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2020 NACTOY Winners: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Mich. — North American automotive journalists, voting in secret ballots,  revealed on January 13, 2020 that they had selected two quintessentially U.S. vehicles and one from South Korea — but built in the U.S. — as the best newcomers of the past year.

In an announcement at TCF Arena, usually the home of the North American International Auto Show at this time of the year but now moving to June, the journalists picked the all-new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray as the Car of the Year and the Jeep Gladiator as Truck of the Year. The Gladiator is manufactured by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

2020 TellurideThe all-new Kia Telluride, a midsize three-row crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean company but built in a plant in West Point, GA, was awarded Utility of the Year.

The 50 professional automotive journalists who made the selections are dues-paying members of the North American Car of the Year organization. They represent newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and online outlets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

NACTOY describes itself as the premier independent organization that judges excellence in automotive design, technology safety, performance, driver satisfaction, technology and value. (The writer of this article is a member).

Voting is done by secret ballot. A starting list of eligible vehicles, substantially new or redesigned, is drawn up by the leadership. Members then vote for semi-finalists, finalists and winners in the three categories. Votes are tallied by Deloitte, world-wide financial and accounting firm.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayThe Corvette Stingray, the Car of the Year, is the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design. Its 490-horsepower, 6.2-liter engine is mounted in back, ahead of the rear axle. Previous Corvettes had front engines and rear-wheel drive. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be manually shifted. Prices start at $67,495.

Runners-up for Car of the Year were the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan and the 2020 Toyota Supra sports coupe, which uses an engine and drive train from BMW of Germany.

The Utility of the Year, the Kia Telluride, beat its fraternal twin, the Hyundai Palisade, in the voting. Kia is partly owned by Hyundai and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their designs.

The Telluride’s prices start at around $32,000 and climb to more than $47,000. It is powered by a 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Besides the Hyundai Palisade, the third nominee in the utility category was the 2020 Lincoln Aviator, a luxury three-row SUV with prices that range up to $83,540.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator North EditioThe Jeep Gladiator’s two competitors for Truck of the Year were the midsize 2020 Ford Ranger and 2020 Ram Heavy Duty, with the Gladiator all pickup trucks but different in personalities, design and execution.

NACTOY’s Best of 2020: DriveWays . . .

by Frank A. Aukofer

Besides singing “Auld Lang Syne,” the end of every year heralds a flowering of “best of” motor vehicle awards from consumer organizations, enthusiast publications, and web sites.

Except for Consumer Reports, which doesn’t permit advertising of its conclusions about the reliability and efficacy of cars, trucks and utility vehicles, it’s something of a business proposition. An enthusiast magazine that names one or more “best of” or “top rated” vehicles typically gets paid if the manufacturer publicizes the honor in its advertising.

CarUtilityTruck copyThat’s also the case with the premier awards from the North American Car of the Year (NACTOY) organization, whose membership consists of 50 professional automotive journalists from all over the United States and Canada. Their reviews appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and  online.

However, those journalists do not personally benefit. They are dues-paying members who vote for what they consider to be the best car, utility vehicle and truck of the model year. Though the NACTOY organization can benefit from advertising charges, the money is used for operating expenses. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

It is that and its widespread reach that leads NACTOY to describe itself as the premier independent organization judging excellence in automotive design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value. (Full disclosure: the writer of this story is a NACTOY juror).

There are three rounds of voting. An initial list of new or substantially upgraded vehicles is compiled by the leadership. Members then vote to determine a list of semi-finalists, then finalists and winners in the three categories of car, utility and truck of the year.

The system works something like the movie Academy Awards. Votes are counted in secret by Deloitte, a world-wide financial and accounting firm. Winners will be announced in Detroit on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

For now, however, there are three finalists in each category, which have the distinction of winning the votes of the independent jurors. Following are brief descriptions of the vehicles.

Car of the Year

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayChevrolet Corvette Stingray. This is the long-awaited C8 Corvette, the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design, with its 6.2-liter V8 mounted behind the driver’s shoulder blades and ahead of the rear axle. It sends 490 j[ and 465 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed  automatic transmission. Starting price is $67,495.

