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Compact Crossovers

2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE: A DriveWays Review…

byFrank A. Aukofer

There’s no better indication of the relentless onslaught by crossover utility vehicles than the 2019 Toyota RAV4, which arrives with a medley of 13 stylish versions, including gasoline and hybrid powertrains with all-wheel or front-wheel drive.

As it teases the public with the all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan — the company’s all-time best-seller with 45 million copies sold since its introduction in 1966 — the RAV4 has muscled its way to the top of the compact crossover category.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_02Last year it outsold the Corolla and the company’s onetime best-seller, the midsize Camry sedan. In 2018, the RAV4 is selling at an annual rate of about 424,000, outpacing the Camry’s 348,000 and the Corolla’s 309,000. The latter includes the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback.

With the buying public’s appetite for crossovers, that should continue for the foreseeable future. The RAV4’s major competitors — the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape — will be in the chase, though the Rogue is an anomaly because Nissan lumps two different vehicles — the Rogue and Rogue Sport — into a single sales statistic.

Other competitors, including the Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Compass, Dodge Journey, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, should continue strong but with lower numbers.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Group_04The array of new RAV4 models starts with the front-wheel drive LE trim level at $26,545 and ranges up to the all-wheel drive Hybrid Limited with a base price of $36,745. However, options increase the prices on all versions, up to $40,375 for the top-line Hybrid Limited. Prices include a $1,045 destination charge.

All RAV4 trim levels come with Toyota’s second-generation Safety Sense suite of active safety capabilities and technologies, including pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, automatic headlight high beams, lane-departure warning and mitigation, and lane tracing and road sign assists.

Also standard on all RAV4s is Toyota’s Entune 3.0 multimedia system, which includes Wi-Fi with capabilities for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as Apple Car Play compatibility. The system uses a seven-inch touch screen.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_45Of the 13 RAV4 versions, four are hybrids: LE, XLE, sporty XSE and Limited. There also are four gasoline-engine models with front-wheel drive: LE, XLE, XLE Premium and Limited. The remaining nine versions, including all of the hybrids, come with all-wheel drive. That includes a separate, gasoline-only Adventure with a price tag of $33,945 that can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Gasoline models are powered by a new 203-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 lb-ft of torque. They come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Hybrids use a different tune of the 2.5-liter engine with 176 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque working with an electric motor. Combined, the system delivers 219 horsepower. The transmission is a continuously-variable automatic. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 41/37/39 mpg.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_59Though other models were driven, the focus of this review is on the more economically-priced but well equipped XLE model with front-wheel drive. It has an EPA fuel economy rating of 27/34/29 mpg. The starting price is $28,345 and options boost the sticker to $31,545.

Standard equipment included a motorized sunroof, power rear lift gate, folding outside power mirrors with blind spot warning, Bluetooth connectivity, LED outside lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton starting and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Option packages provided an upgraded Entune system with SXM satellite radio, eight-inch touch screen, eight-way power driver’s seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated steering wheel and front seats, and five USB ports.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_47The RAV4 has passenger space that rivals that of a midsize sedan along with 38 cubic feet for cargo. The back seats are split 60-40 and recline as well as fold for additional cargo.

Inside, the tester delivered long-distance comfort and space for four passengers. The fifth person in the center-rear has a less comfortable seat but OK head and knee room. Seats all-around were upholstered in sturdy cloth with contrasting stitching. Armrests and trim were of soft-touch material.

On the road, the tested RAV4 exhibited more than adequate acceleration in passing, abetting an unscientific estimate of a zero to 60 mph acceleration time in the neighborhood of eight seconds. The more powerful hybrid was a bit quicker.

The cabin was quiet with little intrusion of mechanical or road noise on smooth roads, though rough pavement sounds reverberated inside. Handling was secure around curves with steady tracking in straight-line driving. The brake pedal felt a bit soft, especially on hybrid models, but stopping was not affected.

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_08Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE four-door crossover utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 203 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/38 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,380 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,345.
  • Price as tested: $31,545.

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

2019_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_FWD_MagneticGrayMetallic_06Photos (c) Toyota

2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

BMW, the Bavarian Motor Works of Germany, has been masterful at plugging holes in its high-performance luxury lineup, especially with crossover sport utility vehicles. Now, with the 2018 X2 xDrive28i, it’s even filling a small gap where there was no hole.

