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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

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and 2022 Nissan Frontier: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Dedicated automotive publications often do comparison tests of vehicles that compete in the same category. But two of the newest midsize pickup trucks are so individual in themselves there’s no comparison between the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and the 2022 Nissan Frontier.

The Santa Cruz is Hyundai’s first foray into this distinctively American vehicle innovation, though the company doesn’t even call it a pickup, preferring the term “adventure vehicle.” But hardly anybody will think or speak of it that way. It’s a pickup.

Meanwhile, there’s no mistaking the athletic Frontier for anything else. It also is all-new, after the previous generation continued primarily unchanged since the 2006 model. It’s a traditional design, with the body mounted on a frame, where the Santa Cruz is built more like a modern crossover, with a unit body like a car.

Both pickups are innovative enough to be nominated for Truck of the Year by the North American Car of the Year organization, an independent jury of 50 automotive journalists in the United States and Canada, including this reviewer. Three rounds of voting are scheduled before the winner is announced next January. 

The success of these new trucks will depend on customers’ mindset—whether they prefer a traditional-looking, hard-working pickup like the Frontier or a more stylish and entertaining driving machine like the Santa Cruz. 

A look at the specifications accompanying this review demonstrates the differences. Next to the Santa Cruz, the hunky Frontier is more powerful, weighs more, can tow heavier loads, is longer and taller, and has a larger cargo box. But the Santa Cruz has more space inside for passengers, delivers better fuel economy, and its rated payload is just one pound less than the Frontier’s. 

The Frontier’s open cargo box has a capacity of 40 cubic feet and plenty of lights and tie-downs for whatever anyone might want to haul. 

Though the Santa Cruz’s cargo box is smaller at 27 cubic feet, it has a built-in cover that works like a tracked window shade to lock away contents and protect them from the weather. There’s also a drainable storage tub under the floor that can hold ice and beverages.

The tested Frontier was a pre-production SV model with high and low range four-wheel drive and a base price of $36,290, including the destination charge. Options packages brought the bottom-line cost to $42,205. Pre-production vehicles have slight differences in equipment, fit, finish, and assembly from the final production version.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz was a production top-line Limited model with all-wheel drive. Fully equipped, its only option was $195 for carpeted floor mats, which brought its delivered price up to $41,100.

Differences between the two pickups emerge in driving. The Frontier is a work truck with heavy, slow steering and a choppy ride when empty. Power comes from its 3.8-liter V6 engine, which delivers 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission the driver can shift manually.

Highway cruising is mostly serene, with some engine and tire noise intrusion, depending on the road surface. Seats, with Nissan’s zero-gravity design, are comfortable and supportive. The driver’s seat has power adjustments, but the passenger gets manual controls. Outboard back seats are spacious, though a bit shy on knee room.

Infotainment is controlled by large center screen, and there are big rotary knobs for radio and climate controls. Equipment includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, rear automatic emergency braking, a trailer hitch, a spray-in cargo bed liner and heated front seats.

Drive the Santa Cruz and the experience mimics being cosseted in a luxurious, high-tech cabin. The jarring note is there are no knobs; only touch buttons. It can be distracting to, say, change the radio volume while underway.

The 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It’s enough to nail 60 miles an hour in the seven second range.

Like its garage mate and sibling, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson, the Santa Cruz has a sporting feel with responsive steering and tight cornering in the twisties, along with a supple and quiet ride that easily eats up the miles.

You pays your money and takes your choice.      

Santa Cruz Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD four-door, five-passenger crossover pickup truck.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged: 281 hp, 311 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 104/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,123 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,609 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,905.
  • Price as tested: $41,100.

Frontier Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Nissan Frontier SV Crew Cab four-door, five-passenger pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 310 hp, 281 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and four-wheel drive with low and high ranges.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 6 inches.
  • Height: Six feet.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 99/40 cubic feet
  • Weight: 4,664 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,610 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,330 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/22/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,290.
  • Price as tested: $42,205.

Disclaimer: The manufacturers provided the vehicles used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Hyundai, Nissan

2022 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2022 Honda Civic marks the modern maturity of a tiny economy car that made its U.S. debut nearly half a century ago. Since then, the Civic has garnered worldwide sales of over 18 million, more than half of them in the United States.

