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The Review Garage

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

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Frank A. Aukofer

2020 Audi Q3 S line Quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If Audi adopted warm-blooded names for its vehicles, this new SUV could be christened Border Collie instead of the 2020 Q3 S line 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige.

German manufacturers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are fond of obtuse engineering-style descriptions of their vehicles. They may be thrilling to techies everywhere but for the rest of us personal names would paint a better picture.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-5678Case in point: the Q3. As crossover sport utility vehicles go, it’s analogous to the world-famous herding dog, the Border Collie. It’s smart, small, fast, changes directions quickly, stops immediately and is always willing to eagerly chase the sheep-like vehicles clogging the nation’s highways.

It also happens to be a luxury-oriented sporting machine with a price tag that won’t knock some wannabe owners out of the queue.

All-new for 2019, the 2020 model continues without a price increase but with standard tri-zone climate control and four USB ports.

Though the base price is $36,995, the tested Q3 had the Prestige package, which bumped it to $43,895 and, with options, a bottom-line sticker of $45,340 — not unreasonable in these times for a luxury or near-luxury crossover.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6053Of course, for that price you can get a mid-size crossover with three rows of seats like the new Kia Telluride, while the Q3 is classified as a small SUV. It has comfortable room for four and an uncomfortable seat with a giant floor hump for an ill-fated fifth passenger in the center-rear.

That’s not uncommon. On the plus side, the Q3 eschews the current cliché in luxury cars and crossovers of a perforated cheesecloth-like shade that admits too much heat and sunlight through the panoramic glass sunroof. The Q3’s thankfully is opaque, the way the shade gods intended.

Despite its classification as small, the Q3 has the interior space of a midsize car, divided into 95 cubic feet for passengers and 24 cubic feet for cargo under the rear hatch. The carpeted cargo space doubles with the rear seatbacks folded flat. Beneath the cargo floor lies a full-size temporary-use wheel and tire.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6050Audi’s Quattro full-time all-wheel drive is standard. Power pulses from the Q3’s turbocharged 228-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 257 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic with a Tiptronic manual-shifting mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

There are five selectable drive modes — comfort, automatic, dynamic, off-road and individual — that allow the driver to tailor handling, shifting and other performance preferences.

Audi lists the zero-to-60 mph run at 7.0 seconds with a top track speed of 130 mph. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel economy at 19/27/22 mpg.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6061In real-world driving, the Q3 feels powerful off the line, on freeway on-ramps and passing on two-lane highways. It has a nimble feel with  responsive steering and little body roll through fast curves.

Inside, the front seats are comfortable with solid support, including adjustable thigh cushions. The sun visors actually slide on their support rods to block sun from the side — unlike too many European luxury cars that do not bother installing such a desirable convenience.

On the other hand, don’t try fiddling with the infotainment system and the center touch screen without the owner’s manual close by. Even simple functions like setting and finding a pre-set for a favorite radio or SXM satellite radio station is a frustrating experience without detailed instructions.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-4348Moreover, the touch screen can be difficult and distracting, especially while under way. First you have to look to find what you want, then give it a determined push with a finger because it requires pressure with the touch. If you simply tap it, there’s no response.

The Q3 comes with a comprehensive suite of safety enhancements, though it does not include forward emergency braking. The Pre-Sense system helps prepare the Q3 for an impact, including closing the windows and the panoramic sunroof, as well as pre-tensioning the front seatbelts. Visual and acoustic warnings alert the driver.

Other equipment on the tested Q3 included lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and a rear camera with overhead view.

Faithful to its luxury orientation, the tested Q3 Prestige came equipped with a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, leather upholstery with heated seats, navigation system, parking assist, LED headlights and taillights, power rear hatch, stop-start idle system, genuine wood trim, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6051Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Audi Q3 S line 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 228 hp, 257 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 95/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,916 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,895.
  • Price as tested: $45,340.

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

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-4345Photos (c) Audi

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2020 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With three new models on the agenda in one of the most picturesque areas in Canada, they could have called it the International Volvo Appreciation Event.

Moreover, it’s safe to say that the attending automotive critics did more than appreciate the 2020 XC90 and XC60 crossover SUVs. They drove them hundreds of kilometers in the area of Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies.

MY2020 Volvo Model Program - Banff LocationThe all-wheel-drive V60 wagon demonstrated its chops with runs up and down dirt roads on Kicking Horse mountain, which in the winter is a magnet for skiers, while the XC models dodged airplanes and sky divers on an impromptu performance course at a local airport near Golden, British Columbia.

