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Jason Fogelson

Five Reasons To Buy A 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

by Jason Fogelson

I may never need a van like the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500XD Crew Van. But during my week test-driving one, I found myself thinking about why I should own a Sprinter. Here are my top five reasons to buy a 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018 // Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018

Reason #1: You can load most anything in the back, and still carry passengers. I drove a Sprinter with a 144-inch wheelbase, and it can hold 261.3 cubic feet of cargo. I’m six feet two inches tall, and I can comfortably stand in the back. The back doors open a full 180 degrees, and the door opening is over 72 inches tall and 60 inches wide. The floor is over 70 inches wide at its broadest points. I imagined stuffing a room full of furniture in the back, or a pair of motorcycles, or a pile of mattresses – all behind the removable second row bench seat.

The New Sprinter

Reason #2: It’s easy to drive, and even fun. My test car came with a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine (188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque) with a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. While those figures may seem modest, the Sprinter is sprightly off the line, and has no problem keeping up with traffic. The high seating position provides a great view of the road ahead, and there’s little chance that anyone’s going to miss seeing a Sprinter in traffic.

Weltpremiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018 // World premiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018

Reason #3: The Crew Van is a blank slate, perfect for upfitting. If you’ve got an idea for how to use a van, it’s likely that the Mercedes-Benz parts and accessories team has an assortment of workbenches, shelving and other modular parts designed to work inside the Sprinter to turn it into a mobile workshop, store or even kitchen.

The New Sprinter

Reason #4: Available 4×4 can turn the Sprinter into a go-anywhere base of operations. A high- and low-range 4×4 transfer case (part of a $7,800 package) can even be fitted on 3500 models like the one I test drove, which came with dual rear wheels. Just image the terrain you could cover.

Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018 // Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018

Reason #5: Maybe the best (and worst) reason of all to buy a Sprinter: It just looks cool. There’s something about the way the 4×4 Sprinter sits that just says “I’m ready for anything.” And that’s cool, and that inspires my fantasies about all the great things I could accomplish, if only I owned a Sprinter.

Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018 // Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018

The Sprinter comes in multiple configurations, starting at $33,790 for a Cargo Van. If you’re really ambitious, you could start with a Cab Chassis (starting at $39,790), and go the full custom route to create the exact vehicle you want. For me, the 3500XD Crew Van that I test drove hit the sweet spot, usable for up to five occupants, but still with enough configurable open space in the rear to be really useful. With an as-tested price of $71,496, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500XD Crew Van will not an impulse buy for me – but it is a thoroughly capable, attractive and inspirational vehicle. If it fits your needs, I’d recommend checking it out.

Weltpremiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018 // World premiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018

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

 

Weltpremiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018 // World premiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

Peak Luxury SUV in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

by Jason Fogelson

It looks like we’re approaching the end of the era of the full-sized gasoline-powered luxury SUV. Electric and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles are closer than the horizon; they’re taking up parking spaces all around us. So, I’m glad that I’ve had a chance to spend a week in an SUV that may represent the peak of its genre – the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC – just before its genre begins to disappear.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019

GLS is a three-row SUV, now entering its third generation of production. The first-generation (2007 – 2012) and part of the second-generation (2013-2019) vehicles were called “GL” until 2016, when the Mercedes SUV lineup underwent a change of nomenclature to correspond with its car-naming conventions. Instead of a disorganized set of class names, Mercedes now has GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE and GLS models (and the roguish G-Class), roughly corresponding to the A-, C-, E- and S-Class sedans, wagons, coupes and cabriolets (B-Class is not currently sold in the U.S.). If you think of the GLS as the S-Class of SUVs, you’ll have a good picture of where it fits into the Mercedes lineup.

Exterior

GLS is a big and beautiful SUV, with assertive, elegant styling that is not overwhelming or overstated. It is 205 inches long, 84.9 inches wide (with mirrors) and 71.8 inches tall, and weighs in at 5,699 lbs. Somehow, wearing 21-inch wheels and with a minimum of 7.9 inches of ground clearance, it still manages to have a great stance. Fit and finish are first-rate, as expected on a luxury car. My test vehicle wore a coat of optional ($720) Mojave Silver Metallic paint, the automotive equivalent of a grey flannel suit, and projected an air of executive competence.

