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SUV Reviews

2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With a few caveats, it looks as if the 2021 Kia Seltos follows the winning ways of its siblings from the South Korean manufacturer, especially the critically acclaimed Telluride.

A small crossover sport utility vehicle, the Seltos teeters in size between subcompact crossovers like the new Hyundai Venue and compacts like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. In fact, it’s almost the same size as the compact Kia Sportage — just four inches shorter with four fewer cubic feet of space inside.

2021 Seltos

But it has some of the same appeal of the new Telluride, where the Sportage, in SUV and crossover guise, has been around since 1998. The Seltos has rugged, SUV-stylish looks, a well-designed interior and, in the tested S model, outstanding driving dynamics and performance.

However, there are a few shortcomings, mainly owing to the fact that the only way to get some equipment is to choose which of five versions, or trim levels, fits your desires.

For example, on the tested S Turbo version with the 175-hp 1.6-liter engine, which delivers 195 lb-ft of torque, there is no pushbutton starting, exterior-touch locking, automatic climate control or SXM satellite radio. It has a starting price of $26,610, including the destination charge.

2021 Seltos

To get those items you must move up $2,400 in price to the top-line $29,010 SX all-wheel drive model, which has the same turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. But then you must give up the S version’s excellent and comfortable cloth upholstery and seat yourself on leatherette.

Lower trim levels somewhat make up for the lack of satellite radio by including Apple Car Play and Android Auto so people can play music and navigation from their smart phones.

The S Turbo and SX are the only models with the upgraded engine and transmission. Others, including the base S with front-wheel drive, have a 145-hp, 2.0-liter engine with 132 lb-ft of torque and a continuously-variable automatic transmission.

2021 Seltos

All versions come with all-wheel drive except for the base S, which has front-wheel drive. Its starting price is $23,110 — the same as the LX with all-wheel drive. The S also can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

All Seltos versions come with basic safety equipment, including rear occupancy alert, tire-pressure monitoring, hill start assist and downhill braking control. But the LX does not have forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection. To get that, you must order one of the upper trim levels.

Also, some of the more sophisticated safety and convenience items like blind-spot warning, lane keeping assist and rear cross traffic alert, are not available on the LX. If you want adaptive cruise control, it’s available only on the top-line SX model.

2021 Seltos

One very unusual oversight on the tested S Turbo, the sun visors did not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the sides. The South Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai have been in the forefront of including such items, as well as other convenience and safety equipment, even in base models.

Carping aside, the Seltos S Turbo — there was no opportunity to drive the lower powered versions — delivers an entertaining, even exciting, driving experience with handling more akin to a sports sedan than a small crossover. It is rabbit-quick off the line with little or none of the dreaded lag as the turbocharger spools up. Zero to 60 miles an hour happens in the six-second range but it feels quicker, especially with rapid throttle response for passing or jumping lanes in traffic.

2021 Seltos

The Seltos name is an adaptation of Celtus, a character in Greek mythology who was the progenitor of the Celtic people. But Kia changed the spelling to better connect it to “speed” and “sport.”

At 5 feet 4 inches including the roof rails, the Seltos is not particularly tall. But it has the look of a serious crossover SUV, unlike its funky smaller sibling, the Kia Soul.

In a smaller, less expensive package, the Seltos, especially in the top-line SX trim, has some of the same appeal as the Telluride, which was voted Utility of the Year by an independent group of 50 automotive journalists from around the United States and Canada, including this reviewer.

It would help its case if, as needed on the tested S Turbo version, a few additional stand-alone options like pushbutton starting and SXM radio were available. And Kia, please equip the Seltos with proper sliding sun visors.

2021 Seltos

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 175 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 99/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,317 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/30/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,610.
  • Price as tested: $26,740.

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

2021 Seltos

Photos (c) Kia

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4MATIC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If one were needed or wanted, you could label the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4MATIC as the bargain luxury crossover sport utility vehicle from the storied German manufacturer.

It’s an all-new entry in the compact luxury category. With a starting price of $39,995 and a bottom-line sticker of $51,875, the tested vehicle is not exactly cheap but priced more like a near-luxury than a full-on luxury crossover.