Large-39629-2020SonataLimitedHyundai Sonata. Redesigned midsize sedan from the South Korean automaker that better competes against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. It has innovative blind-spot warning in the instruments and a self-parking system. Powered by a 180-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Priced $24,530 to $34,365.

White Front 3q LeftToyota Supra. The resurrection of a storied sports/grand touring car that was produced from 1978 to 2002. In this new guise it features a power train from BMW of Germany with a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that delivers 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $50,945.

Utility of the Year

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThis category is intriguing because two of the three finalists are fraternal twins: the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride from South Korea. Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai. 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.

2020 TellurideBoth are critically acclaimed midsize, three-row crossover sport utility vehicles, powered by 3.8-liter V6 engines with 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, their prices range from about $32,000 to more than $47,000.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe third finalist in the category is the all-new Lincoln Aviator, which competes in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities. Available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, it is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that delivers 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Prices range from $52,095 for the base rear-drive model to as much $83,540 for the Black Label all-wheel drive version.

Truck of the Year

It would be difficult to find a category with more variety among the finalists, although all three are pickup trucks.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon on the Rubicon TrailThe Jeep Gladiator is the first pickup truck in 28 years from the manufacturers that got their start building military general purpose, or GP, all-terrain vehicles in World War II. The last Jeep pickup was the Comanche, sold until 1992.

The midsize Gladiator comes in a variety of trim levels for on-road and off-road work and recreation. It is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque delivered via a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $35,000 and can range up to more than $60,000 for the top-line Rubicon model with options.

RangerFX2_01_HRFord Ranger. This is a new midsize pickup that reprises the name of Ford’s earlier midsize pickup, which had a 27-year run until it was discontinued in 2010. It is a comfortable long-distance highway cruiser, powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the pavement with standard rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Prices range from about $25,000 to $45,000.

2020 Ram Power Wagon Crew CabRam Heavy Duty. Though stylish and refined as pickups go, this full-size truck is the brute of the finalists. With three engine options, including two diesels, it is available as a three-quarter ton (2500) model or one-ton (3500) model and single or dual rear wheels.

The stunner is the 6.7-liter Cummins in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with 400 hp and a whopping 1,000 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, making it capable of towing 35,100 pounds with a payload of 7,680 pounds. Prices start at around $30,000 and, depending on trim levels and equipment, go up to the sky.

Photos and Images courtesy NACTOY, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Lincoln, Jeep, Ford, and Ram.

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 Chevrolet Blazer Premier: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

So it turns out that metamorphosis is not limited to lizards, insects or Gregor Samsa in the 1915 Franz Kafka novella. The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer stands out as a product of the process.

The Blazer had its gestation in 1969 as the big K5 Blazer, a precursor sport utility vehicle built on a body-on-frame truck chassis. It went through a number of transformations — call it a metamorphosis — over the years in various sizes and configurations until it hibernated a decade ago.

Now it re-appears in full butterfly mode as an all-new crossover SUV that mimics sedan-like unit-body construction, nestled between the compact Chevrolet Equinox and the large three-row Traverse. It is important for the brand because Chevrolet, like perennial adversary Ford, is bailing out of traditional sedans to focus on hot-selling crossovers.

As a competitor to the likes of the Honda Passport, Nissan Murano, Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe, the Blazer adheres to the current formula of a tall, roomy, front-wheel drive station-wagon style vehicle with gobs of space for people and stuff, as well as the option of all-wheel drive for those places with nasty weather days. 

There’s 101 cubic feet of space — about what you’d find in a midsize sedan — for up to five passengers, with a capacious 31 cubic feet for cargo behind the back seat, augmented on the tested Premier model by a movable divider on tracks to segregate different stuff. Fold the rear seatbacks and the cargo area expands to 64 cubic feet.

Front seats and outboard back seats are mostly flat, okay comfortable but with little bolstering to hold the torso in cornering. The floor in back is nearly flat so you’d think that the designers could fashion a center-rear seat with minimal comfort. But no. As is usual these days, it’s a high, hard, uncomfortable cushion.

The Blazer comes in six trim levels with four-cylinder or V6 power and front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The base L model with front-drive and nine-speed automatic transmission has a starting price of $29,995, including the destination charge. It is powered by a 193-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 188 lb-ft of torque and a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 22/27/24 mpg.

