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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 Jaguar E-Pace and I-Pace: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You’re forgiven if you haven’t figured out the 2019 Jaguar E-Pace and its sibling, the I-Pace.

Contrary to initial knee-jerk reactions, the E-Pace is not electric, and the I-Pace is not the ghost of past BMW i cars. Nope, in this case the I-Pace is the 100% electric and the E-Pace is merely the little brother of the F-Pace.

jagepace18myfirsteditiononroaddynamic13071702
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

In a sense, they are the offspring of the F-Pace, in 2017 the first luxury crossover sport utility from the storied British sports car manufacturer. Now they are three. Next thing you know Jaguar will come out with a big three-row SUV.

Wait. That likely won’t happen because Jaguar is the conjoined fraternal twin of Britain’s Land Rover, which specializes in luxury SUVs. Both are now owned by Tata of India.

Jaguar could hardly have done differently. Truck-based SUVs and car-based crossovers have become so popular across the board that even Bentley and Rolls-Royce build them.

jaguaripace19mysyulongwhite138
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

With these crossovers, the affinity of Jaguar with Land Rover becomes more obvious. The center-screen infotainment systems in both the E-Pace and I-Pace are similar in befuddlement to those in Range Rovers and Land Rovers. Also, the nomenclature of HSE for certain models now is common to both the Land Rover and Jaguar brands.

Because the E-Pace was introduced as a 2018 model, the I-Pace electric is the new kid in the family. It also is the most interesting, exciting and expensive of the three, and the less expensive main competitor to Tesla’s Model X75D crossover.

Jaguar I-PACE Global Drive, Portugal, 2018
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace’s power comes from two electric motors — one each for the front wheels and rear wheels, giving it automatic all-wheel drive. In easy cruising, it switches to rear drive for economy. The all-wheel drive is mainly important for foul weather than actual off-roading. There are numerous Land Rovers for customers interested in that sort of thing.

The two electric motors combined make 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Because electric motors deliver maximum torque instantly, the I-Pace rewards the driver with an exhilarating jump off the line, reaching 60 mph in slightly more than four seconds with its single-speed automatic transmission.

jipace19mystudioimage01031815
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Of course, doing that habitually will cripple the manufacturer’s claimed range of 240 miles and a city/highway/combined consumption of 87/86/89 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent. But it might be worth it for some hot-shoe owners.

The I-Pace uses regenerative braking to help keep the batteries topped up. It is so aggressive in slowing the vehicle that it should enable so-called one-pedal driving, as with the BMW i3. But it cuts out at about six mph, so the driver still must use the brake pedal to stop.

Handling is sharp and the steering responsive, abetted by an air suspension system and brake-induced torque vectoring. But the emphasis on handling compromises the ride on rough roads.

jipace19mystudioimage01031817
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Front seats are supportive but not plush and the outboard rear seats have plenty of head and knee room. The center-rear position is compromised by tight space, a hard cushion and big floor hump. Because of the sloped roof, there’s only 26 cubic feet for cargo, which expands to 51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

A negative comfort note: There’s a full panoramic sunroof that does not open and does not have a sunshade. It darkens in bright light but on bright sunny days the glass gets so hot it radiates heat uncomfortably into the cabin and defeats the air conditioning in some areas.

With a bottom-line sticker of $88,840 on the test car, the I-Pace is uncommonly well equipped with state-of-the-art safety and convenience equipment.

jagepace18myonroaddynamic13071714
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

But if you don’t hanker to sample the electric future and still crave a Jaguar experience, there’s the E-Pace, which has a $53,845 price tag and a sportier personality. It is a subcompact crossover, 14 feet 5 inches long and a shade over 5 feet tall.

Surprisingly, despite a tight back seat, it offers nearly as much passenger and cargo space as the I-Pace — a total of 117 cubic feet versus 122 cubic feet.

jagepace18myinterior13071701
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a configuration that is taking over the motoring world. In this installation,  it delivers 246 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.

Well-equipped, the E-Pace has the entertaining handling expected of a Jaguar, though its aggressive and erratic lane-keeping assist  should be simply turned off.