_F8A4424-sourceIn the Mercedes SUV lineup, the GLB250 slots in between the entry-level GLA and the more expensive GLC. Mercedes uses European letter designations for its vehicle classes. In addition to the GLA, GLB and GLC, it offers the midsize GLE and full-size three-row GLS crossovers.

Curiously, the new GLB250 is nearly a carbon copy of its garage-mate, the GLC300. The latter is nearly an inch longer but has slightly less interior space. The GLB has 102 cubic feet for passengers and 20 cubic feet for cargo behind the second row. Also unusual, it offers the $850 option of a small third-row seat, which the tester did not have.

_F8A4400-sourceThe GLC, on the other hand, has 97 cubic feet of passenger room and 19 cubic feet for cargo. An older design, it does not offer a third row seat. All the foregoing numbers are for the all-wheel drive 4MATIC versions.

Power trains also are similar. Both have turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. The GLB’s makes 221 hp with 254 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. The GLC’s delivers 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.

The GLB comes with a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic transmission and the GLC uses a nine-speed conventional automatic. EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is 23/31/26 mpg for the GLB and 22/29/24 for the GLC.

_F8A4417-sourceAt least in the versions tested here, the GLC is more expensive than the GLB. The GLC starts at $43,495, or $3,430 more than the GLB. A loaded GLC noted earlier had a sticker of $63,615 with options, or $11,740 more than the GLB tested here.

Not to unduly muddle the discussion, we need to take note of a second, even more expensive GLC300 4MATIC. It’s the stylish Coupe version with a sloped roofline and the same engine/transmission combination as the crossover GLC. Tested previously, it had a base price of $50,995 and, with options, a delivered price of $67,615 — or $15,740 more than the GLB250 tested here. It makes the GLB250 look like even more of a bargain.

_F8A4482-sourceOf course, there are differences in equipment among all three. The tester lacked some items that are almost routinely expected in a Mercedes. For example, it had standard cruise control rather than the company’s excellent Distronic adaptive cruise control. There was no lane departure mitigation or a head-up display.

However, the tester had other safety equipment, including brake assist and blind-spot warning. It also was paragon of luxury with soft, dark-brown leather upholstery trimmed in black, sparkling interior trim and such items as a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, SXM satellite radio, power tailgate and a panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, the sunshade was made of a flimsy cloth that admitted too much sunlight.

_F8A4508-sourceAll of that aside, the GLB250’s strength is in the driving experience. It’s not super fast, but respectable with the zero to 60-mph acceleration at less than seven seconds. But it is mostly hesitation-free. Even the idle stop-start system mostly works smoothly, although the preference here is to simply turn it off.

There’s tactile feedback through the steering while the GLB250 negotiates curving roads without much lean. Highway cruising is fatigue free and the cabin remains quiet enough for whispered conversation. Overall, it would be a vehicle of choice for long-distance travel.

_F8A4560-sourceExcept for any poor soul relegated to the center-rear seating position, which consists of a hard seat cushion and a floor hump to nag the feet, the driver and three other passengers are cosseted in large, supportive and comfortable seats. Rear seatbacks fold flat to expand the cargo area to 62 cubic feet. The GLB250 came with winter tires but no spare wheel.

There’s some fussiness. The infotainment functions and instruments are integrated into one wide video screen. Functions can be controlled by touch, a haptic pad on the center console or buttons on the steering wheel. More than once, a minor touch on one of them while turning the wheel changed a satellite radio station.

_F8A4491-sourceSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4MATIC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 221 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 102/20. (62)
  • Weight: 3,759 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,995.
  • Price as tested: $51,875.

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

_F8A4259-sourcePhotos (c) Mercedes-Benz

2020 Ford Escape AWD Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not faring badly in the crossover sport utility wars, the 2020 Ford Escape enhances its chances with new weapons that include two hybrid versions — one standard and the other a plug-in.

In 2019, the compact Escape, a Ford mainstay since the 2001 model year, settled into fourth place among compact crossovers behind the best-selling Toyota RAV4, the second-place Honda CR-V and the third place Chevrolet Equinox. Escape sales bested those of the other prominent competitors: Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, GMC Terrain and Kia Sportage.