Only two models — the L and the $33,495 front-drive 1LT — come with the four-cylinder engine. The others are 2LT at $34,495; 3LT at $38,695; RS at $41,795, and Premium at $43,895. All have V6 engines and front- or all-wheel drive. The latter costs an additional $2,700 or $2,900, depending on the version.

The Premier tested for this review was the top of the line with all-wheel drive and a full load of equipment that required no options. Its starting price, $46,795, is the same as its delivered price.

Power is delivered by a 308-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 270 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the Blazer to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. The juice gets to the front or all four wheels through the easy-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. It has a manual-shift mode but likely won’t get used much because it’s controlled by a button on the shift lever.

The interior has a quality look and feel with soft-touch surfaces all around. Some of the design touches are obtuse but clever. For example, you can’t find a button or switch to change the temperature for the automatic climate control. A search reveals that twisting the ring around the circular center air outlets changes the temp setting.

There’s a big, deep console between the front seats with plenty of storage space. On many vehicles, that’s where you have to search with your smart phone flashlight to find a USB port. But on the Blazer, there are a couple of ports right in plain sight on the center stack. Nice.

The center screen is intuitive and easy to read. It controls the Bose premium audio system, SXM satellite radio, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

On the road, the Blazer is competent, quiet and comfortable with responsive handling to negotiate clogged freeway minuets, and full safety equipment like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection to rescue even an inattentive driver. 

The tested Blazer Premier also came with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and a stop-start system to enhance fuel economy, which the EPA rates at 18/25/21 mpg in city/highway/combined motoring.

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Chevrolet Blazer Premier AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:3.6-liter V6; 308 hp, 270 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission:Nine-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:15 feet 11 inches.
  • Height:5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:102/31 cubic feet. (64)
  • Weight:4,246 pounds.
  • Towing capability:4,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge:$46,795.
  • Price as tested:$46,795.

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

Photos (c) Chevrolet

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT TB Crew Cab: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With big pickup trucks like the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, it’s  about little things and loyalty.

Full-size pickups, of which there are six currently marketed in the U.S., do essentially the same things. They carry big loads, tow heavy trailers and serve as family conveyances. When you check the price tags of some models, you also realize they can substitute for luxury cars.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition to the Silverado, they are the GMC Sierra, Ford F-Series, Ram, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Each has its cadre of loyal followers. Many Ford owners would summarily reject a Chevy or a Titan, Ram devotees might sniff at a Silverado, and a Tundra guy would possibly ignore a GMC.

With brand loyalty and muscular hauling as givens, full-size pickup manufacturers seek to win new and conquest sales by concentrating on smaller things like tailgate design, interior luxury appointments and styling, built-in storage boxes, or even marginal increases in fuel economy.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition, the all-new Silverado seeks to impress potential buyers with its off-road capabilities, which is the sort of activity usually associated with smaller vehicles like Jeeps, sport utility vehicles and even some crossover SUVs.

That was the point of an introductory exercise that Chevrolet organized to advance the notion that the Silverado, despite its humongous size — more than 19 feet long and weighing over 5,000 lbs — could conquer a dedicated off-road course.

It was located at the Monticello Motor Club in New York state, a vehicle-oriented country club for wealthy members who enjoy wringing out their exotic rides on a 4.1-mile road racing course. The complex also includes a moderately challenging off-road course where the racing is mostly limited to single-digit speeds as vehicles churn their way over ditches, berms, steep hills, creeks and frame-twisting mounds.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Tested on that course for this review was the 2019 Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab, powered by a 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 383 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, transferred to the dirt through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It came with the Z71 off-road equipment package that included a driver-selectable four-wheel drive system with a low range for tough terrain, along with a two-inch suspension lift, brawny shock absorbers, skid plates, automatic locking rear differential, hill start assist and hill descent control, and off-road tires on 18-inch wheels.

With all that and practiced drivers, the Silverado made short work of the off-road course. But it also is an accomplished pickup on the public roads with what Chevrolet claims is best-in-class cargo volume of 63 cubic feet in the short box on the four-door crew cab model, enough to carry 2,190 lbs of cargo. Properly equipped it can also tow up to 11,600 lbs.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Chevrolet, in its running battle with the all-aluminum Ford F-150, also emphasizes that the 2019 Silverado’s cargo bed uses a higher-strength steel floor than the previous model, along with a dozen tie-down points and a choice of four tailgate variants: standard manual lockable with key; lockable with lift assist; power lockable with automatic release, and an exclusive power up and down version.

