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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 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you have one of those primal urges for a low-slung, two-seat sports car, and you’re not a member of the one percent, look no farther than the 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF.

Don’t bother reading about the $3.3 million Bugatti Chiron, the $285,000 McLaren 270S, the $187,500 Porsche GT3 RS, or the $141,000 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. There are other nosebleed-priced super cars as well.

And you can even skip the $30,000-plus Fiat 124 Abarth Spider, which is basically a knockoff of the MX-5 with Italian styling and a Fiat engine, but only comes as a ragtop convertible. Mazda also builds an MX-5 two-seat ragtop but the focus here is on the RF, which stands for “retractable fastback.”

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-9With slick engineering that would do justice to cartoonist Rube Goldberg, along with13 seconds of your time, the fastback MX-5 RF swallows its roof in a maw behind the driver and pirouettes a few other pieces to wind up looking like a 1960s-era Porsche 911 Targa-top roadster open to the sky.

Another touch of the dash-mounted switch sends all the parts back into their cozy tubs so you can enjoy closed-car, weatherproof motoring. However, it’s not particularly quiet. This is a sports car, after all, and the Mazda people want you to enjoy the performance vibes of mechanical and raucous exhaust sounds.

They come from Mazda’s re-refined SkyActiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which now makes 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-26Though too many exotic sportsters now rely exclusively on automatic transmissions, computer-controlled so anybody could drive them, purists like us still favor the tactile feeling of mastery and skill driving good manual gearboxes. And, of course, the MX-5 has one with a positive, effortless shift linkage that almost makes you want to seek out heavy stop and start traffic.

No, forget that. Better to find mountain roads with tight curves and elevation changes that encourage attention to the frequent up and down gear shifts of the squat-down, two-seater driving experience. Practice your heel-and-toe technique to match engine revolutions with road speed on downshifts. The MX-5 RF unfortunately does not have automatic rev matching, though you can get it on a humble stick shift Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

So, maybe later for that on the MX-5. Meanwhile, as the motoring gods intended, you drive this neat Mazda the way your forbears did with the Austin-Healey Sprite, MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire back in the 1960s. After all, the MX-5 — most people still call it the Miata and Mazda doesn’t argue with it — was invented in 1990 to be the reliable Japanese descendant of those wonderful — and infamously unreliable — British sports cars.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-15True, you can derive driving joy from many modern sport-oriented cars—including some crossover SUVs with automatic transmissions. There’s shifting with paddles on the steering wheel but you soon learn, even on a racetrack, that the onboard computer is way better at it than you are so why bother.

And, of course, you can buy enjoyment with something like a marvelous old Honda S2000 two-seater with a six-speed manual gearbox, if you can find one. But the performance, which depended mainly on high engine revolutions instead of low-end torque, is not up to modern standards.

So back to the MX-5. There are two versions: Club, which is directed more at a customer who might want to do some week-end faux racing, and the Grand Touring, a bit more expensive but more oriented toward the relaxed, automatic-transmission boulevardiers, though it also comes with a stick shift.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-20The tested Club model had a starting price of $33,240 — not exactly economy-car territory but actually less than the average out-the-door price of a new car these days. With options that include Recaro sport seats with plenty of bolstering, Brembo high-performance brakes and 17-inch BBS metallic black wheels, the bottom-line sticker came to $37,910.

That’s fairly pricey for what essentially would be a toy for middle-class fun-seeking enthusiasts. It would work for a single person and a significant other, but they would have to forego double dating unless there was a second car — even a used compact — in the picture.

There are some other choices that can deliver some of the same driving excitement as the MX-5. A few that come to mind are the Volkswagen Golf GT, Ford Focus RS or the upcoming Hyundai Veloster N.

In the end, however, there’s nothing quite like the MX-5 RF.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-22Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF hardtop convertible two-seat roadster.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 181 hp, 151 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 12 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 49/5 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,339 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $33,240.
  • Price as tested: $37,910.

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

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-13Photos (c) Mazda

2019 Kia Forte EX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Forte was not suffering. But Kia nevertheless injected it with juice from the Stinger — though not the venom.

That’s the opening loud note signaling the 2019 Kia Forte, which competes in the compact sedan class against such stalwarts as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta.

Since its introduction nearly a decade ago, the Forte has been a success story for South Korea’s Kia. Steady annual sales peaked in 2017 at 117,596, making it the brand’s top seller. They continued strong in 2018.

