Search

The Review Garage

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

Tag

Luxury Cars

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4MATIC: A Driveways Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In an era when the prevailing trend is toward SUV-style vehicles that perch driver and passengers up high, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS parks their butts down close to the pavement.

It’s been that way since Mercedes invented the so-called four-door coupe genre in 2004 — the idea being to deliver sensuous coupe styling with the convenience of a couple of rear doors for those occasional double dates.

If you are one who appreciates eye candy, the tested CLS 450 4MATIC Coupe — its official title — presents handsome and aggressive new styling that reinforces the kinship with its more expensive version from the Mercedes high-performance AMG division.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

On the other hand, the streamlined, low-slung body envelops a tight package. You must duck and twist to get in and out, especially in the back seat. There’s 93 cubic feet of space for passengers, with limited head and legroom, and a shallow trunk of just 12 cubic feet, which earns the CLS a compact car classification.

The new car now has seat belts for five with the fifth in the center-rear. But you wonder why the designers bothered. With its all-wheel drive, there’s a giant floor hump and a seat more suited to a small backpack than a person. Ground clearance is less than four inches, so watch those driveway entrance bumps.

The CLS returns to a Mercedes tradition with an all-new inline six-cylinder engine that replaces the previous twin-turbo V8. Inline sixes characteristically deliver exceptional smoothness, and the CLS obliges. The new turbocharged 3.0-liter makes 362 hp with 369 lb-ft of torque, sent to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Providing additional spurts of power is a 48-volt electric starter-generator that delivers 21 hp and also enables a sophisticated and unobtrusive engine stop-start system. Not that many CLS buyers would pay much attention, but the EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 23/30/26 mpg of premium gasoline.

On the road, the CLS 4MATIC acts more like a sports car than a luxury cruiser. With its air-suspension system and precise steering, it carves corners like an expert butcher with a Thanksgiving turkey. There are five drive modes, each of which can be selected instantly underway with the touch of a button on the center console. There’s no need to take eyes off the road or the head-up display.

The modes are labeled Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. The last can be tailored with the Mercedes COMAND (cq) system but it is best done while parked. In Sport and Sport Plus, acceleration is enhanced by holding shifts to higher rpms, and the suspension and steering tighten.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

In all the driving modes except for Sport and Sport Plus, the nine-speed automatic transmission starts in second gear to enhance fuel economy. If you need to get off the line quickly, select one of the Sport modes, which will get you to 60 mph in slightly more than five seconds, according to the manufacturer. Top speed is rated at 130 mph.

No Mercedes is bargain-priced, but the tested CLS makes a mockery of the sticker price. This one started at $72,695, including the destination charge, but after the options were added up the bottom line came to $100,730. The $28,035 worth of options could buy you a nice compact crossover SUV.

The tester had so-called “design” packages totaling $6,200 that included perforated leather upholstery in Macchiato Beige and Titian Red with piano black lacquer and wood interior trim. Also on the options list were a $5,400 Burmester surround-sound audio system, the $1,900 air suspension, and packages totaling  $2,150 to enhance warmth, comfort and acoustics.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety measures, including the head-up display, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist and active emergency stopping. The last brings the CLS to a stop if the system detects that the driver is not actively driving while using the adaptive cruise control and the active steering assist.

Though popular early on, with 14,835 U.S. sales in 2005, the CLS has been on a roller coaster since, dropping to just 1,839 sales in 2017. The 2019 model could reverse the skid if there are enough luxury car intenders with fat purses or healthy credit ratings who have not yet been bitten by the crossover sport utility bug.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4MATIC Coupe four-door.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged; 362 hp, 369 lb-ft torque; with 48-volt, 21-hp starter-generator.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 4 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,350 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $72,695.
  • Price as tested: $100,730.

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

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

Advertisements

2019 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Differences between the suave all-new 2019 Genesis G70 and its cousin the rambunctious Kia Stinger are relatively modest. Either could easily satisfy a dedicated motoring enthusiast or anyone who simply appreciates sophisticated high performance.

As with other vehicles from South Korea’s Hyundai, which owns about 34% of Kia, the G70 shares its engines and transmission with the Stinger, introduced for the 2018 model year. It was the runner-up for the North American Car of the Year award, won by the Honda Accord. This year, the G70 also is a candidate for the award.

1096-GenesisG70Aimed at competing with compact sports sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the G70 is the third vehicle from Genesis, which was spun off from Hyundai as a separate luxury brand. Others are the midsize G80 and full-size luxury G90.