There also were many miles/kilometers in the XC versions on smooth highways that were bereft of traffic but delivered curves, elevation changes and straightaways — ideal for evaluating new vehicles.

Driven for this review were Volvo’s best-selling crossover, the XC60, and the updated 2020 XC90, flagship of the Swedish manufacturer’s SUV lineup, in R-Design trim. It comes with a 316-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 295 lb-ft of torque, enough to move this three-row crossover easily though without much adrenaline rush.

 

New Care by Volvo AdditionsThe XC90 can be ordered with what Volvo calls “tailored wool blend upholstery,” an innovative addition for people like this reviewer who prefer sitting on quality cloth instead of real or faux-leather that needs to be heated and cooled. The fabric is made from wool and other recycled material and is comfortable over a broad range of temperatures.

With its three rows of seats, the XC90 can be ordered with a second-row bench seat to accommodate seven passengers or with second-row captain’s chairs for six passengers. The latter would be the choice for ease of entry to the third row, which should be reserved for children or teeny adults.

MY2020 Volvo Model Program - Banff Location

Also driven — the focus here — was the performance-oriented Polestar Engineered XC60 T8 midsize two-row crossover with all-wheel drive. It is a hybrid with a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged gasoline engine paired with an 87-hp electric motor that drives the rear wheels. The system makes 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Though both the XC90 and the XC60 have tactile, well weighted steering and a good handling feel, the Polestar Engineered model gets the driver’s juices flowing. It’s fast, with an advertised zero to 60 mph acceleration time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 140.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffMoreover, it comes with upgraded performance brakes, highlighted by calipers painted gold that shine through the wheel spokes. Hammer the brakes hard in a simulated panic stop and the 4,733-pound crossover is almost nonchalant in reducing speed with minimal nosedive and squirrelly moves.

Enhancing the tested XC60’s handling is an Öhlins system that enables an owner to manually fine-tune the suspension system with outside adjustments at each corner. Most other systems have three or four combined settings controlled from the driver’s seat.

Cruising on the smooth Canadian highways was mostly a quiet time, with little intrusion of wind or mechanical noise. Tire noise also was minimal except on some rougher roads.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffInside, the XC60 Polestar Engineered featured Volvo’s trademark supportive and comfortable seats, optimized for long-distance cruising. Interior appointments displayed quality materials and good workmanship. The large center screen has vertical format and must be distractingly swiped side to side to access different menus.

Volvo has a negative mindset in two areas: As with other European luxury vehicles, the sunshade for the panoramic roof is made of a perforated cloth that admits too much light and heat. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. These shortcomings were present on both the XC60 and XC90.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffHowever, Volvo continues its emphasis on safety, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the three-point seatbelt, which first appeared on Volvo cars. The tested XC60 also had automatic forward braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large-animal detection; lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control. Volvo also offers Pilot Assist, a  partially automated self-driving system.

The base price of the tester was $72,705, including the destination charge. A couple of options, including 22-inch alloy wheels, brought the sticker to $73,490.

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - Banff

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged; paired with 87 hp electric motor; 415 combined horsepower, 494 pound-feet torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 100/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,733 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 4,409 pounds.
  • EPA city-highway combined fuel consumption: 27 mph on premium gasoline. Gasoline/electric combined, 57 mpg equivalent.
  • Electric-only range: Up to 17 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $72,075.
  • Price as tested: $73,490.

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

2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar - BanffPhotos (c) Volvo

2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its all-new 2020 Aviator crossover SUV, it appears that Lincoln has gone all-in to recapture its traditional reputation as a tier-one luxury brand, one vehicle at a time.

Joining the Navigator, Nautilus and upcoming Corsair, this is a noteworthy piece of automotive engineering and styling, as expansive as it is expensive, and fully comfortable and competitive in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities named Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Audi, Volvo and BMW.

"Fresh Take" Aviator CampaignThere was a 20th-century era when Lincoln automobiles competed against the most exclusive nameplates, including Packard, Duesenberg, Bentley, Chrysler and Cadillac. Though Lincolns were not the most expensive, its Zephyr models with V-12 engines were among the most beautiful and sought-after by wealthy artistes.

The new Aviator mimics that template, with a range of high-achieving models that somehow manage to undercut competitors on price — not that most of its buyers would worry about that. Some competitors of the priciest Black Label trim level of the Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid, with a sticker of  $90,645, run well into six figures.

2020 Lincoln AviatorFor those who can’t or won’t spend that much but still seek to motor behind an Aviator grille, the base rear-wheel drive model starts at $52,095 — almost reasonable in an era when the average new car goes out the door for somewhere around $36,000.

