo area expands to 61 cubic feet.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

Like the Rogue itself, the Rogue Sport comes with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as a $1,350 option on all three trim levels: S, which starts at $22,380; SV at $23,980, and SL at $27,030. Tested for this review was an all-wheel drive SL with two options packages that brought its suggested delivered price to $31,365.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT are standard on all models, as is a basic suite of safety equipment; a fully independent suspension system, and electric power steering with a sport setting. When the sport setting is engaged, it increases the steering effort, so slightly that it’s almost unnoticeable.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

With its options packages, the top-line SL came with adaptive cruise control, rear camera with around-view monitor, lane departure monitoring and prevention, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

SL equipment also included leather-appointed front seats, the Nissan Connect system with navigation, Sirius XM satellite radio and other services, a 7-inch color touch-screen display, remote engine starting, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, motorized glass sunroof, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights, heated outside mirrors, and leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

An innovative “Divide-N-Hide” rear cargo area uses a system where panels can be positioned upright to convert the area into compartments for securing grocery bags and other items.

With the addition of the Rogue Sport, Nissan fields a double-barreled approach to the burgeoning small and compact crossover SUV market segment. A Nissan engineer confided that if it was just her, she’d go for the Sport. But she has two kids and will stick with the regular Rogue.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, 141 hp, 147 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,415 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/30/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,380.
  • Price as tested: $31,365.

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

2017_Nissan_Rogue_Sport_03
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Photos (c) Nissan.

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2017 Mazda CX-5 imparts the distinct impression that this compact crossover SUV filched a few genes from the Mazda Miata sports car.

Given its tall profile and practical family orientation, you don’t expect much in the way of pinpoint handling. True, other compact crossovers do a decent job of hustling around curves, as long as you don’t push too hard. But none do it with quite as much composure.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-19Sure, it’s not an MX-5 Miata two-seater. Nor will it impress owners with low-slung sports sedans, powerful engines, tight suspension systems and loose principles. But this redesigned offering from one of the world’s more innovative automakers incorporates a nearly anonymous system that surreptitiously enhances the steering.

Basically, what it does is subtly back off the throttle — not so you’d notice it — to produce an ever-so-slight weight shift toward the front wheels. The effect is to tighten the steering response to make it more precise in cornering. Mazda calls it G-Vectoring Control. (Technology nerds can look it up).

2017-Mazda-CX-5-3-1You don’t notice the specifics of this engineering. It is part of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, which takes a holistic approach to every facet of vehicle design, right down to designing components that are as little as a few ounces lighter to contribute to overall weight reduction.

Likely most casual observers will not immediately identify the 2017 CX-5 from its predecessor. It carries over a family resemblance but adds styling fillips to the grille and headlights as well as sensuous haunches masquerading as rear fenders.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-5Inside, the engineering elves have installed additional sound deadening materials to muffle unwelcome exterior noises. They also tuned the suspension system to soak up the common bumps and grinds on U.S. roads and highways that have been allowed to fester because of ideological penny-pinching politicians. At least the engineers are doing their best to save motorists’ spines, molars and kidneys.

Aside from the excellent ride, handling and ambience, the CX-5 is no slouch on the performance charts — given its crossover orientation. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 187 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, most of it usable and delivering 23/29/26 mpg fuel consumption on the EPA’s city/highway/combined test cycle.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-11The power gets to the pavement through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. However, there are no shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel, as has become increasingly common.

On the CX-5, you must manually shift with the actual shift lever down on the console, which for some purists is way preferable to fingering paddles. There also are two modes: normal Drive and Sport. The latter holds the transmission to higher engine revolutions before shifting — something the driver obviously can do himself with the shifter. The manual-shift mode can be used in either the Sport or normal setting.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-12Front-wheel drive comes standard on the CX-5 and is perfectly acceptable for any owner who doesn’t live in chronically crappy weather conditions, of which there are many — and increasing — around the continental United States. If all-wheel drive is preferable, it’s a $1,300 option

There are three CX-5 trim levels: Sport, which has a starting price of $24,985, including the destination charge; Touring, at $26,855; and the tested Grand Touring at $30,335. (Manufacturers like to present their top-line vehicles to testers and critics; only rarely do you get to drive a base model). With options, the tested CX-5 had a bottom-line sticker price of $33,465.