Both the G70 and the Stinger have the same drive trains: Rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with a 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 365-hp V6 engine with twin turbochargers.

Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. Surprisingly, the G70 with the four-cylinder can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox while the more sport-oriented Stinger does not offer the stick shift.

1092-GenesisG70The other major difference is that the G70, along with its Genesis garage mates, is a conventional sedan with a trunk while the Stinger is a modern fastback with a hatch. It is six inches longer than the G70 and has 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat compared to the 11 cubic feet in the G70’s trunk. Prices are similar and passenger space is identical in both cars at 94 cubic feet. Because of the overall difference, the government classifies the G70 as a compact and the Stinger as midsize.

Base price of the G70 rear-drive turbo four-cylinder is $35,895. Driven for this review was an all-wheel drive version with the 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine and two options packages: Prestige and Elite. The base price, including the destination charge, was $45,750 and the as-tested price came to $50,995.

1252-2019G70That’s not cheap but it’s a lot of car for the money, especially on the performance front. With all four tires clawing at the pavement, the G70 accelerates to 60 mph in less than five seconds with an advertised top speed of 140. To haul it back to something more reasonable, the G70 comes with Brembo high-performance racing brakes.

The handling and ride would not disappoint owners of the better European sports sedans, and the power steering delivers tactile feedback around curves while tracking truly in straight-line freeway driving.

There are five selectable driving modes: Smart, Eco and Comfort enhance efficiency and ease, Custom can be adjusted for driver preferences, and Sport is the setup for maximum performance, holding transmission shifts to higher rpms and tightening up the steering and adaptable suspension system.

1256-2019G70For enthusiasts, the audio system can be set up to pipe engine sounds into the passenger area, or shut off for silent running. Front seats have prominent bolsters that tighten and hug the torso in the Sport mode for aggressive driving on twisting mountain roads.

The G70 Prestige — its official designation — comes with advanced modern safety equipment, including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic and blind-spot alert, lane-keeping assist, a surround-view camera and parking distance warning.

Other equipment on the test car included a one-touch motorized glass sunroof with an opaque sunshade, power adjustable steering wheel, wireless smart phone charging, automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free trunk opening.

1255-2019G70Though access to the back seat takes some ducking and twisting, the outboard rear seat passengers sit low in nicely coved and comfortable seats. However, middle seat passengers suffer on a hard cushion with intrusion of the center console and a high floor hump.

The small trunk is shallow but usable and the C-hinges are isolated from luggage. A temporary spare wheel and tire nestles under the trunk floor.

Likely the only drawback to the current Genesis lineup is the fact that it markets only four-door sedans at a time when crossover SUVs are overwhelming the market. Eventually Genesis will have to join the stampede. The suggestion here is to start with and upgrade the superb 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Call it the Genesis XG70.

1091-GenesisG70Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.3-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/11 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,840 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/20 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,750.
  • Price as tested: $50,995.

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

1087-GenesisG70Photos (c) Genesis

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With convertibles shrinking in number and their owners becoming older and richer, it’s no surprise that Mercedes-Benz continues to field models like the 2018 E400 4MATIC Cabriolet.

This E400, a classy and expensive boulevardier with all-weather all-wheel-drive capability, is marketed as a midsize car alongside its E-Class coupe, sedan, station wagon and crossover SUV garage-mates. But it is more of a sports car in concept and size.

Though two inches shy of 16 feet long, its interior volume — the way the U.S. government classifies automobiles — is just a touch shy of the compact definition, so it dips just barely into the subcompact category.

_F8A9252-1200x800To qualify as a compact, a car must have 100 to 109 cubic feet of interior volume, which includes both the passenger and trunk space. The E400 has 89.9 cubic feet of passenger room, most of it up front, where the total is 55.2 cubic feet. The back seat has 34.7 cubic feet.

The trunk’s capacity is 9.5 cubic feet, which puts the total interior volume at 99.4 cubic feet. And that’s as good as it gets with the top up. If you lower the beautifully upholstered and finished soft top, an expansion boot drops into the trunk area to accommodate the folded top and robs the trunk of about one-third of its space.

Two adults can sit in the back seat if the folks up front co-operate by moving their seats forward. But it’s very tight and crawling back there takes some athletic ability. The motorized right front seat automatically moves forward to ease access when you tilt the seatback, then reverses back into place.