Oh, and by the way, it bucks the luxury cliché of perforated cheesecloth in favor of an effective, opaque sunshade for the sunroof.

jagepace18myonroaddynamic13071713
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 246 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,225 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,653 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/27/13 mpg (premium fuel).
  • Base price, including destination charge: $53,845.
  • Price as tested: $53,845.

 

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2019 Jaguar E-Pace

*    *   *

  • Model: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400HSE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Motors: Twin electric-powered; combined 394 hp, 512 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 96/26 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,790 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 87/86/89 MPGe.
  • Range: 240 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $81,495.
  • Price as tested: $88,840.

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

Jaguar I-PACE Global Drive, Portugal, 2018
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Think of the 2019 Infiniti QX50 as Nissan’s significant other. The two-row luxury crossover SUV, like its cousin the midsize Nissan Altima sedan, gets its power from the automotive world’s first variable compression engine.

It is a design and engineering tour de force, developed in cooperation with Germany’s Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz. Internal mechanical wizardry automatically varies the piston travel and cylinder volume by a small amount to enable the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to operate at compression ratios ranging from 8:1 for high performance to 14:1 for maximum efficiency.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Looking at a cutaway demonstration model, you get the feeling that you’re witnessing a contraption by famed cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who dreamed up impossibly complicated gadgets to perform simple operations.

Called the VC-Turbo or simply VC-T, the new engine also is turbocharged. Tuned for premium gasoline, the QX50’s engine makes 268 hp (compared to 248 hp in the Altima, which runs on regular fuel). Both engines deliver 280 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force.

The QX50’s sends the power to the front wheels or all four wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which uses belts and pulleys to multiply the engine’s power.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Ordinarily, CVTs have no shift points but because that bothers some drivers who are used to feeling automatic transmissions shifting through the gears, the QX50’s CVT uses computer software to mimic shift points. The transmission also can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel as if it were an eight-speed automatic.

With its all-new basic architecture (called a platform in the industry), the QX50 transitions from its previous rear-wheel drive to front- or all-wheel drive. Luxury compact crossover competitors include the new 2019 Cadillac XT4, Acura RDX, Mercedes GLC, Jaguar E-Pace, BMW X3, Lexus RX and NX, and Audi Q5.

2019 INFINITI QX50

It’s a tough playground but the QX50 exhibits the sort of array expected by customers who can spend upwards of $50,000 on their rides. Though the QX50 starts at $37,545 the tested front-drive Essential topped out at $55,385. All-wheel drive is a $1,800 option on all versions.

Exterior styling is handsome, though not especially head-turning — given the limitations of what is essentially a tall station wagon.

The interior is similarly attractive with quality materials and workmanship, especially on the upper trim lines. Overhead on the tested QX50 Essential was a panoramic glass sunroof with one-touch operation for the glass and sunshade. Thankfully, the sunshade was opaque instead of the perforated cheesecloth-like sunshades on too many luxury vehicles.

All-new INFINITI QX50

Front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the outboard rear seats have ample head and knee room with adjustable fore and aft travel and seatbacks that recline for comfort. Even the center-rear seat has decent knee and headroom, though it is compromised by a small, hard cushion and a prominent floor hump.

Cargo space is a generous 31 cubic feet and the rear seats fold nearly flat for bigger loads. On the tested Essential version, there was no spare wheel or tire. Instead, it rode on hard-rubber run-flat tires, which likely contributed to the stiff, choppy ride. Hammering over some rough surfaces, it felt as if the suspension system was bottoming out.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Other than that, the QX50 delivered capable handling given its tall profile, as well as a reasonably comfortable ride on smooth roads. It cruised quietly with little intrusion of wind and road noise, and only some minor engine drone because of the CVT.

There are four driver-selectable driving modes: Eco for leisurely acceleration and fuel economy; Sport for rapid throttle response (called throttle tip-in); Standard for comfort, and Personal, which allows the driver to choose a mix of settings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

There’s some slight turbo lag off the line before the VC-T comes on with a vengeance, especially in the Sport mode. Zero-to-60-mph acceleration arrives in the six to seven second range. Under hard acceleration, the engine announces itself with a satisfying growl.