The Grand Touring model, which accounts for about half of CX-5 sales, is lavishly equipped with a power tailgate, leather upholstery, features and trim that would be characteristic of a luxury crossover. However, it does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-4There’s a head-up display that not only shows the vehicle’s speed but also the speed limit and other functions, including lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control. The display reflects off the windshield, not the small reflective panel used on other Mazda models that rises up out of the dash.

It should be noted that compact crossover SUVs, which are the hottest selling vehicles on the market, are being infected with price creep. Where not long ago you could buy one nicely equipped for under $30,000, they now are more expensive and, in some cases, even popular priced models are approaching $40,000, moving them into luxury territory populated by crossovers from Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Lincoln, Audi and Lexus.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-33Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:5-liter four-cylinder, 187 hp, 185 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 104/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,700 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/29/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,635.
  • Price as tested: $34,380.

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

Photos (c) Mazda.

 

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

They call it a “major refresh,” but the 2018 Acura TLX looks and feels more like a comprehensive makeover of the sport/luxury sedan.

Although it carries over engines, transmissions and other components from the previous TLX, the new car has been re-sculpted from the windshield forward. A handsome “diamond pentagon” grille replaces the earlier face, which some critics likened to a dental overbite.

There also are new rear styling touches as well as an upgraded model, the A-Spec, which features state-of-the art suspension modifications, quicker steering, 19-inch alloy wheels and premium sport-tuned Michelin tires that combine to muffle road noise and improve the ride, response and feel. Engine sounds are enhanced to make music for enthusiasts’ ears.

2018 Acura TLX

The musicality extends to the to the rhythm and tone of the driving experience, in which the TLX — particularly in the models with the V6 engine and all-wheel drive — evokes tactile sensations and emotional driver responses. Overall, the feel is of heft and substance.

The first TLX was designed to replace two Acura models: The acclaimed TL sedan, produced from 1996 to 2014, and the slightly smaller 2004-2014 TSX sedan. A TSX station wagon also was sold for a few years.

There are six versions of the new TLX, all with front-wheel drive, starting with the standard model at $33,950. It comes equipped with a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automated manual transmission that incorporates a torque converter for smoother starts off the line.

2018 Acura TLX

Basic equipment is extensive, including the AcuraWatch suite of safety features: autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

Also standard are Apple Car Play or Android Auto infotainment systems, XM satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, motorized sunroof, power and heated front seats, and pushbutton starting. A 2.4 TLX with the Tech package, at $37,650, adds navigation, premium ELS audio system, perforated leather upholstery, blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic monitoring.

There also are four versions of the TLX with Acura’s 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. They range from the standard model at $37,150 with equipment similar to that of the standard 2.4-liter version, ranging up to the Advance trim level. That carries a price tag of $44,700 but includes a full load of equipment, including wireless cell phone charging, surround-view camera, heated steering wheel and rear seats, and a heated windshield.

2018 Acura TLX

Off by itself is the slightly less expensive but more engaging A-Spec model, which lists at $43,750. It was the version tested for this review and is aimed at customers who appreciate the nuances of sharper, more responsive handling as well as raspier exhaust notes.

The tested TLX was equipped with Acura’s state-of-the-art super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD in Acura-speak). It is available on any V6 TLX model for $2,000, and not only delivers confidence in foul weather conditions but enhances the driving experience even in fair weather climates.

Sure, almost anyone would be perfectly happy driving a TLX with front-wheel drive. But aficionados will appreciate the SH-AWD for the precise way it contributes to rapid lane changes and high-speed handling stability on curving roads. The torque vectoring system, housed in the rear differential, apportions power to the rear wheels automatically depending on conditions. In a high-speed corner, it slows the inside wheel slightly and increases power to the outside rear wheel to follow the driver’s chosen line. It also modifies the steering angle. The principle is the same as that used on the Acura NSX super car and the new Acura MDX Sport Hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle.

Although the A-Spec with SH-AWD still has the TLX feeling a bit as if it is under-steering — that is, pushing forward in a straight line — it obeys the driver’s wishes if you trust it.