The company, somehow sensing that crossovers would be the next big thing, already marketed the X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6 crossover SUVs, plus higher-performance M versions of the X5 and X6. Most are built in the company’s plant in Spartanburg, SC, and exported around the world.

P90278977_highResNow it has slipped the X2 between the smallest X1 and compact X3. But unlike its garage mates, it is more of an amalgamation of a crossover and small hatchback or wagon.

Though built on the same front-wheel drive platform as the X1 and BMW’s Mini Countryman, it is shorter than the X1 with a lower roofline, giving it a sleeker, more sporting appearance while maintaining a crossover look.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, a crossover is an SUV built like a sedan with unit-body construction. A pure SUV, which doesn’t appear anywhere in the BMW lineup, is constructed like a pickup truck with a separate body and frame.

No BMW comes cheap, and the new X2 is no exception. Its performance and quality dictate a high price compared to other, similar vehicles. The tested X2, with xDrive — meaning all-wheel drive — came with a base price of $39,395 and, as tested with a load of expensive options, checked in at $50,920.

P90278987_highResOn the performance side, it is powered by a 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mounted crosswise under the hood like most front-drive based vehicles. The engine makes 258 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by steering-wheel mounted paddles.

The combination is enough to propel the X2 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds with a top speed of 143 mph, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Given BMW’s heritage dating back to the remarkable 1600-2 in 1967, it’s no surprise that the X2 handles beautifully, responding rapidly to steering inputs, cornering with minimal body lean and tracking ruler-straight on the highway. The tradeoff is a harsh ride, especially on the increasingly pockmarked roads all over the country.

Some of the harsh ride likely could be traced to the hard run-flat tires, which eliminate the need for a spare. The X2 also was noisy, with engine and road sounds transmitted into the cabin.

P90278949_highResBut there’s a practical side as well. Passenger volume is 93 cubic feet, which means a couple of adults can sit comfortably in the back seat, though as usual any center-rear passenger gets dissed by a high, hard cushion and a big floor hump.

Augmenting the passenger pod is a cargo area of 22 cubic feet behind the rear seat, which expands to 50 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded. Total interior volume of 115 feet would place the X2 in the midsize class if it were a sedan.

The biggest items among the $11,525 worth of options were the $5,050 M SportX packages, which included an upgraded automatic transmission and sport suspension, panoramic sunroof, SXM satellite radio, power folding outside mirrors, garage-door opener, sport seats with lumbar support, 19-inch alloy wheels and M Sport exterior and interior trim pieces.

P90278955_highResAlso, the test car came with its most controversial feature: $550 “Galvanic Gold” metallic paint. Comments ranged from people who though it stood out beautifully to others who said it looked hideous. It reminded a few of early BMWs that came with orange paint jobs.

Other features included a power tailgate, LED cornering headlights and fog lights, automatic climate control, a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smart phone charging, Apple CarPlay and a high-zoot Harman Kardon audio system.

In today’s marketplace, it’s not difficult to find a crossover roughly the same size as the X2. With customers and manufacturers abandoning sedans, there are many good choices across the board, from small  vehicles like the Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade to big, three-row crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse and Audi Q7.

However, if you can afford it and your choice is a sports car in semi-crossover guise, the BMW X2 certainly is worth a test drive. The only drawback from an enthusiast’s point of view is that there is no manual shifter available.

P90278961_highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 228 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: Five feet (60.1 inches).
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/22 cubic feet. (50)
  • Weight: 3,685 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,395.
  • Price as tested: $50,920.

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

P90278958_highResPhotos (c) BMW

2018 Ford EcoSport SES: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you happen to have a Madras skirt, shorts or a shirt, you can match it with the 2018 Ford EcoSport SES, which was made in the same place.

Madras clothing, as many older folks recall and a few younger ones have discovered, is made from lightweight summertime cotton with plaid or patterned designs. It is named for the mega-city on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, which has been renamed Chennai.

Ford EcoSport

The EcoSport is actually an international vehicle, a small four-door crossover sport utility vehicle. Though the version sent to the U.S. comes from Chennai, the EcoSport also is manufactured Romania, Russia, China, Thailand and Brazil.

That’s why it looks odd to American eyes: tall, sort of squished front to back and with a side-opening fifth door instead of the more familiar tailgate. A plus: it opens correctly for right-hand drive countries, hinged at the left and opening from curbside on the right. Other small crossovers with side-opening doors, like early Honda CR-Vs, opened the opposite, requiring loaders to stand out in traffic.