Though the Aviator starts out with rear-drive, it is not a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Like the vast majority of sport utility vehicles these days, it is a crossover, built with a frameless unit body like an automobile.

Of course, few manufacturers show their entry-level vehicle at the introduction so Lincoln rolled out a bevy of its best in Napa Valley, California. They included three versions of the non-hybrid Aviator: Reserve starting at $57,285, Reserve all-wheel drive at $59,795, and the subject here, the all-wheel drive Black Label with an opening sticker of $78,790 and a tested price of $83,540.

2020 Aviator Grand TouringThere also were two versions of the all-wheel-drive hybrid: Grand Touring at $84,365 with options and the aforementioned Black Label AWD at $90,645.

The plug-in hybrid Grand Touring is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers linked to a 75-kW electric motor. A 13.6-kWh battery pack is stashed under the floor and can deliver up to 18 miles of driving on electricity alone. Altogether, the system delivers 494 hp and a whopping 630 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force.

Never mind the Grand Touring’s 5,673-pound curb weight, this hulk is plenty fast, with neck-snapping acceleration off the line and powerful passing on two-lane roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorBut the non-hybrid Aviator is no slouch. Its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, sent through the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the hybrid. There’s a manual-shifting mode operated by paddles mounted on the steering wheel. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 17/24/20 mpg for the all-wheel drive versions.

Driven for this review was the Black Label edition with all-wheel drive. Given its nearly 17-foot length and heft, it handled beautifully and rode serenely on a variety of twisting, hilly roads and high-speed straightaways. Mechanical and wind noises were nearly nonexistent and foam-infused tires helped muffle noise from rough roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe tested Aviator looked the part of a luxury sport utility vehicle, with a sumptuous interior and fashionable appointments of high quality materials and careful workmanship. Among them: a Revel Ultimate 3D audio system with 28 (count ‘em) speakers, panoramic vista glass sunroof with powered shade, acoustic sound-deadening side glass, second-row captain’s chairs separated by a functional center console, and Lincoln’s Phone As a Key technology.

With the optional Air Glide suspension system, the Aviator automatically lowers to ease entry. Owners then can use their smart phones to unlock and unlock doors, start and drive the Aviator, open the tailgate and program settings for seats, mirrors and steering wheel adjustments as well as entertainment preferences.

2020 Lincoln AviatorIf a phone battery dies, a passcode can be entered on an exterior keypad and another code can be entered to start and drive. Extra key fobs also are provided and if a smart phone is lost or stolen, Phone As a Key can be deleted.

The Aviator comes with full safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking, an adaptive suspension system that reads the road ahead to adjust for irregularities, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert.

"Fresh Take" Aviator Campaign

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 400 hp, 415 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 150/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,673 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $78,790.
  • Price as tested: $83,540.

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

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Photos (c) Lincoln

 

2020 Nissan Versa SR: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any modern vehicle manufacturer can produce a good automobile if price is no object. The trick is to build a decent, affordable small car like the 2020 Nissan Versa.

The Versa has been around for more than a dozen years as Nissan’s entry-level economy car. Marketed as a subcompact but usually with the interior room of a larger car, it was offered as a four-door sedan and a hatchback, recently called the Versa Note.

Versa MMP4a-sourceIt has been consistently popular and in 2018 was the best seller  against the Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic and Spark, and Ford Fiesta.

For 2020, it may have a tougher uphill route because Nissan has axed the Note in favor of shunting shoppers toward its subcompact Kicks crossover sport utility vehicle, which some argue is more of a hatchback anyway because it does not offer all-wheel drive.

The 2020 Versa sedan is all-new, longer, lower and wider than its  frumpy predecessor, with more of a family resemblance to the midsize Altima. It even mimics European luxury brands by offering extra-cost exterior paint jobs.

One was the focus of this review, a top-line SR model done up in “Scarlett Ember,” one of eight colors. It cost an additional $395. Even at that, however, the test car had a bottom-line sticker of $20,040, about 15 grand less than the current average price of a new car.

Versa MMP10a-sourceBut if you have a tighter budget, you can order an entry-level Versa S with a base price of $15,625, including the destination charge. That’s with a five-speed manual gearbox. Add Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and the price jumps to $17,295.

That price covers full basic safety equipment plus automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, rear-view camera (without line markers) and high-beam headlight assist. It also includes Siri eyes-free Google assistant with voice recognition. All Versa models come with pushbutton starting.