2019 Forte

Not content to simply cruise, the company redesigned the Forte to resemble the Stinger, its critically acclaimed high-performance midsize fastback. They reimagined the styling, giving the new Forte a long hood, short rear deck and other design cues of the Stinger.

However, the Stinger is equipped with a practical hatchback, popular in Europe and other places, while the new Forte, at least initially, comes only as a four-door sedan with a traditional trunk, albeit of a size, 15.3 cubic feet, that would do justice to a midsize car.

The Forte itself, though marketed as a compact, perches on the cusp between compact and midsize, As defined by the federal government, size classes are determined by interior volume—a combination of passenger and cargo space.

2019 Forte

With a motorized sunroof, the new Forte has an interior of slightly less than 109 cubic feet, classified as a compact. Without the sunroof, the space is a bit over 111 cubic feet, which gives it a midsize designation. The dividing line is 110 cubic feet.

It also has an economy car orientation, although in the Korean tradition it comes well equipped even in the lower trim levels. There are four: FE, which starts at $18,585, followed by the LXS, S and EX. Only the base FE comes with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or Kia’s new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All others get the automatic.

The transmission, which Kia calls an IVT, for Intelligent Variable Transmission, varies the power with a belt and pulleys so there are no shift points. It is the company’s first of its type built in-house and it was engineered to subdue common complaints about CVTs — that they are noisy and feel as if the transmission is slipping.

2019 Forte

Kia’s IVT uses a chain-type belt and special sound deadening materials around the transmission housing. It also can be switched to a different mode that mimics the shift points of a conventional automatic transmission.

But the IVT goes about its business so unobtrusively, getting the power to the front wheels efficiently, a driver is unlikely to give it a second thought. The Forte is powered by a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 lb-ft of torque.

The combination is more than adequate for most driving conditions in urban settings or on freeways. But as noted earlier it does not have much venom. On long upgrades, it feels as if it is straining to maintain speed.

It is likely that Kia will eventually offer more powerful versions of the Forte, perhaps similar to the current 2018 Forte5, a four-door hatchback of conventional design that comes with a 201-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox.

2019 Forte

Even with the modest power on the 2019 sedans, the Forte presents itself as a well-executed value package that could easily satisfy many younger families.

At the introduction, most of the test cars were the top-line EX equipped with a $3,210 Launch Edition package of options that included forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic collision warning, adaptive cruise control, UVO infotainment with voice-activated navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels, motorized sunroof, LED headlights and interior lights, and a premium Harman-Kardon audio system.

The EX is priced at $22,885. With the Launch Edition package, the sticker comes to $26,095, which means that a customer could buy two Forte EX Launch Editions for about the same price as the top-line Kia Stinger GT with all-wheel drive. With the family resemblance, you could maybe tack on a Stinger badge and fool your friends.

Even better from a savings standpoint would be to order the S trim level with the $1,200 Premium package, which includes the sunroof and LED projection headlights with high-beam assist. It does not include navigation or pushbutton starting but it has quality cloth upholstery instead of the Sofino leather-like trim of the EX. The price is $22,285.

2019 Forte

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Kia Forte EX four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 147 hp, 132 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,903 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $22,885.
  • Price as tested (Launch Edition): $26,095.

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

2019 Forte

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Playing hardball with its exceptional 2019 Santa Fe, Hyundai is on the verge of realizing its full competitive lineup of crossover sport utility vehicles.

It’s an important milestone, given the phenomenon of crossover sales that lately have been overpowering traditional sedans and coupes. In the 2017 model year, the South Korean company offered just two nameplates: the compact Tucson and the Santa Fe, a midsize offered with either two or three rows of seats. An earlier Veracruz model had been dropped in 2011.

Large-34014-2019SantaFeEarly in 2018, the brash new Kona arrived as smaller sibling of the Tucson. Now comes the two-row, midsize Santa Fe, formerly called the Santa Fe Sport, which will be followed by an all-new, as yet unnamed, large three-row, eight-passenger crossover. That will complete the lineup unless Hyundai decides to squeeze in another something someplace.

The existing three-row Santa Fe continues unchanged for about a year, after which it will be consigned to that great crossover retirement community in the sky. It will be sold as the Santa Fe XL until its replacement arrives.

The Santa Fe comes in five trim levels — SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and Ultimate — with a starting price of $26,485, including the destination charge. All come with front-wheel drive standard. Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive costs an additional $1,700.