Most big pickup trucks, and the Silverado is no exception, offer dizzying numbers of choices in how they are equipped. Besides the 63 cubic feet for cargo, the tested LT Trail Boss had a whopping 139 cubic feet of space for the driver, four passengers and indoor lockable storage cubbies.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

Of course, many Silverado buyers with no need to venture off the pavement likely will forego the Z71 off-road package, which is available as an option on any of the eight models. They range from a basic two-door work truck to the High Country version, which is equipped as well or better than some ultra-luxury cars, making for serene long-distance highway jaunts.

The GMC Sierra, essentially a fraternal twin of the Silverado in the General Motors family, also lards on the luxury touches in its full-size pickup line, especially in its Denali versions. Not to be undone by the Silverado’s four tailgate choices, it offers a six way tailgate that can double as a small table or chair for outdoor events.

There’s solid imperative for the Silverado and other full-size pickup trucks to pay attention to all the details. In 2017, highly profitable big pickups, including heavy-duty models, accounted for more than 2.4 million sales in the United States — or 14% of the entire car and light truck market.

 

The Durabed truck bed, standard on all 2019 Silverado 1500 models, includes larger cutouts in the GM-exclusive CornerStep bumpers to better accommodate steel-toed boots.

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab pickup truck.
  • Engine: 5.3-liter V8; 355 hp, 383 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 139/63 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,008 pounds.
  • Payload: 2,190 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 11,600 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/22/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,795.
  • Price as tested: $57,285.

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

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Photos (c) Chevrolet

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

In any automotive era, the hot-rodders will eventually rise to the bait, as they have with the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition with its 6.2L Performance Package.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s post-World War II gear-heads stuffing V8 engines into 1930s Ford Model A coupes, or modern street racers hopping up old Honda Civic Si hatchbacks. Someone will always figure out a way to dredge artistry and performance out of pedestrian machinery.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

That’s expected, but the hop-up imperative has become institutionalized. The German luxury manufacturers — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi — all have performance divisions to inject their already hot machines with ever more power.

Now, with the new Tahoe RST, Ford’s Raptor pickup truck and the mind-boggling Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the blastoff mindset has insinuated itself into the biggest of the big vehicles that were originally designed to simply tow, carry and haul lots of stuff on and off the road.

Which brings us to the Tahoe RST (rally sport truck), a monster SUV based on the Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck. It comes with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine that delivers 460 lb-ft of torque through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. 

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

It has four driver-selectable drive modes: two-wheel drive for leisurely highway cruising, full-time all-wheel drive for nasty conditions, and locked four-wheel drive with high and low ranges for off-road forays. In short, there’s not much it cannot handle. Moreover, it can tow loads up to 8,100 pounds. 

Equipment also includes GM’s magnetic ride control, an active suspension setup that takes readings of road conditions and electronically adjusts the shock absorbers in milliseconds. It works in concert with gloss black 22-inch aluminum wheels.

Still, don’t expect a cushy ride. This fundamentally is a truck outfitted for performance despite its monster size, so the ride gets harsh and choppy except on pool-table smooth surfaces. If you’re a truck person, you’ll grin from ear to ear. If you have more of a comfortable sedan or crossover SUV orientation, it likely will produce a frown.

Chevrolet Unveils Tahoe RST

The biggest drawback — or enhancement, depending on your preference — of the Tahoe RST Edition is its sheer size. It stretches 17 feet in length and weighs 5,631 pounds. With that big V8 engine it doesn’t bow to anything — zero to 60 miles an hour arrives in less than six seconds — but don’t expect to toss it around like a sports sedan or performance-oriented crossover.

Nope. The RST works best when it is driven deliberately, in slow motion with well-planned moves. That way, with practice, its bulky dimensions come under control. Moreover, it is surprisingly docile in urban traffic given the power lurking under the hood. 

2015-Chevrolet-Tahoe-InteriorPowerFoldFlatSeats-004If you must demonstrate performance, it’s best to do it in a straight line. Punch the pedal at a stoplight and all those horses will pin you back in the seat. Choose either two-wheel drive or automatic all-wheel drive. Either way, the RST Edition gets off the line with little or no wheel spin. 