The cool thing about the S is that, like cars everywhere, it is equipped with the basics anybody would need, including the 122-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 114 lb-ft of torque that delivers a government city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of  32/40/35 mpg with the CVT.

Versa MMP7a-sourceThat doesn’t sound like a hot car on paper and it is not. But the S and its sibling SV and SR trim levels are quite comfortable in any driving situation anyone is likely to encounter on American’s increasingly clogged streets and freeways.

You won’t win many stoplight drag races, but acceleration is strong enough for urban traffic, freeway merging and passing on two-lane roads as long as you allow enough space. The CVT transmission, which ordinarily has no shift points, is one of the better units of its kind, and Nissan incorporates a system called D-Step that adds a kick-down shift for more responsive passing power.

2020 Nissan Versa SV-1-sourceSurprisingly, the base S model rides comfortably and is nearly as quiet a highway cruiser as the SR test car, perhaps benefitting from smaller 15-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers and fatter tires than the 17-inch alloy wheels with skinnier sidewalls on the SR trim. There was little mechanical and wind noise, and the main intrusion — as on the top-line SR — came from the tires on the variety of irregular pavements found everywhere.

The tested top-line SR adds blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as automatic climate control, SXM satellite radio, remote starting, leather-wrapped steering wheel and LED headlights.

2020 Nissan Versa SV-2-sourceIt also came with Nissan’s back-seat warning system, which could save the life of a child or pet left in a closed car on a hot summer day. The system activates when you open a rear door to place a child or something else in back. Later, when you shut down the engine and leave the car, visual and audio warnings are activated to remind you to check.

With 89 cubic feet of space for passengers, the Versa SR delivered supportive and comfortable so-called “zero gravity” seats up front, with upgraded cloth upholstery, and adequate head and knee room in the outboard back seats for average-sized humans. However, as in most cars, the center-rear passenger gets an uncomfortable perch with a floor hump and intrusion of the center console.

The trunk is uncommonly large for a compact car, at 15 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks fold for additional cargo. However, the trunk lid’s C-hinges are not protected and could damage luggage and other contents.

2020 Nissan Versa

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Nissan Versa SR four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder; 122 hp, 114 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: D-Step Xtronic continuously-variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 89/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,729 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 32/40/35 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $19,135.
  • Price as tested: $20,040.

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

Versa MMP2a-sourcePhotos (c) Nissan

2020 Subaru Outback Onyx: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The granddaddy of crossover sport utility vehicles, the Subaru Outback, rolls into 2020 with a host of enhancements, including a new Onyx model aimed at outdoors-oriented customers.

It was in 1994 when Subaru, witnessing the trend to truck-based SUVs but without a competitive product, recast its Legacy station wagon as a special edition called the Outback, which later was defined as a car-based crossover.

GREEN_SURF_CF027673Other manufacturers followed and now crossovers of every size and price have eclipsed traditional sedans as the overwhelming favorite vehicle. Subaru has sold more than two million examples of Outback.

The designers resisted any urge to make the new Outback look more like a traditional tall SUV. Built on a new global platform, it still looks more like a modern station wagon and, of course, like an Outback. Subaru says its customers preferred the traditional styling.

The 2020 Outback comes in seven trim levels with two different horizontally-opposed engines, also called “boxer” or “flat” engines because the cylinders lie on both sides of the crankshaft, feet-to-feet, instead of standing upright or leaning as in a V engine.

23._2020_OutbackWith their vertically squished profile, boxer engines enable a lower center of gravity and a tidy way to add all-wheel drive to a front-wheel drive vehicle, as well as a natural balance. Subaru is the only manufacturer that uses boxer engines exclusively and makes all-wheel drive standard on every model except the rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, also manufactured and sold as the Toyota 86.

The 2020 Outback’s engines are a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque, and a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 260 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

Equipped with the standard engine are the base Outback with a starting price of $27,655, Premium at $29,905, Limited at $34,455 and Touring at $38,355. Turbocharged models, designated XT, are the Onyx at $35,905, Limited $38,755 and Touring $40,705. Prices include the destination charge.

17._2020_OutbackThe transmission is Subaru’s continuously variable automatic (CVT), which also can mimic a stepped eight-speed automatic for manual shifting with paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

Subaru delivers its EyeSight suite of safety features as standard equipment on every Outback model. Cameras mounted inside on both sides of the inside rear-view mirror monitor traffic ahead and activate pre-collision emergency braking and throttle management. Adaptive cruise control maintains a pre-set distance from the car ahead, and lane keeping assist keeps the Outback centered in its lane.