As some other manufacturers have done, the Santa Fe eschews stand-alone options in favor of escalating lists of features for each trim level. The tested top-of-the-line Ultimate, at $39,905, had only one minor option of $125 for carpeted floor maps.

Large-34019-2019SantaFeThere are two powertrains: 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 178 lb-ft of torque on the S, SEL and SEL Plus trims, and a 235-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 260 lb-ft of torque on the Limited and Ultimate models. All versions come with eight-speed automatic transmissions and idle stop-start.

Most notable from a peace of mind standpoint are two safety innovations. Rear Occupant Alert monitors the back seats with an ultrasonic sensor that detects movement of children or pets. As with some other vehicles, the system alerts drivers to check the rear seats after stopping and before exiting.

But the Santa Fe takes it to another important level. If for some reason a distracted driver forgets or ignores the warning, leaves the vehicle and locks the doors, the system honks the horn and sends an alert to the driver’s smart phone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. The innovation could prevent some of the 37 deaths that occur annually in the U.S., on average, of children left in hot cars.

Large-34023-2019SantaFeThe other system mimics blind-spot warning. If a rear-seat passenger tries to open a door and an oncoming car is detected, both visual and audio warnings are triggered. Also, it will prevent the driver from deactivating the electronic child safety lock until the oncoming car has passed.

Besides those safety features, the Santa Fe also comes with Hyundai Safety Sense, which includes forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot and lane-departure warning.

On the road, the tested all-wheel drive Santa Fe Ultimate delivered strong acceleration, a resilient ride and responsive handling. Tactile steering feedback felt more like a capable sedan than a tall crossover. Partly responsible was the all-wheel drive torque vectoring that apportioned the power to the rear wheels depending on road conditions, abetted by relocation of the rear shock absorbers.

Large-34029-2019SantaFeThere are three drive modes that adjust steering feel, ride motions and transmission shift points. Normal is the main setting for daily driving. Smart enhances fuel economy and Sport tightens everything up for improved performance, especially in challenging conditions like twisting mountain roads.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted unobtrusively and can be manually shifted. However, shifting must be done with the console-mounted lever; there are no steering-wheel mounted paddles.

On smooth roads, the Santa Fe Ultimate was almost eerily quiet with only vague road and mechanical noises. There was no detectable wind noise. Comfort was first-cabin with the headliner and pillars upholstered in a soft cloth that would do justice to a living-room divan.

Contributing to the comfort were “variable density” front seats with power extensions to provide extra thigh support, as well as acoustic glass and a rigid body structure that makes extensive use of high-strength steel and strong structural adhesives.

Summing up, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate competes handily and almost lazily against other midsize crossover contenders.

Large-34046-2019SantaFeSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate 2.0T AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 235 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 111/36 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,960 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,780.
  • Price as tested: $39,905.

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

Large-34008-2019SantaFePhotos (c) Hyundai

2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

For 2019, the Honda Pilot continues its imaginative indecision, which resembles either an oscillating cooling fan or Edgar Allen Poe’s pendulum.

But this midsize crossover sport utility vehicle is anything but the pits — except, of course, when it’s negotiating ditches in a purpose-built course aimed at demonstrating its fitness in off-road conditions.

The Pilot stands among the best three-row crossovers on the market, a capable, sturdy and competent vehicle for people who don’t want a minivan like the excellent Honda Odyssey but still need to haul people and stuff.

Honda Associates to Test Their Skills Driving Honda Light Trucks

When it was first introduced as a 2003 model, it came with all-wheel drive but essentially was a tall station wagon with a 240-hp V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. It lasted for six years as a comfortable and durable people hauler, racking up total sales of 744,474.

But the soothsayers at Honda did not rest on their laurels. Figuring that familiarity breeds boredom, they cranked up an all-new Pilot with boxy, truck-like styling and emphasized its off-road chops, which were modest to serious enthusiasts but impressed the hoi polloi.

At the national introduction, that 2009 model showed it could coolly traverse gullies, humps, steep climbs and descents, rocks, mud and other assorted obstacles. The emphasis was on its truck-like looks and rugged character, which Honda said customers wanted.

That, too, wore off in time, so when the 2016 model came along, it lost the boxy mien in favor of mainstream, more streamlined styling. It came across more like an attractive people mover than a boondocks basher. The engine was a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 hp, 262 lb-ft of torque and either a six-speed or nine-speed automatic transmission, depending on the trim level.