Exterior

Inside, the GLS cabin is like a taller version of the S-Class cabin. Drivers who prefer a tall seating position and commanding outward view will love the GLS. The third row is easily accessible, and actually makes GLS a superior passenger conveyance over S-Class. With 17.4 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third row, it has almost as much capacity as the S-Class’s 18.7 cubic-foot trunk. Fold down the second row, and you’ve opened up 42.7 – 48.7 cubic feet of room. If both second and third rows are folded flat (which you can do with the push of a few buttons), 84.7 cubic feet of luxury goods can fit in the GLS.

Exterior

Luxury is a given in a Mercedes-Benz, and so is technology. GLS is loaded with it, from the ridiculous to the sublime. On the ridiculous side is a new Car Wash mode, which can be triggered to automatically fold in the side mirrors, close the windows and sun roof, turn on the forward-facing camera, and disengage all-wheel drive. If you’ve invested $100,000 in your GLS, I guess you’ll want to keep it clean. On the sublime side, a widescreen digital instrument cluster and widescreen infotainment display, along with optional ($1,100) head-up display provide clear, uncluttered information to the driver at all times. Mercedes-Benz’s interface has improved over the years, and is now intuitive and simple to navigate, responding to swiping gestures familiar to tablet and smartphone operators. The standard Burmester Surround Sound System is nothing short of magnificent. The leather seating is firm and comfortable, with standard massage, ventilation and heating for driver and front passenger, optional ($4,400) Executive Rear Seat Package Plus adding heat and ventilation to the second row. My test car also had the Energizing Package Plus ($2,100), which gilds the lily with Active Multicontour front seats and Air-Balance with fragrance – so you can add specially curated scents to your interior.

Interior

It would be easy to spend all day listing features on the GLS 580, none of which would matter if it weren’t for the beast of an engine that lurks under its hood. A 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 pumps 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque into a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (4MATIC). Mercedes estimates 0-60 mph times at 5.2 seconds, which is plenty quick for a car, and downright impressive for a 5,700-lb SUV. What’s even more impressive is the way that the GL handles and steers. Air suspension is standard, and my test vehicle came with $6,500 E-Active Body Control, which can actively alter control spring and damping forces at each wheel and even lean the vehicle into bends like a motorcycle (subtly, of course). A stereo camera is employed to scan the road surface ahead, so the suspension can be pre-loaded to compensate for bumps and dips. The result is a smooth ride, even over the winter-ravaged Michigan roadways that I had to contend with during my test period.

Exterior

Make no mistake, this is a high end, luxury conveyance with a big price tag. GLS 580 starts at $98,800, and my test vehicle was loaded with options, taking it to an as-tested price of $119,950. Compare it to the BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q8, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX, and Volvo XC90.

Until the Mercedes-Maybach GLS ultra-luxury SUV arrives for 2021, I think we’ve seen the peak of gasoline-only luxury SUVs in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC.

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

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

The 2020 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Cross Country is Hot Stuff

by Jason Fogelson

Gothenburg, Sweden is at 57.7 degrees north of the equator, just 7.8 degrees below the Arctic Circle. It also happens to be the hometown of Volvo – and those two facts are closely related to my review of the 2020 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Cross Country.

I live in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan (42.3 degrees north of the equator), an area famous for its winter weather. Most winter nights have freezing temperatures, which means that a car that sits outside collects a heavy coating of frost and the interior can be downright frigid when morning hits.

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio

The V90 has the best defrosting and quick warming system I’ve found to date. The wagon’s heated front seats (standard) and optional ($425) heated rear seats start providing warmth in minutes, while the assertive front and rear defrosters attack the ice on the glass in a hurry. Winter weather features have got to be important to the folks in Sweden, and they’ve got them down to an art in the V90. Impressive.

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio

This latest V90 variant is a continuation of Volvo’s popular Cross Country trim level, which has been applied to select models over the past few generations. More than just a layer of cladding (which it does have), the Cross Country includes all-wheel drive, a raised ride height and ground clearance, Off-Road mode, front and rear skid plates, exclusive 19-inch wheels, and Black Walnut inlay interior trim pieces. Added to the already sexy and sophisticated full-size four-door V90 wagon, the V90 Cross Country is a great-looking package at the top of the line.

