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Audi

2019 Audi RS 3 2.5T Quattro Sedan: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Every so often, a car like the 2019 Audi RS 3 arrives that can only be described with one word: sweet.

This subcompact sedan comes in a sweet size with sweet (if sometimes alarming) performance, sweet handling and even sweeter tactile feedback.

medium-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2649But whoa. The tester came with a $66,590 price tag. It doesn’t make it any less sweet but it sure activates a person’s pause button — and maybe for salivating but income-challenged intenders, the stop button.

Fortunately, there are some less expensive choices. In keeping with current German luxury-car philosophy, there always are pinnacle high-performance models to augment the regular lineup — as if any of these small Audi sedans could be considered regular.

Think Mercedes-AMG and BMW M Series. These are the ultra-performing and expensive top-liners for those marques. At Audi, such machines come from the Sport Division and the RS 3 is one of those creatures.

medium-2018-audi-rs-3-2589It is based on the Audi A3, a subcompact sedan, which itself is not what any enthusiast would consider mundane. Usually, subcompact denotes small, economical and low-priced. Not here. The A3 comes with a 220-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque and a price tag of $35,150 to $44,100, depending on the trim level.

Not believing that will satisfy some Audi-philes, the Sport division raises the ante with the S3, which also has the 2.0-liter four-banger but which pumps out 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Prices range from $43,850 to $49,350. Both the A3 and S3 use Audi’s six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting, called the S tronic, and quattro all-wheel drive.

medium-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2507Climbing all the way to the summit, we find the subject here — the  RS 3, which goes up one cylinder to five and displacement to 2.5 liters. Also turbocharged, it hammers out 394 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, enabling the tiny, 3,593-lb RS 3 to sprint to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 174 mph. And that’s a governed, or limited, speed. It could go faster on a track with proper racing equipment.

All of this nestles in a low-slung, four-door sedan with 19-inch wheels, menacing dual exhaust pipes and ceramic racing brakes, but otherwise doesn’t exactly scream ultra high performance. Uninformed onlookers might see nothing more than a streamlined Toyota Corolla. The RS 3 is just 14 feet 9 inches long with a passenger volume of 87 cubic feet and a tiny trunk of 10 cubic feet.

medium-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2508But the design is clever enough to accommodate four passengers comfortably with adequate but not generous head or knee room in back. The rear doors swing wide so entry and exit are easy. There’s a seatbelt  for a fifth passenger in the middle but it’s a fiction. The space is impossible for anything but a two-foot tall capuchin monkey.

Inside design validates Audi’s reputation for classy, understated elegance with fine materials. The only jarring note is the so-called sunshade for the panoramic glass sunroof. In thrall to a current cliché in some luxury cars, the RS 3’s sunshade is made of a cheesecloth-like perforated cloth material, which admits hot sunlight and looks cheap next to the neighboring carbon-fiber and alcantara trim. Sunshades should be opaque.

medium-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2509The appeal of the RS 3 lies in the sweet driving experience. Settle into the driver’s seat, light up the engine and touch a button to choose from driving modes labeled Dynamic, Comfort, Auto and Individual. For an all-out run, you want to select Dynamic, which holds the shift points to higher revs to keep the engine on the boil for instant acceleration.

The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, calibrated to shift up and down in milliseconds, always ready for the driver’s next whim. But it would be silly to stay in the Dynamic mode in highway cruising because there would be a cost in fuel economy, which the EPA rates at 19/28/22 mpg in city/highway/combined driving. In easy, around-town cruising, Comfort works, well, comfortably.

medium-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2491Don’t expect a floating, limousine-like ride. Almost nobody does that anymore. The Audi RS is, first and foremost, a sports car in sedan guise with the steering and suspension system biased toward precise handling and control. So, avoid the potholes if you can and enjoy the tactile feedback as you carve corners, win stoplight drag races and shoot holes in heavy traffic.

Or simply cruise serenely and enjoy the scenery.

large-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2543Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Audi RS 3 2.5 T Quattro S tronic four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter five-cylinder, turbocharged; 394 hp, 354 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 87/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,593 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/28/22 mpg. Premium recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,195.
  • Price as tested: $66,590.

