Search

The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Tag

American sedans

2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury sports sedan brought back memories of when the General Motors flagship brand started its move to a new neighborhood, mainly German.

It was a national press introduction of an all-new 2003 Cadillac, the CTS, at the storied Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey County, California, then sponsored by Mazda and now by aftermarket manufacturer WeatherTech. 

It was Cadillac’s first foray into performance-oriented sedans that bore little resemblance to the plush but mushy land-yacht Fleetwood and De Ville models that had characterized the brand. The idea was to butt bumpers with the Germans and co-opt some of their customers.

The CTS came first. It had sharp, edgy styling, solid performance and rear-wheel drive, reversing years of Cadillacs with front-wheel drive. Earlier, of course, all American cars had rear-wheel drive, and the conventional wisdom was that rear drive was superior to front-wheel drive for sports sedans. 

Although the CTS was a bit bigger, its intended targets were the compact luxury sports sedans: BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 — and even the Lexus IS, as well as the larger Lincoln LS/Jaguar S-Type, which shared platforms and some parts.

The Laguna Seca press introduction was an eye-opener for some of the automotive journalists, including this reviewer. So capable was the CTS on and off the track it stirred feelings of chauvinism that an American sports sedan could compete so handily with the best of the Europeans.

Some of those same impressions surfaced recently driving the 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury sedan. It is among eight automobiles voted as semifinalists for the North American Car of the Year, nominated by an independent 50-member jury of automotive journalists from the United States and Canada (including this writer).

Like its predecessor CTS, the new CT4 also comes in a V Blackwing version, designed to competed with the ultra-performance BMW M models, the AMG versions from Mercedes-Benz and S models from Audi. The CT4-V comes with a price tag that starts around $58,000. 

However, the tester here is the midlevel Premium Luxury model. It comes with a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. It also comes with a lower base price of $38,590, including the destination charge, and a bottom-line sticker of $44,990. 

To borrow from a popular movie candy, it’s good and plenty. With its 10-speed automatic transmission, the tested CT4 can nail 60 mph in about five seconds, with a top speed of 165 mph, according to tests by Car and Driver magazine. There’s a manual-shift mode with paddle shifters but you’re not likely to do any better shifting for yourself. The onboard computer works best.

As with its European and Japanese competitors, the CT4’s other strong suit is handling. Though it rides on self-sealing, all-season tires (there’s no spare), it has a firm grip on curves, abetted by a tightly snubbed suspension system and accurate steering. Of course, that means it lacks a traditional cushy Cadillac ride. On some surfaces, it gets shaky but overall, the CT4 does a decent job of absorbing road chop without getting unsettled.

There’s a raucous bark under hard acceleration and some engine drone during highway cruising, though not enough to overcome Taylor Swift on audio and discourage long-distance traveling. Front seats, upholstered in perforated leather, are comfortable with good seatback bolstering for rapid driving. Outboard back seats, tight on head and knee room, also are supportive, though getting back there takes some agility through the small door opening. The center-rear seat is a bummer with a hard perch, giant floor hump and crunching head room.

Out back, there’s a smallish trunk that is fairly deep and nicely finished with C-hinges that are isolated to not damage contents. With no spare, activate the OnStar if you blow a tire.

The tested CT4 Premium Luxury came with full safety equipment, including forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot alert, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and rear parking assist. 

Comfort and convenience items, some optional, included a navigation system with Bose premium audio, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power lumbar support for front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity, OnStar emergency services, HD radio and LED headlights.

Though the CT4 is a driver’s car, you can also order SuperCruise, Cadillac’s semi-autonomous driving system.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.7-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 325 hp, 380 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 90/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,615 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/30/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,590.
  • Price as tested: $44,990.

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

Photos (c) Cadillac

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Call them the brute and the ballet master. They are the 2020 Dodge Charger Widebody models: the SRT Hellcat and the Scat Pack.