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio

Available only in T6 trim with a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine (316 hp/295 lb-ft of torque) with an eight-speed automatic transmission, V90 Cross Country is an eager performer (0 – 60 in 6.0 seconds). Double-wishbone front suspension and integral link rear do a great job of smoothing the way in many conditions. Multiple drive modes are available, controlling steering feel, throttle, transmission shift points and other factors. Don’t expect your V90 Cross Country to become a rock crawler when you select Off-Road mode – but prepare to be impressed with its stability on dirt roads and trails. I’m confident that swapping in a set of winter tires (all-season radials are standard) will make the V90 Cross Country into a great choice for those snowy February Michigan mornings – no SUV required.

 

Volvo V90 Cross Country Volvo Ocean Race

In case you missed the memo, wagons are cool. It’s a shame that there are so few to choose from, but there are some very solid choices out there. Whether or not they’re called wagons, I’d include the Subaru Outback, Jaguar XF Sportbrake, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon, Audi A6 allroad and Volkswagen Golf Alltrack– a wide spread, which should also include the compact Volvo V60 Cross Country.

Volvo V90 Cross Country Volvo Ocean Race

The 2020 Volvo V90 T6 AWD Cross Country starts at $54,550. My test vehicle, which included the Advanced Package ($2,450), Metallic Paint ($645), 20-inch alloy wheels ($800), Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound ($4,000), heated rear seats ($425), Park Assist Pilot ($200), Premium Air Suspension in rear ($1,200), and a $995 Destination price, came with an as-tested price of $65,265 – definitely luxury territory. But with the included safety and driver assistance features, along with Volvo’s excellent and intuitive Sensus infotainment interface, the price feels about right.

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio

Especially when it’s cold outside, and the prospect of scraping a windshield and sitting down on freezing seats looms in the driveway. Did I mention that Remote Start is included as part of Volvo’s free mobile app?

Sweden knows winter, and the V90 Cross Country Wagon can handle it.

Volvo V90 Cross Country Volvo Ocean Race

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

Cross Country Range

Photos (c) Volvo

Badges? The 2020 Genesis G70 Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges

by Jason Fogelson

The 2020 Genesis G70 has a lot going for it. Great looks, lusty performance, sharp handling and superb build quality. It’s no wonder that G70 accounted for over half of the Genesis brand sales in 2019. G70 captured accolades from multiple automotive press organizations in its debut year, and carries on with minor updates for 2020.

Front 3:4 Right

G70 also has plenty going against it. While it has to be considered a relative sales success, it sits in a showroom with two languishing luxury sedans, G80 and G90, each awaiting updates. And worse, it sits in a showroom devoid of SUVs or crossover vehicles, with no hybrids, plug-in hybrids or EVs to draw traffic.

Front 3:4 Left Red

It’s challenging to review G70 without thinking about the big picture.

Korean manufacturing giant Hyundai broke off Genesis as a standalone luxury automotive brand in 2015, and despite good reviews for its limited product line, Genesis has lurked in the shadows of the luxury marketplace. Perhaps I’m looking back with rose-tinted glasses when I remember the launch of Lexus as the luxury arm for Toyota, or the rise of Acura as Honda’s luxury brand, or the emergence of Infiniti from Nissan; but I remember a more visible splash, and not such a subtle ripple.

Profile Right

Based on purely anecdotal evidence from driving the G70 around the Detroit area for a week, among people who noticed the car, none were familiar with the Genesis brand. I had to explain it to them every time. Of course, Genesis will be happy to read that people frequently approached me to admire the G70 and to compliment me on its good looks – Detroiters are always happy to offer their (unsolicited) opinions in a parking lot.

Badge

And I agreed with them. The G70 is a really attractive sports sedan; a low, sleek four-door with a great stance, an assertive face, and crisp details. The Genesis logo sits proudly on the hood and trunk, a crest flanked by wings, reminiscent of Bentley’s logo (a happy accident, surely). Fit and finish are first rate all around.

Dashboard

Inside, crisply tailored luxury abounds. This is not the overstuffed luxury of early Lexus; this is the modern, elegant luxury of Audi. The supple leatherette (real leather is optional) on the seats is a particular highlight, but the dashboard and center console are also commendable for simple, uncluttered design. The driver’s cockpit is nicely arranged, and the alloy pedals are a great touch.