2019 Honda Pilot

Enter the 2019 model, which continues with the same drivetrains but marginally a more rugged, aggressive appearance, mimicking styling concepts from the latest Odyssey and Accord. Included are reworked wheels, grille, bumpers and LED headlights.

As in 2009, the emphasis again is on the Pilot’s all-terrain capabilities, abetted by Honda’s trademarked intelligent Variable Torque Management, or iVTM4, on all-wheel drive versions.

It incorporates active torque vectoring. In straight-line driving, the system distributes engine torque, or twisting force, to the wheel with the most traction. In cornering, it sends additional power to outside wheels to hustle the Pilot around curves.

The iVTM4 also enhances off-road traction. Computer controlled, it can send 70% of the torque to the rear wheels, and 100% of that power to either rear wheel if needed. Honda demonstrated that characteristic at the national introduction by sending test Pilots over man-made terrain that sent one of the rear wheels into the air.

2019 Honda Pilot Interior

Another system, which works with the iVTM4, is so-called Intelligent Traction Management. There are four driver-selectable settings labeled Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. The Normal setting, which likely will be the default choice, adjusts for daily driving on most surfaces.

Selecting Snow assists in winter driving conditions. Among other things, it instructs the automatic transmission to start out in second gear to minimize wheel spin. Mud and Sand optimize transmission and other components for those conditions. As at the 2009 introduction, this time at a different off-road course in California, the Pilot easily negotiated the rocks, logs, moguls and other obstacles.

With all that and more, the 2019 Pilot doesn’t offer bargain prices. There are 13 versions, starting with the front-drive LX at $32,445, including the destination charge. The most expensive is the Elite, fully equipped, at $49,015.

2019 Honda Pilot

Every trim level comes with Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of safety features that includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist,  and road-departure mitigation. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert also are available.

Except for the top-of-the-line Elite model, all versions — LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L with Navigation and Touring — come with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Elite is all-wheel drive only. Lower trim levels come with a six-speed automatic transmission; Touring and Elite use the nine-speed automatic.

The Pilot has ample space inside for seven or eight passengers, depending on whether it is equipped with second-row captain’s chairs. Second-row seats flip forward with the touch of a button, but it still takes teenage agility to get into the third row, which has decent headroom. However, passengers sit with their knees up high.

Chronic gripers will be happy to learn that the Pilot now comes with simple volume knob for the audio system.

2019 Honda Pilot

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 153/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: Est. 4,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,015.
  • Price as tested: $49,015.

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

2019 Honda Pilot

Photos (c) Honda

2018 Audi S5 Sportback 3.0 quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

President Trump’s rejoinder to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un that he has a bigger button illustrates the reason why we will always have cars like the 2018 Audi S5 Sportback.

With Trump, it was all about the superior U.S. nuclear arsenal; with Audi it’s about engine dominance and performance. No matter what, especially among luxury makes, vehicle manufacturers surely will market more powerful versions of perfectly capable cars, crossover SUVs and trucks.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

In the Audi lineup, there are A cars and S cars, even RS cars, as well as Q and SQ crossovers. Over at BMW, there are extra-powerful M models, and at Mercedes-Benz they are labeled AMG, a company that once was an independent performance tuner of Mercedes cars but now is part of the company.

Similarly, In the U.S. there are SRT, R/T, Scat Pack and Hellcat versions of various Dodge Challengers and Chargers, along with GT and Bullitt Ford Mustangs, Cadillac V performance models, Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and ZL1, and Camaro SS and ZL1 versions.

You get the picture, which is to stretch the boundaries in automotive design and performance, while also maximizing buyer devotion and profits—this in spite of choking traffic and near-universal speed limits that thwart any actual performance driving desires.

Audi is particularly adept at the dance with over 30 distinct versions of sedans, crossovers, sport hatchbacks, coupes, convertibles and sports cars. And more are on the way.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

The A5 Sportback and its more powerful sibling, the S5, are particularly welcome because they punctuate a return to an automotive design that was once popular but faded away. That was the so-called torpedo body, used on various cars in the early 20thcentury but most familiar on cars like the Tucker ’48 and the 1941 Buick, where the roofline was an unbroken sweep from the windshield header to the rear bumper.

At Audi, the design is called a Sportback, and it also incorporates a hatchback body that doesn’t look like one. American buyers never developed much affection for hatchbacks that looked like small station wagons, although that changed when manufacturers jacked them up a bit, added all-wheel drive in some cases and called them crossover SUVs.