In July 1972, it started out as a sedan and hatchback, each with two doors, front-wheel drive and a 1.2-liter two-cylinder engine. Later it morphed into the Civic’s famed 1200 four-cylinder CVCC engine, which delivered 50 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque through a four-speed manual gearbox.

The CVCC was a marvel, meeting U.S. emissions requirements without add-ons and tuned to run on leaded or unleaded gasoline while delivering fuel economy of over 40 mpg. It became sought after in the shortages of gasoline during the Arab oil embargo of 1973-‘74.

The Civic was 11 feet 8 inches long and weighed 1,450 pounds. Its base price was a dollar a pound, or $1,450, though you could spend up to $3,300 in 1974 dollars. In 2021, the equivalent dollar amounts would be $8,182 and $18,622.         

For 2022, the Touring model tested here delivers 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque from a state-of-the-art turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Power makes its way to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a step-shift feature making it feel something like a conventional automatic, though the faux shifts are very subtle. It also has a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel to mimic a seven-speed transmission.

The CVT is the only transmission available on the new sedans. Enthusiasts who prefer to shift for themselves will await the introductions of the 2022 hatchback, Si and Type R, which will offer Honda’s six-speed manual gearbox, one of the best sticks for front drivers.

The Civic Touring’s EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is  31/38/34 mpg. Fully equipped, the tester came with a sticker price of $29,295, well below the current average price of about $40,000 for an automobile in the U.S. 

Honda Sensing, the manufacturer’s suite of safety equipment, came standard on the test car. It included automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist with road departure mitigation. Other safety features included blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitor, low-speed braking control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, knee air bags for the driver and front-seat passenger, electronic brake force distribution, and tire-pressure monitoring.

With its all-new styling, the Civic has it both ways: Though more generic, the fastback treatment makes it resemble other streamlined compact/midsize sedans, including its bigger sibling Accord and even some luxury machines like the Audi A5. 

Inside, the tested Touring featured perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, enhanced by wide front seats with prominent bolstering to keep the torso secure in fast corners. Comprehensive instruments, including a digital speedometer, are displayed white-on-black on an LCD screen, while a nine-inch center color touch screen handles navigation, SXM satellite radio, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In back, the outboard seating positions deliver more than adequate head and knee room, and the doors open wide for ease of entry and exit. The center seating position, as usual, is inferior but in this application has a comfortable cushion, though feet must still be splayed on both sides of a large floor hump.

The trunk, which contains a temporary spare and the tools needed for a roadside tire change, is roomy and nicely finished, though the unprotected C-hinges could damage some contents.

On the road, the Civic Touring delivered adequate though not stirring performance, along with competent handling manners and a comfortable long-distance ride. Punch the throttle and it will accelerate to 60 miles an hour in the seven-second range, more than adequate for freeway ramps and passing on two-lane roads. 

There are three drive modes — Eco, Normal, and Sport — easily selectable without taking eyes off the road. Sport mainly affects shift mapping but you can drive in Eco and still grab better performance by simply flooring the throttle.

The only somewhat jarring note was that a good deal of road noise on rougher surfaces made its way into the cabin. On newer asphalt highways, the experience was more serene.

Given its affordable price, this new Civic stands out. From a bitty economy car five decades ago, it has grown into a fully realized sedan that can hold its own on performance, comfort, reliability and desirability in almost any company.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 180 hp, 177 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 96/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,038 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/38/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,295.
  • Price as tested: $29,295.

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

Photos (c) Honda

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige MPV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With apologies to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who never experienced the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Just don’t call me a minivan.

That pejorative never passes the lips of Kia’s advertising people or resides anywhere in the brand’s press releases. Nope. The new Carnival is an MPV, for multi-purpose vehicle. 

Obviously, that’s because the powers at South Korea’s Kia likely are convinced that a minivan description amounts to the kiss of low sales, if not death, for their new creation. Never mind that any objective assessment, reiterated here, enshrines minivans as the most useful passenger vehicles on the planet.

But Kia would like to convince everyone that the Carnival is an extension of their own Telluride, which now is the hottest crossover sport utility vehicle on the market. In fact, it is designed to resemble that crossover, though few people will be fooled.

Crossover SUVs threaten to overwhelm the vehicle market in the United States, if not the world. An example is Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, which has abandoned traditional sedans in favor of its four crossovers: Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator. Other manufacturers are in the queue.