For all of its truck and performance credentials, the Tahoe RST Edition comes equipped as well as many luxury cars. There’s tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, heated and ventilated front seats, rolling WiFi, head-up display, wireless smart phone charging, and an eight-inch center screen for navigation and infotainment functions,   including Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

None of this, of course, comes cheap. The tested RST Edition had a starting price of $66,425. With the equipment mentioned, along with other options, the bottom-line sticker price came to $78,450—not a territory for many middle-class buyers.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ

However, if you are not captivated by the awesome performance, which by the way takes its toll in fuel economy, there are lesser Tahoe versions that would be more friendly to the family budget. The RST has a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 14/22/17 miles to the gallon.

The tester was a seven-passenger model with two captain’s chairs in the second row. Working with the power tailgate raised, a touch of a switch folds the rear seatbacks and the third-row seats to produce a flat load floor with nearly 98 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Seats in the first two rows deliver comfort and support. But the  third-row seats are impossible for anyone but small children, watermelons or backpacks. There’s little knee room and no help because the second-row seats do not adjust fore and aft.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Brembo brake package

Specifications

    • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition four-door sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 420 hp, 460 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: 10-speed automatic.
    • Overall length: 17 feet.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 122/15 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 5,631 pounds.
    • Towing capability: 8,100 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 14/22/17 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $66,425.
    • Price as tested: $78,450.

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

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

Photos (c) General Motors.

Chevrolet Truck 100th Anniversary: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Fort Worth, Tex. — Chevrolet celebrated 100 years of truck manufacturing here with snorting hot-rod pickup trucks screeching around an autocross course, high-speed cops and robbers chases, and a spectacular helicopter drop of the company’s 2019 Silverado onto the infield of the Texas Motor Speedway.

The event featured a folksy interview with retired champion stock car race driver Dale Earnhart Jr., who now is a NASCAR analyst with NBC Sports. As might be expected, he emphasized his preference for, and his family’s long relationship with, Chevrolet. He drove onto the stage in his personal 1988 Chevy S10, a replica of his first pickup truck.

Chevy100_(8_of_10)Hundreds of Chevrolet truck owners from the surrounding area attended the celebration Saturday (Dec.16) along with a gaggle of automotive journalists, who in addition to getting rides in antique Chevy pickups and the hot rod trucks with professional drivers, rode shotgun with police officers in simulations of high-speed chases.

The police chases took place at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Training Center, named for a former Fort Worth mayor. The sprawling facility, with several buildings each the length of six football fields, provides training for Fort Worth officers in tactics, high-speed driving, computers and firearms skills, among others.

Chevy100_(7_of_10)Journalists, equipped with helmets and anti-whiplash restraints, rode with officers in Chevrolet Tahoe Police Pursuit SUVs. In a bit of subliminal symbolism, two of the Chevys chased a fleeing “suspect” driving an old Ford Crown Victoria.

Officers explained that in a high-speed chase the object is not to catch the car but to keep it in sight and the pressure on until the suspect, preoccupied with his pursuers, inevitably makes a mistake that leads to a stop and an arrest.

Chevrolet also used the occasion to introduce the new Tahoe RST Edition with a performance package that included a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, Brembo racing-type front brakes and Chevy’s Magnetic ride control.

Chevy100_(1_of_10)Later the journalists were given rides in a variety of older Chevrolet pickups, some modified. The trucks included a 1926 Chevy pickup, meticulously restored to better than its original condition. It had a top speed of about 35 miles an hour.

Again wearing helmets and anti-whiplash restraints, they also careened around the autocross course, tires lighting up and smoking, with the professional drivers at the wheels of the low-slung, modified pickups with powerful V8 engines.

Chevy100_(9_of_10)The event’s climax, following the Earnhart interview, came when a cargo helicopter bearing the Chevrolet “bow tie” emblem arrived overhead with a bright red 2019 Silverado LT Trailboss four-door pickup hanging from cables. It hovered and deposited the truck in the Texas Motor Speedway’s infield, where a driver jumped in and drove it onto the stage.

Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America, introduced the truck, saying it was being seen publicly for the first time. It will be formally introduced in January at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit, Mich.
Speaking to the assembled Chevrolet truck loyalists, Batey said,

“We wanted to recognize the customers who have made Chevrolet part of their lives, and have them help kick off the next 100 years of Chevy trucks.”Chevy100_(2_of_10)

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel sedan, General Motors places a long-odds bet that oil-burning passenger vehicles have not met their end of days in the U.S. marketplace.

Except for heavy-duty trucks and long-distance 18-wheelers, Americans have never fully embraced diesels, remembering the days in the latter half of the 20th century when most diesels were smelly, slow and often wouldn’t start in cold weather.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Those negatives have gone away. Modern diesels, especially in luxury cars, behave unobtrusively and most drivers would be hard put to distinguish them from gasoline-engine automobiles.

Yet the old prejudices continue, now augmented by the scandal in which Volkswagen faked emissions tests for nearly 11 million diesel-engine vehicles world-wide, including about 500,000 in the U.S.

About half of the passenger vehicles in Europe use cheaper diesel fuel and get about a 30% improvement in mileage over comparable gas burners. They also get high marks for durability. But it is becoming increasingly expensive to scrub the foul emissions. The CEO of Sweden’s Volvo said recently that the company likely would not develop a new-generation diesel engine.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers the design, engineering and technological advancements of the 2016 Cruze sedan in a functional, sporty package with added cargo space.

Moreover, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have announced that they planned to ban diesel cars and vans from the centers of their cities by 2025 to reduce air pollution.

Cities in the U.S. have an easier clean-air pathway because only about 5.3 million of the 264 million passenger cars and light trucks on the road nation-wide are diesel-powered. In 2016, less than 1% of the total 17.5 million light vehicles sold were diesels.

It was a poor diesel sales year partly because of the Volkswagen scandal, which now has caused the German manufacturer to eschew diesels entirely in the U.S. That opens the way for Chevrolet and a few others to fill the gap for the remaining diesel enthusiasts, who might account for several hundred thousand annual sales.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280-2The Cruze is an ideal candidate for diesel power. It is a sedan (or hatchback) that resides in the compact class, just a few cubic feet shy of the interior space that would get it a midsize classification. Unlike its predecessors, the forgettable Cobalt and Cavalier, it was so carefully designed and engineered that it won one of the “10 Top Picks” in the Consumer Reports 2017 Annual Auto Issue.

Most impressive, according to CR, was that its testers managed 47 mpg in highway driving, though the EPA gave the Cruze a 42-mpg rating. That was with the standard 153-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine with 177 lb-ft of torque.

The EPA rated the city/highway/combined mileage of the diesel Cruze tested here at 31/47/37 mpg. It is powered by a 137-hp 1.6-cylinder diesel (also turbocharged) that develops 240 lb-ft of torque.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers 47.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room with the back seats flipped down.

That number is what gives this Cruze a sense of performance in acceleration off the line because the torque, or twisting force, makes itself felt at lower engine revolutions than with the gasoline engine. A new nine-speed automatic transmission efficiently sends the power to the front wheels. (A more engaging six-speed manual gearbox costs $1,600 less).

But it’s no drag racer and it is encumbered somewhat by a mileage enhancing stop-start system, which builds in a bit of hesitation moving away from a stoplight. Unfortunately, it cannot be turned off but can be defeated by simply lifting a foot slightly off the brake pedal.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versatility of a hatch making it adaptable for urban to outdoor adventures.

There are other minor downsides to the Cruze diesel. Its engine noises are raucous—more so under hard acceleration. Its equipment is similar to the midlevel LT trim, which means it does not have automatic climate control or sun visors that slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side. That omission adds a couple of bucks to the profit margin, but why? Curiously, previous Cruze models did have a sliding sun visor—only on the driver’s side.

Other than that, the tester had a high level of equipment for its base price of $26,270. It included full safety equipment, pushbutton starting, air conditioning, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SXM satellite radio, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Options added lane departure and blind-spot warning, a motorized glass sunroof and leather upholstery for a $29,655 sticker.

Given the outstanding fuel economy of the gasoline Cruze, the question is whether buyers will spend the extra $2,795 for the diesel-engine model. But it’s there for those diesel devotees and others who might want one.