Genesis G70

Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

My test car was a G70 RWD 2.0T Sport M/T, equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. I’m one of those guys who can’t take a sport sedan seriously if it doesn’t have three pedals, though I recognize that I’m part of a dying breed. Still, I appreciate Genesis considering the “sport” part of “sport sedan” and making this option available. Now, if they’d just tweak the transmission a little bit – perhaps with a short-throw shifter – to make it a little better, I’d be in love. Still, running the 2.0T through its paces was fun, and never grew old during my week with the G70. A bigger engine, a turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 is available; so is all-wheel drive. If you choose the V6 or AWD, you can’t have a manual transmission, which is a bummer. EPA fuel economy estimates for the G70 RWD 2.0T Sport M/T are 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway/22 mpg combined.

Genesis G70

Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

If you’re considering a G70, you’re probably weighing it against some stiff competition. The BMW 3 Series is the gold standard in the class, followed closely by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q60, Volvo S60, and Cadillac CT5.

Genesis G70

Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Like Hyundai, Genesis bundles a ton of desirable standard features in with its cars, making the value proposition a very good one. The 2020 Genesis G70 RWD 2.0T Sport M/T that I tested came with an as-tested price of $39,495, including just about every luxury feature I would want in a sport sedan. The base car starts at $35,450; and the full zoot, 3.3T AWD A/T comes in at $46,650.

So, if you test the competition and you like the G70 and its pricing, you’ll have to decide whether the badge on the hood is one that you’ll be proud driving behind.

Engine

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

Rear 3:4 Right RedPhotos (c) Genesis

2020 BMW M340i xDrive Sedan is the Leader of the Pack

by Jason Fogelson

If you listen to some BMW fans, the last great 3 Series was the E36 (1991 – 1999). Or maybe it was the E46 (1998 – 2006). All I know is, the 2020 BMW M340i xDrive Sedan that I had during a recent week-long test drive is a great car that owes apologies to no one.

Front 3q LeftThe history of the BMW 3 Series is well-known. First introduced as a 1975 model to replace the model 2002 coupe, 3 Series is a front-engine/rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car that has been built in various configurations over seven generations of production. There have been two-doors and four-doors, notchbacks and liftbacks, hardtops and convertibles. The 3 Series has been loved and reviled, praised and damned, both by its supporters and detractors. BMW drivers can sometimes be the punchline in jokes about rude drivers, but the brand’s longtime advertising tag, “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” has stuck for a reason – and the 3 Series has worn it well.

Front2019 marked the beginning of 3 Series’ seventh generation. For 2020, there are four models, all four-door sedans: 330i rear-wheel drive (starting at $40,750); 330i xDrive (starting at $42,750); M340i rear-wheel drive (starting at $54,000); and M340i xDrive (starting at $56,000). My test car was an example of the all-wheel drive M340i xDrive with a host of extras, including Tanzanite Blue Metallic paint ($1,950); Oyster Vernasca Leather ($1,450); Drivers Assistance Package ($500); Drivers Assistance Pro Package ($1,700); Premium Package ($1,400); Executive Package ($2,100); Remote Engine Start ($300); 19-inch M wheels ($400); Adaptive M Suspension ($700); Power Tailgate ($250); Ambient Lighting ($250); Wireless Charging ($500); Harman Kardon surround sound ($875); and a $995 Destination Charge for an as-tested price of $69,570. Take a knee. Breath deeply. Let’s discuss.

NoseThe M340i is gorgeous, for one thing. The proportions of this sedan just work, with a great profile and long dash-to-front-axle distance. The BMW signature twin-kidney grille is flanked by expressive squinting-eye LED headlights, and the car’s face is determined and confident. The sleek roofline looks windswept. The M340i does what a sports sedan must do – it looks fast standing still.

Dash

The interior is almost as successful as the exterior. Leather, polished metal trim, great textures and smart repeated hexagonal shapes bring an elegant simplicity that 3 Series has been missing in the latest generations, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen is perfectly placed at the top of the center stack. iDrive 7.0 and BMW Live Cockpit deliver all the latest tech with an intuitive interface – I never thought I’d be able to say that about an iDrive system. The 14-way power leather seats are insanely comfortable, especially for the long-legged among us, thanks to long travel and extendable thigh support, which makes a big difference on long drives.

Cabin

If you’re going to keep calling yourself “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” you’d better have the goods under the hood, and M340i does. A 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder direct-injected gasoline engine sends 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with an M Sport limited-slip differential. The M340i xDrive is the quickest of the 3 Series models, capable of going from 0 – 60 mph in 4.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 130 mph. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.