The advantage of Sportbacks like the Audi A5 and S5 is utility. Plus, they don’t look like station wagons. They have cargo areas of 22 cubic feet, which expands to 35 cubic feet if you fold the rear seatbacks. As a sedan with a typical trunk, the cargo volume could be as little as 12 cubic feet in the same size car.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

With a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the A5 should provide plenty of driving thrills for almost any motorist. It has a starting price of $43,575.

If that’s not a fit, any enthusiast can plunk down an additional $11,800 for the tested S5 Sportback 3.0 quattro Tiptronic. Yes, that’s its official title. As indicated, it comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, transferred to all four wheels through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with manual-shifting paddles.

The tested S5’s price started at $55,375 and, with options, ended up at $63,975. For that, you get a midsize rocket that will surge from rest to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds with a governed top speed of 155 mph, according to Audi — and there’s no reason to question the claim.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

The S5 comes with five drive modes that can be selected with the touch of a button: Efficiency, Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual. They customize engine, transmission, steering and suspension settings to suit the driver’s mood and conditions. For example, Efficiency enhances fuel economy during sedate cruising while Dynamic is the choice for fast driving on curving mountain roads.

Though the tester came with $8,600 worth of options, they did not include the $1,800 Audi driver assistance package, which covers such items as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automatic headlight high beams. It did have pre-collision sensing and other safety equipment.

There’s a seatbelt for a third passenger in back, but the seat is hard and compromised by a huge floor hump and center console.

The S5 has one of those oddball shifters that require a push on a button for “park.” If you push the shifter forward it lands in reverse. Happily, it automatically goes into “park” when you shut off the engine.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi S5 Sportback 3.0 quattro Tiptronic four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, turbocharged; 354 hp, 369 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: 93/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,015 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/30/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,375.
  • Price as tested: $63,975.

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Photos (c) Audi

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sometimes, as with the 2019 Kia Sorento SXL, it’s good to resist too much change. It remains essentially as it was in 2016: a midsize crossover sport utility vehicle that is handsome, quiet, safe, comfortable and competent.

The few additions and modifications, though they make all versions more expensive than their predecessors, mostly enhance the South Korean’s appeal. A third row of seats now is standard across the lineup and the tested SXL with all-wheel drive comes with driver alertness monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic collision warning.

2019 Sorento

Overall, the top-of-the-line SXL comes equipped as well as some luxury cars and crossovers. Features included a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, power driver’s seat with memory, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, SXM satellite radio, 19-inch polished alloy wheels and a surround-view rear camera.

A large panoramic sunroof opens wide at the front and features one-touch controls for the motorized section and the opaque sun shade.

The tested SXL AWD had a starting sticker price of $47,480. With a few options, it topped out at $48,020, right up there with competitors that include the somewhat larger Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse.

2019 Sorento

Like the Mazda CX-9 and the downsized GMC Acadia, the Sorento is a bit of a tight fit for a three-row crossover. Its third-row seat can accommodate, with their knees at belly-button level, a couple of average-sized adults as long as the second-row passengers move their seats forward to provide knee room. Crawling back there takes athletic ability more common to teen agers than empty nesters.

The plush front seats are supportive and comfortable with modest bolstering. Outboard back seats are nearly as cozy. However, though there’s enough head and knee room for the center-rear passenger, the poor soul must perch on a hard cushion.

Mechanically, the new Sorento carries over two engines but drops the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the lineup. Lower trim levels are powered by a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The tested SXL AWD came with the carryover 292-hp, 3.3-liter V6 engine that develops 252 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Sorento

There are six trim levels, starting with the $26,980 front-drive L version. It and the LX use the 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. Upper trim levels — LX V6, EX, SX and the tested SXL — are powered by the 3.3-liter V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with the shift lever, though there are no paddles on the steering wheel.

The base L  model comes only with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional at $1,800 on all of the other models. But the Sorento obviously is not intended for serious off-road adventures; the all-wheel drive delivers increased driver confidence in snow and other foul weather conditions.

The tested Sorento had four driving modes that adjust transmission shift points and other vehicle parameters: Comfort, Eco, Smart and Sport. They can be selected manually or will automatically adjust to the driver’s style and habits.

2019 Sorento

In any drive mode, the Sorento is as silent runner as can be found in its class. Plenty of insulation and acoustic glass in the windshield and front windows contribute to a hushed environment. Muted sounds make their way into the cabin, but they mostly come from the pockmarked urban streets that have become the default U.S. standard. Road noise, as well as mechanical and wind sounds, are practically nonexistent on smooth asphalt.