Over in the minivan corral, the numbers are few: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager — all worthy competitors. You also can count smaller passenger vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Ram Pro-Master City and Nissan NV200. In 2020, minivans accounted for less than 2% of vehicle sales in the United States.

Kia entered the minivan skirmish in 2002 with the Sedona, which was called the “Carnival” in other world markets. It lasted into 2021 and now has been replaced in the U.S. by the all-new 2022 Carnival.

In the top-line version tested for this review, the Carnival is a fully rendered MPV with such amenities as second-row recliner seats and built-in entertainment screens. It has reasonably comfortable (especially for smaller humans) third-row seats that flip-fold both forward and backward into the floor to increase cargo space.

It’s a big vehicle, with 168 cubic feet of space for passengers and 40 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, which expands to 87 cubic feet with the third row folded. At 16 feet 11 inches long, it’s only four inches longer than the Telluride. But it looks and feels much bigger, with 208 cubic feet of total interior volume compared to the Telluride’s 188. The Carnival also is 278 pounds heavier.

But it’s anything but porky. Its suspension system and tires deliver a smooth and quiet ride, and the handling is crisp and balanced with responsive steering. Of course, you don’t want to fling it around curves as if it were a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Audi RS-3. 

The Carnival is powered by a 290-hp V6 engine with gasoline direct injection that makes 262 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Power is delivered to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is not yet available.

Even with a curb weight of 4,760 pounds, the Carnival can be punched to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to independent tests. It also can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The EPA rates the Carnival’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/26/22 mpg. There are no hybrid versions yet, which would enhance fuel economy. All of the new Toyota Sienna versions feature hybrid power trains, and the Chrysler Pacifica offers a plug-in hybrid.

There are five versions, or trim levels, of the Carnival: the LX, with a starting price of $33,275, including the destination charge; LXS, $35,275; EX, $38,775; SX, $42,275, and the tested SX Prestige, $47,275. 

2022 Carnival

The SX Prestige was so luxurious and well equipped, including a panoramic sunroof with dual front and rear openings, that it listed only one option: Astra Blue Paint at $495, which brought the as-tested price to  $47,770. Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety and driver assist technology. One notable: Safe Exit Assist, which sounds a warning and locks a rear door after a stop if the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear.

The Carnival also features blind spot cameras that switch on with the directional signals and replace the speedometer and tachometer; forward collision avoidance; blind-spot collision avoidance; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance; lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige four-door multi-purpose vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6, gasoline direct injection; 290 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/ cargo volume: 168/40 cubic feet (87).
  • Weight: 4,760 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,275.
  • Price as tested: $47,770.

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

Photos (c) Kia

2022 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Prestige: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s becoming a truism that the South Koreans build great automobiles like the 2022 Genesis G70. But the impression in the U.S. is  based on only three closely associated brands.

They are Kia, partly owned by Hyundai, and Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand. Together, they deliver 29 different models, including sedans, hatchbacks, crossover sport utility vehicles and even a pickup truck, with a broad range of performance characteristics and prices from economy to luxury.

The newest brand is Genesis. It started out as a high-end trim level for Hyundai but became a separate brand in 2015. The 2022 lineup consists of the G70, G80 and G90 sedans, and the GV70 and GV80 crossovers.

Of those, the G70 has received the most plaudits from reviewers. It is a compact performance/luxury sedan — actually a bit smaller than the economy-oriented Hyundai Elantra. But the G70 competes directly, at lower prices, with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A5 Sportback. It also rivals the Kia Stinger, with which it shares some components. 

There are six G70 versions, all with turbocharged engines. The two four-cylinder base models, 2.0T Standard and 2.0T Prestige, have 252 horsepower and carry price tags of $38,570 and $42,570, respectively. Both have eight-speed automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive.

The other four, including the Sport Prestige model tested for this review, are powered by 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo engines that make 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. They also have eight-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift modes and rear-wheel drive. Add about $2,000 for all-wheel drive on all models.

The tested Sport Prestige had a base price of $43,125 and, with options, a tested price of  $51,945. Other 3.3 versions: Standard, $43,145; Sport Advanced, $47,445, and Launch Edition, $51,445.