No tutus allowed, they were introduced in full roar in wine country, California, around Napa Valley and at the Sonoma Raceway near the city of the same name. It is 2.5 miles and a dozen of sometimes blind corners and 160 feet of elevation changes.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody

Dodge has a Challenger lineup as well but nobody can challenge the fact that this automaker is the champion of mass-produced performance cars, including the Hellcat, the fastest four-door you can find.

Not that we have to tell Dodge enthusiasts, but the SRT Hellcat V8 pumps out 707 hp and can nail 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and the quarter mile in 10.96 seconds, with a top speed of 196 mph. Those are Dodge specs, but who’s to argue?

That’s the brute. The ballet master is the Scat Pack, powered by the 6.4-liter (392 cubic inches) Hemi V8 engine that delivers 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, enough to hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds.

New aggressive and modern Widebody exterior, optional on Charger Scat Pack features new front and rear fascias with integrated fender flares, adding 3.5 inches of width over the wider wheels and tires.

It is the focus here as the most affordable and best handling of the two, though the tester had a base price of $41,490 and a bottom-line sticker price of $58,245. But never mind. There are plenty of other Chargers for other income brackets, including a basic SXT model that looks almost the same for $31,390, including the destination fee.

Both the $71,140 Hellcat and the Scat Pack came with the Widebody package, which adds fender flares and 20-inch wheels that are 11 inches wide. The treatment stretches the Widebody models to a width of 6 feet 6 inches at the haunches.

Powering the 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody is the naturally aspirated 392 cubic-inch HEMI® V-8 with best-in-class 485 horsepower

It’s reminiscent of 1959, when Pontiac introduced its Wide-Track models. The idea was to stress stability and handling, though there were few decent handling U.S. cars in the 1950s and 1960s. As race driver and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby once opined: “Great motors. Couldn’t turn, couldn’t stop.”

That cannot be said any more of American muscle cars, and the 2020 Charger Scat Pack Widebody is the prime example. Though it is nearly 17 feet long and weighs 385 pounds more than two tons, it is one of the sweetest handling machines you can find.

The 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody features an available new leather flat-bottom steering wheel

With the driver cosseted in well-bolstered suede sport seats that grip the torso, aided by well-weighted power steering, sport suspension upgrades and sticky tires on the 20X11-inch wheels, the Scat Pack Widebody calmly gobbles curves and corners on the road and race track.

Though you can use the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters, there’s no need. The eight-speed automatic transmission picks the proper gear for the situation all by itself. And Brembo performance disc brakes engineered by Dodge stop the Scat Pack Widebody in 107 feet from 60 mph, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Beyond its menacing stance, the newly designed front fascia on the Charger Scat Pack Widebody includes a new mail-slot grille, providing the most direct route for cool air to travel into the radiator, to maintain ideal operating temperature even in the hottest conditions.

One principle behind all the Charger models, as expressed by the Dodge boys, is to provide a four-door sedan that a family can drive from coast to coast but also delivers exhilarating performance.

But if you do plan to undertake long-distance travel, the Scat Pack Widebody may not be the choice unless you enjoy the constant burbling of a powerful V8 engine. You can mitigate it somewhat because the Scat Pack has five selectable driving modes, the noisiest of which is the Sport setting, which holds transmission shifts to higher rpms. Better to select one of the more sedate, even economical, modes.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody features Scat Pack Bee badge on the deck lid

Classified as a large car by the federal government because of its interior volume, the Scat Pack Widebody has 105 cubic feet for passengers and a big, well-finished trunk of 17 cubic feet. There was no spare wheel, likely to aid front to rear weight distribution. An air pump nestled beneath the trunk floor.

For traveling, the back seat is comfortable for only two. The center-rear passenger must contend with a hard cushion, giant floor hump and intrusion of the center console.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody

The Widebody models are distinguished by a so-called mail slot grille with openings designed to enhance brake and engine cooling. The fender flares accommodate the wide tires.

Mark Trostle, Fiat Chrysler’s head of performance, passenger and utility vehicle design, described the new Hellcat and Scat Pack Widebody models: “The goal was to make them badass, intimidating and timeless.”