Live Cockpit

I’m sad that there’s no manual transmission available for the M340i, but it’s a sign of the times. Even among the buyers of a sporty brand like BMW, three-pedal fanatics are few and far between. The automatic is a very good one, with quick shifts and a manumatic mode accessible via paddle shifters.

Engine

Driving the M340i is very compelling. It sounds great, feels great, and handles great. Every cloverleaf is an opportunity to feel some g-forces. Every stoplight can be an arm-stretching launch. If you need to spend a lot of time behind the wheel, M340i will reward you with constant enjoyment, and a collaboration with technology that will make your drive easier and safer.

Chassis

The mid-size sport sedan market caught up with the 3 Series, with some very good competitors like the Audi A4/S4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Volvo S60, Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Genesis G70, Kia Stinger and others.

Rear 3q LeftThe 2020 BMW M340i xDrive shoots back into the lead. It’ll be fun to see the others try to catch up.

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

RearPhotos (c) BMW

The 2020 Nissan 370Z Offers No Apologies

by Jason Fogelson

Sorry, not sorry, but the Z is a throwback to love.

The year the Datsun 240Z debuted here in the United States, the top movie was “Love Story” with Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. The top-selling fiction book was “Islands in the Stream” by Ernest Hemingway. The top-selling single on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart was “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” by Simon & Garfunkel. Now, five generations later (with a brief sales hiatus here in the U.S. from 1997 – 2002), the 2020 Nissan 370Z arrives as a 50th Anniversary edition. And for all the changes the Z (and the United States) have undergone – things are very familiar.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

The sixth-generation Z has been sold since the 2009 model year with incremental upgrades along the way. Like the 1970 U.S.-spec 240Z, the 370Z is a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) six-cylinder, rear-wheel drive GT sports coupe. In a world of high-tech cars, the 370Z comes across as a bit of a throwback – and that’s a big part of its appeal.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

My test vehicle was a 2020 Nissan 370Z Sport with a special 50th Anniversary package of options ($2,600) that included special two-tone paint, commemorative decals and badging, logos and kickplates, leather four-way power seats, and other goodies. While this much self-congratulation could easily tip toward the tacky, on this Z it looked super cool.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

Inside, the Z’s cabin is compact, but comfy. What’s missing on the Sport model is a feature that has become ubiquitous on modern cars, even basic economy models – there’s no touchscreen display on the dash, just a collection of conventional gauges, buttons and knobs. It took me a while to figure out how to pair my Bluetooth smartphone to the car, but I finally regained my old-school pairing chops for an effective connection for both audio and hands-free operation. Concealed storage in the cabin is limited, but there’s a good amount of space under the liftback behind the seat, accessible from inside the cabin. Mid-generation Z-cars have been criticized for losing their edge and slipping toward bloated luxury, but this Z is tight and trim.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

My test Z came with a welcome throwback feature – a manual six-speed transmission (a seven-speed automatic is available to spec, but don’t do that, please). The Sport trim and above comes with SynchroRev Match, a synchronized Downshift Rev Matching feature that simplifies operation, mitigating the need to do the heel-toe dance on the pedals. It works beautifully. While purists might balk at this electronic assistance, it makes an average driver (like me) sound like a pro.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

Under the hood, the six-cylinder in this Z is a 3.7-liter V6 – the 240Z used a 2.4-liter inline six – that sends a healthy 332 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Thanks to the Z’s low seating position, the sensation of speed and sharp handling is amplified – and the car is a lot of fun to drive.

Nissan will be happy to help you upgrade many components on the Z with Nismo parts to improve handling and performance if you want to track your car, and there’s a healthy aftermarket to supply tweaks and gizmos to soup up every aspect of the coupe. Have at it, and have fun.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

Out of the box, the Z is a blunt instrument that delivers driving enjoyment. The more refined Mazda MX-5 Miata is its closest competitor, representing a different approach to the equation.

Z prices start at $30,090 for the base model and go up to $39,490 for the top-of-the-line Sport Touring 7AT model. My test car was a Sport model with a base price of $33,820 and an as-tested price of $37,605, and represented the sweet spot in the lineup.