Visuals are important, and the G70 grabs attention with sleek, fastback lines and new front and rear styling. Like an Olympic sharpshooter, this Genesis has competitors locked in its sights. 

The stylish look carries over to the interior, which features quality materials, design, and workmanship. Seats on the tester were upholstered in quilted and perforated Nappa leather. Front seats have good bolstering for spirited driving on curving roads and deliver support and comfort for long distance driving. The tester came with a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and  large glass sunroof with an opaque motorized sunshade. 

In back, there’s room and comfort for two smaller adults in the outboard seats, though getting in and out takes some agility because feet catch between the door frame and the seat. The center seat position is impossible because of a large floor hump, hard cushion, and intrusion of the center console. In fairness, this is not uncommon in many smaller sedans.

Where the tested G70 shines is in overall performance. The twin-turbo V6 engine and quick-shifting eight-speed automatic combine to hustle this beauty to 60 mph in the four-second range.

There are five easily dialed drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Custom, and Sport Plus. The last is a track mode and turns off the traction control. On twisting roads, the G70 stays planted with tactile steering feedback.

The Sport modes keep the engine on the boil for rapid response, though if you get your foot deep into the throttle it’s almost as if the other modes switch instantly to Sport, so you can putter around town in Eco knowing that the power is poised to respond quickly.

With the G70’s bias toward sporting performance and handling, the ride can get a bit choppy on pockmarked roads, though the adaptive shock absorbers do a decent job of canceling some of the rougher stuff. The different drive modes don’t seem to have much of an effect on the ride.

Genesis G70 Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Equipment on he tested Sport Prestige includes premium Brembo brakes, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear occupant warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology, head-up display and a 360-degree view exterior camera. There’s also dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and 19-inch custom alloy wheels.

A 10.3-center screen displays infotainment functions, including navigation, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In short, the G70 comes with nearly everything expected in a performance/luxury sedan. Though it doesn’t have the cachet of a BMW or Mercedes, it performs as well or better than other compact luxury/sport sedans at lower prices.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Genesis G70 RWD 3.3T Sport Prestige four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque. 
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 94/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,880 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/27/21 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.  
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,125.
  • Price as tested: $51,945.

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

Photos (c) Genesis

2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hyundai jumped the gun in the race for buyers of compact crossover sport utility vehicles with its fully redesigned 2022 Tucson, which features eye-catching body sculpting and creative lighting, among many new features.

Moreover, this new contender comes in 10 different versions, called trim levels in the industry, including three hybrids and price tags ranging from $26,135 for the base SE model to $38,704 for the top-line Limited Hybrid version with all-wheel drive tested for this review. Hybrids come with all-wheel drive and other models also are available with front-wheel drive. Prices include the destination charge.

Even with its 38 grand as-tested price, the Tucson Limited Hybrid sells for less than the average price of a new car in the United States — now more than $40,000 — and presents itself more as a small luxury crossover than an economical utility vehicle, which it also can claim.

A crossover is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) built like a car, with unit body construction. An SUV is built with the body mounted on a frame, like a pickup truck. The Tucson is an example of the former; the Chevrolet Tahoe or Jeep Wrangler are traditional rugged SUVs.

Coming or going, the Tucson is a grabber. Its grille is highlighted by 10 (count ’em) LED daytime running lights. Hyundai says the idea was to craft a recognizable work of art. On the road, if a Tucson overtakes your vehicle, you will witness a tail gate that sports a full-width light bar and angular bright brake lights.

For all of its luxury and technological highlights, this Tucson will not disappoint at the gasoline pumps. It delivers a 37/36/37 mpg city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy rating, which some new owners already have exceeded.

The power train consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 90-hp electric motor. Together, they deliver 261 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, meaning this Tucson will never be embarrassed in the stoplight sprints or freeway wrangling. 

For peace of mind, every Tucson comes with modern safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. The tested Limited Hybrid also was equipped with adaptive cruise control and lane-following assist, blind-spot warning, driver attention detection and warning, rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance alert, and front and rear parking assist warning.

Inside, driver and passengers of the Limited Hybrid are treated to quality materials, well-designed equipment and accents, including perforated leather upholstery, and topped off by a panoramic sunroof. A large center screen handles infotainment functions. However, all controls are either touchscreen or pushbutton. You have to look at the screen to select functions, which could be distracting. A few knobs would be welcome for things like radio volume.