Ford EcoSport

The EcoSport is part of a proliferation of mini-sized crossovers that includes the Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Toyota CH-R, Nissan Kicks and Mazda CX-3.

At just 13 feet 5 inches long, it is shorter than other small crossovers and even some hatchbacks like the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra. It is just a few inches longer than BMW’s all-electric i3. Still, it manages 91 cubic feet of space for passengers and 21 cubic feet for cargo, which is equivalent to a midsize sedan.

However, on the EcoSport space is not allocated well. There’s plenty of room and comfort up front, but the second row comes up short on knee room, which would force the driver and front passenger to move their seats forward simply to accommodate those in back.

Ford EcoSport

Once you divvy up the space, rear-seat passengers get generous headroom to go with the short knee room. Outboard passengers, as usual, fare the best while the unfortunate in the center position must contend with cramped foot space and an uncomfortable cushion.

The basic S version, with a $20,990 price tag, comes with a 123-hp, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 125 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It also is available with other trim levels but was not driven for this review, likely because it is more suited to the byways of Bangkok and Bengal than Milwaukee or Miami.

Instead, the tested EcoSport was the SES model with all-wheel drive. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes a more Yankee-friendly 166 hp with 149 lb-ft of torque, also with a six-speed automatic transmission. On the SES, the automatic was enhanced by a manual-shift mode that included steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.

ecosport-trunkThat combination transforms the Eco-Sport into an entertaining urban runabout of a size that can dodge traffic and park easily almost anywhere. The main downside is lackluster fuel economy — just 23/29/25 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined cycles.

With a $27,735 price tag, the SES comes well-equipped with rear cross-traffic alert, navigation, blind-spot warning, pushbutton starting, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed cloth upholstery, heated front seats, the paddles for manual shifting and 17-inch alloy wheels.

More important from the driver’s standpoint is a stiffer suspension system for improved handling. The EcoSport SES handles curves without much lean and cruises steadily on freeways. Safety equipment does not include collision warning, automatic emergency braking or lane-departure mitigation.

Ford EcoSport

The tester’s price tag placed it at the top end of the mini crossover class. Comparably equipped competitors sell for less, though the new all-wheel drive Hyundai Kona Ultimate has a higher price tag of $29,775.

However, an all-wheel drive Honda HR-V has a sticker price of $24,660. The new Nissan Kicks checks in at $22,205 and the Toyota CH-R sells for $24,060. However, both the Kicks and CH-R have front-wheel drive.

Ford has announced that it will bail out of sedans, which means the demise of the subcompact Fiesta, compact Focus and midsize Fusion. It will concentrate on trucks, no surprise because its F-Series pickups have been best-sellers for four decades.

Because of the current buyer infatuation with SUVs and crossovers of all sizes, shapes and price classes, the EcoSport likely will continue to anchor the bottom of the Ford lineup, which includes the Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition.

Ford EcoSport

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Ford EcoSport SES four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 166 hp, 149 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:13 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,300 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/25/29  mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,735.
  • Price as tested: $27,735.

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

Ford EcoSport

Photos (c) Ford

2018 Nissan Kicks: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If the 2018 Nissan Kicks landed a part in a western movie, bystanders likely would be moved to say, “Seems like a mighty fine ride.”

The Kicks is the latest in a proliferation of small crossover sport utility vehicles, though it is not accurate to call them subcompacts because their interior volume – the combination passenger and cargo space — nearly matches that of a midsize sedan.

2018 Nissan Kicks Blue

For the Kicks, it amounts to 119 cubic feet, with 94 cubes for passengers and 25 for cargo behind the back seat. Another cubic foot and the interior space would be in the federal government’s large car category.

It becomes apparent when you climb inside. The Kicks has ample head-, shoulder- and knee-room front and back. Even the center-rear passenger, who usually is dissed in most vehicles, gets almost as much room, with a nearly flat floor, as the outboard passengers, although he or she must sit on a raised, hard cushion.

Nissan regards the Kicks’s main competitors as the Kia Soul, Ford EcoSport and the all-new Hyundai Kona. But there are others, including the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR and Chevrolet Trax.

2018 Nissan Kicks

Although some of these can be ordered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Kicks — like the Toyota C-HR — comes only with front-drive. It also betrays its economy orientation with disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes on the rear wheels. But they are effective given the Kicks’s light weight.