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

large-2018-audi-rs-3-sedan-2526Photos (c) Audi

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2018 Audi S5 Sportback 3.0 quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

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

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

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

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

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

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

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

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

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

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

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

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

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

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi S5 Sportback 3.0 quattro Tiptronic four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, turbocharged; 354 hp, 369 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,015 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/30/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,375.
  • Price as tested: $63,975.

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

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Photos (c) Audi

2018 Audi A4 allroad: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’re done with conventional sedans and station wagons but not quite ready for a tall crossover sport utility vehicle, take a look at a ‘tweener like the 2018 Audi A4 allroad.

It is a station wagon, yes, but taller — though not as tall as the crossovers that are steadily taking over the marketplace to the point where sedans and wagons are an endangered species.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-582Unfortunately, tall wagons are few in number and mostly  tilted toward the luxury class. Besides the A4 allroad, they are the Volvo V60 and V90 Cross Country models, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and the Buick Regal TourX.

All of these offer all-wheel drive and a lower center of gravity for more sporting handling than most crossovers. They also are slightly taller than their station wagon brethren.

The Audi allroad is the granddaddy of the tall wagons, dating back nearly two decades in A6 and A4 trim. For 2018, as in 2017, the A4 allroad arrives with a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 273 lb-ft of torque.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sends the power to Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system, now with a new wrinkle. For economy, it operates in front-wheel drive under normal conditions. As soon as slippage is detected, it switches instantly and seamlessly in milliseconds to all-wheel drive.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-583We know this only because we have been told verbally and in the literature. Driving the A4 allroad, you never detect the changeover. The twin-clutch automatic is similarly quick, said by Audi to shift in 1/100thof a second.

All of this conspires to launch the allroad to 60 miles an hour in less than six seconds, according to Audi and independent tests. Top speed is governed at 128 mph, though most owners likely will never bother to experience it.

However, the rapid acceleration can’t happen if you allow the engine stop-start to be turned on. Then you get that dreaded hesitation off the line, although it doesn’t shudder as much on the allroad than on some other vehicles. Fortunately, the stop-start can be turned off, though you must do it every time you start the engine.

Of course, you don’t buy a tall wagon like the A4 allroad to compete in autocrosses or bounce over trackless terrain like a Jeep or Land Rover. However, it is equipped with five driver-selectable drive modes, including an off-road setting that optimizes transmission shifting, steering and adaptive suspension settings that enhance performance off the pavement.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-571Besides off-road, the other settings are comfort, automatic, individual and dynamic, with the last the tightest for on-road performance. The individual setting can be tailored for the driver.

Most owners are unlikely to do much off-roading in any case. The allroad, like other Audi models, is a classy, luxury vehicle to be polished and admired, not bashed and scratched.

The quattro all-wheel drive does impart an ambiance of confidence in foul weather conditions, especially deep snow, and does so with the panache of a quiet butler in a palace, always ready with a tray full of capabilities.

One of those, of course, is utility. The allroad has midsize sedan space for passengers, though the center-rear position, as is usual in almost every vehicle, is cramped and uncomfortable. But the big payoff lies in cargo space. There’s 24 cubic feet of it behind the second-row seats, more than enough for everyday favorite things. Flop the rear seatbacks and it expands to 59 cubic feet to haul the dorm room stuff of a new college freshman.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-578Though it is a luxury vehicle, the allroad is not outrageously expensive given its features. The base price is $45,475 and, with options that included a Premium Plus package, the tested price came to $53,750.

That covers full safety equipment, including Audi’s pre-sense collision avoidance system, which detects objects and pedestrians, and can bring the allroad to a stop anywhere under 25 mph — a boon in modern urban stop-and-go traffic.

Other equipment included LED lighting all around, Audi telematics with navigation, Bang & Olufsen audio with SXM satellite radio, tri-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats, eight-way power front seats with memory settings, power tailgate, garage-door opener, heated and folding outside mirrors, and a parking assistance system.