11._2020_OutbackThe system also uses an infrared camera with facial recognition technology to monitor the driver and identify any sign of distraction or fatigue, when it provides visual and audio alerts. Also available are automatic reverse braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a head-up display.

Models with both engines were driven for this review. The conclusion was that the standard engine would satisfy the majority of Outback buyers. With car-like handling and ride, it also has enough power to hold its own on any road or traffic condition.

20TDI_OBKpl029But the focus here is on the Onyx XT with the turbo motor, which delivers more rapid acceleration and passing power, though as might be expected lower fuel economy. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 23/30/26 mpg compared to 26/33/29 for the standard engine.

The Onyx comes with a new polyurethane-based faux leather upholstery that the company says cleans easily and is more comfortable in heat and cold than vinyl-based seat coverings. Because the model is aimed at customers who spend time in the outdoors, the Onyx also comes with Subaru’s dual-mode X-Mode system that enhances off-road performance, including automatic hill descent control. There are settings for snow, dirt and mud.

20TDI_OBKpl010Other Onyx equipment includes 18-inch black aluminum wheels, black exterior trim, a 180-degree front-view monitor, full-size spare wheel and tire, hands-free power rear tailgate and dual exhaust pipes. The tester also had a $1,845 option package that included a motorized sunroof, reverse automatic braking and Subaru’s Starlink navigation system with an 11.6-inch center screen.

On both paved highways and rutted forest roads, the Outback Onyx demonstrated stellar performance. It was fast, comfortable and handled competently on twisting northern California highways, aided by brake-based torque vectoring for the rear wheels.

Off-road, its 8.7-inch ground clearance enabled it to traverse deep and steep holes that would have trapped many other vehicles. The hill descent control took the anxiety out of steep downhill grades.

Gotta love it.

20TDI_OBKpl006Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 260 hp, 277 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with eight-speed manual-shift mode and full-time all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/33 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,884 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,905
  • Price as tested: $37,750.

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

GREEN_SURF_CAT2718Photos (c) Subaru

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its 2020 XT6 crossover and the upcoming  refreshed XT5, Cadillac fields its first-string four corners offense against competitors in the sport utility tournament.

The big difference is that this offense does not seek to stall or  dribble in place. It’s more of a full-court press against Lincoln, Acura, BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Audi and Volvo.

Cadillac SUV familyPair the XT6 and XT5 with the compact XT4 crossover and the silk-gloved brute Escalade, with its truck-like body-on-frame construction, and General Motors’ luxury division has a lineup that can compete across the premium SUV spectrum.

The XT6 slots in below the giant Escalade. Like its bigger sibling, it comes with three rows of seats and either seven- or eight-passenger seating, depending on whether the buyer wants a second-row bench seat or separate captain’s chairs.

Though it is three inches shorter than the 17-foot long Escalade, the XT6 has generous interior space of 153 cubic feet, with 140 for passengers and 13 for cargo behind the third row. The Escalade has 178 cubic feet of interior room, divided 163 for passengers and 15 for cargo.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

A touch of a button drops the XT6’s powered third-row seatback to deliver 43 cubic feet for cargo. Fold the second row, which also provides access for third-row passengers, and the cargo space expands to 79 cubic feet.

The XT6’s standard configuration is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available, where the Escalade starts with rear-wheel drive like the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and adds four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

With its car-like unit body construction, the XT6 has a stiff structure that contributes to secure handling. As a luxury vehicle, it also must deliver a quiet and comfortable ride. To that end, the Cadillac engineers incorporated 15 different insulating enhancements, including hush panels in the side doors and noise absorbent shock towers.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

However, no road-going vehicle is completely silent—not even electric cars — especially traveling pockmarked U.S. highways. The XT6 manages quite well though some wind and tire noise work their way into the cabin.

Power comes from a robust 310-hp V6 engine with 271 lb-ft of torque. It quietly works its power through a nine-speed Hydra-Matic (remember that?) transmission. The combination is enough to propel the XT6 to 60 mph in a guesstimated less than seven seconds.

Cadillac offers two XT6 trim levels: Premium Luxury and Sport. The names are descriptive. The more expensive (by $2,400) Sport is  oriented toward driving dynamics with quicker steering, continuous active suspension damping and aggressive transmission shift points at higher rpms.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

The Sport also gets a more, to be sure, sporting interior featuring trim that looks like woven carbon fiber, while the Premium Luxury version gets beautiful genuine wood enhancements.