2020 Ford Escape

Ford, using a hybrid system similar to that of the best-selling Toyota Prius, was the first to introduce the fuel-saving technology into a crossover in 2005, then let it slide away.

Now it returns with the two hybrids. Front-drive Escape models are available as standard hybrids and plug-ins. The company says the latter can travel up to 30 miles on electric power alone. It has a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 44/37/41 mpg.

If you order the Escape with all-wheel drive, the plug-is not available. But its standard hybrid power train, with a stingy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor integrated into the transmission, delivers a combined 200 hp. The EPA fuel economy rating is 43/37/40 mpg, enough to give it an estimated range of 568 miles.

2020 Ford Escape

The all-wheel drive Titanium model, tested here, came to the market before the plug-in. Though expensive for a vehicle in this category, it exhibits characteristics that rival some near-luxury and luxury crossovers.

It has classy exterior styling, borrowing cues from the Ford Mustang, the new electric Mustang Mach-E and Ford’s GT super car. The last has a price tag of nearly half a million dollars. Elements transfer to the Escape, which presents clean, fuss-free lines.

Inside, the driver and passengers are cosseted in soft leather seats, surrounded by trim, materials and workmanship that would not be out of place in a Lincoln or Cadillac. No surprise, then, that the tested Titanium trim had a $35,995 price including the destination charge and, with options, topped out at $37,990. As an American Motors executive said years ago, “Americans want fuel economy, and they’ll pay anything to get it.”

2020 Ford Escape

It could be argued that this Ford Escape represents the epitome of what U.S. buyers currently are seeking in a compact crossover SUV. At 15 feet 1 inch in length and passenger space of 104 cubic feet with 35 cubic feet for cargo behind the second row, it exceeds the EPA’s definition of a large sedan like the Bentley Flying Spur.

Of course, it comes up short of the Lincoln Aviator from Ford’s luxury division, a three-row crossover that has 150 cubic feet of passenger space and 18 cubic feet for cargo, or 42 cubic feet if you fold the third row, which cuts the passenger room to 126.

2020 Ford Escape

Nevertheless, the Escape can carry up to five passengers and most of their stuff on a beach or ski vacation, assuming the snowboards and skis are tied down somewhere on the roof.

As with most modern hybrids, the only clue that this is not a standard gasoline-engine vehicle is the silence that results when you punch the start button. It simply announces that everything is “ready.” Then you drive it as you would any automobile.

Except for some tiny lag off the line, the Escape accelerates smartly and holds its own in any stoplight sprint or freeway on-ramp. There’s no hint of a transition between electric and gasoline power; they simply work in concert. Plus as a conventional hybrid, you never have to plug it in.

2020 Ford Escape

To help boost the fuel economy, the hybrid Escape boasts four hybrid settings: Auto EV, in which the onboard computer decides the mix of gasoline and electric power; EV Now, which delivers all-electric driving; EV Later, which switches to full gasoline-fueled driving to conserve electric power for later use, and an all-new EV Charge mode in which the battery charges continually for eventual use.

All Escape models, including the hybrids, also are equipped with five driver-selectable settings that adjust transmission shifting and other  functions to enhance fuel economy and performance under different conditions. They are labeled Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Snow/Sand driving.

And, by the way for duffers, Ford brags that the Escape can carry a foursome and their golf bags.

2020 Ford Escape

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Ford Escape Titanium AWD hybrid four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motor: 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 14.4 kw electric motor; combined 200 hp.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 104/35 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,706 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 43/37/40 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,995.
  • Price as tested: $37,990.

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

2020 Ford Escape

Photos (c) Ford

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hyundai sagely developed a grasp of Americans’ preference for crossover sport utility vehicles and now has extended its reach with the 2020 Venue.

The South Korean manufacturer has a lineup of six SUVs: Venue; Kona, available as a hybrid and an electric; the hydrogen-fueled Nexo, sold only in California; compact Tucson, midsize Santa Fe and three-row Palisade. They cover the size spectrum of the currently most popular vehicle type in the U.S.

Large-40000-2020Venue-MiamiWith a starting price of $18,550, including the destination charge, the entry-level Venue is aimed squarely at some of the buyers of 41 million used cars in 2019. The target group is younger people who are into urban night life — whatever that means. The idea is to provide them the opportunity to own an affordable new car with all the latest safety and infotainment equipment.