The Sorento’s V6 engine and eight-speed transmission deliver plenty of power for freeway merging, two-lane highway passing and fatigue-free all-day Interstate cruising. Handling is secure on curves without excess body lean and few steering corrections are needed in straight-line driving. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 19/24/21 miles per each gallon of regular-grade gasoline.

2019 Sorento

American made in West Point, GA, the Sorento sports handsome crossover styling with Kia’s trademark “tiger nose” grille. The company’s design chief, Peter Schreyer, who formerly worked for BMW and Audi, has said he believes it has the same staying  power as BMW’s dual-kidney grille design.

On the sales charts, the Sorento has been the best-selling Kia crossover SUV. In 2017, sales totaled 99,684 and in 2018 it has been on a pace to escalate into six figures.

2019 Sorento

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, 290 hp, 252 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 143/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,622 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,480.
  • Price as tested: $48,020.

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

2019 Sorento

Photos (c) Kia

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Tamworth, N.H – With its unrivaled new 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye and a slew of other bulked up coupes, it looks as if Dodge intends to overpower the market for muscle cars.

Counting the Redeye, the company now offers nine brawny Challenger pony cars, including a purpose-built drag racer and others with all-wheel drive, that cover an affordability spectrum aimed at enthusiasts of modest means to those with big bucks.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

The focus at the Club Motorsports 2.1-mile road racing course here was on two new Challengers: the R/T Scat Pack Widebody and the pinnacle, the new SRT Hellcat Redeye, which Dodge touts as “the most powerful, quickest and fastest muscle car” in the world.

Numbers testify to the claim. The Redeye is a step up from the Hellcat, which itself is a more powerful version of the original SRT Hellcat. It astonished enthusiasts in 2015 with a 707-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that sent 650 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.

The 2019 Hellcat gets a bump from the same basic engine to 717 hp and 656 lb-ft of torque. But the Redeye, with its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, revs up 797 hp, or 80 more than the regular Hellcat — if any of these machines could be called regular. Torque jumps to 707 lb-ft.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody

Two transmissions are offered on the Hellcat: a six-speed manual gearbox with a twin-disc clutch or a beefy eight-speed automatic transmission. The Redeye comes only with an even stronger eight-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

As laps on the racetrack here demonstrated, however, the paddles likely will prove superfluous to most drivers because the eight-speed’s shift points are so computer-calibrated that the driver can forget about shifting and focus on picking fast lines through the curves.

Besides the Hellcat Redeye, the Dodge girls and boys offered track drives in the Challenger R/T Scat Pack, which gets its power from a 485-hp, 6.4-liter V8 with 475 lb-ft of torque. It is available with both the eight-speed automatic transmission and a six-speed manual gearbox, one of which was at the track.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody

Interestingly, the Scat Pack had a stiffer suspension system than the Hellcat Redeye, which enabled it to finesse curves that the Redeye, with some slight body lean, overwhelmed with raw power.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the Redeye: docile manners in low-speed cruising. Though a driver can trigger an explosion under the hood by slamming the gas pedal, rocketing to 60 miles an hour in slightly more than three seconds, the Redeye casually acts like your grandmother’s Toyota Camry in downtown traffic.

Both Hellcats and the R/T Scat Pack can put more rubber on the road with the $6,000 Widebody option package. It includes fender flares and 11-inch wide, 20-inch diameter alloy wheels with 305/35ZR20 all-season performance tires.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody - interior

With full safety equipment, the Widebody’s Brembo brakes and a host of other options that included a 220-mph speedometer, navigation, motorized sunroof, high-performance audio system, leather upholstery and suede trim, the Hellcat Redeye’s $60,045 base price jumped to $88,410. Another version with comfortable and gripping cloth upholstery checked in at $81,331. Both prices include a $1,700 gas guzzler tax.

For less wealthy enthusiasts, Dodge offers the Challenger SXT and GT models, both with rear-drive or all-wheel drive. They are powered by the 305 hp Pentastar V6 engine, with 268 lb-ft of torque and a six-speed manual gearbox or eight-speed automatic transmission. The SXT stick-shift price starts at $28,690 and the GT is $31,390. Add $2,700 for the automatic.

SRT Hellcat Redeye emblem located on the cover of the Supercharged 6.2L HEMI® V-8 engine

The Challenger R/T has a starting price of $35,495 (all prices include the destination charge) and the R/T Scat Pack has a sticker of $41,390, which also includes a $1,000 gas guzzler tax.