Not unlike its European counterparts, the XT6 makes its reputation on the options side of the window sticker. Both the Sport and Premium Luxury models offer Platinum option packages ($3,700 or $4,900 respectively) with upgraded perforated leather upholstery for all seats; leather-wrapped instrument panel, door trim and console; microfiber suede headliner, and premium carpeted floor mats.

It doesn’t end there. The $58,090 all-wheel drive Sport model, the focus of this review, carried $14,950 worth of options, including such items as $2,000 for night vision and $2,350 for enhanced visibility (a rear camera lens washer among other things), that brought the sticker to $73,040.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

A similarly equipped Premium luxury version came with a base price of $56,690 and, when tricked out with a long list of options, checked in at $70,890.

Both models had full safety equipment, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, following distance indicator, front and rear park assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

An innovative feature hides the rear camera, with a washer for inclement weather, underneath the spoiler at the top of the hands-free power tailgate. The rear windshield wiper also is located there, protected from snow and ice.

The Cadillac XT6 Sport is defined by darker accents and more aggressive, performance-inspired details, including available 21-inch wheels.

Among the luxury accouterments are a panoramic “ultraview” glass sunroof, tri-zone climate control, 21-inch alloy wheels, powered and heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an air ionizer and particulate filter, wireless smart phone charging and color head-up display.

In the first half of 2019, sales of Cadillac’s crossovers and the Escalade SUV totaled 56,827. But the XT6 was barely a blip. With the 2020 model, Cadillac’s aggressive four corners offense has the potential to close the gap with other luxury nameplates.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 310 hp, 271 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 140/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,690 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 4,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,090.
  • Price as tested: $73,040.

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

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Photos (c) Cadillac

 

 

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The folks at Chevrolet are convinced that the 2020 Silverado heavy-duty pickup truck will substantially reduce towing anxiety among their devoted customers as well as newcomers.

They consider that there are two groups at risk: The working men and women who need the hauling and towing capabilities of a heavy-duty truck for their livelihood, as well as owners anxious to protect prized possessions like sport fishing boats or designer-home trailers.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Z71

There’s a country music song that says, “Worry’s like a rocking chair; it don’t get you anywhere. Back and forth and you’re still there. Worry’s like a rocking chair.”

Chevrolet calls its new anti-worry system the Transparent Trailer. It is designed to eliminate anxiety experienced by both independent truckers and the people who fret about their prized possessions.

Though the design was a collaboration between Chevrolet and an outside supplier, Ndikum Atang, the engineer who put the system together, installed as many as 15 strategically placed cameras on the trailer and the truck — for this review a Silverado 2500HD High Country crew cab with Chevy’s 445-hp, 6.6-liter turbocharged V8 diesel. It makes a humongous 910 lb-ft of torque — the twisting force that enables towing of 18,500 pounds and beyond.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

The cameras are hard-wired — no trusting of wireless here — and are accessed from the now-ubiquitous center screen in the truck cab. Touch the screen and the driver can see right through the giant box trailer out back.

Of course, it’s an illusion. There’s a camera at the back of the trailer, as well as others, so the center screen can display both sides of the trailer as well as a transparent view, seemingly through an invisible trailer.

With a touch of the screen, the driver also can check the truck’s cargo bed, as well as look at the hookup between the Chevy 2500 and the trailer in enough detail to determine whether anything needs attention.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

As important, another touch of the screen activates a camera inside the trailer so the driver can check the trailer contents—a car, a couple of motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles, or the tangle of beach chairs and umbrellas for the family vacation.

The system also enables a driver to back up his Silverado HD and place the towing ball precisely under the trailer hookup. This maneuver has been done by others before but this system also allows the driver to program up to five different profiles to simplify the process.

Though the Transparent Trailer system — a $1,800 option — gets  the most attention, the 2020 heavy-duty Chevy pickups, in 2500 and 3500 load capability as well as dual rear-wheel 3500s, get the power to the wheels through an all-new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country

In addition to the 2500 turbo-diesel, with its extra cost of $9,750, you can also order the heavy-duty Silverado with a 6.6-liter V8 gasoline engine that delivers 401 hp and 484 lb-ft of torque. You won’t get the all-new Allision 10-speed automatic transmission but the six-speed automatic works fine.

The gasoline-engine 2500s can’t haul quite as much as the brutish diesel model but with a trailer weighing up to 16,900 pounds another tester moved as effortlessly as the diesel towing a ton more. Either way, there’s little of the back-and-forth lurching that sometimes characterizes a tow vehicle and trailer.