However, the equipment did not include such items as adaptive cruise control, lane departure mitigation or blind-spot warning.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-592Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi A4 allroad 2.0T quattro S tronic four-door station wagon.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/24 cubic feet. (59)
  • Weight: 3,815 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,475.
  • Price as tested: $53,750.

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

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-570Photos (c) Audi.

2018 Audi TT RS Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

There are cars, family cars, sports cars, utility cars, plain cars, fancy cars, big cars, little cars and, of course, light trucks. Then there are fantasy cars, of which the 2018 Audi TT RS Coupe is one.

It’s not as much of a fantasy as the new 1,500-hp Bugatti Chiron, priced at nearly $3 million. Or even of the McLaren P1 at $1.15 million. At just over $74,000, however, the TT RS can fulfill the fantasies of platoons of car nuts.

Audi TT RS Coupé

It is a tidy and powerful fastback sports coupe with all-wheel drive and a 400-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine that delivers 354 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel its 3,270-lb mass to 60 mph in about three and one-half seconds, with a top speed of 174.

The power gets to the pavement through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Unfortunately for some fantasizers, the TT RS no longer offers a six-speed manual gearbox. That deficiency is becoming more common as automatics continually improve.

Mollifying some of the discontent, this rapid-shifting Audi transmission can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. But computer controlled dual-clutch automatics shift more expertly, depending on the conditions and driver input, than even professional drivers. In the end, the paddles are useful more for entertainment or holding a given gear on twisting mountain roads.

Audi TT RS Coupé

As might be deduced, the TT RS is not for everyone. At 4 feet 5 inches tall, the roofline is so low that you have to duck so you don’t bang your noggin crawling inside. Best to point the bum toward the seat bottom, fold yourself in half and back in.

Once there, you are treated to supportive and comfortable front seats with plenty of bolstering to hug the torso. They are upholstered in diamond-quilted, perforated leather with a three-position heating system that warms up quickly. However, the warming did not extend to the steering wheel.

Don’t bother to look for the now ubiquitous center screen that on most cars displays and controls navigation, vehicle information and entertainment functions. On the TT RS, Audi has located all of those functions, along with the speedometer, tachometer, backup camera, and power and torque readouts, on a 12.3-inch digital screen right in the driver’s line of sight behind the steering wheel.

Audi TT RS Coupé

It’s all very compact and easy to read without taking your eyes off the road as much as you must with a center screen. Moreover, there are different screens that you can choose to emphasize what you wish to see. But some displays are tiny and the spokes of the flat-bottom steering-occasionally block some of the readouts.

Overall, the TT RS is a cute and stylish little sportster with styling that hints at high performance but doesn’t come across as aggressive. To the uninitiated, it could simply be a small hatchback coupe that surprises other motorists when it rockets away from a stoplight.

At 13 feet 9 inches long, the TT RS has quick and athletic moves enhanced by Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, a performance-tuned suspension system and sticky summer tires, though the tires are of dubious value in the cold and snowy weather much of the country experienced this winter. Better to have two sets of tires for winter and summer or good all-season rubber.

images-original-3139-2018+TT+RS+7With all its performance, the TT RS can be used as an unassuming daily driver. It is what used to be called a Plus Two, which means it has a vestigial back seat that is suitable mainly for backpacks and watermelons. There’s 12 cubic feet of space for cargo under the hatch and the rear seatbacks can be folded to more than double that.

Base price of the tested TT RS with subdued “Nardo Gray” paint was $65,875, which included basic safety equipment, the Audi virtual cockpit, automatic climate control, HD and SXM satellite radio, LED running lights and taillights, folding and heated outside mirrors with auto-dimming, and a garage-door opener, among other features.

Stand-alone extras and options packages brought the as-tested price up to $74,025. Included were Audi’s multimedia and navigation system, Bang & Olufsen audio, 20-inch forged alloy wheels, sport exhaust system, the summer performance tires, leather-covered console and armrests, carbon-fiber inlays and brake calipers painted red.