In a tidy package that measures 13 feet 3 inches in length and 5 feet 3 inches tall, the Venue instantly reminds an onlooker of the Kia Soul, the best seller of Hyundai’s sister company. Though classified as a subcompact crossover, the Venue boasts the interior volume of a midsize sedan with plenty of passenger space for four and a seatbelt for a squished fifth person in the center-rear.

Large-36140-2020VenueHowever, unlike the funky Kia Soul, which has 125 cubic feet of interior volume, 14 more than the Venue’s 111, the Venue has a more conventional crossover profile. Like the Soul, it comes only with front-wheel drive but it looks the part of an attractively styled small SUV. That along with the low price should easily attract buyer attention.

But despite what appears to be a paucity of power on paper, the Venue is a sprightly and economical performer. Its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 121 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, not exactly the stuff of drag racers.

Large-36141-2020VenueHowever, the Venue makes up for any shortcomings in performance with outstanding city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 30/34/32 mpg in a vehicle that weighs 2,732 pounds. That betters the Soul’s 27/32/29 with a curb weight of 3,036 pounds.

Nevertheless, the Venue feels quick off the line and responsive in the cut and thrust of urban traffic, as well as passing on rural two-lane roads. Credit some of that to what Hyundai calls its “intelligent” continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Large-40047-2020Venue-MiamiCVTs use a system of belts and pulleys to multiply engine power, usually without shift points. But the Venue’s CVT uses a durable chain instead of a belt and is programmed to operate like a conventional automatic transmission with stepped shift points. Drivers used to the feel of upshifts will not notice anything different.

There are three driver-selectable drive modes with the CVT: normal, sport and snow. The two former settings adjust acceleration shift points and steering feel, while the snow setting feathers the throttle on start-ups to avoid wheel spin on slippery surfaces.

Large-36146-2020VenueThe Venue also offers a six-speed manual gearbox. There was no opportunity at the national introduction to drive the stick shift but if it is anything like the manuals on Hyundai’s other vehicles like the Elantra and Veloster, it should be delightfully manipulative.

There are just two Venue trim levels: SE and SEL. The SE comes standard with the six-speed manual, with the intelligent CVT as an option. The SEL comes with the CVT as standard equipment.

Driven for this review was a top-line SEL with a premium package that had a starting price of $20,245 and a bottom-line sticker of $23,280, which is somewhere around $13,000 less than the average price of a new car these days. Take heed, urban night lifers. That buys a lot of mojitos and manhattans.

Large-39995-2020Venue-MiamiBoth trim levels come with advanced safety equipment that includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, stability and traction control, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, tire-pressure monitoring, and a full suite of airbags and a rear-view camera.

Also, the SEL had blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic collision warning.

Other options: Power sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, pushbutton starting, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, heated front seats and outside mirrors, LED lighting, navigation system, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Among potential buyers of late-model used cars, there is an increasing appetite for the peace of mind of driving a car that, for example, will slam on the brakes when a driver is distracted. With that comfort ambiance on an affordable car, it’s a slam dunk.

Large-36130-2020VenueSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder; 121 hp, 113 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 3 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 92/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,732 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/34/32 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $20,245.
  • Price as tested: $23,280.

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

Large-36142-2020VenuePhotos (c) Hyundai

 

 

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HST

Iconic vehicles carry both a benefit and a burden with each new iteration. Does it get harder to live up to the past with each successive model? Perhaps. And with the changing automotive landscape, as the realities of climate change begin to penetrate the obfuscation thrown up by short sighted financial interests of oil companies, and major manufacturers plan for a greener, more electric-focused power source for future offerings, the impediments to purchasing a large, heavy, SUV from a legendary manufacturer are not insignificant.

DSC_5238And yet, there is no denying the pleasure of driving a new 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HST. The Land Rover company traces its roots back to 1948’s introduction of the second four wheel drive vehicle following closely behind the Jeep. Four doors, the normal hatch rear opening, and all the trimmings the six cylinder twin turbo with electric supercharger all-wheel drive panoramic moon roof British luxuriousness on full display. Carbon fiber dash and other interior and exterior appointments, smooth leather, not just any leather, but Windsor leather with suede cloth bolsters. Beautiful silver paint, black roof and wheels – the sizable car has that slightly menacing, definitely imperious, potentially fast appearance.