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

The 2020 Nissan 370Z is a throwback, and I love it. As Ali McGraw famously said in the top-grossing film of 1970, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

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

2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

Photos (c) Nissan

Twelfth Time’s the Charm: Driving the 2020 Toyota Corolla

by Jason Fogelson

I’ve never owned a Toyota Corolla. I don’t know how I have avoided it, because I have owned at least five of the other top 10 best-selling vehicles of all time. Corolla has been manufactured over 12 generations since 1966, and has sold over 46 million examples worldwide to date, making it the number one best-seller in history. I made space for a 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE in my driveway for a week recently, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Profile Right Action

The Corolla sedan is all-new for 2020, following closely on the heels of the revised Corolla Hatchback, which arrived last year. It rides on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, which underlies the current Toyota Prius, C-HR and Camry, along with the Lexus IS and a few other vehicles in the Toyota/Lexus family. The platform has proven to be versatile and adaptable. It is stiff, and allows for a low center of gravity that enhances stability and handling.

Profile Left

In the past, Corolla could be criticized for bland exterior design. In some generations, it looked like a generic car – or maybe it just felt that way, because there are so many of them on the road. The new Corolla is bolder, more futuristic, with a face that echoes the Camry’s. The XSE model even wears standard 18-inch wheels, the biggest ever for a Corolla. Like any bold design choice, this Corolla may be polarizing, but I like it.

Front 3q Left

My test vehicle was a top-of-the-line XSE model with a base price of $25,450. The XSE trim level and SE models come with a new engine, a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.0-liter four-cylinder that uses direct and port injection to produce 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. Base models (L, LE and XLE) come with a 1.8-liter port-injection engine that puts out 139 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. The 30-hp advantage for XSE is significant, delivering livelier, more engaging performance.

Dash Beige

XSE models also get a new transmission, a continuously variable automatic (CVT) with a physical first gear. The CVT, which Toyota calls “Dynamic Shift CVT,” uses its first gear to launch the Corolla, then shifts to the variable ratios once the car is underway. The effect mitigates one of the things that plagues CVT performance, yet still allows Corolla to achieve good fuel economy – 31 mpg city/38 mpg highway/34 mpg combined – better, actually, than the base L model’s 30/38/33-mpg rating with its smaller, less powerful engine.

JBL Tweeter

Inside the Corolla, things are extremely tidy and simple, with a minimum of buttons, knobs and clutter. An eight-inch touchscreen is prominent at the top-center of the dash, flanked by neat rectangular buttons and a rotary volume control and rotary tuner knob. Just below is a clean HVAC control setup. A seven-inch driver information display is housed in the instrument panel, nestled beside analog gauges. The steering wheel houses cruise control, volume, mode and driver info buttons. The dash is layered, crisp, and clean, and so is the rest of the cabin.

Cabin

My test XSE model came with a $1,715 package that included premium audio and navigation and infotainment. The JBL audio system included eight speakers and a subwoofer, along with wireless smartphone charging, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming, Siri Eyes-Free, a six-month trial of Verizon Wi-Fi, a three-month trial of SiriusXM, six months of Destination Connect, three years of Toyota Safety Connect and Service Connect, and more – in other words, a ton of technology for a bargain price. My car also included optional Adaptive Front Lighting ($450), Carpeted Floor Mat Package ($249, not such a bargain), and a $930 Delivery Processing and Handling Fee, resulting in an as-tested price of $28,794.

Second Row seats

Safety is one area that has greatly improved over the life of Corolla. Not only does the new Corolla come with standard four-wheel disc brakes, every Corolla comes with Star Safety (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, ABS, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology), they also get eight airbags, an electric parking brake, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control). XSE models also include Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Road Sign Assist and Lane Tracing Assist. This level of advanced driver assistance technology is quite remarkable in an economy car.

Front

I guess that Corolla has made grown up a bit since 1966, leaving the entry-level slot open for Yaris to handle on its own. The competition in this class is stiff, with the Honda Civic, Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte all representing good alternatives, with the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus fading away.

Rear 3q Right

Not only is the 2020 Toyota Corolla all-new for the model year, it is the best version of Corolla that Toyota has produced to date. And that’s saying something, with 46 million Corolla vehicles in its wake.