No prices were announced for the Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, which is a model purpose-built for drag racing. It is intended as a less powerful successor to last year’s limited-production Dodge Demon, which was powered by a supercharged Hemi engine with 840 hp. It enabled the Demon to nail the quarter-mile drag strip in 9.65 seconds.

The Scat Pack 1320 — the number is the number of linear feet in a quarter mile — uses the same Hemi 392 engine as other Scat Pack models. Individual buyers will be able to customize their dragster rides. As with the earlier Demon, the 1320 comes only with a driver’s seat but a front passenger seat and a back seat are available for $1 each.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye two-door coupe.
  • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, supercharged; 797 hp, 707 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,492 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 13/22/16 mpg. Premium gasoline required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $60,045.
  • Price as tested: $88,410.

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

2019 Dodge Challenger Lineup: R/T Scat Pack Widebody, SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody, SRT Hellcat Widebody (from left to right)

Photos (c) FCA North America

2019 Honda Insight: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sometimes the 2019 Honda Insight growls like a boastful lion, but mostly it goes about its business like a stealthy cheetah, all economy of movement and efficiency.

The new Insight is the heir to the original, a small two-seat hatchback coupe which Honda brags was the first hybrid in America in 1999 and delivered 70 highway mpg. It used a hybrid system in which the gasoline engine provided the primary power, boosted by a small electric motor in the drivetrain.

In 2009, the coupe was replaced by a four-door hatchback Insight, which used the same system, regarded by many as elegant for its simplicity. But it was eclipsed by the Toyota Prius, which used a more complicated setup in which the electric motor was primary.

The 2019 Honda Insight Goes On Sale

Undeterred, and determined to pursue electrified power trains for all of its models, Honda developed hybrids for the Civic and Accord, and also produced the Clarity, which is available as a pure electric, a fuel-cell powered electric and a plug-in hybrid.

Now the Japanese manufacturer introduces the newest in the lineup: the 2019 Insight, which is about the size of the company’s compact Civic and uses Honda’s state-of-the art two-motor system with a gasoline engine.

Most notable about this system, which uses one of the electric motors to charge the battery pack and the other to work in concert with the gasoline engine, is that it does not need a conventional automatic transmission.

2019 Honda Insight

Though Honda specifications describe the transmission as an e-CVT, for electronic continuously-variable automatic transmission, it works as a direct drive from the electric motor, which delivers full torque, or twisting force, the instant the throttle is activated. Unlike earlier Insight models, the 2019 model has no manual gearbox.

The 1.5-liter gasoline engine makes 107 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, while the electric motor delivers 129 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque. Together, the system produces 151.5 hp.

Combined with regenerative braking to help keep the battery topped up, the Insight Touring tested for this review came with a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 51/45/48 mpg.

The Insight is a spunky machine on the road, where the only minor annoyance is the lion-like growl under hard acceleration. It sounds like  something is slipping, though it is not, as on a poorly rendered CVT. But it cruises serenely on the highway with good straight-line tracking and little intrusion of road or wind noise.

2019 Honda Insight

Though not a fully realized sport sedan, the Insight has precise steering, a supple suspension system and capable handling on curving roads. In that respect, it is not unlike its gasoline-powered garage-mate, the Civic.

The interior space is comfortable for four people, with  supportive front seats for long-distance highway cruising. Outboard back seat occupants have generous head and knee room, though the center-rear position is compromised by a large floor hump and a high, hard cushion.

With 95 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 15 cubic feet, the Insight sneaks into the government’s midsize class, though it is marketed as a compact. Compacts range from a total of 100 to 109 cubic feet of interior volume; midsize from 110 to 119.

2019 Honda Insight

There are three driving modes: Normal, optimized for ease of driving and comfort; Econ, for balanced efficiency and fuel economy, and Sport, for sharper throttle response and a feel of strong acceleration. Zero to 60 mph acceleration time comes up in an estimated eight seconds in any mode if you mash the pedal, respectable enough in modern traffic.

Three trim levels start with the LX at $23,725, including the destination charge; EX at $24,955, and the tested top-line Touring, $28,985. All three come with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety equipment that includes collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

2019 Honda Insight

Also standard across the trims are LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights; automatic headlight high beams; audio system, and heated door mirrors. The EX and Touring add Honda’s Lane Watch, which covers the right-rear blind spot and displays it on the center screen; Apple Car Play and Android Auto; SXM satellite radio; HD radio, and remote engine starting.