DSC_5246With a curb weight of 5,130 pounds the zero to 60 isn’t bad – 5.9 seconds – but the 40 to 60, given the twin turbos, is a bit of a blast. And when all of that weight gets up and going, the feeling of the speed combined with the heft of the vehicle gives one a sense of serious security, and the allure of being able to impose one’s automotive will on the other lesser vehicles on the road. Which can be a dangerous feeling if not tempered by good sense and an awareness of the necessity to be safe, first and foremost. Safety is helped by the large, red brake calipers, which are larger in the front than the rear. (Red is part of the HST package – which isn’t an acronym for anything, just the name of the trim package.) An interesting result of physics – the front brakes do more of the stopping than the rear. Which if you think about it makes sense – the car is moving forward, so the energy is in the front, which always gets there first, except when driving in reverse of course. But we’ll leave that to Tom Cruise and stunt drivers in the Fast and the Always Furious. It’s also why on older cars that are updated it’s not necessary to replace drum brakes with discs all around, if you’re being judicious with the dollars spent, and the front brakes are enough. Drums do work to slow vehicles – it’s just that discs do work better.

DSC_5250There are the anticipated multiplicity of settings on the Rover. Up and down, wet roads, snowy roads, hills. Sport mode, comfort mode, auto mode. The Millennium Falcon is easier to fly than figuring out all the buttons and knobs and modes on most modern cars. My move is to leave it all in auto, and not worry about it. I did play with the height adjustment to see what it looked like raised all the way up. It’s funny for me, as a person on the taller side, to have to step down from a vehicle. And it made the wheels look small – which is funny, because they’re 21 inches and not small at all.

I was helping someone move some things, which provided a perfect real-world test of the Utility of the sport utility vehicle. The back lift door opens high, and the opening is wide, which is great. But for some reason the rear seats don’t fold all the way flat. There’s a chance I was doing it wrong – but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t operator error. Even with the slight elevation of half of the cargo space there was still ample room to move all kinds of items in one trip.

DSC_5254Like most high end modern cars – and many modern cars period – the Range Rover Sport HST comes with all kinds of driver assist technology. There are cameras all over the place – front facing, rear facing – and the ability to see a cobbled together overhead view of the car. Sensors on all the corners providing warnings of things like curbs or cars or people in proximity to the vehicle. If the lane guidance is on, and you change lanes without signaling there’s haptic feedback – the steering wheel shudders, lights appear on the screen in front of you. When cruise control is on the automatic braking system is engaged. And turning on the blinker initiates an automatic lane change, which is still a bit nuts but worked flawlessly. The big issue with all of these systems designed to make driving safer for the passengers, other cars, and pedestrians is that they may be having the opposite effect. Recent studies by the three A’s (as we call AAA in my family) Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have found that these systems are more a source of distraction for the driver than a source of safety for all concerned. A little smart evidently isn’t smart enough.

When it comes to the engine, the new technologies provide some serious power and return increased fuel efficiency, thanks to the new inline six cylinder engine, with twin turbos and an electrical supercharger that kicks on in a half a second. With the automatic system that turns the engine off when you’re sitting at a stop light, or you just haven’t turned your car off, these new systems allow for fuel efficiency numbers that aren’t bad given the size and weight of the vehicle – 19 MPG city, 25 highway, for a combined 21 MPG.

Range Rover Sport - Ingenium six-cylinder gasoline engineOne issue for me was legroom. I had plenty of legroom in the front. But when my seat was where I wanted it, only small children or diminutive adults would be comfortable behind me. Which for a car that is not small. In fact, it’s 192″ L x 78″ W x 71″ H, or 16 feet long, six and a half feet wide, and almost six feet tall. What I’ve always wondered about SUVs is why the rear seats don’t move back. Use some of the cargo space in the back to provide the option of more legroom for the rear passengers. Some minivans have rear middle row seats that slide back for enhanced legroom. It’s a serious deficiency in an otherwise super appealing vehicle.

