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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 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

2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If “aggressive” is a word that gets your automotive juices flowing, and you’re in the market for a midsize luxury SUV, you might want to schedule a test drive in the 2019 BMW X5 xDrive crossover.

Now 20 years old, the X5 was the Bavarian Motor Works’s answer to the 1998 Mercedes-Benz ML 320, which had the distinction of leading the parade of modern luxury SUVs. They now have multiplied to the point where you can select from nameplates like Bentley, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Acura, Audi, Volvo, Land Rover, Infiniti, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lincoln, Lexus and, of course, Mercedes-Benz.

P90325220-highResIn this company, as in other areas of the automotive firmament, the BMW X5 chooses to compete in a clique of vehicles oriented more toward performance than plush ride and comfort — hence the “aggressive” moniker.

Though it’s not up there in nosebleed price territory like the Rolls-Royce or Bentley, the X5 is aggressively priced. The tested X5 — the xDrive designation is superfluous because all of the 2019 models come with all-wheel drive — came with a base price of $61,695, including the destination charge.

As usual with European luxury cars — though the X5 actually is built in BMW’s U.S. plant near Spartanburg, S.C. — the devil is in the detailed list of options. The tested X5 was crammed with $12,285 worth, resulting in a bottom-line sticker price of $73,980.

P90325209-highResOptions included items that a customer might expect should be standard equipment in a vehicle in this price class—for example, the leather-trimmed dashboard, head-up display, Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smart phone charging, rear camera with surround view, four-zone climate control and SXM satellite radio.

But BMW does focus on the performance gear, which is standard and not part of the options list. The silky in-line six-cylinder engine delivers 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque — enough, the company says, to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, with a governed top speed of 130 mph.

That aggressive power gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Want to do some stoplight drag races with a Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz GLE or Audi Q7? Go seek them out and the likely result will have more to do with driver skills than  power under the hood.

P90325505-highResThe X5’s aggressive nature extends to its lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Though it cruises sedately in easy-flowing Interstate traffic, the X5 gets downright mean if the driver’s attention wanders. Drift out of your lane and the system nearly jerks the steering wheel out of your hands as it brings this 4,613-lb machine back on track.

As with other adaptive cruise control systems, the driver can select the following distance from the vehicle ahead. It’s best to allow some extra air for the X5. Set it to the shortest distance and it can scare the daylights out of the driver as it aggressively closes, then slams on the brakes before meekly matching the target’s speed.

Even with its responsive acceleration and handling, the X5 still is a tall SUV and would not compete on a twisting racecourse with its sibling sedans. Still, among luxury crossover SUVs, it stands out for steady tracking, steering feel and feedback, and the capability to negotiate mountain curves with aplomb and control.

P90325536-highResAside from its aggressive personality, the X5 comports with other luxury vehicles in designing its driver-interactive systems more for engineers and tech enthusiasts than average moderately-savvy drivers. It often seems that infotainment systems on luxury vehicles are needlessly complex to justify the high prices. The attitude seems to be that if the systems are simple, they must be cheap.

Not so. Almost anybody would happily and quickly learn an infotainment system from, for example, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) than try to dissect the owner’s manual on a BMW or Mercedes to figure out how to, say, set the pre-sets on the SXM satellite radio.

P90325526-highResThough there are capable midsize crossover SUVs available for way less money — the 2020 Kia Telluride, Subaru Outback and Hyundai Palisade come to mind — the X5 is a fine choice for those with the wherewithal and a taste for aggressive performance.

In addition to its road-going manners, the X5 boasts some off-road chops, though likely not in the same manner as Land Rovers and Range Rovers. The emphasis, as is traditional with BMW, is “ultimate” street driving.

P90325383-highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 BMW X5 xDrive40i four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged; 335 hp, 330 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 105/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,613 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,503-7,209 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/22 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $61,695.
  • Price as tested: $73,980.

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

P90325519-highResPhotos:  BMW

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You might come up short with a big family, but the 2019 Mazda CX-9 works smartly for a couple of couples on a cross-state jaunt of hundreds of miles and many hours behind the wheel.