It’s an endearing package for young couples or singles with limited budgets. Nissan says the styling was inspired by a concept car that made its debut in Brazil. Five youth-oriented two-tone paint combinations are available.

There are four trim levels, starting with the base S model and moving up to the SV, SR and the tested SR Premium, which is the top of the line. Prices start at $18,965 for the S, $20,665 for the SV and $21,265 for the SR. The SR Premium adds $1,000 for a total of $22,265.

2018 Nissan Kicks

Standard equipment on all versions includes automatic emergency braking, cruise control, hill-start assist, power windows, hands-free telephone system, Bluetooth connectivity, pushbutton starting, keyless locking, automatic headlights and roof rails.

Features on upper level models include Apple CarPlay, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, alloy wheels, SXM satellite radio, heated outside mirrors, LED low-beam headlights, around-view camera and remote starting.

The tested SR Premium had all of that plus an upscale Bose audio system with eight speakers, a security system and heated cloth front seats with faux leather trim. The seats, using Nissan’s “zero gravity” design, were particularly luxurious with superb support and comfort.

B-Roll video: 2018 Nissan Kicks

At just an inch more than 14 feet long, five feet two inches tall and weighing just 2,672 pounds, the Kicks is quick, maneuverable and economical in urban traffic, as well as on desolate freeways and curving mountain roads. It cruises quietly at freeway-plus speeds, delivers an acceptable ride on rough surfaces and holds a straight line without frequent steering corrections.

Though its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine has but 125 hp and 115 lb-ft of torque, the light weight combined with a vigorous continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) delivers instant throttle response, making it feel faster than it is. Some critics bash CVTs for their lack of shift points, as well as sounds and a feel that the transmission is slipping.

2018 Nissan Kicks

That’s not the case here. Of all the manufacturers, Nissan likely has the most experience with CVTs and it shows. Unless you are overly sensitive or picky, you won’t even notice anything unusual. Mash the throttle or feather-foot it, the Kicks easily moves off.

City/highway/combined fuel economy on the SR Premium is rated by the EPA at 31/36/33 mpg.

The cargo area behind the second-row seats is well-designed and roomy. Space more than doubles from 25 to 53 cubic feet when the rear seatbacks are folded. However, though they fold flat they are a step above the cargo floor. There’s an overhead privacy cover and a temporary spare tire resides under the cargo floor. Moreover, the tailgate rises high enough for a six-foot-tall person to load or unload without ducking.

Though the Nissan folks say that the Kicks is not a replacement for its quirky Juke, the Juke itself is going away from the U.S. market. Its Kicks replacement amounts to a more than worthy replacement and entry in the increasingly competitive small crossover class.

2018 Nissan Kicks

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Nissan Kicks SR Premium four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, 125 hp, 115 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/25 cubic feet. (53)
  • Weight: 2,672 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 31/36/33 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,265.
  • Price as tested: $22,025.

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

2018 Nissan Kicks

Photos (c) Nissan

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Q: When is an Eclipse not an Eclipse? A: When it’s a 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

Okay. It has nothing to do with the eclipse of the sun that plunged parts of the United States into total darkness on Aug. 21, 2017.

Nope. It’s about an all-new crossover sport utility vehicle from  Mitsubishi of Japan that reprises a name from the past but on a completely different vehicle.

2018 Eclipse Cross

The original Eclipse was a sports coupe and convertible marketed in four different versions over 22 years from 1990 to 2012. For some of that time, Mitsubishi had a relationship with Chrysler, and the Eclipse also was rebadged as the Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser.
Resurrecting the Eclipse name injects a dose of familiarity into a new vehicle that aims to take advantage of the stampede of buyers to crossovers — at the expense of traditional sedans and station wagons.

Some crossovers are little more than jacked-up hatchbacks with a bit of extra ground clearance and, in most cases, optional all-wheel drive. That’s not the case with the Eclipse Cross, which was designed from the get-go as a crossover with front- or all-wheel drive.

2018 Eclipse Cross

It is slightly smaller than popular compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, competing more directly against the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Buick Encore, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Niro, Nissan Rogue Sport and Hyundai Kona.

As such, it is an affordable vehicle for singles, couples and small families who seek low-cost wheels with decent cargo space. It also is a tidy package for parking and negotiating urban traffic.