DSC_5236The other impediment being the price. The base price is $82,950. Then add things like Driver Assist Package at $4k, Tow Package at almost $1.1k, Meridien Signature 1700 watt Sound System for just over $4.5k, Carbon Fiber Exterior Pack at $3.5k, On/Off Road pack for what sounds like a bargain $565, some of this and some of that and voila the sticker bottom line is $105,170. Which is a serious number. It’s hard to figure out comparable vehicles. Especially given the heritage that Range Rover brings to the category. But in the luxury world, the Bentley Bentayga with a 542 V8 that gets to 60 under four seconds stickers at $168,000. Of course the fuel economy isn’t as good. But really once you’re in the six figure range it doesn’t seem like fuel economy is a deciding factor. The Mercedes AMG-GLS63 is a three row SUV and stickers just about $126,000. It really becomes a matter of which badge you prefer. Any vehicle at this level will be pretty amazing, with some significant highlights, and some things one may like better or worse than other vehicles of this size, power, and price range.

DSC_5245We’ve reached that point in the creation of automobiles where there really aren’t any more Yugos – cars that may or may not work as intended – and it all becomes a matter of your personal preference, your pocketbook, and your proclivity for frugality versus frills.

I’ll admit I missed the imposing, sleek, powerful HST when I had to turn it back over to the nice people who loaned it to me and it pulled away, off to another lucky reviewer. DSC_5241

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

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow; Engine Image (c) Land Rover

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.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EcoDiesel: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s, like, the new diesel engine in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler takes some of the fun out of off-roading. Hey, how can you impress the significant other with your boonie-bashing skills when your 12-year-old sister probably could do it?

With spotters, of course, especially if it’s in an area like Sand Hollow in southwest Utah, which attracts Jeepers from all over, along with other off-roadsters in all-terrain vehicles, side-by-sides and trucks — in fact, almost anything with four-wheel drive and the chops to take on prehistoric-looking country.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara

The spotters are the guys and gals working for Jeep to guide the off-roaders so they don’t crinkle the bodywork of the shiny new Wranglers as they hum their way around a trackless off-road course that you’d never find by yourself. Hum, that is, not chug. These diesels are muscular athletes with black tie and slinky gown manners.

Jeep aficionados, we are told at the national press introduction, have been agitating for years for two things: a pickup truck and a diesel engine for the Wrangler. Jeep slaked the first thirst with the 2020 Gladiator pickup and now satiates the appetite for diesel grunt — so far only in the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

Besides the off-road experience, not as dramatic as expected, the event also included sedate scenic motoring through Zion National Park, next door to Springdale, Utah, as well as a bite of freeway driving from there to Sand Hollow.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara EcoDiesel

Jeep insists on calling its new model an EcoDiesel, no doubt to emphasize the inherent fuel economy of the 3.0-liter V-6 compression ignition engine, which runs on standard diesel fuel but likely would work as well with clean diesel made from algae or plants.

In addition to fuel economy, diesel engines are all about low-end torque, or twisting force. The Wrangler EcoDiesel makes 260 hp along with a whopping 442 lb-ft of torque that kicks in at about 1,400 rpm.

That’s barely above idle speed and is what gives this new Wrangler its spectacular off-road capability. In places, Sand Hollow is as challenging as the famed Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains between Sacramento, California and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The Rubicon has many areas where spotters are always present to save drivers from trashing their vehicles — and blocking other off-roaders.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara

Contrary to the popular TV notion of Jeeps flying off sand dunes and cliffs at high speeds, true off-roading is a slow and sometimes grueling prospect. In some places in competitions around the world it entails  requiring drivers and companions to dig out of bogs and make roadside repairs.

That was not the situation at Sand Hollow with the Wrangler EcoDiesel, whose drivers were guided throughout by experienced spotters. Speeds seldom exceeded a couple of miles an hour and, of course, the Jeeps were designed with state-of-the-art off-road equipment, including automatically disconnecting sway bars and locking front and rear differentials.

But the most important aspect — and the inherent quality — that made even novices look experienced was the diesel engine. With gasoline engines on the Sand Hollow course, there would have been fits of stops, starts, jerking and slipping as drivers alternately punched and feathered the throttle and stabbed the brakes.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara

With the Jeep’s diesel engine’s massive torque, it was simply a matter of maintaining a light foot on the accelerator pedal to climb up, over, through and around boulders, depressions and berms along the course. It’s safe to say almost every driver came away feeling like an expert.