Of course, that’s if you fold down the third-row seat to stash the luggage. If your couples came with a couple of kids to sit in that third row, there wouldn’t be room for but a few suitcases or carry-ons.

MY16 Mazda CX-9Such are the compromises inherent in the tested CX-9 Signature, Mazda’s top-of-the-line three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.

Though it has those three rows of seats for seven-passenger accommodations, it is smaller inside than similar brands. It has 135 cubic feet of space for passengers with just 14 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row — not enough with kids exported back there.

Fold that third row, as that couple of couples did for a trip across Wisconsin to the Green Bay Packers shrine at Lambeau Field, and you realize an ample 38 cubic feet of space for the baggage to carry home Wisconsin-only Spotted Cow beer, and green and gold clothing and artifacts from the Packers Pro Shop.

2016_cx9_016Now that we’ve established that the CX-9 can be useful for hauling half a dozen grade-school kids to soccer practice but would require a top carrier for a family beach outing, fairness demands an assessment of other attributes.

It turns out there are many, starting with the inescapable conclusion that this is what colleagues at the enthusiast magazines like to anoint as a driver’s car. The chassis is stiff, the electric power steering precise and responsive, the independent suspension system compliant, the turbo engine powerful and the six-speed automatic transmission unobtrusive.

About the only gripe heard on the trip came from one of the drivers, a large and muscular male who said the cockpit width at thigh level was uncomfortably narrow for his chunky legs. This reviewer had no problem.

CX9ENGINE-201The power train starts with a touch of a pushbutton to wake up the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It is turbocharged to deliver 227 hp and the surge of 310 lb-ft of torque, the twisting force that pins the spine against the seatback when you punch the pedal when the light changes.

That’s with Mazda’s recommendation to use regular 87-octane gasoline. If you are the sort who values a bit of extra punch, dump in premium fuel and you’ll get 250 hp, though the torque rating doesn’t change.

Either way, your zero-to-60 mph acceleration time will come up either slightly north or south of seven seconds, according to independent tests. Though there are any number of cars out there that could beat you in a drag race, that’s more than respectable for a crossover that measures 16 feet 7 inches long and weighs 4,383 lbs.

2019_-CX-9_US_IN_P7_20180719Moreover, the CX-9 manages the sprint effortlessly. The Mazda engineers have used their talents to wipe out any hint of the dreaded turbo lag, that hesitation that causes some turbo-engine cars to hiccup before they belch their power. City/highway/combined fuel economy is respectable at 20/26/23 mpg.

Though front-wheel drive is standard, the tested Signature model came with all-wheel drive, useful for areas with nasty weather. But if you don’t expect to battle snowstorms or visit ski areas you can operate nicely with the front-drive and save some money.

Mazda, the Japanese manufacturer that has given us exciting cars like the MX-5 Miata and the Mazda3 hatchback, has been on a campaign to upgrade its vehicles to premium and perhaps luxury status. It shows on the CX-9 Signature, with features a cut above the ordinary and a bottom-line sticker of $46,660.

2019_-CX-9_US_IN_P4_20180719Full safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control, brake assist, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking assist.

Inside, there’s three-zone automatic climate control, motorized glass sunroof to put wind in and sun on the hair, aluminum and wood trim, perforated leather upholstery with heated front seats, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, 12-speaker Bose audio system, an eight-inch touch screen that displays navigation, SXM satellite radio, HD radio, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Bluetooth streaming audio, and apps for Pandora, Stitcher and Aha internet radio.

Exterior features, in addition to the attractive sheet metal, include 20-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, rain-sensing windshield wipers with windshield de-icer, power rear tailgate, heated and powered outside rear-view mirrors, and aluminum roof rails.

2019_-CX-9-16-G-US-LOC-004_R10_20170616Specifications

Model: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 227 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.

Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.

Height: 5 feet 8 inches.

EPA passenger/cargo volume: 135/14 cubic feet.

Weight: 4,383 pounds.

EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/23 mpg.

Base price, including destination charge: $46,360.

Price as tested: $46,660.