_F8A9893-1200x794So, the conclusion is that the E400 Cabriolet works better as a conveyance for two people, who can use the back seats for some of their luggage, especially handy if they want to enjoy top-down motoring. It also likely should see some open car parade duty with a Santa Claus or congressman perched on the boot with feet planted on the back seat.

The Cabriolet’s elegant touches include gorgeous natural grain light brown elm wood trim and a headliner so deftly padded that the interior looks and feels like a coupe. Sumptuous perforated leather upholstery and the Mercedes air curtain that warms necks through the front seat headrests contribute to the luxury ambiance.

_F8A9921-1200x800The test car came with a so-called AMG Line appearance package that mimics some of the styling and other visual touches of the Mercedes higher performance AMG models.

Other standard comfort and convenience items include dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton starting, navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power front seats with lumbar support and memory, and a12-inch touch screen for audio, navigation and other functions.

As with many of these sophisticated infotainment functions, the Mercedes COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system requires a bit of learning because it is not intuitive. It’s best to take time to read the owner’s manual or get lessons from experts at the dealership.

_F8A9928-1200x788With all the luxury touches, this convertible also has some sports car moves. It is powered by a 329-hp 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that makes 354 lb-ft of torque, which Mercedes says enables it to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds.

The power goes to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. It shifts smoothly for the most part but is prone to occasional hiccups at lower speeds.

There are driver-selectable driving modes that provide adjustments for ride, transmission shifting and throttle response. Of those, the Sport Plus mode is biased toward handling, delivering a tauter ride.

_F8A9277-1200x800This is a Mercedes-Benz, after all, so don’t expect any bargains. Where the South Korean and some other manufacturers make a lot of desirable equipment standard, on the E400 Cabrio much is optional, including the Cardinal Red Metallic paint job at $1,000 extra.

The same goes for the $9,350 Premium 3 package, which includes adaptive cruise control and active assists for steering, lane keeping, blind spot warning and automatic emergency braking. Also in the package are a stop-start system, Burmaster premium surround-sound audio system, SXM satellite radio, inductive wireless charging, adaptive headlight assist and even systems to purify inside air and inject gaseous fragrances.

Options totaled $14,930, which brought the base of $69,795 up to the tested price of $84,725. Nice work if you can afford it.

_F8A8510-1200x833Specifications:

  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC two-door convertible.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 329 hp, 354 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 90 and 10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,332 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/25/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $69,795.
  • Price as tested: $84,725.

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

_F8A9750-1200x800Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz.

2018 Lexus LS 500: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The best standard equipment on the 2018 Lexus LS 500 luxury sedan is its driver-oriented personality.

It’s interesting that a nameplate could produce such excellent products over its 28-year lifetime that it would get rapped for being too good. Polite people said a Lexus was done so well that it was unobtrusive — like a silent butler. Arch critics said it was boring, even sleep-inducing.

The executives, designers and engineers at Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, eventually felt wounded enough that they decided to inject the LS 500 flagship with doses of automotive pheromones to get enthusiasts’ juices flowing.

2018_Lexus_LS500_003_12BC17B650A305C606A2886DEA1CECA7937C838A_low

The effort went all the way to the top with final approval test drives by none other than Toyota’s chairman, Akio Toyoda, a well-known driving aficionado, who drove the LS 500 repeatedly. Photos of him in a helmet and racing coveralls at a test track were shown at the national press introduction.

In motoring circles, an article of faith for years has been that German luxury cars — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi — were most prized by enthusiasts. Not only did they exhibit superb handling, performance and braking, you could actually hear the growl of the engine under hard acceleration and even cruising on the freeway.

The Lexus, on the other hand, was usually so quiet you had to listen carefully or check the tachometer to find out whether the engine was actually doing its thing or was possibly an electric.

2018_Lexus_LS500_FSPORT_012_B5EE785F73ED6336B2A225A21B65F2C1419AB712_low

That’s now in the past. The new Lexus LS 500 takes on the Germans in a way that it has not done before, including actual engine sounds intruding into the passenger pod. Some items:

  • A new rugged platform with down-low engine accommodations for a lower center of gravity, better fore-and-aft balance, accurate steering for flat cornering, and responsive acceleration and braking.
  • An all-new 415-hp, twin-turbocharged V6 engine that delivers 442 lb-ft of torque, said to match the performance of competitors’ V8 engines. It is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting via paddles on the steering wheel. Lexus says zero to 60 mph flashes by in 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 136.
  • A multi-stage hybrid model with a new 3.5-liter V6 engine and electric motors that delivers 354 system hp and 359 lb-ft of torque with EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 25/33/28 mpg in the rear-drive version.
  • An F Sport variant available with both the LS 500 and LS 500h hybrid, which is oriented toward improved handling with 20-inch wheels, an air suspension system and rear-wheel steering on rear-drive models.
  • A redesigned, striking Lexus “spindle grille” with 5,000 individual surfaces to catch the light. On the F Sport models, the grille has 7,000 facets.