The first ever Cruze Hatch blends sporty design with the versatility of a hatch making it adaptable for urban to outdoor adventures.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel four-door sedan.
  • Engine:6-liter four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, 137 hp, 240 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,172 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/47/37 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,270.
  • Price as tested: $29,655.

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

cq5dam.web.1280.1280Photos (c) Chevrolet.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like a Major League Baseball team with strong hitters, Chevrolet continues its winning streak with the 2018 Equinox compact crossover sport utility vehicle.

Moreover, there hasn’t been a strikeout or even an error in a string that includes the Impala, Malibu and Cruze. It is the strongest lineup that the General Motors mainstay has fielded in its history.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-018When it was introduced as a 2005 model, the Equinox was something of an anomaly: a bit bigger than a compact crossover like the sales-leading Honda CR-V but smaller than the midsize versions like the Ford Edge.

For 2018, it slots neatly into the compact class, which, along with its crossover brethren, constitutes the most popular vehicle configuration in the U.S. market. Compact and midsize sedans are no longer the champs.

Equinox hasn’t lost any interior space but is nearly six inches shorter and almost 400 pounds lighter than its predecessor. One result: there no longer are any six-cylinder engines in the lineup; the tested Equinox uses a 170-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 203 lb-ft of torque. Later in the model year, a 252-hp 2.0-liter four-banger and a 137-hp diesel engine will be added.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-016The 1.5-liter engine — tiny by traditional measures — is used in other Chevrolets as well, including the desirable new-generation Malibu. To send the power to the front wheels or all four wheels, Chevy installs its competent six-speed automatic transmission.

Short on muscular power, the Equinox feels quicker than its sub nine-second 0-to-60 mph acceleration time. Turbo lag is nonexistent. The torque, or twisting force, is more than adequate for stoplight sprints, on-ramp acceleration and freeway lane-swapping. To enhance fuel economy, it uses a stop-start system to shut down the engine at stoplights.

Many stop-start systems tend to be annoying, restarting the engine with a shudder or with so much hesitation it feels as if the engine bogs down. That’s not the case with the Equinox. It engages instantly and smoothly, so there’s no anxiety getting a jump off the line. That’s a good thing, because the stop-start system cannot be disengaged.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-023The Equinox also shines with effortless handling. There’s good grip and almost no lean around corners and it changes lanes smartly and smoothly without tossing passengers around.

Inside, the Equinox delivers generous head and knee room for five people, plus 30 cubic feet of cargo space that expands to 64 cubic feet if the rear seatbacks are folded flat. There’s also a bit of extra out-of-sight stash space under the cargo floor. A power tailgate can be adjusted for height from a button on the driver’s door.

Front seats are supportive for long-distance comfort with modest bolsters on the seatbacks to hold the torso in cornering. Outboard back seats offer full comfort and even the center-rear position, a punishing place on most vehicles, is half-way decent thanks to a flat floor and minimal intrusion of the front console, though the seat itself is flat and hard.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-017Tested for this review was the topmost Premier trim line with all-wheel drive. It’s a bit pricey for a compact crossover with a starting sticker of $35,330 and, with options, a bottom line of $39,645. However, the interior had an upscale look with quality materials and trim.

Equipment included full basic safety equipment plus forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic low-speed braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and a rearview camera with an overhead view. However, there was no radar cruise control.

Other items: a panoramic sunroof with one of the biggest openings anywhere, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot with GM’s OnStar communications system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen, SXM satellite radio, HD radio, dual-zone climate control, perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, electric parking brake and 19-inch alloy wheels.

2017-Chevrolet-Equinox-Pothole-Awareness-06Also included was Chevrolet’s innovative teen-driving parental control, which can set speed limits and audio volume, as well as produce a report card on the teen’s behavior behind the wheel.

One critical note: If you shut off the Equinox and forget to put the transmission in “Park,” the vehicle will roll as if it is in neutral. It should automatically shift into park. However, a chime sounds and a message appears to remind the driver to shift.

On the praiseworthy side, a chime and message reminds the driver to check the back seat when the Equinox is parked. It could save a child’s life.

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-015Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 1.5T four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 170 hp, 203 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/30 cubic feet. (64)
  • Weight: 3,640 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,330.
  • Price as tested: $39,645.

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

2018-Chevrolet-Equinox-013Photos (c) General Motors.

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