Overall, if you can live with the tight quarters and the high price, the Audi TT RS is what westerners would call an engaging little critter.

images-original-2458-HEROSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi TT RS Coupe Quattro S tronic two-door sports hatchback.
  • Engine:5-liter five-cylinder, turbocharged 400 hp, 354 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 74/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,270 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/29/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $65,875.
  • Price as tested: $74,025.

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

images-original-3138-2018+TT+RS+8Photos (c) Audi.

2018 Audi SQ5 3.0T Quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As if their customers weren’t already spending plenty on perfectly good vehicles like the Audi Q5, there’s a recurring imperative among luxury manufacturers to deliver ever more powerful, luxurious and expensive models.

Reigning among them is 2018 Audi SQ5, continuing as a member of a class that includes AMG models from Mercedes-Benz, BMW’s M performance variants, V versions from Cadillac and Quadrifoglio (Four-leaf Clover) models from Alfa Romeo.

Small-2018-Audi-SQ5-2821The Q5 and its SQ5 sibling account for a quarter of all Audi sales in the U.S., no surprise given the current buyer infatuation with crossover sport utilities of all sizes in every price class.

With Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive and a full complement of safety, comfort and convenience features, the Q5 is the sort of vehicle that could satisfy a broad range of buyers seeking a two-row compact or midsize crossover.

It is powered by a 252-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a snap-shifting dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. With modern computerized technology, this 2.0-liter turbo, along with others like it that are becoming ubiquitous, has enough hustle to get you arrested anywhere.

The starting price tag is $42,475 and, with the sorts of options ordered by folks who shop in this price range, can top out at $52,700. That gets you a tasteful, luxurious, comfortable and quiet interior that almost anyone would welcome for a day-long drive, along with most of the convenience and infotainment functions most buyers want these days.

Small-2018-Audi-SQ5-2818But no. That’s not enough karma for some customers with deep pockets. So, Audi obliges with the SQ5, which is way over the top for any driving on the public highways. It is the same size as its Q5 garage mate with 102 cubic feet of space for passengers — about what you get with a midsize sedan — plus a cargo area behind the back seat of 27 cubic feet, or about double that of a midsize sedan trunk.

It is listed as a five-passenger crossover. But that’s optimistic because the center-rear seat is compromised by a hard cushion, a hidden pull-down center armrest and a giant, square floor hump. The outboard seats, however, are fine and nearly as comfortable as the front seats.

Under the SQ5’s hood lurks a 354-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that delivers 369 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

That and a bunch of other high-performance stuff bumps the SQ5’s base price to $55,275, or $12,800 more than the Q5. With options, the SQ5 driven for this review had a bottom-line price of $65,800.

2018-Audi-SQ5
2018-Audi-SQ5

According to Audi, that gets you a zero-to-60 time of 5.1 seconds, or eight-tenths of one second quicker than the A5’s 5.9-second time. That’s a bunch of bucks that won’t amount to much of a difference in daily driving.

In Drive, there’s a slight bit of hesitation off the line as the turbocharger spools up. It goes away if you tap the shifter into Sport. There, the SQ5 feels even faster than it is, delivering that rush of excitement that devotees presumably covet.

Start-stop technology, which thankfully can be switched off, contributes to decent SQ5 city/highway/combined fuel economy of 19/24/21 mpg. However, the Q5 saves some bucks with a rating of 23/27/25.

Of course, the SQ5’s higher sticker price also confers bragging rights about how much you can afford to pay for your compact crossover SUV. And the options cover a lot of nifty stuff: air suspension system, torque-vectoring sport rear differential, performance brakes with red calipers, Nappa leather upholstery, 21-inch wheels with sticky summer tires, and Bang & Olufsen audio with 3D sound and a head-up display.

2018-Audi-SQ5
2018-Audi-SQ5

That’s in addition to the standard full safety equipment, rear-view camera, LED headlights and taillights, three-zone climate control, rear-view camera and SXM satellite radio. Curiously for a vehicle in this category, the test car did not have adaptive cruise control.