The QX50 comes with Nissan’s semiautonomous ProPilot driver assist, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic lane centering, forward collision warning, backup emergency braking, blind-spot warning and a backup camera with overhead surround-view monitor.

Though there is no Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, dual center screens handle navigation and infotainment functions, including apps, vehicle settings, audio controls and phone pairing. Buttons handle some of the chores as well, including climate control settings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential FWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter variable-compression four-cylinder, turbocharged with direct fuel injection; 268 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall Length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 102/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,950 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/31/27 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,345.
  • Price as tested: $55,385.

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

2019 INFINITI QX50

Photos (c) Infiniti

2019 Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its groundbreaking new engine, all-wheel drive and other enhancements, the 2019 Nissan Altima bolsters the Big Three of Japan’s in-your-face challenge to the surging popularity of crossover sport utility vehicles.

Chevrolet, Ford and Fiat Chrysler of the USA are in the process of eliminating sedans from their lineups, betting on pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, crossover SUVs and small numbers of sports cars as the wave of the future.

2019 Nissan Altima-1At the same time, Japan’s Toyota, Honda and Nissan are rolling out new and more desirable midsize sedans to continue offering full lines of vehicles. The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord were all-new for 2018 and now Nissan joins them with the 2019 Altima.

The company argues that sedans are far from becoming museum pieces. According to Nissan’s research, the annual U.S. market includes six million sedans, with two million of those midsize. That’s about 35% of the 17 million cars and light trucks sold in 2017.

Moreover, the company is targeting young professionals and calculates that 44% of generation Z customers (born between 1995 and 2010) intend to buy sedans while 18% will choose two-row SUVs and crossovers, and 11% will pick three-row crossovers and SUVs.

2019 Nissan Altima-11The numbers are different for generation Y millennial intenders (born between 1980 and the end of 1994), with 30% ripe to buy sedans, 27% two-row and 18% three-row SUVs and crossovers.

With such rosy assumptions, it’s no surprise that Nissan loaded the new Altima with its biggest investment in new basic architecture in the last 20 years and its highest-ever investment in a new powertrain, including two new engines.

The most radical, state-of-the art engine is the all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with variable compression, called the VC-Turbo. It’s a world first in a production car. The technology continuously changes the engine’s compression ratio while underway anywhere from 8:1 for high performance and 14:1 for maximum efficiency.

2019 Nissan Altima-19The VC-Turbo makes 248 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque while delivering city/highway/combined fuel economy of 25/34/29 mpg on regular gasoline. Power gets to the front wheels via Nissan’s continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). The VC-Turbo replaces the Altima’s previous 3.5-liter V6 engine.

Though the VC-Turbo is the star, there’s a second new engine — a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is expected to power the highest number of sales of the new Altima. With direct fuel injection, it makes 179 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Nissan Altima-20For the first time, the Altima will be offered with all-wheel drive for an extra $1,350, but for now only with the 2.5-liter engine. Nissan did not rule out all-wheel drive for the VC-Turbo but for the time being it will be equipped only with front-wheel drive.

Fuel economy varies depending on the engine and trim level. There are five trim levels with the 2.5-liter engine: S, SR, SV, SL and Platinum. With the VC-Turbo there are three: SR, Platinum and Edition One. The last is a special introductory model limited to 3,900 copies.

Driven for this review were an all-wheel drive 2.5-liter Platinum and the front-drive VC-Turbo SR, with the focus on the latter with its all-new variable compression technology. The 2.5-liter had an EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 25/35/31 mpg; the V-Turbo SR was rated at 25/34/29.

2019 Nissan Altima-22Both versions displayed robust acceleration and secure handling, though the 3.5-liter exhibited a bit of body roll in rapid cornering. The V-Turbo was quicker off the line with sharper moves on twisting roads. Both were quiet cruisers though the VC-Turbo engine was a bit raucous under hard acceleration.

Nissan’s Intelligent CVT exhibited little of the droning and feeling of slipping exhibited by other CVTs as engine revolutions build. For years, Nissan has focused intensely on CVT development and builds some of the better units.