The Eclipse Cross is 14 feet 5 inches long with 95 cubic feet of space for passengers and 23 cubic feet for cargo behind the second-row seats. It has edgy styling, especially when viewed from the rear, which dictates a split tailgate window.

Though that restricts rear vision somewhat, the designers made up for it by installing rear headrests that slide up for passengers and down for a better view behind. The rear seats can be adjusted fore and aft to divvy space between passengers and cargo, and the backs fold nearly flat to expand the cargo area. The cargo floor, which is a tad high, hides a full-size temporary spare wheel and tire.

2018 Eclipse Cross

There are five trim levels, ranging from the front-drive ES at $24,900 to the SEL Touring at $31,390. The base price of the tested SE model with Mitsubishi’s S-AWC electronically controlled all-wheel drive  was $27,390. (The S-AWC, which stands for Super All-Wheel Control, has driver selectable adjustments for snow, gravel and automatic operation). With a few minor options, the tested price came to $27,715.

Power comes from a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 152 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT) with a manual-shift mode.

With such a small engine, expectations were not high. But the combination delivers a strong and sprightly surge off the line, making the Eclipse Cross feel faster than it actually is. Though many critics deride CVTs for a sensation that the transmission is slipping, this one has very little of that. The small crossover cruises happily at freeway-plus speeds, though city/highway/combined fuel economy is just 25/26/25 mpg — likely because the little engine has to work hard.

2018 Eclipse Cross

Inside, comfort is first rate. The SE model came with heated and  luxurious cloth seats that were relaxing and supportive, with prominent seatback bolsters to coddle the torso. Seat adjustments were manual but allowed fine tuning. Outboard seats in back are similarly accommodating and even the center-rear position, though less comfortable, is at least usable.

Equipment included blind-spot warning, lane departure assist and rear cross-traffic alert; heated and automatic folding outside mirrors;  dual-zone automatic climate control; pushbutton starting, electric parking brake, rain-sensing windshield wipers; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; fog lights, and HD and SXM satellite radio.

The center touchscreen controls were not intuitive and required close attention to operate, so would be distracting to a driver trying to make adjustments while underway. Better to get things set up before moving off. Though there were remote audio buttons on the steering wheel, there was no volume control knob.

Despite its minor faults and Mitsubishi’s relatively low profile in the U.S., the new Eclipse Cross deserves a look for anyone seeking an entertaining and inexpensive crossover.

2018 Eclipse Cross

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 152 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,550 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/26/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,390.
  • Price as tested: $27,715.

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

2018 Eclipse Cross

Photos (c) Mitsubishi.

 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With an all-new vehicle for 2019, the Acura RDX has come full circle in a dozen years.

When it was introduced as a 2007 model, the RDX was the first luxury compact crossover sport utility vehicle, slightly larger than its garage-mate at Honda, the popular-priced CR-V.

That RDX came with a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. It delivered 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. In 2007, it had modest sales of 23,356, well behind the 58,545 sales of the midsize MDX.

Advance Action

Though a good first effort, the original RDX was faulted — even by some of its own people at American Honda — for a hard ride and poor fuel economy.

Acura remedied that with the 2013 RDX, substituting a smooth and powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivered better fuel economy as well as 263 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. It was luxurious and quiet with precise handling and a creamy ride.

By 2017, it was nipping at the tailgate of its bigger MDX sibling, and early in 2018 it had become Acura’s best selling vehicle.

Now, with the all-new 2019 model, the RDX returns to a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. But the four-banger turbo motor of today is more refined and sophisticated than the original 2007 because of computer and software advances.

Advance Action

The new one is smaller than the original. It is joining an army of 2.0-liter turbo engines that are becoming an auto industry standard, much as V8 and V6 engines were years ago.

With 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, connected to the front wheels or all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with steering-wheel paddles, the new RDX is an exciting performer with an adjustable ride and Acura’s super-handling all-wheel drive, or SH-AWD. The system uses torque vectoring to control side-to-side movements. It can shift 70% of the power to the rear wheels and direct 100% of that to either rear wheel.

There are four selectable drive modes: snow, comfort, sport and sport plus, which adjust transmission shift points and suspension settings to improve ride, handling and overall performance. As might be expected, the handling improves but the ride gets a bit choppy in sport and sport plus.