2018_Lexus_LS500_0021_2CA4CEEBD2D3366E02C914A56FE85F6894170D5F_low

All three LS 500s can be ordered with all-wheel drive as well as the standard rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive versions get slightly lower fuel economy ratings than the rear-drivers. With a starting price of about $76,000, sales start in February.

Because some buyers likely will employ chauffeurs, an optional package enables the right-rear seat to be reclined with a full footrest, while at the same time moving the right-front seat out of the way.

Surprisingly, this new Lexus is not a large car by the U.S. government’s definitions. With 98 cubic feet of space for passengers and 17 cubic feet of volume in the trunk — a total of 115 cubic feet – the LS 500 is classified as a midsize, which no doubt contributes to the excellent handling. However, it feels roomy on the inside, with surroundings that include soft leather upholstery, hand-pleated origami-style cloth, laser-cut wood-grain and jewel-cut glass.

2018_Lexus_LS500_0022_A766A0CEA9ED47F62FEC3A822B5607809AF15C46_lowContributing to its luxury/sport sedan feel is the exterior coupe-like styling. This is not new. Other luxury competitors have models with that bumper-to-bumper flow, which in the middle of the last century was called a “torpedo body” and has become widespread again.

Asked why they invested so much effort in a flagship sedan when the industry trend is toward crossovers and traditional sport utility vehicles, Lexus officials said they believed most of the LS 500 customers already owned SUVs. If not, they pointed to another top model: the LX SUV. There’s also the all-new LC 500 sports coupe.

When the discussion gets exhausted, the conclusion for the new Lexus LS 500 is that you can obtain the automotive equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too — that is, an extravagant luxury conveyance with sport-driving credentials.

2018_Lexus_LS500_004_FFCB54978C1DE1DA0AA89DE200444E7CFFF90C94_low

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Lexus LS 500 four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 415 hp, 442 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 2 inches
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 98/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,707 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/27/21 mpg
  • Base price, including destination charge: $76,000 (est.)
  • Price as tested: $76,000-$105,000.

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

2018_Lexus_LS500_FSPORT_012_B5EE785F73ED6336B2A225A21B65F2C1419AB712_low

Photos (c) Lexus.

2018 Lexus LC 500 Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Italians are rightly famous for delivering high style in high-performance cars, but they have serious challenges on both fronts from the all-new 2018 Lexus LC 500 Coupe.

This is a stunner stylistically, one that turns heads parked or speeding down the highway. In fact, it looks as if it’s speeding even when it’s parked. The sparkly black execution of the Lexus “spindle” grille gets right in your face and its rear fenders look like the muscular haunches of a champion Percheron draft horse.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_009_F90DA0EA5041232810CA8F2535C6F5079E8B4CD6Moreover, the LC 500, from the luxury division of Japan’s Toyota, does have the performance, along with the promise of legendary Lexus reliability, to entice a specialized cadre of buyers — people who can afford to buy outright, finance or lease a car with a $105,614 price tag.

That’s the as-delivered sticker on the LC 500 tested for this review. The base price, $92,995, is almost as daunting. But it comes with a potpourri of performance engineering and luxury enhancements.

Start with the power train: a 471-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 398 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode via magnesium paddles on the steering wheel.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_002_945A15CD4E154A5966F73069FF08CADB1D3E8897It is enough to propel the 4,280-lb coupe to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, depending on the skill of the driver. Top speed, as published by Lexus, is governed at 168 mph.

The LC 500 is purpose-built for behind-the-wheel thrills, so it has little in the way of practicality. The shallow trunk has only five cubic feet of volume.

A two-door, four-passenger coupe, it is what used to be called a “Two-Plus-Two,” which means it has two nearly unusable seats in back. Moreover, the designers have not even made the effort to make them easily accessible. The front seats move only so far forward, requiring gymnastic contortions into the back row, where there’s little space anyway.