2019 Nissan Altima-21With Nissan’s so-called zero gravity seats and a supple ride, the new Altima is a serene cruiser. Front seats are supportive and long-distance comfortable. Outboard rear seats have plenty of knee and headroom, and even the center-rear position is spacious with a truncated but resilient cushion.

The new Altima is longer, lower and wider by one inch than its predecessor, though the flowing styling does not affect interior space.

Nissan has made what it views as a rational choice by investing in the Altima. With sales of 5.7 million overall and 254,996 in 2017, it continues in the top three in sales of midsize sedans. You could call it the company’s bread, butter and jam.

2019 Nissan Altima-15Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Nissan Altima SR V-Turbo four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter variable-compression four-cylinder, turbocharged; 248 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,418 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $30,045.
  • Price as tested: $30,045.

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

2019 Nissan Altima-6Photos (c) Nissan

2019 Subaru Forester Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If Subaru were a surfer dude, it would be riding the crest of a very big wave, and its 2019 Forester will help keep it there.

The redesigned compact crossover sport utility vehicle, now in its fourth generation, arrives with more streamlined and sophisticated styling, as well as a host of new features.

Subaru2019Forester-9Built on a new global platform that also underpins the Ascent, Impreza and Crosstrek, the Forester delivers improved access for passengers and cargo, a new engine and transmission combination with automatic idle stop-start for improved fuel economy, additional safety measures and standard all-wheel drive.

Except for the company’s rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, developed with Toyota, all Subaru cars and crossover SUVs put the power to the ground with all four wheels. The Forester doesn’t have the off-road credentials of muscular Jeeps and Land Rovers. But it can handle foul weather conditions and moderately challenging terrain, especially on versions with X-Mode, which includes hill descent control.

There are five trim levels, starting with the $25,270 Base, followed by the $27,070 Premium, new $29,770 Sport, $31,770 Limited and $35,270 Touring. Prices include the $975 destination charge.

Subaru2019Forester-75All Foresters come with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes pre-collision throttle management and braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist with lane departure and sway warning.

The tested Sport model came with a $2,045 option package that included blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, and a power rear tailgate with pushbutton closing and adjustable open height.

The package also covered Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with an eight-inch touch screen, premium Harman Kardon audio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio. It brought the Sport’s bottom-line price to $31,815.

Power surges from a newly-engineered 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque with city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 26/33/29 mpg.

Subaru2019Forester-26It is mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). CVTs ordinarily ordinarily multiply torque seamlessly without shift points. However, on the Forester Sport, the CVT incorporates a computer-generated seven-speed manual shift mode with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Under hard acceleration in automatic mode, it also mimics a conventional automatic’s upshifts.

The Forester is equipped with a system called SI-Drive that allows the driver to select throttle characteristics for fuel economy (“intelligent”) or maximum performance (“sport”), called “sport sharp” on the Sport trim.

The horizontally-opposed engine, also called a boxer or flat engine, has cylinders that lie supine, feet to feet, on both sides of the crankshaft instead of standing upright or leaning as with an inline or V configuration. Its low profile results in a lower center of gravity, which contributes to more secure road-holding and handling.

Subaru2019Forester-81As a vehicle that is oriented toward small families and adventuresome singles, the new Forester is designed to be both practical and comfortable. The rear doors are wider than before and swing open to nearly 90 degrees for adults to easily step in. Also, the cargo area, with 33 cubic feet of space, has an opening more than 43 inches wide and 32 inches high for ease of loading large objects. Fold the rear seatbacks flat and the space expands to 71 cubic feet.

Though not a racer, the Forester Sport’s suspension tuning and  performance-oriented wheels and tires, aided by brake-engaged torque vectoring, enhance handling on curving roads. At highway speeds, it tracks true and is quiet except for some intrusion of engine noise under hard acceleration.

The ride is compliant on all but the roughest roads and the Sport comes with supportive front seats upholstered in sturdy and comfortable cloth.