Advance Interior

The RDX comes in four trim levels: Standard; Technology; A-Spec; and Advanced, with either front-wheel drive or the SH-AWD all-wheel drive. Tested for this review was the A-Spec, which is mechanically the same as the others but adds appearance items to give it a youthful appeal. It includes instruments — tachometer and speedometer — with red numerals on a gray background, which look great at night but are difficult to read in daylight.

Standard equipment on all RDX trims includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, Acura Watch technology suite, panoramic sunroof with power shade, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto yet), dual-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights and taillights, pushbutton starting and stop-start engine idling. Adaptive shock absorbers, rear cross traffic alert and power tailgate are standard on top trim levels.

Advance Interior

The tested all-wheel drive A-Spec model, with a $46,495 price tag, also came with red leather sport front seats with faux suede inserts; black 20-inch alloy wheels; an ELS premium audio system with 16 speakers, including four in the headliner; gloss black body accents; sport steering wheel, four-inch round exhaust tips and A-Spec badging.

The aggressively bolstered front seats are supportive and hold the torso securely in hard cornering. Outboard back seats are comfortable. The RDX has a nearly flat floor to provide foot and knee space for the center-rear passenger, who unfortunately must sit on a narrow, flat and hard cushion.

Advance Beauty & Details

Acura’s trademarked True Touchpad Interface is certain to cause some initial consternation, as it requires a good bit of study and practice to operate. It controls all vehicle functions displayed on the elevated center screen. Screen displays correspond exactly to the location of a finger on the touchpad. The touchpad itself can be operated without looking, but the driver’s eyes still must focus on the screen. Best to get things set up while the RDX is parked.

There’s 31 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat, which expands to 80 with the seatbacks folded. The area includes three storage tubs, two under the cargo floor. However, the A-Spec has an inflator kit but no spare wheel.

Advance Action

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 272 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches. Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 104/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,019 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/26/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,495.
  • Price as tested: $46,495.

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

Advance Action

Photos (c) Acura.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 Momentum: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the debut of its new XC40, Volvo is the proud parent of triplets vying for attention in the crossover sport-utility class.

The first of three all-new luxury entries from the Swedish manufacturer was the three-row, full-size 2016 XC90. Next came the midsize XC60. Separately, each won top awards from the North American Car of the Year jury, an independent organization of automotive journalists from the US and Canada.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Now we have the 2019 XC40, smaller and lower-priced, but with many of the same qualities that jury members found in its siblings. It is luxurious with exhilarating performance, quiet and comfortable ride, decent handling and state-of-the art embellishments.

One is Pilot Assist, Volvo’s semi-autonomous system. It uses adaptive cruise control and lane-departure mitigation to take over driving chores, though the driver must pay attention and maintain contact with the steering wheel.

The other is the optional Park Assist Pilot, which automatically backs the XC40 into either a parallel or perpendicular parking space. It takes practice, requires a bit more space than a skilled driver would need, and the driver must do all the braking.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观

Though Volvo now is owned by Geely Holding Corporation of China, it operates independently and without much apparent interference from the owner. The Swedish designers and engineers have cleverly delivered three different crossovers that essentially use the same engines and transmissions.

The engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a configuration that is becoming ubiquitous among manufacturers around the world as it replaces V6 and even V8 engines. In the XC90 and XC60, it delivers 316 hp and 296 or 295 lb-ft of torque; in the new XC40, the horsepower is 248 and the torque is rated at 258 lb-ft.

All three of the Volvo crossovers use an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode to deliver the power to all four wheels.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Two versions of the XC40 were available at the introduction: the tested T5 AWD Momentum, with a starting price of $36,195, and the R-Design, which costs an additional $2,500. Later in the model year, Volvo will offer a less-powerful T4 version with front-wheel drive at a starting price of $34,195.

With a substantial list of options, including the aforementioned Pilot and Park Assist systems, the tested XC40 had a bottom-line sticker price of $44,315. Full safety equipment included a collision avoidance system that detects, pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals.

New Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid

Other features included a panoramic glass sunroof, leather upholstery, hands-free power tailgate, blind-spot warning, dual-zone automatic climate control, inductive smart phone charging, an overhead surround-view camera, 19-inch alloy wheels, SXM satellite radio, configurable cargo area and an “ice white” painted roof topping a pale blue body.

With rear vision from the driver’s seat restricted by wide roof pillars and large back-seat headrests, the equipment included a nifty — and welcome — feature. A touch of an icon on the center screen drops the headrests below the top of the seatback. The rear seatbacks also can be folded by touching buttons inside the cargo area, which then expands from 21 to 58 cubic feet.