2018 Acura TLX

Interior appointments, ergonomics and front-seat comfort are first-rate. But the outboard rear seats are barely adequate for average-sized adults. The center-rear position should be reserved for purses and small backpacks.

Though the TLX is marketed as a midsize sedan, its interior volume of 107.6 cubic feet (including the trunk) places it in the EPA’s compact class. To get a midsize designation, a sedan must have 110 to 119 cubic feet inside.

The 2018 TLX competes in the entry premium segment of the market against the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, BMW 330i, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50. It doesn’t bow to any of them.

2018 Acura TLX

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and SH-AWD all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,616 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,700.
  • Price as tested: $45,700.

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

2018 Acura TLX
2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec

Photos (c) Acura.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Honda Odyssey elevates the family minivan to a lofty level of efficiency and comfort.

Minivans are the most useful vehicles you can find for mom, pop, and the kids. More than any conveyance, they accommodate people and their stuff in customized ways while delivering entertainment and car-like performance.

Though dwindling popularity has reduced choices to only a few — the Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona and the waning Dodge Grand Caravan — they endure and likely will grow somewhat, even faced with the juggernaut of crossover sport utility vehicles.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Because all have a similar configuration, minivan competitiveness distills to features both practical and desirable, as well as finer points like serenity, security and comfort. Thus, the Pacifica, for example, touts its Stow ‘n’ Go second-row seats, which fold into the floor for extra cargo space.

The 2018 Odyssey doesn’t have that. But it arguably offers something better. It is an eight-passenger vehicle with a “Magic Slide” second row that accommodates three. A small seat in the middle can hold a rear-facing child seat and moves fore-and-aft so parents up front can check on the infant.

Outboard are two captain’s chairs that also move back and forth, and flip forward for access to the third row. But remove the center seat and the outboard seats can be effortlessly moved sideways as well, kept separate or pushed together on the right, left or in the middle for even easier access to the third row.

2018 Honda Odyssey

To keep tabs on the sprouts in back, the Odyssey incorporates “CabinWatch,” an overhead camera that focuses on the second and third rows and displays the view on the multi-purpose center screen up front. “CabinTalk,” allows the parents to interrupt whatever the children are watching and listening to, much like an airline pilot stopping the entertainment for announcements. “CabinControl,” enables control of onboard apps from a smart phone.

There’s an overhead screen that serves both the second and third rows, along with wireless headphones for the second row and jacks in the third row for wired headphones.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Other minivans incorporate dual rear seat screens so passengers can independently watch different programs or movies. Honda opted for the single screen to promote more family togetherness — which individual buyers may or may not like.

The Odyssey has an array of peace-of-mind features, including the Honda Sensing safety array with automatic braking for collision mitigation. Also: 4G-LTE WiFi Hotspot, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, content streaming to the rear entertainment system from Smart TV or wireless Android devices, walk-away automatic door locking, power hands-free tailgate, motorized side doors and sunroof, wireless smart phone charging and Honda’s pioneering onboard vacuum cleaner.

Obviously, not all of this stuff is fitted to every Odyssey. Just as obviously, Honda put its best package forward, the Odyssey Elite, at the national press introduction on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was fully optioned with a suggested delivered price of a whopping $47,610, which is encroaching on luxury-car territory.

2018 Honda Odyssey

However, there are a total of five other trim levels, starting with the base LX at $30,930, including the destination charge, so customers can pick and choose to fit budgets. Others are the EX at $34,800, EX-L (with leather upholstery and other upgrades) at $38,300, EX with navigation and rear entertainment, $40,300, and Touring at $45,450.

All Odysseys come equipped with Honda’s 280-hp V6 engine, which delivers 262 lb-ft of torque and features cylinder deactivation for highway cruising, a stop-start system and an Econ mode for improved fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/28/22 mpg.

LX and EX models get the power to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Elite models have an all-new 10-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

As before, the Odyssey continues as an effortless performer with car-like handling, improved ride and fatigue-free long-distance cruising. For 2018, the experience is enhanced by a muted inside environment thanks to a host of sound-deadening materials. The main annoying sounds on a trip likely will come from the kids arguing.