Subaru2019Forester-80One shortcoming: If the driver inadvertently shuts down the engine with the transmission in “drive,” the Forester will roll away. If that happens on many other vehicles, the transmission automatically shifts to “park.” The rollway scenario has been receiving increasing attention as a safety hazard.

Even at that, the Forester is a highly desirable vehicle and a staunch competitor in the compact crossover class. Since its introduction in 1997, it has totaled sales of 1.8 million, with many owners keeping them beyond expected trade-in times.

As a company, Subaru has been uncommonly successful, one of a few manufacturers that thrived despite the recession of a decade ago. In the last nearly seven years, it has had 81 consecutive months of year over year sales growth.

Subaru2019Forester-29Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Subaru Forester Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder; 182 hp, 176 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic with seven-speed manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 108/33 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,531 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/33/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,770.
  • Price as tested: $31,815.

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

Subaru2019Forester-4Photos (c) Subaru

2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 actually is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle. But its lead exterior designer prefers to call it an Escalade puppy.

Robin Krieg was talking about the all-new XT4 at its national introduction. He said the challenge was to design a new small crossover for an audience that mainly thinks of Cadillacs as always big.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

The Escalade certainly qualifies. It’s a full-size body-on-frame traditional SUV, 17 feet long and 6 feet 2 inches tall, built like a pickup truck. He said it was a challenge to translate that concept into the XT4, a small unit-body crossover, built like a car.

Some of the result was immediately apparent at first look. The XT4 is an inch over 15 feet long and 5 feet 4 inches tall. Moreover, it has styling that hints at a pickup truck, mainly looking at the wheels.

In an era when luxury crossovers often emphasize performance, the wheel openings are usually filled with big wheels and fat tires. The XT4’s wheel openings, however, have wheels and low aspect-ratio tires that look small, more like they belong on a sports sedan or roadster.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Krieg said the look was deliberate, aimed at imparting an impression that the XT4 was light and agile. Given its size, it would seem like that in any case, but the space around the tires does remind one of a pickup truck.

However you look at it, the XT4 puppy is another step in an offensive at Cadillac, which plans to introduce a new model every six months through 2020. Right now there are seven — four sedans and three SUVs, including the Escalade, Escalade ESV, XT5 and, now, the XT4. Many will go to China, now Cadillac’s top market.

The XT4 represents an all-new Cadillac architecture, designed to compete in the compact luxury class against the likes of the Volvo XC-40, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3 and the BMW X2. Its tidy dimensions make it a nimble partner in modern dense traffic.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury

But it also manages to be roomy with midsize sedan passenger space of 101 cubic feet, plus 22 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat. The rear seatbacks fold flat to expand the space to 49 cubic feet. A temporary spare wheel and tire lies under the cargo area.

Front-seat passengers get supportive and comfortable power seats and, in the case of the tested Sport model, a massage function for both front seats. Outboard passengers in back get decent head and knee room, though the seatbacks do not recline. The center-rear passenger is disrespected with a hard cushion and big floor hump.

A new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels or all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

To enhance fuel economy, the middle two cylinders deactivate during sedate highway motoring. Also contributing to a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 22/29/24 mpg on all-wheel drive models, the XT4 uses a system in front that can disconnect the driveshaft and rear wheels.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Though there’s a bit of a steering wiggle off-center, the tested XT4 handled securely, abetted by twin clutches at the rear axle that can send 100% of the available torque to either wheel depending on conditions.

The XT4 is comfortable, and remains mostly quiet except under hard acceleration, when the engine gets a bit raucous. On harsh surfaces, some road noise also intrudes, though wind noise is mostly nonexistent.

There are six versions: Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport, available with front-wheel drive or, for an additional $2,500, all-wheel drive. The focus of this review is the Sport, which carried a base price of $40,290 and, as tested with all-wheel drive, $56,835. Both prices include the destination charge.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Not many customers are likely to order the base model. The tested AWD Sport came with $15,915 worth of options, including the all-wheel drive. They included forward collision alert with pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, perforated leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, automatic lift gate, XSM satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Cadillac deserves congratulations for an opaque sunshade for the motorized sunroof. Too many luxury cars and crossovers these days follow a fad of using sunshades made of perforated cloth that allows heat and too much sunlight to intrude on passengers.