Outboard back seats are big and comfortable with plenty of head room and knee room. However, as usual in too many vehicles, the forlorn center rear passenger gets treated to a hard, high cushion and a big floor hump. 

With the rear seatbacks in place, the tested Tucson had 39 cubic feet of space for cargo, more than any conventional sedan on the market. To nearly double that, simply fold the seatbacks almost flat. There’s no spare wheel under the cargo floor — just a “tire mobility kit.” So, figure on calling for emergency service.

The Tucson Hybrid’s forte is serene distance cruising, with the gasoline engine and electric motor quietly working in concert. But it also is no slouch on twisting roads, though it would be a mistake to assume it handles like a sports sedan. However, with a supple suspension system mated to compatible tires, it is capable and secure with a comfortable ride.

Hyundai also offers a Tucson plug-in hybrid, which can deliver up to 32 miles of purely electric operation. An onboard charger can top up the battery in about two hours with a level two 240-volt connection. But once the electric juice dries up it simply switches to regular hybrid operation, so the current better choice is a standard hybrid like the tester, which doesn’t need to be plugged in.

The new Tucson competes in tough company against the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-30, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and the Kia Sportage from Hyundai’s sister division. It should prove to be a formidable foe.

Specifications     

  • Model: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 180 hp, 195 lb-ft torque; 90 hp electric motor. Total system: 261 hp, 224 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/39 cubic feet.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • Weight: 3,695 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 37/36/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,535.
  • Price as tested: $38,704.

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

Photos (c) Hyundai

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The all-new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander comes with a description that a 2-year-old child would enjoy: “I-Fu-Do-Do.” The company says it’s a product concept that means “authentic and majestic.”

Not sure whether the tested Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC, a three-row crossover sport utility vehicle, is majestic. But it is an attractive, capable, and comfortable rendering of Mitsubishi’s goal to deliver quality, strength and confidence.

It’s cultural. And who’s to argue? The Japanese produce some of the finest motor vehicles, though they are increasingly challenged by the South Koreans — and Americans, and Europeans.

According to a well-placed and impeccable source, “I-Fu-Do-Do” at Mitsubishi is “Kinda like Mazda’s ‘rider and horse as one.’ It’s a high-level concept that led the development of the vehicle. Not a literal translation, but a Japanese higher-level concept.”

We’re not smoking anything here. Concepts are important to automotive designers and engineers, who spend entire careers to divine what customers in the future will embrace.

As a new rendering of Mitsubishi’s flagship vehicle, the company went to great lengths to include everything anyone might expect in a modern automobile, and even some hardly anybody would expect.

For example, in addition to a suite of engineering and insulation measures designed to, among other things, reduce tire noise and deliver a quiet and comfortable ride, the Mitsubishi engineers also devised a system to suppress vibrations through the steering wheel. 

Everywhere you look, there are unexpected features, given the Outlander’s price point. Examples: six selectable drive modes on all-wheel drive models — Eco, Normal, Tarmac, Gravel, Snow and Mud. Garnishing on the rocker panels to reduce dirt that clings to trousers and dresses when passengers swing legs out to exit. Both A and C USB ports. Smartphone stowage for every seat. Side window shades in the second-row seat. Outside mirrors that automatically tilt downward for backup parking. A smartphone app to locate the Outlander in a crowded parking lot.

The new-car window sticker for the tested Outlander, called the Monroney after the senator who introduced the 1958 law requiring it, is numbingly extensive, with 108 separate items of equipment, features and options. The tester had a starting price of $34,940 and a bottom-line sticker of $37,995.

Taking a cue from South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia, the Outlander also comes with the best warranty in motordom: Five years and 60,000 miles overall limited warranty, and 10 years and 100,000 miles on the engine and transmission. 

The Outlander competes in the compact class against such worthy crossovers as the Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV-4. But it looks bigger with a prominent, almost menacing grille set off by triple stacked headlights on both sides, and a new one-piece hexagonal tailgate with horizontal T-shaped taillights.

The tested Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC comes with all-wheel drive and a 181-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 181 lb-ft of torque. With more than 3,800 pounds to move, it’s not the fastest in stoplight sprints but it’s not embarrassed on the public roads. 