Also, though the tested SQ5 came with a roof-size panoramic sunroof, the sunshade was made of a perforated cloth that admitted too much sunlight. Sunshades should be opaque.

The SQ5’s tidy size — 15 feet four inches long — and the air suspension system contribute to sporty handling on twisting roads. There are selectable driving modes that adjust performance parameters but most owners likely will stick with the comfort setting, which is fine for daily motoring. However, the dynamic mode awaits for hustling around curves.

Small-2018-Audi-SQ5-2782Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi SQ5 3.0T Quattro four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, turbocharged; 354 hp, 369 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 102/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,430 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,275.
  • Price as tested: $65,800.

Disclaimer: This test drive was based on a loan of the vehicle from the manufacturer. It was driven by the author in circumstances similar to everyday driving by consumers.

Photos (c) Audi USA.

Small-2018-Audi-SQ5-2830

2017 North American International Auto Show: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Mich.—Bucking the tide of compact crossover sport utility vehicles, three new sedans from Japan’s Toyota and South Korea’s Kia captured onlookers’ attention here at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, which runs through Jan. 22.

A few manufacturers introduced new compact crossovers, which have taken over as the hottest category in U.S. sales—mainly at the expense of midsize and compact sedans. But they were few and overshadowed by three four-doors.

They are the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry, the 2018 Lexus LS500 from Toyota’s luxury division and the 2018 Kia Stinger, a new midsize sports sedan that looks as if it could threaten some of Europe’s best.

On the small crossover front, Nissan unveiled the new Rogue Sport, a smaller version of its compact SUV. It is based on the Nissan Qashqui, which is sold in other world markets. Mercedes-Benz introduced an all-new GLA and Chevrolet presented its redesigned Equinox, a compact crossover that tilts toward midsize.

But that was about it unless you count the new Chevrolet Traverse, a full-size, three-row crossover, the stretched Volkswagen Tiguan—also with three rows—and the smaller performance-oriented Audi SQ5.

toyotacamryDespite the booming popularity of compact crossovers, manufacturers still obviously believe in midsize sedans. The Camry, despite losing 40,737 customers between 2015 and 2016, still topped the midsize field with 388,618 sold in 2016.

The 2018 model, seeking to mitigate the Camry’s reputation as durable but bland, boasts styling changes and improvements across the board. It is longer, lower and wider, with a lower center of gravity for better handling.

As before, there are four versions: LE, XLE, SE, and XSE. The LE and XLE models have a different grille from the S and XSE versions and are oriented toward comfort. The S and XSE models have a more sporting personality. Power choices are a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a 3.5-liter V6 and a hybrid.

For 2018, all Toyota Camry models get the company’s Entune 3.0 connectivity system, which includes navigation and a host of other state-of-the art features.

lexusls5502Over at the Lexus display, the attention grabber was the all-new LS500, which at 17 feet 2 inches long is bigger and classier than ever, rivaling the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The LS500 is powered by a 415-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers, a 10-speed automatic transmission and a predicted zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of 5.1 seconds.

Among other things, its standard and optional features include a 12.3-inch center screen with navigation and handwriting recognition, air suspension system, heated, cooled and massaging front and rear seats, and a detection system that can trigger braking or steering around a pedestrian.

kiastinger2Most of the excitement among enthusiasts, however, focused on the Kia Stinger, an all-new car with a new name. It marks a milestone at the South Korean manufacturer, which delivers high quality cars, crossovers and even a minivan.

The midsize Stinger is a performance-oriented Gran Turismo four-door with a fastback design and a rear hatch, not unlike the larger Audi A7, which competes among cars that can cost up to $80,000.

Few Stinger details were available at the introduction, including the price, but it likely will be way less than the A7’s—more competitive with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars.

With rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive with torque vectoring for improved handling, the Stinger will offer two power plants: 225-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters for a manual shifting mode. No manual gearbox was considered.Vice President Joe Biden Visits 2017 NAIAS

Photos and Logo (c) NAIAS.