Though it’s not exclusive to the Odyssey, one of the apps mimics airline screens that announce the distance and time traveled as well as what’s remaining. If the boys and girls in the Odyssey shout the traditional “Are we there yet?” just point them to the screen.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite eight-passenger minivan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 160/37 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,593 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/28/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,610.
  • Price as tested: $47,610.

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

2018 Honda Odyssey

Photos (c) Honda.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas: A DriveWays Review

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Beetle builder goes big with the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

Though the Beetle’s sidekick — the famed VW microbus of the 1960s — could carry as many passengers, the Atlas is the biggest Volkswagen ever. Moreover, it was designed for American buyers and is built in the United States.

Of course, VW’s reputation was established with the Beetle, the sturdy two-door, rear-engine sedan that entranced buyers following World War II and into the mid-1970s.

2018_atlas_7017Nowadays, however, if you want to compete in the world-wide vehicle industry, you must field at least one crossover sport utility vehicle. Better yet, provide choices.

Compact and midsize crossovers are taking over the marketplace as buyers recognize the utility of a machine that carries big cargo loads and passengers, can be equipped with all-wheel drive for safety in foul weather, and deliver modest off-road performance.

Volkswagen already had two crossovers in its lineup: the compact Tiguan and the midsize Touareg. Both have two rows of seats to accommodate up to five passengers.

2018_atlas_7014But VW’s country of origin is Germany, where manufacturers like BMW are relentlessly trying to plug every market niche with their vehicle lineups, especially with crossovers. It was inevitable that Volkswagen, with its goal of becoming a full-line family-oriented automobile company, would deliver a full-size crossover that can carry up to seven passengers.

Moreover, the company is working hard to regain the trust of consumers in the wake of a scandal in which it admitted violations of federal anti-pollution laws by faking diesel engine emissions test results.

No surprise, there will be no diesel engine for the new Atlas. Two gasoline engines are offered: a 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, offered only in front-wheel drive models; and a 276-hp 3.6-liter V6, available with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. Both get the power to the pavement through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2018_atlas_7009At the introduction, the tested Atlas crossovers were equipped with the V6 engine, most with all-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter four-banger will arrive later in the model year.

The Atlas enters the market against formidable odds. Among the proven competitors are the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse.

Starting prices for six trim levels of the Atlas, including an S launch model with the V6 engine and front- or all-wheel drive, range from $31,425 for the base four-cylinder S version to the top-line Atlas SEL Premium at $49,415. The latter was tested for this review. All prices include the $925 destination charge.

2018_atlas_6963The SEL Premium was as well equipped as almost anything you’d find in a showroom. In addition to the V6 engine and all-wheel drive, it comes with leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, park assist, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, and a Fender premium audio system. The tested Atlas also had the optional second-row individual seats, which reduced the passenger accommodations from seven to six.

The captain’s chairs are slightly smaller than the front seats but offer support and comfort. They recline and feature about eight inches of fore and aft travel, which helps to divide the knee room between the second and third rows of seats. Head room is generous.

A minor complaint: the shade for the sunroof is made of a perforated cloth that allows too much sunlight to intrude into the passenger pod. This has unaccountably become a common feature on some luxury cars. Sunshades should be opaque.

2018_atlas_6969With either the second-row bench seat or the captain’s chairs, the Atlas maintains 21 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third row, which can accommodate two average-sized adults, though they sit with their knees raised high. Fold the third row and the cargo space expands to nearly 56 cubic feet.

On the road, the Atlas has a substantial feel. It is a big vehicle — 16.5 feet long and weighing 4,502 lbs — and it feels big. It has plenty of power though it is not particularly nimble. But it tracks cleanly on the highway with few steering corrections needed. Cornering on twisting roads is capable as long as you don’t push it too hard.

The ride is comfortable and there’s little intrusion of wind and mechanical noise, though rough pavement elicited a harmonic thrum from the tires that made its way inside.

Like its competitors, the Atlas will please customers who want family space and comfort without resorting to a minivan.

2018_atlas_7004Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter VR6, 276 hp, 266 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 154/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,502 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/23/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,415.
  • Price as tested: $50,040.

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

2018_atlas_7020Photos (c) Volkswagen.

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