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

Rear

Photos (c) Toyota

Hoopla for the Supra

by Jason Fogelson

Ever since the Supra made its debut at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this January, I’ve been itching to get a drive. I waited (sort of) patiently, bugging my local Toyota reps every few weeks for my chance. Finally, to get me to stop calling, I think, Toyota delivered a Renaissance Red 2.0 2020 Toyota GR Supra Launch Edition to my house for a week of fun. The Launch Edition is a special, limited trim level that carries a list price of $55,250. My test car came with an optional ($1,195) Driver Assist Package, a Delivery, Preparation and Handling Fee of $930 for an as-tested price of $57,375.

White Front 3q Left

In case you’ve missed the hoopla, Supra is a two-seater GT-style sportscar that was developed in a cooperative venture between Toyota and BMW, and which shares many powertrain and technology features with the new BMW Z4. Not that you’ll find many mentions of that in Toyota’s press materials, or BMW’s for that matter. Toyota is proud to crow about its in-house engineering and on-track development with GAZOO Racing (the “GR” part of the new car’s name). Akio Toyoda himself was hands-on with the performance tuning of the new Supra, and was visibly proud and excited when he unveiled the car in Detroit.

Red Front 3q Left

The Supra nameplate was used on Toyota models in the United States for four generations from 1978 to 1998, and returns here for the first time in 20 years. Supra was one of the first Toyota models to receive serious attention and respect for its handling and performance on the race track and on the road, and probably hit its pinnacle when it was featured in the 2001 film “The Fast and the Furious.”

White Front

I really love the exterior design of the new Supra. It has a long hood, a very expressive face with piercing headlamps, big air intakes at the bottom, and a tasteful Toyota logo on its nose. Big 19-inch forged aluminum heels tuck under the front fenders, with wider 19-inch wheels under more muscular fenders in the rear. The roof is distinctive, with bubbles over the driver and passenger’s heads, and a slight depression running down the middle. The short cabin ends in a fast slope, with a tastefully upturned tail that is said to suppress lift. There’s a little bit of retro feel to the car – if you squint, you can see influences from the cool 2000 GT, one of Toyota’s sports cars from the 1960s.

White Profile

Inside, the design is crisp and clean. I especially like the horizontal slot that houses the HVAC outlets, and the tastefully minimal array of knobs and buttons on the center stack. Befitting a modern car, there’s a big 8.8-inch diagonal touchscreen prominently placed at the top of the center stack, home to Toyota’s infotainment setup. All of the expected technology is aboard, plus the pleasant appearance of Apple CarPlay, which is just starting to populate the Toyota ecosphere. A color head-up display is standard.

Dashboard

The Supra seats are race-inspired, very supportive and comfortable, and roomy enough for my American form. The leather seats in the Launch Edition are nicely finished, as is all of the trim throughout the cabin. Special carbon fiber trim is used tastefully, and adds a high-tech feel.

Center Console

What’s it like to drive? I thought you’d never ask. Under the hood lurks a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that’s tuned to produce 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission with an active differential and paddle shifters sends power to the rear wheel. MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear use adaptive dampers. Toyota estimates that the 3,300-lb Supra can scoot from 0 – 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and will be electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph. It certainly feels fast, thanks to assertive shifting by the transmission and a low, low seating position. The car is beautifully balanced, and hugs the curves like a champ. In true GT fashion, it is a serene cruiser, too, eating up highway miles with ease. The cabin is small, but outward visibility is quite good, so there’s no feeling of claustrophobia in traffic. I just wanted to drive and drive during my week with the Supra – and I did. I think I passed every mile with a smile pasted across my face.

Seats

I guess I’m a little bit old-fashioned, because while I appreciated the smooth shifting of the automatic transmission, my one disappointment with the Supra was the absence of a manual transmission option. The paddle shifters gave me the chance to interact with the engine, but I found myself wishing for a little more visceral engagement.

Engine

The 2020 Toyota GR Supra is not cheap, but I feel like it’s a good value for the money. The base 3.0 model starts at $49,990, and the 3.0 Premium starts at $53,990. I’d compare the Supra to the BMW Z4, Porsche Cayman, Audi TT, Lexus RC F, Jaguar F-Type – some pretty heady company, which should tell you how much I liked the Supra.

Blue Rear 3q Right Static

Welcome back, Supra.