2017 Audi S3 quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its 2017 A3 and S3 models, Germany’s Audi redefines the meaning of “entry level.”

Yes, they are the first-step introduction to the company’s extensive lineup of luxury/high performance sports cars, sedans and crossover sport utility vehicles. But they are anything but base.

Their only nod to the entry label is their classification as subcompact cars. With a total of slightly more than 96 cubic feet of interior volume, they reside in the U.S. government’s subcompact range of 85 to 99 cubic feet. That includes 86 cubic feet for passengers and 10 cubic feet of trunk space.

That has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is a tidy footprint. At 14 feet 8 inches long, they exhibit quick and precise handling, especially in the all-wheel-drive quattro models, along with a capability of doing rapid U-turns almost anywhere.

news-2017-audi-s3-10The main disadvantage is a small trunk and a back seat that anyone over 6 feet tall likely would find challenging, with restricted knee and head room. As with most sedans these days, the outboard rear seats are comfortable but the center-rear position—with a hard cushion and big floor hump—should be reserved for backpacks or watermelons.

The A3 was introduced to plaudits as a 2016 model. Now, for 2017, there’s a family of four: A3 in sedan and convertible (Cabriolet) models with either front-drive or all-wheel drive; high-performance S3 sedan with quattro all-wheel drive, and the e-tron plug-in hybrid four-door hatchback.

Audi chose the new S3 as the 2017 launch vehicle. With standard all-wheel drive, it is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 292 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. That considerable power gets to the pavement through a snap-shifting six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission that also can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel.

news-2017-audi-s3-9Audi says the S3’s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time is 4.7 seconds, with a top track speed of 155 mph (or 130 with all-season tires). It’s unlikely anybody would try that on a regular basis, but the confidence of instant power is always present.

The A3, with a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, comes with 186 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of torque. That’s with front-wheel drive and a starting price tag of $32,150. Order it with Quattro all-wheel drive, and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The sticker is $35,100.

None of the prices are in economy car territory and options boost the stickers even higher. The tested S3 had a starting price of $43,850 and when the extras were added the bottom-line cost came to $51,325.

news-2017-audi-s3-24Leather upholstery is part of the standard equipment, unlike the man-made faux leather on some other luxury cars. It also includes full safety equipment, automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, satellite and HD radio, smart phone interface with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a seven-inch infotainment screen that hides in the dash and rises majestically when the S3 wakes up.

Among the options were a navigation system, Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, 19-inch custom wheels with high-performance summer tires, magnetic ride control, cross traffic alert, sport seats and soft Nappa leather upholstery. Curiously for a car in this price class, all the S3’s front seat controls are manual, although they offer a myriad of adjustments to accommodate almost anyone.

One minor annoyance is the shade for the panoramic sunroof, which is made from a perforated cheesecloth-like material that allows way too much sunlight to intrude. This is a current fad embraced by too many luxury cars. Sun shades should be opaque.

news-2017-audi-s3-23But driver satisfaction and entertainment is the bottom line on the S3 sedan. Under any circumstance you might imagine—short of rough off-roading, which you would never do anyway—the S3 accelerates strongly, shifts swiftly, brakes strongly, handles with intuitive competence, tracks cleanly on straightaways, promises reliability and delivers a ride that is sporting stiff but compliant and not uncomfortable.

The only thing some owners in areas of foul weather might do would be to swap out the 155-mph summer tires for the 130-mph all-season tires. As much grip as they deliver in handling and stopping on dry surfaces, the summer tires get tricky in messy circumstances.

Because of its price, the S3 is not a car for everybody. However, you can order a lightly optioned A3 with front-drive and almost as much driving satisfaction—at a price near what an average new car sells for nowadays.

news-2017-audi-s3-11Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Audi S3 quattro four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder, turbocharged, 292 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 86/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,462 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/28/24 mpg. Premium recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,850.
  • Price as tested: $51,325.

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

Photos (c) Audi.

 

2017 Audi R8: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Place the 2017 Audi R8 in the pantheon of championship athletes like Usain Bolt, who perform with the best in the world but in person exude civility and courtesy.