Lexus_LC_500_001_BB74131E8F47AC977ECD592DA05B448D1C339096Up front is another story. Comfortable seats, upholstered in heated and ventilated alcantara cloth trimmed with leather, deliver superb support for hustling around mountain curves and comfort for long-distance cruising. The alcantara cloth is also used for the headliner.

Even at that, however, entry and exit through the front doors takes a bit of effort. Drivers with big feet will be challenged to swing in the left foot unless the door is fully open. Once there, thankfully, you are cosseted deep in luxury sports car surroundings.

As part of a $5,960 performance package — as if it needed one — you are treated to active rear-wheel steering, carbon-fiber roof and door sills and an active rear spoiler. Other options get you 21-inch forged wheels, a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a stratospheric 915-watt Mark Levinson audio system.

Lexus_LC_500_003_449D1F74A5CE595FA4B157BDFEE94E59A1D86566But that’s frosting on a tasty morsel with ingredients that include  dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping detection and assist, and automatic headlights.

With all its safety and luxury touches, the LC 500’s strong suit is the driving experience, long on excitement and short on anxiety. Like all such performance and super cars, however, it can be frustrating because there’s nowhere you can legally drive this machine anywhere near its designed potential. Without a race track, the best you can do is enjoy it in short bursts.

There are six driver-selectable driving modes, starting with Eco. Why that would be important on a car like this is a puzzle, although there also is a separate Snow setting for easier acceleration on slippery surfaces. Others are Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport Plus. The former settings allow you to drive the LC 500 as a smooth boulevardier with a relatively decent ride and imperceptible shifts.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_005_75D9A1BB914CA638376189130D18FAC72CDFABDBBut select Sport Plus, everything tightens up. The ride gets choppy and the throttle acts like a hair-trigger. Shifts happen instantly and with crackling intensity from the V8 engine. There’s automatic engine rev-matching on downshifts, regardless of whether you’re in automatic or the manual-shift mode.

A readable touch screen in the center of the dash conveys information about navigation, audio and other infotainment functions. However, it is controlled by a touch pad on the console similar to the one on your laptop computer.

But don’t try playing with it while underway. Even changing radio stations requires you to focus on the screen while manipulating the touch pad. Pull over, get set up and then move out for joyful driving.

2018_Lexus_LC_500_020_31EEE1647DBF7700C27423642604F218D2918566Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Lexus LC 500 two-door, four-passenger coupe.
  • Engine:0-liter V8, 471 hp, 398 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 81/5 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,280 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/26/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $92,995.
  • Price as tested: $105,614.

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

2018_Lexus_LC_500_022_419939A8D6E5F708B232BF01C5D98524601D27DAPhotos (c) Lexus.

2018 Genesis G80 AWD 3.3T Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

To be more descriptive, the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport could have been named Increment.

When you’re building a new luxury brand, as Hyundai of South Korea is doing, you need to take it incrementally, or in steps.

The G80 AWD 3.3T Sport, the subject here, is the second step in a process that has caused some confusion among buyers but likely will shake out eventually.

Genesis G80 Sport

The original Genesis was a full-size, rear-drive sedan introduced as the flagship of the Hyundai lineup in 2008. Since then, the company has ramped up its reputation for quality, reliability and a diversity of interesting vehicles. In 2012, it took on the reigning Big Guys — BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc. — with the Equus, a full-size, full-yacht luxury car.

With the Equus and the Genesis, Hyundai had the makings of a separate luxury brand, following in the tire tracks of Acura, which arrived from Honda in 1986, and Toyota and Nissan, which spun off the Lexus and Infiniti brands in1989.

It can be dicey. Lexus has been an unqualified success. Acura and Infiniti, despite a plethora of desirable vehicles, have struggled to have their names spoken in the same breath with Jaguar or Audi. Mazda tried with Amati in 1992 but flopped.

Genesis G80 Sport

Hyundai at least merits a medal for bravery. That could happen regardless of whether the Genesis nameplate succeeds. It’s too early to tell, but there’s little question that Genesis has delivered competitive, quality products, though they are but a blip on the sales charts, selling at an annual rate of fewer than 20,000 together in 2017.

With the arrival of the G80, there now are two Genesis models. The top of the line is the full-size G90, formerly the Hyundai Equus.