There’s no argument here.

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 6.4 liter (392 cubic inches) V8; 485 hp, 475 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall Length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • Width: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 105/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,385 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Est. 15/24/18 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,490.
  • Price as tested: $58,245.

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

2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody in F8 Green exterior color with Satin Black Painted hood, roof and deckli.

Photos (c) FCA North America

2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because Ford’s forte tilts toward trucks, people sometimes forget that it builds some impressive performance cars, including hopped-up versions of standard fare like the 2017 Fusion V6 Sport.

Its hottest piece of performance machinery is the GT, a purpose-built super car that can be driven on the track or street. But it is intended for racing conglomerates or enthusiasts with mega-bucks, given its price tag north of $450,000.

17FusionSport_35_HRNo, we’re talking here about pavement and boondocks blasters that real people can buy — or at least finance for longer than it will take to get their kids through graduate school: Things like the Ford Raptor, a monster off-road truck intended for places like the Baja 1000 in Mexico’s lower California.

More to the point here, there’s the Ford Focus RS, a plebian hot rod that can rocket to 60 mph in less than five seconds thanks to its all-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox and 350-hp 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine — all at a price between $37,000 and $40,000.

Though affordable for many enthusiasts, it is rude and crude, something like the Harley-Davidson of hatchbacks. There likely are those who would appreciate a bit more refinement, which is where the new Fusion V6 sport slots in.

17FusionSport_14_HRIt uses the same twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine that also powers some versions of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, which is way bigger and heavier. In the Fusion, it delivers 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque funneled through a beefy 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Using all four wheels to deliver power is a fine idea. Sending all that grunt just to the front wheels likely would fry those tires and result in such heavy torque steer that it would rip the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands.

Moreover, the Fusion Sport also has (guess what?) a sport mode. A simple button resides in the center of the rotary knob on the center console that controls the transmission. Select “drive” and you still can hammer the throttle to send the Fusion to 60 mph in around five seconds.

17FusionSport_10_HRBut push that S button and a bunch of things happen. The automatically adaptive shock absorbers tighten up, the steering takes more effort, the engine reacts more quickly to throttle inputs and the 6-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine on the boil by shifting at higher rpms.

If you choose, you also can use the steering wheel paddles to shift for yourself — but the system doesn’t trust you. Keep your foot in it too long and it will shift anyway to avoid triggering a power shutoff. But on up-and-down twisting mountain curves, it usually will hold the gear you select.

Even in the Sport mode, however, the Fusion has a settled and flexible ride so you can tool around the city and suburbs in comfort, thanks to that adaptive damping.

17FusionSport_09_HROther sport-oriented cars have selectable driving modes, so some enthusiasts might not cotton to the Fusion’s system, which packages all the good stuff in one small button. But it means you don’t have to try to figure out what you want while underway. It’s the full gorilla without distraction.

Obviously, this doesn’t come cheap. But the Fusion Sport actually is not all that expensive given its performance. The base price of the tester was $34,350, which is about average price of new cars these days. With options, it topped out at $41,350.

That encompassed a full suite of safety and driving assists: automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear-view camera, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic parallel or perpendicular parking, voice-activated navigation with an eight-inch center touch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

17FusionSport_31_HRThere’s plenty of comfort for four. But the center-rear seat, as in most sedans these days, is compromised by a hard cushion and restricted head and foot space.

A welcome safety feature that is receiving increased attention: If you inadvertently leave the Fusion Sport in “Drive” when you turn off the engine, it automatically kicks the transmission into “Park.” Some other vehicles simply roll away.

One cool thing about the Fusion Sport is that it is a stealth car. It doesn’t have a spoiler or badges that scream performance. The main tip-off is the shiny black grille with a chrome frame. But only the cognoscenti will notice that. You can surprise some lead-foots in the stoplight sprints.

17FusionSport_41_HRSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:7-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 325 hp, 380 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,130 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/26/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,350.
  • Price as tested: $41,350.

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

17FusionSport_42_HRPhotos (c) Ford.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