With the gasoline V8 and six-speed automatic, the Silverado 2500 4WD crew cab in LT trim had a base price of $46,195, including the destination charge. With a short list of options that provided 18-inch aluminum wheels, all-terrain tires and a spray-on bed liner, the bottom-line price came to $47,985.

The Silverado High Country turbo diesel had a starting price of $62,695. It came with a long list of features that rivaled high-priced luxury cars, as well as performance and convenience items specific to truck use.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country

Among them: the Transparent Trailer camera system, powered up and down tailgate, Durabed cargo box liner, assist steps both on the bed sides and rear bumper, power driver’s seat and heated towing mirrors with memory settings, and power sliding rear window.

Other luxury items included heated and ventilated leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, Chevrolet infotainment system with navigation, eight-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bose premium audio; dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Options, mainly the Duramax turbo-diesel engine, brought the suggested delivered price up to $76,215.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD High Country Crew Cab four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel; 445 hp, 910 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed Allison automatic.
  • Overall length: 20 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 8 inches.
  • Passenger volume: 139 cubic feet.
  • Standard cargo bed volume: 70 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 7,467 pounds.
  • Payload: 3,597 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 18,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Heavy-duty not EPA required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $62,695.
  • Price as tested: $76,215.

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

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD

Photos (c) Chevrolet

 

2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Volkswagen’s 2019 Arteon exudes streamlined styling and comes with an attribute that could entice customers attracted to the increasingly popular crossover sport utility vehicles.

Though it doesn’t look the part, the Arteon is a hatchback sedan with a cargo area of 27 cubic feet, which rivals that of many crossovers.  It also has passenger space of 98 cubic feet. Together, the total 125 cubic feet qualify it as a large car by the federal government’s definition.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9794Yet the dimensions and handling feel are those of a midsize car. In concept, it resembles — and can compete with — the smaller A5 and larger A7 Sportbacks from Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury division. They too are low-slung and sleek but more expensive hatchback sedans.

The Arteon resembles the acclaimed Kia Stinger, which also is a fastback sedan with a hatch. Both are powered by turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines with eight-speed automatic transmissions and available all-wheel drive. Horsepower is similar at 268 for the Arteon and 255 for the Stinger with zero to 60 mph acceleration times of about six seconds.

At 15 feet 11 inches, the Arteon is an inch longer than the Stinger and weighs 185 pounds more. With eight cubic feet less of interior space, the Stinger is classified as a midsize car. Its base price is about $4,000 less than the Arteon’s. (The Stinger also is available with a 365-hp, twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V6 engine; the Arteon has only the 2.0-liter four-cylinder).

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9779But when it comes to luxury appointments, the Arteon — now VW’s flagship sedan — does not slouch. Though popularly priced, starting at $36,840 for the base SE version, the top trim level — the $45,940 SEL Premium 4Motion all-wheel drive model driven for this review — has plenty of luxurious accouterments as well as a full suite of safety enhancements.

Equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, overhead view rear camera, and VW’s intelligent crash response system. In an accident the system unlocks doors, shuts off the engine, disables electronics and turns on lights.

2019_Arteon-Large-7924Inside features include navigation, three-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver’s seat with massage and memory functions, heated outboard rear seats, AM/FM/HD and SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Mimicking a current cliché in European luxury cars, the sunshade for the Arteon’s sunroof was made of a perforated cloth that admitted sunlight and heat. Sunshades should be opaque.

The Arteon name incorporates “art” and “eon,” evoking a sort of timeless staying power. It is a descendant of the Volkswagen’s former CC model, so-called because VW christened it as a “comfort coupe” — that is, a sedan with a coupe profile. It was based on the VW Passat sedan and lasted nine years until it was axed after the 2017 model year.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9788Despite its striking low profile, the Arteon has plenty of head and legroom inside, both in the front and the rear outboard seats. As with almost every vehicle these days, the center-rear passenger gets punished with a hard cushion and a floor hump, and on the Arteon does not get a heated seat.     The rear seatbacks fold almost flat to expand the cargo carrying capability to 55 cubic feet.

On the road, the tested SEL 4Motion model is an amiable companion. Belying its $45,460 price tag, its ambiance is that of a luxury cruiser with little intrusion of mechanical or wind noise. In this era of lousy surfaces, however, it’s impossible to eliminate tire noise unless you’re driving on newly-paved asphalt.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9790Though it is turbocharged, the 2.0-liter engine is smooth and quiet with little turbo lag setting off from rest. The eight-speed automatic transmission is unobtrusive in around-town motoring but also snaps off rapid shifts under hard acceleration. On the tested SEL Premium 4Motion, there were steering-wheel mounted paddles for manual shifting.