From the outside, the XC40 exhibits modern, flowing styling that includes doors that wrap over the rocker panels, a clamshell hood design and a cutesy touch: a tiny Swedish flag made of rubber that peeks out from under the hood on the left side.

Park and Pay application in the Volvo XC60

Inside, like its siblings, the XC40’s center screen uses swipe and tap features familiar to anyone who uses a tablet or smart phone. It takes a bit of learning and should not be used underway by the driver because it can be distracting. You must divert your attention in order to tap small rectangles on the screen for different functions.

Two interior shortcomings include a perforated cloth sunscreen for the panoramic glass roof which allows too much sunlight to intrude. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side.

New Volvo XC40 - interior

The interior exudes luxury with comfortable, supportive and well-bolstered seats; large door pockets made possible by relocating speakers for the upscale audio that includes SXM satellite radio, and even a small, easily emptied trash bin in the center console. The back seat delivers ample room for two but the center-rear position should be avoided.

Overall, the XC40 is a formidable contender against luxury compact crossovers that include the Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Infiniti QX30.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 248 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,855 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,195.
  • Price as tested: $44,315.

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

XC40 teaser

Photos (c) Volvo.

 

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not well-known in the U.S., Japan’s Mitsubishi, with its 2018 Outlander PHEV, bows to no automaker in the realm of technological development.

For openers, the plug-in hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle uses a gasoline engine and two electric motors to drive all four wheels. With an app, you can control vehicle climate settings and other functions like battery charging remotely from your smart phone. Communication is direct; a WiFi hot spot is not needed.

2018 Outlander PHEV Named New England Motor Press Association's

There are two standard 120-volt plugs onboard that deliver 1,500 watts of power from the drive battery, enough to run household appliances like toasters, mixers, small refrigerators, electric grills and coffee makers while tailgating.

Mitsubishi — the name means “three diamonds” — has not been a major player in the U.S. It sells a couple of cars — the Lancer and Mirage — along with two smaller crossovers, the Outlander Sport and Eclipse Cross. It also previously sold an electric car, the iMIEV. Overall sales in 2017 totaled 103,578, the first time in more than a decade that it topped 100,000. That included 35,409 Outlanders, its best seller. The new plug-in should enhance that.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The tester was the top-of-the-line Outlander GT with S-AWC, which stands for Super All-Wheel Control — or full-time all-wheel drive. There’s also a four-wheel drive lock mode that mimics a center differential lock for off-road terrain.

The main engine is a 117-hp, 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder that delivers 137 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels along with an 80-hp electric motor with 101 lb-ft of torque.

Driving the rear wheels is another 80-hp electric motor with 144 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a gasoline-fueled generator that boosts the electric motors and helps charge the onboard lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted under the cabin and does not intrude on passenger space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Because electric motors deliver their maximum torque as soon as they are switched on, there’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission. It’s described simply as single-speed automatics front and rear.

All of this works seamlessly. The only indication that this is a complicated plug-in hybrid is when you press the ignition button and a dashboard light reads “ready.” On the road, the Outlander automatically cycles among three hybrid modes. The driver also can physically switch into economy, battery-save and battery-charge modes.

The stated range primarily on electric power is 22 miles. But you’ll seldom get that unless you have a feather foot on the throttle. In conventional urban driving, the test vehicle usually delivered less than 20 miles. Overall range — gasoline and electric — is stated at 310 miles. The EPA rating is 74 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent in hybrid running, and 25 mpg in gasoline operation.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It takes up to eight hours to the charge the battery pack from a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you have access to a 240-volt charger, it takes about four hours. The Outlander PHEV also is capable of handling a level 3 fast charger, which can deliver an 80% charge in 25 minutes.

The tested Outlander came with a full suite of safety equipment, including forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, multi-view rear camera with overhead view and automatic headlight high beams.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Press Launch

Other equipment included LED running lights and taillights, leather upholstery with heated front seats, motorized glass sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers with wiper de-icer, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, auto-dimming inside mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The base price of the tester was $41,190. With a modest list of options, the suggested delivered price came to $42,185. However, it did not include a navigation system. Shortcomings included sun visors that did not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the side, and power front seats without lumbar adjustments.