Overall, this Escalade puppy aims to please — and does.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 237 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,900 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/29/24 mpg (premium fuel).
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,290.
  • Price as tested: $56,835.

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

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Photos (c) Cadillac

2019 Range Rover Supercharged: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because it emerges from the storied Land Rover company in England, the 2019 Range Rover Supercharged arrives with a presumption that it can conquer trackless terrain anywhere.

In the United States, that translates into recreational off-roading in many venues around the country. But driving this powerful, expensive giant, it’s hard to imagine it being used as anything but a beautiful luxury boulevard SUV.

rr19my25071814At 16 feet 5 inches long and an inch over six feet tall, it’s way big for serious off-road adventures. For another, the luxurious tester came with a bottom-line price of $118,320. Unless you have megabucks to burn, it’s not the vehicle you’d want to scratch and bash in the outback.

As with any Land Rover, the right stuff nevertheless is there, delivering the serenity of knowing you’d have a possible exit in a dystopian scenario of aliens blowing up streets and freeways.

Other than that, most owners likely will have little inclination to learn its sophisticated all-wheel drive, air suspension system, terrain response with hill descent control, low-traction and hill launch assist, and roll stability control.

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

So, Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, country clubs and cruising sedately to black-tie Oscar awards await. It’s a bit of a shame because the Land Rover Supercharged is a high-performance machine that can rip off zero to 60 mph acceleration in five seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph — notwithstanding a curb weight of 5,235 lbs.

In an era when turbocharged smaller engines are taking over the light vehicle landscape, the Land Rover Supercharged gets its motivation from a supercharged, 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque.

It gets the grunt to all four wheels under any road or off-road condition through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel — just like super cars — although paddles now show up on lesser cars as well.

rr19my25071810There’s a Sport setting on the rotary transmission selector that amps the acceleration and allows manual shifting. But underway in Drive you can’t get to it without shifting into neutral first.

With its air suspension system, which among other skills can lower the back end to ease cargo loading, the Land Rover Supercharged handles decently on twisting, hilly back roads. There’s little body roll or other drama unless you push it too hard. But understand that it is no sports sedan — or even a quick, smaller high-performance SUV like the Porsche Macan.

As a long-distance Interstate cruiser, however, it has few peers. The seats are sinfully supportive and comfortable, there’s minimal intrusion of wind, mechanical or road noise, and it tracks truly with few steering corrections needed.

rr19my25071817The difficulties come in little things that could be easily corrected. Worst is the so-called sun shade for the panoramic glass sunroof. Adhering to a current fad among luxury vehicles, the shade is made of a sort of perforated, cheesecloth-like cheap cloth that admits too much sunlight.

On the Land Rover Supercharged, especially on the sunny and extremely hot days much of the country experienced this last summer, the sunlight through the cheesecloth heats the cabin to the point where the air conditioning can barely keep up.

It’s reminiscent of military cargo airplanes where passengers sit in cloth sling seats with their torsos overheated while their legs freeze. The cheesecloth “sunshades” should prompt a movement among buyers to demand opaque shades that return the cozy ambiance of a closed vehicle.

rr19my25071818The Range Rover Supercharged is British, of course, which implies a certain amount of quirk. Another is the awkward power seat controls mounted on the doors. Most vehicles place them on the sides of the seat, which is way more intuitive. In Land Rover’s defense, Mercedes-Benz uses a similar system.

Then there are the Range Rover’s two big center touch screens that control vehicle and infotainment functions. They are mounted below the driver’s line of sight, at chest and belt-buckle height, and use tiny icons that require focus of the eyes and an aimed finger touch, making the driver take his or her eyes off the road.

Best to get everything set before moving off. Even better, get some lessons on how everything works to avoid angry outbursts. True, an owner’s time with the Supercharged will breed familiarity. But, as with so many luxury vehicles, these functions could easily be more intuitive.

rr19my25071811Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Range Rover Supercharged four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 5.0-liter V8, supercharged; 518 hp, 461 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 113/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,235 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,716 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/21/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $105,845.
  • Price as tested: $118,320.