The other part of the story, not to be ignored because any Jeep owner must take to the highways and byways to get to the off-road skill areas. That means the new Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel must perform as well as an everyday commuter vehicle.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine

It does that, and more, especially in the more family-oriented hard top station wagon configuration, which believe it or not is a comfortable cruiser on the highway to the beach or lake vacation. Cheap, too. Driving at more than 80 miles an hour (excuse, please, Utah highway patrol) the tested 4,737-lb Wrangler Sahara was clocking more than 30 mpg.

The only minor glitch was maintaining on-center steering and straight-line driving. There was some slop off-center, wiggling and frequent corrections required. Perfectly understandable, because the Wrangler has solid rear axles front and rear, which mandates traditional recirculating ball steering.

Got a problem with that? Not here.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara EcoDiesel

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EcoDiesel Sahara 4X4 four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6 diesel; turbocharged; 260 hp, 442 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive, high and low ranges.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 2 inches.
  • Ground clearance: 10-11 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 104/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,737 pounds.
  • Estimated city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/33/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,140.
  • Price as tested: $55,125.

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

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara EcoDiesel

Photos (c) FCA North America

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though it looks almost the same as its predecessor, the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque could be named the Evolve. It’s a more refined version of itself, as if it had attended finishing school.

On paved roads it is commendably quiet, comfortable and luxurious with understated agility and dignified road manners suited to royalty. Queen Elizabeth, who does some of her own driving, would be at home in an Evoque.

rrevq20mysilveroffroad007The Evoque comes from Great Britain’s storied Land Rover, which means its schooling included brawny feats of strength negotiating trackless wilderness. The Evoque has that, including the capability to motor through nearly two feet of standing water.

In the U.S., however, it’s doubtful that many customers would choose the Evoque — or its siblings — for anything other than the fashionable image of parking it outside the house or business. A hard-core off-roader likely would buy a used Land Rover or the all-new Defender.

The original Evoque arrived in 2012 and has been a steady presence in Land Rover’s lineup. It is the smallest of the Range Rovers, competing in a class of small crossover SUVs that includes the Porsche Macan, Audi Q3 and Lincoln Corsair.

rrevq20mystonestatic004Though the base Evoque comes with a price tag of $43,645, the version tested here was a First Edition, which translated into the fully loaded model with every option and a sticker price of $57,845.

The most striking thing about it was its 21-inch wheels, which stylishly filled out the wheel openings and improved the ground clearance, already more than eight inches. However, for tough going at the original Evoque’s debut, the front bumper was removed for a better approach angle. The same might be needed for the 2020 model.

The tester came with Land Rover’s Terrain Response: selectable settings for on-road fuel economy; comfort; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts, and sand. There also was an automatic setting and hill descent control for off-roading.

rrevq20myredstatic013Power comes from Land Rover’s 246-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 269 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. The engineers have done a masterful job of smoothing out inherent vibrations so this turbo four feels more like a smooth six-cylinder engine.

Turbo lag is almost nonexistent. The annoyance comes from the idle stop-start system, which shuts the engine down at stops, then takes a few seconds to restart before moving off. Fortunately, the stop-start can be turned off with the touch of a digital icon.

There are few buttons or switches controlling the Evoque. Almost everything operates digitally by touching a smooth surface. The equipment should include lessons in emoji reading to figure out what all the little symbols mean. Adjustments can be distracting and should not be attempted while underway.

rrevq20myinteriornd22111805The power gets to all  four wheels through a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission that can be manually paddle-shifted. Besides the Drive position, there’s a sport setting that adjusts shifts to higher rpms for better performance.

Land Rover rates the zero to 60 mph acceleration at seven seconds, though the Evoque feels quicker and independent tests have put the acceleration in the six-second range. Top speed is rated at 143 mph.