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

2019_-CX-9_Exterior_003-1_R5Photos:  Mazda

 

2019 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In all the hoopla around the new Ford Ranger midsize pickup truck, what few people mention is that it is a decent long-distance road runner.

Except for the buckboard ride over rough surfaces at lower speeds — expected of an empty pickup truck with load-carrying leaf springs in back — the 2019 Ranger SuperCrew Lariat 4X4 driven for this review delivered a comfortable, fatigue-free ride on Interstate highways over hundreds of miles.

2019 Ford RangerThe front bucket seats could have used a bit more support, but the softness was welcome during hours at the wheel. Few steering corrections were needed as the Ranger tracked steadily with a steering feel more akin to that of a European luxury car than a Yankee pickup.

With plenty of power from the four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine, operating through a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission, the Ranger never felt challenged in high-speed maneuvers. The adaptive cruise control held a steady speed up and down hills, also slowing and speeding up in heavy rubber-band traffic.

Though the Ranger name has defined a number of Ford products since the ill-fated Edsel Ranger back in 1958, the midsize Ranger pickup truck has not been marketed in the U.S. since it was discontinued after the 2010 model year. It had a 27-year run from 1983.

2019 Ford RangerGiven the growth of pickups in the last decade, it’s hard to think of the new Ranger as a midsize, though that’s where it is parked in today’s market. In 2008, the full-size Ford F-150 was 18 feet 1 inch long, 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 5,360 lbs, with a payload of 1,480 lbs and a towing capability of 6,200 lbs. It offered a choice of two V-8 engines of 4.6 and 5.4 liters with 248 and 300 hp and 294 or 365 lb-ft of torque. The transmission was a four-speed automatic.

The 2019 Ranger is 17 feet 7 inches long, 6 feet tall, weighs 4,441 lbs, with a payload of 1,560 lbs and a towing capability of 7,500 lbs. Its 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers 270 hp and  310 lb-ft of torque to the pavement through its 10-speed automatic transmission.

City/highway fuel consumption for the old V-8 F-150 was 13/17 mpg. The 2019 Ranger, using a subsequent stricter EPA measurement, has a city/highway/combined rating of 20/24/22 mpg.

2019 Ford RangerThe tested SuperCrew Lariat 4X4 is the top-of-the line with a base price of $39,580, including the destination charge. Equipment included pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, reverse sensing with rear-view camera, idle stop-start, tire-pressure monitoring, capless fuel filler (though the cover does not lock), leather-trimmed seats (heated in front), dual-zone automatic climate control, Wi-Fi hotspot, SXM satellite radio, power front seats (though seatback adjustments are manual), heated and powered outside mirrors, tow hooks, trailer sway control, and LED headlights, taillights and running lights.

Options were few and included the adaptive cruise control, composite cargo bed liner, an off-road package and a trailer tow package. With the options, the suggested sticker price came to $44,960 — not cheap but way less than what some full-size pickup trucks go for these days.

2019 Ford RangerWith its four-wheel drive setup, the tested Ranger was fairly tall, so not easy to load from the sides, and it takes a bit of athletic ability to hoist oneself up over the tailgate.

Except for the rear bumper, there are no side- or rear-side steps to help climb into the bed. The remote control automatically locks and unlocks the tailgate with the doors, but it seems superfluous unless the cargo area has a cap or cover.

There was no opportunity to take the all-wheel drive Ranger off-road. It has favorable approach and departure angles for rugged terrain, though its sheer length is a limitation. The wheelbase measures 10 feet 7 inches, not optimal for hump and rock crawling.

2019 Ford RangerThe competition in midsize pickup trucks has started to heat up. Most recent, in addition to the Ranger, is the new Jeep Gladiator, which is oriented more toward off-roading than any competitors. At the other end of the midsize spectrum is the Honda Ridgeline, which leans more toward passenger car ride and handling, though it has load-carrying and off-road attributes as well.

Other Ranger competitors are the similar Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models, the best-selling Toyota Tacoma midsize, and the Frontier from Nissan. There are enough variations to satisfy the inclinations of any midsize intenders.