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

Grouping

Photos (c) Toyota

Gaining Elevation in the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD

by Jason Fogelson

The last time Kia launched a midsize three-row SUV, the 2009 Kia Borrego, the company’s timing couldn’t have been less fortunate. Arriving in late 2008, the body-on-frame Borrego was available with a V8 engine. With base prices from $26,245 to $37,995, the Borrego was a well-equipped, attractive SUV, designed to compete with the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner and other popular SUVs. And it flopped. While Kia was launching the Borrego, fuel prices were spiking, reaching over $5 per gallon in some parts of the country. The US banking system was headed toward collapse, taking the auto industry with it and leading to bailouts and a prolonged recession. “Right SUV, wrong time” was the refrain in Borrego reviews, and the big SUV disappeared from Kia lineup after just one year.

A decade-plus later, and Kia’s ready to try the mid-size three-row SUV class again. This time, it’s the 2020 Kia Telluride, and the timing is much better – and the vehicle is very different.

2020 TellurideEven the name gives a hint toward Kia’s status in the automotive industry and toward its aspirations for the new vehicle. “Borrego” was inspired by the Anza-Borrego Desert, a region in Southern California near San Diego, best-known for the ecological disaster area, Salton Sea, which sits at an elevation of 15 feet above sea level. Telluride is a playground for the rich and famous in Colorado, perched at a lofty 8,750 feet above sea level.

Beyond their shared seating capacity and SUV category, Telluride and Borrego share few common characteristics. Where Borrego rode on a body-on-frame platform with a rear-wheel drive/four-wheel drive powertrain, Telluride is a unibody (frameless) crossover SUV with a front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive powertrain. Borrego came with a choice of 3.6-liter V6 or 4.6-liter V8 engines and 6-speed automatic transmissions, and was rated to achieve 17 – 18 mpg combined. Telluride uses a 3.8-liter gasoline direct injection engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and gets EPA fuel economy ratings of 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined (FWD), 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined (AWD). Borrego’s V6 produced 276 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, while Telluride’s V6 is tuned to put out 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Borrego weighed in at 4,248 – 4,621 lbs (depending on configuration), while Telluride weighs between 4,112 lbs and 4,482 lbs.

Enough with the Borrego comparisons.

2020 TellurideI spent a week driving a 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD, a top-of-the-line model that carried a base price of $43,490. My test vehicle had additional installed equipment, including Snow White Pearl Paint ($395), SX Prestige Package ($2,000 for Head-Up Display, 110-volt inverter, Nappa leather seat trim, premium cloth headliner and sun visors, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and rain sensing front windshield wipers), carpeted floor mats ($210), carpeted cargo mat with seat back protection ($115), interior lighting ($450), a tow hitch ($395) plus freight and handling ($1,045) for an as-tested price of $48,100.

Telluride is a good-looking SUV with great presence, and an outstanding face. It has a big SUV attitude, and an air of premium elegance. Black 20-inch alloy wheels give an aggressive, sporty look. Inside, the SX trim level Telluride approaches luxury levels of fit and finish, and a great array of standard technology and convenience features. Each row of seating is comfortable and surrounded by smart storage.

2020 TellurideDriving the Telluride is a pleasure equal to admiring its design. It handles well, and accelerates briskly for a vehicle its size. It is not a rocket ship like some of the premium SUVs, but it never wants for power in normal (sane) operation. The smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission keeps Telluride in its power band without allowing the V6 to get thrashy or noisy.

There have been big changes in the midsize SUV landscape since 2009, and a whole new set of competitors has emerged. The Ford Explorer has moved from body-on-frame to crossover, and is newly revised for 2020. Nissan Pathfinder made the same move, though it is due for a makeover soon. The Honda Pilot remains a stiff competitor, along with GM’s trio of Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia. The Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent are new midsize three-row SUVs worth considering, and Kia’s cousin Hyundai has produced the Palisade on the same platform as Telluride. Of the old body-on-frame competition, only the Toyota 4Runner remains in the game as a class of one, and it too has lost its V8 option.

2020 TellurideUnless outside forces like spiking gas prices or another economic crisis intervene, the 2020 Kia Telluride is likely to succeed in the marketplace in ways that its ill-fated predecessor never did. It is hitting dealerships at a time when the three-row crossover SUV is more popular than ever, a hot market segment with an appetite for well-equipped, stylish family SUVs. And Telluride is a very good option.

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

2020 TelluridePhotos (c) Kia

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