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

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2019 Ram Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because full-size pickup trucks all do essentially the same chores for their owners, marketing them entails offering new and desirable features, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has done with the 2019 Ram 1500.

It’s not entirely that, of course, because pickup customers are notoriously loyal to their chosen brands. Still, something on the order of the Ram’s brand-new eTorque mild hybrid system has the potential to prompt alienation of affection.

ETorque combines a belt-drive electric motor-generator with a 48-volt battery, which provides short boosts of extra power for the gasoline engine. It also enables a sophisticated idle stop-start function that, for the time being, is the smoothest and least intrusive system experienced by this reviewer.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Stop-start, which enhances fuel economy, is popular in Europe, where fuel prices are way higher than in the United States. But the systems are becoming more common on vehicles sold here. In many cases, however, the stop-starts are so annoying that owners switch them off — unless they happen to be on Chevrolets and other General Motors vehicles, which do not have off switches.

In a typical stop-start function, the engine shuts down at stoplights or in other situations when the vehicle is motionless. Lift your foot off the brake or tap the accelerator pedal and the engine automatically starts, often with a noticeable shudder and hesitation before getting underway.

The Ram eTorque is a notable exception. Unless you pay close attention, you are unaware that the engine has cranked up. Ram engineers say the engine re-starts in 400 milliseconds.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Vibration and noise are nearly nonexistent, unlike with some systems — especially in vehicles with powerful engines — that cause violent shaking. Stop-starts comparable in smoothness to the eTorque are in low-powered hybrid cars.

For 2019, eTorque is standard equipment on all Ram 1500 pickups with the 305-hp V6 engine, which delivers 269 lb-ft of torque. For truckers who need or want more power, a step up to the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine costs $1,195. For an additional $1,450, the Hemi eTorque is available with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

All Ram 1500 trucks use eight-speed automatic transmissions, which like the eTorque go about their business quietly and without drama. Add to that the Ram 1500’s independent suspension system, with air suspension on the rear wheels and vibration damping on the steel frame, and the Ram rolls like a luxury car, even when empty. Most pickups bounce around unless they are loaded.

Many modern full-size pickup trucks, however, also are priced like luxury cars. Some Ram models — the Limited Crew Cab with all-wheel drive, for example — have prices that nudge $70,000 or more, depending on equipment.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Driven for this review was a more modest Ram1500 Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2 model, which had a base price of $37,340 and, with options, a bottom-line sticker of $43,960. The base price for the entry-level Tradesman Quad Cab with rear-wheel drive is $33,340, including the destination charge.

Ram 1500 pickups come with four doors. Crew Cab models are the roomiest. Quad Cab models have shorter rear doors and tighter accommodations in the back seat. Head room there is generous, but knee room is in short supply. Still, the tested Big Horn Sport had 117 cubic feet of passenger space, which is nearly that of a full-size car.

Out back, the pickup bed measures 6 feet 4 inches and accommodates 62 cubic feet of cargo up to the gunwales. Total payload is 1,910 lbs and the tester had a towing capability of 6,640 lbs.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn – Black Diesel Interior

Though it was among the lower priced Ram models, the tested Big Horn Sport was a comfortable road companion that could easily be used as a daily driver.

Mechanical, road and wind noises were minimal, there was plenty of power on tap for passing on two-lane roads and the handling and ride were exceptional given the truck’s bulk and 19-foot length. Comfort was enhanced by supportive seats upholstered in cozy cloth.

The test truck came with full safety equipment, including electronic stability control, roll mitigation, trailer sway damping, back-up camera, hill start assist, trailer brake control and antilock brakes with rain-braking support.

Options included FCA’s UConnect infotainment system with navigation, power-adjustable pedals, powered rear sliding window, audio system with HD and SXM satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED bed lighting and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels.

2019 Ram 1500 – 5.7-liter HEMI® eTorque

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2 four-door full-size pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6 with eTorque; 305 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 117/62 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,891 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,910 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,640 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/25/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,340.
  • Price as tested: $43,960.

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

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Sport

Photos (c) FCA

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

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