GENESIS DEBUTS 2018 G80 SPORT TRIM WITH 3.3-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE STYLING

For now, the 2018 G80 shares the same power train with the G90. It also is classified as a full-size car by the EPA. It is 16 feet 5 inches long with 106 cubic feet of space for passengers and a trunk of 15 cubic feet. The G90 is six inches longer at 17 feet one inch, 113 cubic feet for passengers and 16 cubic feet of trunk volume.

Both cars use an 8-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. But the personalities of the G80 and G90 are quite different, especially given the enhancements of the tested G80 Sport with all-wheel drive.

Genesis G80 Sport

This is an attractive, satisfying luxury car with few faults and a more than competitive price. At $58,725, the test car likely would be out of reach for many buyers. But against its chosen competitors, it is a bargain.

For example, though BMW owners might sniff at the comparison, the G80 Sport stacks up well — though not in every category — against the BMW 540i xDrive, reviewed recently in this column.

Both have all-wheel drive; twin-turbo V6 engines with similar hp of 365 for the Genesis and 335 for the 540i; eight-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift modes; the Genesis is two inches longer at 16 feet 5 inches, with an interior volume of 121 cubic feet compared to the BMW’s 117; the BMW weighs about 500 lbs less at 4,170 lbs, and the BMW’s combined fuel economy is 23 mpg compared to 20 for the Genesis.

Genesis G80 Sport

The big difference is the price. Fully equipped, the Genesis’s sticker price of $58,725 was less than the BMW’s base price of $59,745. With options, however, the BMW’s bottom line price came to $82,360.

Another comparison, to the Cadillac CT6 Platinum with all-wheel drive: twin-turbo V6, 404 hp, 8-speed automatic transmission, 17-feet long, 122 cubic feet interior volume, weight of 4,370 lbs and combined fuel economy of 21 mpg. The Caddy’s bottom-line sticker: $91,580.

Genesis G80 Sport

You could argue that the 540i delivers better driving dynamics and the Caddy may have more luxurious touches, but the G80 is no slouch, with three driving modes: Eco; Normal; and Sport. Using the last, it will accelerate to 60 mph in the five-second range with a top speed of 135.

It is a handsome car with an imposing grille and sensuous lines; Lexus-like interior silence and comfortable ride; roomy and well-bolstered seating for four (forget the center-rear position); panoramic sunroof with an opaque sunshade of a suede-like material; intuitive touch-screen infotainment functions with backup buttons; and organic safety equipment.

There’s nothing not to like. But the Genesis brand sorely needs a crossover sport utility vehicle.

Genesis G80 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Genesis G80 AWD 3.3T Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:3-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 365 hp, 375 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/15 cubic feet
  • Weight: 4,690 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,725.
  • Price as tested: $58,725.

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

Genesis G80 Sport

Photos (c) Genesis.

2017 BMW 540i xDrive: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

BMW rides the crest of the crossover sport utility wave, but persists in making certain it continues to anchor at least one model in nearly every market cove, as witness the 2017 BMW 540i xDrive sedan.

It is an expensive midsize four-door, nearly full-size by the government’s description, that has been substantially revamped to hang on in the face of declining sales — some of them lost to BMW’s own lineup of crossover SUVs.

P90237218_highResOverall, the Bavarian Motor Works offers six sedans and coupes, five crossovers, two sports cars — one of them a hybrid — and an electric car, the i3, with an optional gasoline range extender. Different trim levels and power trains broaden the choices.

Though BMW has always emphasized performance and handling, this new machine tilts more toward extravagance than some of its predecessors. It is quiet and lavishly appointed, though it retains power and solid driving dynamics.

BMW calls the 540i xDrive a “business sedan.” But it is a business steeped in comfort and luxury. With 98 cubic feet of passenger volume, there’s plenty of stretch space for four people in the front and back. A seatbelt is installed for a center-rear passenger but, as with most vehicles these days, the position is compromised by a hard cushion and floor hump.

P90237212_highResOut back, there’s a trunk of 19 cubic feet that would do justice to a larger car. It can easily swallow luggage for a long trip or golf bags for a foursome.

The engine is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder that makes 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

The 540i xDrive has both Sport and Comfort modes that alter suspension settings and shock absorbers automatically depending on inputs from the driver. Slow and easy activates the comfort setting; it switches to Sport when the driving is aggressive.

P90237235_highResIn keeping with its German heritage, the 540i xDrive oozes electronic and engineering wizardry, including a launch control system that enabled Car and Driver Magazine to record a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of 4.5 seconds. Top speed is governed at 128 mph.