Power gets to the pavement via a continuously variable automatic transmission that has no shift hesitations in sedate driving. But if you punch the loud pedal for a quick getaway, it incorporates shift points to feel like a conventional automatic. There’s also an eight-speed manual shift mode controlled by steering-wheel paddles, adding an entertainment quotient.

Handling and ride are first rate, with composed tracking around mountain curves and cutbacks. Front seats deliver support and comfort with substantial bolstering to hold the body in place. Straight line highway cruising is uneventful.

Second-row outboard seats mimic the front seats and even the center position is not as horrible as those on many other vehicles. There’s still a high, hard cushion, but the floor hump is shallow so there’s space for feet.

The third row should be saved for emergencies or small items like purses and pets. Fortunately, the second-row seats have adequate fore and aft travel. Run them all the way forward and the third row has some tiny foot space. 

Really old-timers will recall that Mitsubishi produced the Japanese A6M Zero fighter plane that battled American aircraft in the Pacific in World War II. Now Japan is a staunch ally and an Olympics host, and the company has evolved into a conglomerate that produces quality merchandise for the world, including the tested Outlander.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter direct injection four-cylinder; 181 hp, 181 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with eight-speed manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 121/12 cubic feet (34, 78, seats folded).
  • Weight: 3,803 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,940.
  • Price as tested: $37,995.

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

Photos (c) Mitsubishi

2021 Audi RS 7: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s tempting to describe the 2021 Audi RS 7 in disparate ways: a hair-trigger pistol in a silk holster. An explosive creampuff. An iron fist in a velvet glove.

They are all accurate, more or less. This four-door fastback, so low slung a five-footer can peer over the top, can be driven as softly as a cushy limousine or as harshly as a track or road racer without adjusting anything except the pressure of the right foot on the accelerator pedal.

It extracts gobs of power from its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine: 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, enough to launch it to 60 mph north or south of three seconds. Top speed on the test car was 155 but the capability can be increased to 190 if you order the optional track-capable carbon ceramic brakes.

Power gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. The transmission can be manually shifted with steering-wheel paddles, though there are likely few humans who could beat the automatic.

Even without the carbon-ceramic grabbers, Car and Driver magazine reported that its testers were able to haul the 4,947-pound RS 7 to a stop from 70 mph in 171 feet, which it judged as impressive. In short, this hatchback sedan is the whole nine yards.

Fuel economy, given the power available, is respectable. City/highway/combined EPA numbers are  15/22/17 miles to the gallon, though to get maximum performance and economy, premium gasoline is required.

There are no different versions, or trim levels. The one you get has a starting price of $115,045. With options, the tester’s bottom-line sticker came to $125,140. If you want something less intimidating, check out the Audi S 7 and A 7. 

What you get for the money, besides the scintillating performance, are luxury accouterments. The tested RS 7 had beautiful perforated and embossed leather upholstery covering supportive and comfortable seats with good bolstering to hold the torso in place. 

In back, the outboard seats are positioned way down to afford head room under the low roof, making it a bit awkward for some people to access. Comfort back there, however, is available only for two. The center-rear seat is a hard perch aggravated by a large floor hump, so the poor soul must splay feet on both sides. It’s not a place for even a short trip.

But there’s a modicum of practicality lurking among the luxurious appointments. Open the rear hatch and access 25 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the rear seatbacks nearly flat and the cargo area almost doubles. However, despite the sharply angled backlight, there is no rear window wiper. 

The RS 7 comes with full safety equipment, as well as a comprehensive digital gauge cluster that includes instant readouts for power and torque. The infotainment system operates with touch screens that unfortunately require a firm touch to operate, which means the driver can be distracted to aim fingers accurately. But there’s also voice recognition. Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, along with wireless smart phone charging. A subscription Wi-Fi hot spot  is available.

The RS 7 has impeccable manners, whether tootling around downtown, commuting to the suburbs or rocketing around curves on a deserted mountain roadway. As noted, the power is on tap for any circumstance, yet you can feather-foot the throttle for docile motoring in comfort.

Buttressing this package is an adaptive air suspension and four-wheel steering. Both contribute to the controlled ride and confident handling. The tester had an optional driver assistance package that included a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and Audi’s intersection assist, which monitors cross traffic.

The tested RS 7 came with an optional exterior black optics package, black outside mirror housings, summer performance tires on 22-inch matte titanium wheels, and red brake calipers. There also was a $500 sport exhaust system, which this reviewer could have done without.