The tested Touring’s features included a navigation system, motorized glass sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, premium audio system with 10 speakers, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and automatic windshield wipers.

2019 Honda Insight

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Insight Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine/motor: Gasoline 1.5-liter four-cylinder, 107 hp; electric 129 hp, 197 lb-ft torque. Total system: 151.5 hp.
  • Transmission: Electronic continuously-variable automatic (e-CVT) with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3078 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 51/45/48 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,985.
  • Price as tested: $28,985.

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

2019 Honda Insight

Photos (c) Honda

2019 Hyundai Veloster: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’ve ever seen a three-legged cat, you have some idea of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster, except that this all-new Veloster is not handicapped in any way.

There’s nothing like it in the market today — a compact hatchback with a tailgate and three passenger doors. The third door is at the right-rear and opens conventionally. Except for earlier Velosters, the concept has not been seen since the 2001 Saturn SC, which had a rear-opening third door on the driver’s side.

VELOSTER TURBO-6571The Veloster shares its power trains with a trio of other sport compacts from South Korea: the Hyundai Elantra Sport sedan; Kia Forte5 hatchback; and Hyundai Elantra GT Sport hatchback. They compete against performance hatchbacks that include the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda3 and Ford Fiesta ST.

Tested for this review was the top-of-the-line Veloster, the Turbo Ultimate, which comes equipped with all available options except carpeted floor mats for $29,035. It is powered by a 201-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 195 lb-ft of torque. It gets its power to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

Zero to 60 mph ticks off in the mid-six second range, with a top speed of 135 mph. Moreover, you can enjoy the ride as raucous as you like it. Taking a cue from expensive performance sports cars like Porsche and Jaguar, Veloster turbo models, including the Ultimate, have different drive modes and can customize exhaust and engine sounds.

VELOSTER TURBO-6581Drive modes, controlled by a button on the console, are Sport, Normal and Smart. Sport is the most aggressive, holding shift points to higher engine revolutions and tightening up the steering. Normal is, well, normal and Smart moves the Veloster into economy leisure.

Go to the big center touch screen and you can choose how much exhaust noise reverberates through the cabin. The choices are Off, Minimized, Normal and Advanced, with the last the noisiest, especially under hard acceleration combined with the Sport drive mode.

It’s entertaining to switch among the choices when underway.

The Turbo Ultimate is the best equipped of five Veloster trim levels. Two entry-level versions, the 2.0 and 2.0 Premium, use a two-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque.

VELOSTER TURBO-8848At $19,385, including the destination charge, the 2.0 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic is a $1,000 option. The $23,635 2.0 Premium comes only with the  six-speed automatic transmission.

Equipment on the tested Turbo Ultimate included the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, although it also can be ordered with the six-speed manual. Other features included adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, navigation system, head-up display, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, LED headlights and taillights — in short, almost everything any car buyer wants.

It also had a power lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, although the seat itself came with manual adjustments.

The Veloster’s 2019 styling is striking, with defined fender lines and an aggressive grille that attract immediate attention. Even given its hatchback design, it has a streamlined look that implies motion when it’s standing still.

VELOSTER-8950Unlike other hatchbacks, however, it makes no pretense of accommodating up to five passengers. There are seatbelts for four, with a small divider between the two back seats. They can be accessed from either side, though the easiest is through the right-rear door. Anyone getting in back from the other side must squeeze past the driver’s seatback.

Once inside, however, there is ample — though not generous — knee and headroom. The small hatch at the back provides access to a cargo area with 20 cubic feet of volume, which expands to 45 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

For all of the Turbo Ultimate’s virtues, however, the choice here — from an enthusiast’s and price perspective — should be the Veloster R-Spec version. It comes with the turbo engine but only the six-speed manual gearbox, which has such a slick linkage that it’s satisfying and joyful.

The R-Spec has cloth upholstery but no sunroof, heated seats, head-up display or charging pad. It does have18-inch alloy wheels, premium audio, SXM radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like other turbo Velosters, it also has the customized exhaust sounds.

All that comes with a $23,785 price tag, a bargain for an exhilarating, sweet handling sports car disguised as a hatchback.

VELOSTER TURBO-8572Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate three-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 201 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 90/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,987 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/34/30 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,035.
  • Price as tested: $29,160.

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

VELOSTER TURBO-6609Photos (c) Hyundai

 

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