On the road, in addition to the silent running on electricity, the Outlander PHEV exhibited a decent ride and handling for a midsize crossover. The front seats were supportive but a tad hard. Out back, the outboard seats were similar to the fronts. The seat bottoms flipped up to allow the seatbacks to fold flat to expand the cargo area’s 30 cubic feet of space to 78 cubic feet. However, the headrests must be removed to attain maximum space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 117 hp, 137 lb-ft torque. Two electric motors: front 80 hp, 101 lb-ft torque; rear 80 hp, 144 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,178 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA miles per gallon equivalent: 74 MPGe; 25 mpg gasoline only.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,190.
  • Price as tested:$42,185.

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

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Photos (c) Mitsubishi.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Refinement appears to be the order of the day at the Jeep Division of Fiat Chrysler, adeptly achieved by the 2019 Cherokee Trailhawk Elite with its new look and on-road performance.

Sometimes it seems as if nearly every buyer wants to end up with a stylish sport utility — or a crossover version of one. But crossovers, built with unit bodies like automobiles, are mostly wannabes when it comes to venturing into the boondocks. They usually have all-wheel drive and decent ground clearance, but the capabilities end there.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Not so the Jeep Cherokee. Like every Jeep, it has solid off-road credentials, abetted by such enhancements as four-wheel drive with a low range and lockable rear differential, crawl speed capability, hill descent control and skid plates — all there to match up against rocks, snow, sand and mud.

At the same time, it’s a decent highway cruiser with a new 270-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 295 lb-ft of torque — useful both for difficult slow-motion off-road adventures and on-road acceleration off the line, which happens without that dreaded turbo lag.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

However, there is hesitation if you use the default engine stop-start system. Fortunately, the stop-start can be disabled by simply touching a button on the dash, which was the preference of this driver.

The engine sends its power to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. However, the system negates some of the satisfaction that comes with the absence of turbo lag. Though the Cherokee gets quickly off the line, punching the gas pedal underway to downshift into a passing gear usually results in an annoying lurch before the power comes on.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Though mechanical and road sounds are mostly muted during freeway cruising, plenty of engine noise intrudes during hard acceleration. The ride, as might be expected with a solidly sprung off-road capable vehicle, is choppy on all but the smoothest roads.

However, that suspension system stiffness, along with stable steering, paid off in capable handling with little body lean on curving roads as long as the Cherokee was not pushed too hard.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

With a curb weight of 4,260 lbs, including that off-road hardware, the tested Cherokee Trailhawk was anything but an economy vehicle. On the government’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption ratings, it managed just 20/26/22 mpg on premium gasoline.

The most noticeable styling change from the 2018 Cherokee is its front face. It has Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille but the low-down headlights have been relocated and combined with the daytime running lights, giving it more of a family resemblance to its bigger sibling, the Grand Cherokee.

173091_0050_Ds8et5sinrd3lvaomkev7m4d7n7Inside, the tested Cherokee Trailhawk Elite was fitted out as well as some luxury SUVs. Standard and optional equipment included collision alert with automatic braking, rear and parallel parking assist, blind-spot warning, cross traffic alerts, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, navigation system, memory setting for the power driver’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, panoramic glass sunroof and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Infotainment functions are displayed on FCA’s UConnect 8.4-inch center touch screen. The system has been praised by critics for its ease of use. However, there have been criticisms of the quality of the Cherokee’s audio for hands-free telephone calls.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Inside accommodations included multiple seat adjustments and a fat-rimmed steering wheel for a confident grip. Front seats were comfortable and supportive with big seatback bolsters to hold the torso in off-road rocking and pitching.

Comfort was similar in the outboard back seats, with okay head and knee room for average-sized adults. However, the center rear position was severely compromised by a hard cushion, big floor hump and the intrusion of the center console.

Rear seatbacks fold nearly flat for additional cargo space. The Cherokee Trailhawk has 102 cubic feet of space for passengers—about what you find in a midsize sedan—and 25 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat. A full-sized spare wheel and tire is stashed underneath the cargo floor.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite came with a starting price of $34,765, including the $1,445 destination charge. With options, the suggested delivered price was $41,245. Competitors include the Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, GMC Terrain Denali AWD and Jeep’s own Wrangler Unlimited four-door, which also has been considerably refined for on-road performance, making it a contender as a family wagon.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4X4 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 270 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and selectable four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 103/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,260 pounds.
  • Towing capability: Up to 4,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,765.
  • Price as tested: $41,245.

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

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk

Photos (c) FCA North America.

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