It is a super car that plays on the same field with exotics like the new Ford GT, Acura NSX, BMW i8 and Porsche Cayman. All of these are equipped with stunningly powerful engines nestled ahead of the rear wheels but behind the driver in the classic mid-engine configuration.

They are so different that they don’t exactly compete with each other. What they offer is unique performance personalities that appeal to wealthy enthusiasts, collectors and investors who are convinced that their value will increase over time.

news-2017-audi-r8-v10-drive-45The R8 has a close relationship with the Huracán from Lamborghini, which like Audi is now part of Germany’s Volkswagen Group. The two marques share engines and drive trains, tuned differently, but the kinship ends there. The Huracán radiates Italian styling and flair; the R8 Germanic strength and contentment.

Sure, you can punch the throttle and get crackling exhaust sounds. But they are heard mainly from the outside. Inside, despite the fact that the 5.2-liter V-10 engine sits right behind the driver’s shoulders, little noise makes its way into the cockpit, even when you select the “sport sound” exhaust setting. It’s the opposite of the mid-engine Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, which creates such a din inside that it’s impossible to converse or listen to music.

Yet the R8’s V-10 engine delivers a whopping 610 horsepower with 413 lb-ft of torque, which should be enough to pull a flatcar full of Alfas. Nobody will try that, but a bunch of them likely will try to match Car and Driver Magazine’s zero-to-60 mph run of 2.9 seconds.

There are four performance settings: comfort, automatic, dynamic and individual, along with “sport” and “drive” choices for the seven-speed twin-clutch automatic. But the differences are subtle. The R8 can comfortably conquer any road you can find.

news-2017-audi-r8-v10-virtual-cockpit-17Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive doles out the power individually to all four wheels. The transmission can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel but there’s no need to bother. The onboard computer controls shifts so precisely it’s doubtful any human could do them faster or more accurately.

Shifts snap off with silky aggression. On downshifts, the throttle blips automatically to match the engine’s revolutions. Once in awhile, however, at low speeds, the rev matching and subsequent upshifting cause the R8 to lurch.

Curiously, Audi uses a counterintuitive shift lever. It looks like a standard automatic shifter that has slots for park, reverse, neutral, drive and sport. Most drivers are used to simply pushing the lever forward to engage park.

On the R8 and other Audi models, pushing the lever all the way forward stops at reverse. To engage park you must reach around and press a button on the back of the shift lever.

Until you get used to it, the system can be unnerving. You think you’ve engaged park but you’re in reverse and sometimes catch the R8 rolling back when you take your foot off the brake.

news-2017-audi-r8-v10-virtual-cockpit-8Aside from that, there’s little to belittle in the R8. Styling appreciation always is in the eye of the beholder but there’s little argument that the R8 is an attention-grabber that elicits head turning by millennial boys and girls, and thumbs-up gestures from teenagers distracted from their smart phones.

Inside, the design, materials and trim reflect Audi’s longstanding reputation for simplicity and class. The R8 uses the company’s trendy combination of the instruments with the multifunction screen in the center stack. All functions are displayed digitally behind the steering wheel. It takes a bit of familiarization but it’s less distracting than glancing over at the center screen.

For all its glamorous personality, the R8 actually has some built-in practicality. A shelf behind the seats can hold a suitcase and the trunk up front contains a well that can accommodate a roll-aboard travel case. Part of the space, however, is taken up by a tire inflator. There’s no spare.

Outward visibility is surprisingly good except for the very wide pillars at the sides of the back window, so it’s important to get the side view mirrors adjusted correctly to eliminate blind spots.

Despite its nosebleed base price of $191,150 and an as-tested price with options of $202,750, the R8 delivers a full load of satisfaction for anyone who can afford it.

news-2017-audi-r8-v10-drive-10Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus quattro S tronic Coupe.
  • Engine:2-liter V-10, 610 hp, 413 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed twin clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 50/8 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,685 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/22/17 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $191,150.
  • Price as tested: $202,750.

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

Photos (c) Audi.