2019 Ford Ranger

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat 4X4 four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 2.3-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 270 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/43 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,441 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,560 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/24/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,580.
  • Price as tested: $44,960.

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

2019 Ford Ranger

Photos: Ford

2019 Mazda3 Hatchback AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback epitomizes the company’s goal of developing vehicles that punch above their weight.

This a slinky, stylish, fully-realized four-door for four (though there’s a seatbelt for a hapless soul in the cramped center-rear seat) that has the appointments and feel of luxury compacts costing thousands of dollars more.

2019-Mazda3-Hatchback_01It leans more in that direction and away from the so-called “hot hatch” category characterized by machines like the Hyundai Veloster N, and Volkswagen GTI and R models. But slotting between those two categories makes it more versatile for enthusiasts as well as people who value quality transportation that does not require a second mortgage.

The first impression is the styling. Nobody buys a car that is unattractive; something they would not want to be seen in. The Mazda3 is a beauty with artistic lines that belie its hatchback configuration.

2019-Mazda3-Hatchback_04That, of course, requires compromises — in the Mazda3 a low roofline that dictates a fanny-down seating position and limited headroom in the back seat. If you want something higher and airier for Uncle and Grandma, check out the Mazda CX-5 crossover.

The Mazda3 Hatchback AWD satisfies on multiple fronts: With 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque from its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, operating through a snap-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, it can nail zero to 60 mph in whiff more than seven seconds, with a factory-limited top speed of 131 mph.

2019-Mazda3-Sedan_44That’s respectable these days but not outstanding. Nevertheless, it’s just one aspect of a car that handles effortlessly, delivers a comfortable ride over most surfaces and cruises quietly on smooth freeways (though defeated by the many pimple-faced roadways around the country). City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 24/32/27 mpg.

A die-hard enthusiast might not choose the Mazda3 Hatchback with all-wheel drive because it comes only with the six-speed automatic transmission, although there are manual-shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. If you’re one of those, you can save $1,400 by ordering the front-wheel drive model with the six-speed manual gearbox.

2019-Mazda3-Sedan_46The tested Mazda3 Hatchback AWD came with a Premium package incorporated in the base price of $29,920, including the destination charge. With options, the bottom-line sticker came to $31,245 — not inexpensive but about $5,000 less than the current U.S. average price of a new car.

This is the fourth generation Mazda3, which comes as a standard four-door sedan as well as the tested Hatchback. In both cases, Mazda has been concentrating on upgrades intended to transform the 3 into a premium compact.

14_Mazda3_5HB_INT_2The list of equipment, including standard and optional items, testifies to the effort. There’s hardly anything missing that you might find on more expensive European cars of a similar size.

Safety-related items on the tester included Mazda’s Smart Brake Support, which uses a laser sensor to detect the risk of a low-speed collision, prepares the system for maximum braking and, if the driver does not brake, automatically brakes and slows the engine.

Other safety equipment: rear cross-traffic alert, radar adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, LED headlights and taillights, and tire-pressure monitoring.

2019-Mazda3-Hatchback_28Not to be outdone on the luxury front, the tested Mazda3 Hatchback came with “Polymetal Gray Mica” paint, red leather upholstery, heated front seats, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, memory settings for outside mirrors and driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch black alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bose premium audio, SXM satellite and HD radio, and Bluetooth connectivity.

If you were new to the Mazda3 and had not been briefed, you’d likely be unaware that it is now available with all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive is standard). The system is unobtrusive in normal driving. However, dive at speed into a tight curve on a winding road and the tires take a bite with good steering feel. The all-wheel drive is biased slightly toward the rear wheels for improved cornering.

2019-Mazda3-Hatchback_15The Mazda3, as noted, also can be ordered as a standard four-door sedan. Of the two, however, the Hatchback is the choice here. Though it is four inches shorter than the sedan, it has a total interior volume of 111 cubic feet, with 20 of those for cargo and 91 for passengers. The sedan has a total of 108 cubic feet with 96 for passengers and a trunk of just 12 cubic feet.

Competitors include the hatchback versions of the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus, as well as the Volkswagen Golf.