Five drive modes are available: Eco, Normal, Comfort, Sport and Custom. They, too, are mostly unobtrusive except for the Sport setting, which delays upshifts to higher rpms than the other settings. Custom allows the driver to tailor personal preferences.

The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and with the Arteon’s adaptive shock absorbers, the ride is controlled and serene for the most part. Handling is confident with responsive, weighted steering.

German luxury cars are notoriously expensive. The Arteon delivers much of that amenity at a middle-class price.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9800Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium 4Motion four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 268 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 98/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,835 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,490.
  • Price as tested: $45,940.

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

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9774Photos: Volkswagen

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC sedan, an all-new entry-level model from the German luxury manufacturer, turns heads and invites comments attesting to its striking styling.

It’s as if this small car, only a couple of inches shorter than the new economy-model Nissan Versa and with less interior room, surprises onlookers with its presence.

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018Well, it should, if for nothing else than its price tag. While you can buy a satisfactory top-line Versa SR for about 20 grand, the A220 has a starting price of $35,495. With the customary European luxury-car list of expensive options, the test car checked the boxes with a sticker of $49,785. You can save $2,000 by skipping the 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

Though marketed as subcompacts, both cars barely sneak into the compact class by the U.S. government’s definition: a car with interior space of 100 to 109 cubic feet, including the trunk. The A220 4MATIC has 102, with 93 cubic feet for passengers and shy of nine cubic feet in the trunk. The Versa has 104 cubic feet, divided at 89 for people with a large trunk of 15 cubic feet.

But enough of size comparisons. The A220 and the Versa do not circulate in the same company. Though either will get you to where you are going, the valets who park the Mercedes will expect a way bigger tip. Versa owners likely will self-park or seek out a street space.

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018Of course, few Mercedes customers would even deign to look at a Versa, much less drive one, and it’s likely most Versa customers would not have pockets deep enough to venture into a Mercedes showroom.

The new A220 should not be confused with the CLA, another compact sedan that Mercedes calls a “four-door coupe.” Though both cars are built off the same front-drive architecture, the CLA is three inches longer and boasts sleeker down-low styling with slightly less passenger space — 91.5 cubic feet compared to 93 for the A220. However, it has a larger trunk of 13 cubic feet versus nine cubic feet in the A-220.

Sophisticatedly motivating the A220 is a 188-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 221 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. It gets the power to the pavement via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which delivers instant shifts up or down and can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel.

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018However you choose to do it, the engine-transmission combination will slingshot the A220 4MATIC to 60 mph in about six seconds. It does that with a remarkable lack of any dreaded turbo hesitation.

Despite its size and relatively light weight of 3,417 lbs, the A220 feels like a Mercedes-Benz, with handling responsive to the weighted steering. It tracks steadily in a straight line, cruises quietly, brakes smartly and its optional adaptive damping suspension system and tires mostly absorb the damnable road irregularities that increasingly plague U.S. roads.

So if nothing else, it’s a good thing for a car like the A220 to have  robust, quality underpinnings. At its price point, it also has many other desirable qualities, along with a few fluffs.

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018Much of the desirable stuff comes with an additional price tag on the options list, including the comprehensive safety equipment: Distronic adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency stopping, lane-keeping and emergency steering assist, and blind-spot warning.

Also optional: combined digital instruments/center-screen cluster, head-up display, Burmester premium surround audio, navigation system, parking assist, surround-view rear camera, SXM satellite radio, heated front seats, auto-dimming inside and outside rear-view mirrors, and inductive smart phone charging

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018

The head-up display is unusual in that it has a readout that displays the distance between the A220 and the car ahead, up to 300 feet. However, although it shows the speed of the car, it does not indicate the speed limit. For that, you have to glance down at the dashboard instruments.

The test car also had a curious intervention. On some cars, when you shut down the engine and open the door, the driver’s seat automatically moves back to facilitate exit and entry. On the A220, it does the opposite. The seatback pushes forward, as if to squash your chest into the steering wheel. It does not, fortunately.

Other fluffs: the shade for the panoramic sunroof is not opaque but made from a flimsy material that admits heat and sunlight. Sun visors do not slide to block sun from the sides. And there were no inside assist handles — only coat hooks combined with reading lights.

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 188 hp, 221 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/9 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,417 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/33/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,495.
  • Price as tested: $49,785.

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

Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse Limousine, V 177, 2018 // Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, V177, 2018Photos:  Mercedes-Benz

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