Fortunately, the exhaust notes are most raucous under hard acceleration. In more sedate motoring, the RS 7 runs quietly enough to allow easy listening to the 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and the SXM satellite radio.

Whether you’re entranced by the whole nine yards, the complete ball of wax or the full megillah, the Audi RS 7 will suit up.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Audi RS 7 four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 4.0-liter V8, turbocharged; 591 hp, 590 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 95/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,947 pounds.
  • Height: 4 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/22/17. Premium gasoline required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $115,045.
  • Price as tested: $125,140.

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

Photos (c) Audi

2021 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though it’s among the runners-up for pure driving pleasure, the 2021 Infiniti Q50 can satisfy almost anyone who enjoys driving for its own sake. 

Most of those enthusiasts likely would concede that the best vehicles for their preferred pursuit are sports cars. However, it’s a tradeoff because they have limitations of two seats and truncated luggage space.

The runners-up are compact and midsize sports sedans like the Q50 Signature Edition tested for this review. Many aficionadoes even prefer them for their additional space for up five passengers and the capability to accommodate luggage in a trunk or under a rear hatch.

Examples of the Q50’s competition are the Audi A4 and A5, as well as their higher performance S and RS models; BMW 3-Series and M versions; Mercedes-Benz C-Class and AMG models; Alfa-Romeo Giulia; Cadillac CT-4, CT-5, and Blackwing versions; Acura TLX; Honda Civic Type R; Genesis G70; Subaru BRZ, and Volkswagen Golf GTI/R.

There even are subcompacts that qualify as sports sedans, as witness the Audi A3, S3, and a current favorite here, the Audi RS3, about as sweet a driver as you’ll find anywhere. However, it has a price tag north of $65,000.

The 2021 Infiniti Q50 is not quite as dear. But the tested Signature Edition checked in at $52,800, which included $1,575 worth of options: exterior “welcome lighting,” rear USB charging ports, trunk area enhancements and premium paint.

Sports sedan qualifications start with the Q50’s 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that punches out 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission sends the power to all four wheels. There’s a manual shift mode, but curiously no steering-wheel paddles. You shift with the shifter.

Standard equipment includes most everything a customer might want. Safety items include emergency braking and collision warning, backup collision intervention, blind-spot and lane-departure warning, around-view camera with moving-object detection, adaptive cruise control and hill start assist. 

Convenience and comfort features include dual-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery, remote engine starting, motorized glass sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated outside mirrors, and LED headlights and fog lights.

Inside, the Q50 displays a comfortable ambiance with quality materials and workmanship. The black dash is highlighted with yellow stitching. Over-and-under center touch screens handle navigation and infotainment functions. Buttons control climate functions. Instruments feature big analog displays that are easy to read day or night. 

On the road, the Q50 delivers a comfortable ride, which might be its main drawback. It seems as if the suspension tuning and tires were set up more toward the luxury than the sport side of the spectrum. That’s not to say it’s a slug on handling. It goes where you point it with good steering feedback; its turn-in on sharp curves at high speeds is not as quick as some of the competition. But it is  companionable as a daily driver.

Independent tests place the Q50’s zero-to-60-mph acceleration time in the five-second range — certainly acceptable in this era. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/27/22 mpg.

Front seats deliver support and comfort for spirited driving, with good bolstering to hold the torso in place. The back seats offer welcoming accommodations for two in the outboard seats. But as usual in most cars with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Q50’s center-rear seat—there to qualify it for five passengers — should be reserved for knapsacks or capuchin monkeys. Any comfort is compromised by a giant floor hump, intrusion of the center console and a cushion so hard and high the poor passenger’s noggin bumps the headliner-covered metal roof.

Though the Q50 looks like a compact, it has midsize interior space as defined by the EPA. There’s 100 cubic feet for passengers with a trunk of 14 cubic feet, well carpeted to avoid damaging any contents. There’s no spare so figure on calling for help if there’s a flat. 

The Q50’s design with a traditional trunk provides a template that enables stylists. Though not a neck-snapping head turner, this well-designed machine qualifies as eye candy. However, in this view it also could be an Audi-style fastback with a hatchback to enhance the utility side of the equation even further without affecting the performance personality.