But the proof is in the driving. Though the Evoque is a small, though not so tall, crossover SUV, it handles more like a sport sedan on twisting roads. Automatic torque vectoring divides the power side-to-side at the rear wheels to help hustle around curves and enhance the feeling of control.

rrevq20myinfotainments4422111801Inside, passengers are isolated from road, engine and wind noises in sumptuous surroundings that include dual automatic climate zones, supportive ventilated leather seats and quality trim materials.

As a small crossover, the Evoque does not offer generous space. Front-seat passengers have plenty and the back seat is barely accommodating of average-sized adults. But any poor soul relegated to the center-rear seat, with a hard cushion and big floor hump, should be a small child or gymnast. Rear vision is compromised by a small back window and large rear headrests. Behind the rear seat is a cargo area of 22 cubic feet.

Like some other European manufacturers, Land Rover doesn’t quite get a few things. The Evoque has a panoramic glass sunroof with an opaque sunshield. But it doesn’t open. The front sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides. And there are no assist handles front or rear to help people enter and exit.

rrevq20myinteriornd22111822Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First Edition four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 246 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 92/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,935 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,845.
  • Price as tested: $57,845.

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

rrevq20mysilverstatic013Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Los Angeles, CASparks are flying at Ford. Hot on the tailgate of the company’s all-new electric Mustang Mach-E, the company’s  Lincoln division brought its compact luxury sparkler: the 2021 Corsair Grand Touring crossover sport utility vehicle.

It was introduced here following the debut of the Mustang Mach-E, both in connection with the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve Appearance Package

The Grand Touring is not as avant garde as its Mustang cousin but qualifies as a somewhat electric, a plug-in hybrid that can run up to 25 miles on purely battery power. Of course, for hybrid running it has a gasoline engine as well.

It was a rapid addition to the lineup of the existing Corsair, itself introduced only seven months ago at the New York Auto Show, and furthers the company’s electrification ambitions. Lincoln now has a full lineup of SUVs and crossovers, including hybrid versions of the three-row Aviator.

The new Corsair Grand Touring doesn’t turn heads initially. Except for a unique “Spirit Blue” grille, 20-inch wheels and some trim items, it looks like the existing Corsair models, which are the replacement for Lincoln’s previous MKC crossover.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Like the other Lincolns, the emphasis is on serenity and sanctuary. In addition to designing a quiet, stress-free driving ambiance,  including noise canceling technology and additional insulation, the designers also are focused on what role music can play to enhance the experience.

Though there was no opportunity to drive the Grand Touring at its grand opening here, it doubtless will be similar to that of the other models, only with a smaller impact on the environment. Though no fuel economy numbers were available, a guesstimate here is that the miles per gallon equivalent could work out to 70 MPGe in electric driving and more than 30 miles to the gallon in hybrid mode.

2020 Lincoln Corsair

A 14.4-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, mounted under the passenger compartment, provides the electric power. Recharging from a level II, 240-volt charger takes three to four hours, Lincoln says. It takes 10-11 hours from a standard 110-volt household outlet.

The gasoline-engine Corsair has selectable driving modes for different conditions that adjust multiple functions, including shift points, and steering and suspension systems. They are labeled Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep Conditions.

The Grand Touring hybrid adds two modes: Preserve EV helps recharge the battery up to 75 percent while continuing to use both the engine and motor to deliver full performance. Pure EV puts the Corsair in full electric mode. When the battery runs down, the gasoline engine automatically switches on for hybrid driving.

2020 2.3L Corsair

All-wheel drive is standard on the Grand Touring, with an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and a second electric motor integrated into the continuously-variable automatic transmission. In hybrid mode, they work seamlessly with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine to make 266 hp.

As with other Corsair models, the Grand Touring comes with Lincoln’s “phone as a key” technology, which operates from a smart phone app to lock and unlock doors, open the lift gate and operate interior functions.

2020 Corsair at NYIAS

Also, Lincoln Co-Pilot 360, a driver assist system that includes pre-collision emergency braking, roadside speed sign recognition, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering, emergency evasive steering assist, reverse braking assist, and active parking assist to park the Corsair automatically in perpendicular or parallel spaces.

Estimated to start at more than $50,000, the Corsair Grand Touring will go on sale in the summer of 2020. It will be built at the company’s Louisville (KY) Assembly Plant.

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

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve Appearance Package

Photos (c) Lincoln

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