2017 Audi A4 2.0T quattro S tronic: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

To those with more than a passing interest in automobiles, sports sedans like the 2017 Audi A4 represent the epitome of automotive excellence.

Though more expensive in most cases than midsize and even near-luxury cars, they do everything well and more than meet expectations.

They can carry four passengers—five in a pinch, with luggage—and deliver outstanding performance, handling and braking with a comfortable enough ride.

Most of all, they provide a high level of driver satisfaction of the sort that prompts owners to go for a drive for the pure pleasure of it.

They are a fairly rare breed. Besides the Audi A4, they include the Jaguar XE, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Acura TLX and Cadillac ATS. They are not exactly the same size, classified both as compact and midsize by the U.S. government. But they’re close enough.

news-2017-audi-a4-l-16In such company, it is enough simply to be competitive. It takes a lot more to stand out and, when that happens, it’s usually by a narrow margin.

Such is the case with the tested Audi A4 2.0T quattro S tronic. That’s a nomenclature mouthful, but it aptly describes the compact A4 with the turbocharged 252 hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. “quattro” is Audi’s name for its renowned all-wheel drive system. The S tronic is the company’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

For traditionalists, especially those who enjoy shifting for themselves, Audi also will offer a six-speed manual gearbox. That’s unusual in an era when stick shifts are vanishing from the scene even in ultra high performance sports cars.

The vast majority of customers, however, will order and enjoy the S tronic automatic, which has a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel. It’s entertaining on twisting mountain roads, where you want to hold the transmission in a gear to keep the engine revs up.

news-2017-audi-a4-interior-3-wBut as with most of these setups, the onboard computer uncannily computes when shifts up or down should be triggered, and can nearly always shift faster and more accurately than any human.

The A4’s S tronic does that, though occasionally there is an almost imperceptible slip when accelerating off the line—a characteristic of some twin clutch automatics. Mostly, you don’t notice anything and the A4 rockets to 60 mph in slightly more than five seconds, according to Audi and independent tests. Top speed is rated at 130 mph.

The A4 has selectable drive modes—automatic, comfort, dynamic and individual—but even in the softest setting it exhibits athletic moves. It also delivers enviable fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 24/31/27 mpg.

news-2017-audi-a4-interior-4-wThe base A4 quattro, designated as Premium in Audi-speak, starts at $40,350, including the destination charge. If you don’t want or need the all-wheel drive, you can knock $2,100 off the sticker by ordering the front-wheel drive version.

Standard equipment includes three-zone automatic climate control, motorized glass sunroof, rearview camera, leather upholstery, xenon headlights, eight-way power front seats, pushbutton starting with engine stop-start, 17-inch wheels, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The heavily optioned test car, with a $54,275 sticker, added 18-inch wheels, Bang & Olufsen audio system, memory power seats, head-up display, digital gauge cluster, cooled and heated front seats, heated rear seats, adjustable suspension system, and an option package that included navigation, blind-spot warning and rear-end collision warning.

Also on the tester was a $1,800 driver assistance package that included adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and traffic sign recognition. The combination enables the A4 to drive itself for short distances but should not be mistaken for a fully autonomous vehicle. Those are still way down the road.

news-2017-audi-a4-l-8The A4 provides supportive and comfortable seating for four passengers, with manual front seat thigh support extensions. It has five seatbelts but the center rear seating position is hopelessly compromised by a giant floor hump and a center console that intrudes into the back seat. It’s best to simply pull down the center armrest with the two small cup holders and leave it there.

Another negative is the automatic transmission shifter, which requires the driver to press a separate button on the back side to engage “park.” You can get used to it over time but, following longstanding habit, most drivers push the shifter forward, think they’re in “park” and wind up in “reverse” instead.

Overall, the Audi A4 stands out in a group of standout sports sedans.

news-2017-audi-a4-l-13Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Audi A4 2.0T quattro S tronic four door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed twin clutch automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,670 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/31/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,350.
  • Price as tested: $54,275.

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

Photos (c) Audi.

 

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