Like other manufacturers, Infiniti concentrates on its crossover sport utility vehicles as sedans fade in the marketplace. The Q50 is the company’s sole surviving four-door sedan. But it’s still a worthy competitor.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 300 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 100/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,025 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $51,225.
  • Price as tested: $52,800.

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

Photos (c) Infiniti

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Once regarded as a truncated version of the historic Chevrolet Suburban, the all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe has become a distinct competitor in the full-size sport utility realm, especially in the four-wheel drive Z71 trim tested for this review.

The Suburban has been with us as a premier hauler of family and cargo since 1934, probably a week or two before most of its buyers were born. Over the years, it was the choice of anyone who needed lots of space for passengers and cargo, as well as brute force towing capability.

For Chevrolet and General Motors, the Suburban functioned as a bulwark against the increasingly popular minivan, popularized in the mid-1980s by Chrysler. But it always retained its muscular personality, and spun off other iterations, including the luxury Cadillac Escalade and the GMC Yukon — no surprise because they were based on the same platform as General Motors’ Silverado and Sierra full-size pickup trucks.

That’s either a positive or negative depending on the chores you want to assign to your big boomer. Full-size SUVs can carry the same number of passengers and cargo as a now-traditional minivan. And they can tow heavier trailers and handle heavier loads. But big SUVs lose to the minivan on fuel economy, handling and comfort. On a beach trip, the kids in back likely would prefer a Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, or the all-new Kia Carnival, which masquerades as an SUV.

On the other hand, if you’re regularly towing your 27-foot party barge for a family cruise on Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California, you’d likely choose the Chevrolet Tahoe or some other lunker like the Ford Expedition MAX, Nissan Armada, or Toyota Sequoia.

The Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71 that is the subject here did not arrive as the Suburban’s sibling until 1994 — a somewhat smaller and slightly less expensive alternative. At the outset, the two vehicles seemed alike except that the Tahoe looked like a Suburban with about 15 inches whacked off the back end.

But now, all-new for 2021, the Tahoe comes with well-balanced styling and a personality all its own despite its family resemblance to big brother — or sister — Suburban.

In an era when manufacturers are trending toward smaller turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the 2021 Tahoe Z71 continues with good old-fashioned Detroit muscle — a pushrod 5.3-liter V8 engine with 355 hp and 358 lb-ft of torque. It sends its power to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission.      

The combination guarantees that you will never feel at a disadvantage either in the hiccups of plugged up/high speed interstate travel or urban puddling around. But no matter how you are driving, don’t count on competing with any economy cars. The tested Tahoe Z71 has a city/highway/combined EPA fuel consumption rating of 16/20/18 mpg, and almost everybody will get less.

But there’s quiet comfort in cruising. Buttressed with an air suspension system and adaptive shock absorbers, the tested Tahoe exhibited good handling for its size, cruised quietly and comfortably for long distances at Interstate speeds and featured mostly fatigue-free seating. 

The air suspension system also enabled a larger cabin with 178 cubic feet of space for up to seven passengers and 25 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row. Both the second and third rows can be folded to greatly expand the cargo capacity. Third-row seats have power folding.

The tested Z71, with standard four-wheel drive, came with a $5,735 off-road package of options that included the air suspension, magnetic ride control and a heavy-duty radiator for enhanced cooling. The package also featured an advanced trailering system with hitch guidance and trailer brake control. 

Safety equipment on the tester, both standard and optional, included automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, following-distance indicator, lane-change alert with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning.

Inside, the Z71 offered a complement of infotainment, comfort and convenience functions. Among them: tri-zone automatic climate control, wireless smart phone charging, Wi-Fi, five USB ports, SXM satellite radio, nine-speaker Bose audio system, and a rear window that opens independently of the power rear hatch for convenience in loading smaller items.

The Z71 is one of six versions, called trim levels in the industry, that have starting prices from $51,195 to $71,220, including destination charges, with the Z71 in the middle of the range at $60,495. With options, the tested Tahoe Z71 topped out at $68,940.

Specifications 

  • Model: 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71 four-door sport utility vehicle. 
  • Engine: 5.3-liter Ecotec V8, 355 hp, 358 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 178/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,865 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,600 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/20/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $60,495.
  • Price as tested: $68,940.

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

Photos (c) Chevrolet

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