2019-Mazda3-Hatchback_05Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Mazda3 AWD w/Premium Package four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 186 hp, 186 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,228 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,820.
  • Price as tested: $31,245.

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

2019-Mazda3-Hatchback_08Photos: Mazda

2020 Hyundai Palisade: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the introduction of the Palisade, its all-new midsize crossover SUV, Hyundai lines up for a long-distance race against its sister company’s similarly homologated entry.

That’s because the three-row Palisade starts life as a direct competitor of the also all-new Kia Telluride. The two vehicles even share many of the same genes.

Large-38050-2020PalisadeSouth Korea’s Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai, and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their own interior and exterior designs, as well as suspension system tuning and other components.

With similar DNA, you’d expect the Palisade to be something of a knockoff of the Telluride. But no. They were developed in parallel automotive universes and each is distinctive in its own dimension.

However, both vehicles are excellent contenders in the midsize, three-row crossover category, against such worthy competition as the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder.

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThe conclusion here in an earlier review was that the Kia Telluriderolls as an example of the heights of perfection that vehicle manufacturers have achieved, getting to the point where reviewers are reduced to criticizing at ever-narrowing margins.

The same applies to the Palisade. With the departure of Hyundai’s Genesis nameplate to become its own brand, the Palisade now is Hyundai’s flagship — the model at the top of its pyramid of sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers with gasoline, hybrid, electric and fuel-cell power trains.

As is usual in all-new vehicle introductions, Hyundai put its best bumper forward at the national news media introduction. So the focus inevitably — at least for this review — settles onto the top-line, fully equipped Limited model.

There are half a dozen trim lines, three with front-wheel drive and three with all-wheel drive, including the version that is the subject here. If you don’t live in a place where nasty conditions prevail, you can save $1,700 by ordering the Palisade with front-wheel drive.

Large-36542-2020PalisadeHowever, if you customarily trundle the kids and their gear off to winter family vacations, you’ll want the tested Palisade Limited with all-wheel drive. It comes as a fully-equipped, near-luxury, three-row crossover SUV with about every feature you’d want. The $47,445 price reflects that.

It includes such items as an exclusive blind-view monitoring system. When you click the left or right turn signal, the rear view on either side shows up directly on the instruments, substituting briefly for the speedometer or tachometer.

It means you can check the blind spots without looking at the outside rear-view mirrors. Of course, if you are among the few drivers who actually know how to adjust the original blind-spot monitors — the outside mirrors — you don’t need the system. Still, it’s a comfort for the vast majority.

Large-36544-2020PalisadeOther Limited features include an auto-leveling rear suspension system, second-row captain’s chairs, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, third-row power folding and reclining seats, heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, high-zoot Harman Kardon audio system and a speaker system to yell at the kids in back without raising your voice. (They don’t get the assist if they talk back).

But you can also get a satisfactory Palisade SE model for as little as $32,595, assuming you don’t want any options. Still, it is decently equipped with all the same basics as the higher trim levels, including the 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with 262 lb-ft of torque, eight–speed automatic transmission and the capability to tow a trailer weighing 5,000 lbs.

The Palisade is three inches shorter than the Telluride, weighs 246 lbs less and has slightly less passenger and cargo space — 157 cubic feet for passengers versus 167, and 18 cubic feet versus 21 for cargo. But it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Both vehicles earn city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy numbers of 19/24/21 mpg on regular gasoline.

Large-36545-2020PalisadeIn the top-level trims, the Telluride is slightly less expensive. The SX all-wheel drive tested earlier had a sticker price of $46,860, or $485 less.

In the end, with two family-oriented vehicles as closely matched as these two, it will come down to individual reactions, mainly due to styling. Like other Kia models up against those from its sister division, the Hyundai Palisade comes across as more mainstream in its orientation, while the Kia Telluride presents a slightly more sporting personality.

Pay your money and take your choice. You can’t go wrong either way.

Large-37498-2020PalisadeSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,236 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,445.
  • Price as tested: $47,605.

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

Large-34822-2020PalisadePhotos (c) Hyundai

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