If that’s not enough, BMW is releasing the 2018 M550i xDrive model  in the second half of 2017. It is powered by a twin-turbo V8 engine that delivers 445 hp and 456 lb-ft of torque. BMW says the M550i will get you to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds — six-tenths of a second quicker than the 540i xDrive. But its starting price is more than $13,000 higher.

P90237271_highResIn keeping with BMW practice, an extensive options list augments standard safety and convenience equipment. Some of it, including automatic evasive steering, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, brings the 540i xDrive closer to the eventual goal of the self-driving car. That prompted Consumer Reports to include an alert to buyers to make certain they heed all warnings and keep their hands on the wheel.

The tested 540i xDrive had a starting sticker price of $59,745, including the destination charge. Options tacked on an additional $22,615 for a bottom line price of $82,360. More than $8,000 of the options related to driver assistance and handling functions.

Another option, priced at $750, allows for remote control parking. It only works in straight-line forward and back movements, as in backing into a parking space or garage. The driver controls the movements from outside with a special remote control. It is mainly useful in a space so narrow a driver would not be able exit or enter the car.

P90237268_highResFor another $190, tested 540i came with gesture control, which enables the use of gestures, as well as a controller and voice commands, to activate various functions.

At the higher end of the options spectrum, the test car was equipped with a Bowers & Wilkins high-performance audio system with a price tag of $4,200. An M-Sport package, at $2,600, included suspension system modifications and appearance items.

With a curb weight of more than two tons, the 540i has the heft and feel common to expensive luxury sedans. That, of course, goes to the bottom line of fuel economy. Its city/highway/combined gasoline consumption, as published by the EPA, works out to 20/29/23 mpg — not daunting for anyone who can pay the price or make the lease payments.

P90237216_highResSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 BMW 540i xDrive four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter six-cylinder, turbocharged, 335 hp, 332 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 98/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,170 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/29/23 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $59,745.
  • Price as tested: $82,360.

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

P90237229_highResPhotos (c) BMW.

2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The most compelling thing about the 2017 Jaguar XE 2.0 diesel is that it’s a Jaguar. That means it has style, emotion, a stiff structure, accurate steering and a hefty price tag.

JagLAMotorShow2015Image18111518-resize-1024x683But because it’s a diesel, even turbocharged, its orientation is toward fuel economy. Acceleration, not so much. Yet it works capably for both chasing around and highway cruising without undue spending at the fuel pumps.

That’s the point of a diesel, of course, and the XE delivers with a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 30/40/34 mpg. You decide for yourself whether that’s enough of a return from a base price of $46,395 and, as tested for this review, $55,485.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111510-resize-1024x1536The monkey wrench in the gears is the current disenchantment with diesel engines, thanks to the scandal in which Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests for nearly 11 million diesel-engine vehicles world-wide, including about 500,000 in the United States.

If that’s not a concern, and you value the cachet of a British luxury sedan with superb handling, okay drivetrain performance, and exceptional fuel economy over blistering acceleration and autobahn no-limit cruising, the Jaguar XE 20d is worth a test drive.

It scores on styling, with clean lines outside and an unmistakable Jaguar look, as well as inside where there are luxury appointments and supportive comfort on seats covered in quality leather. Though it has seatbelts for five, figure on carrying only four medium to small adults.

Because of a smallish door opening, it takes effort to squeeze into the back seat, where there’s barely enough head and knee room for an average-sized human. Forget about the center-rear position, which is negated by a giant floor hump and a high, hard cushion.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111511-resize-1024x652Up front is way better, where power seats deliver a multitude of adjustments and the seatbacks have prominent bolsters to hold the torso in place during cornering.

Not all is well with the XE 2.0d. It has two shortcomings that should never be seen on a car in this price and performance category: a flimsy translucent cloth sunshade that allows too much sunlight through the sunroof and sun visors that do not extend to block sunlight from the side. Also, the tester lacked adaptive cruise control, common now on less expensive machinery.

Instruments and controls are highlighted by the characteristic Jaguar automatic transmission shifter, a yeasty knob that rises like a small cake from the center console. It works intuitively once you get used to it, and features both “drive” and “sport” modes. The latter mode recalibrates the eight-speed automatic transmission to shift at higher rpms.

JagXE17MYAWDDetailImage18111512-resize-1024x1536If manual shifting is your choice, paddles are mounted on the steering wheel. However, as with many of these units, the Jaguar version doesn’t trust the driver. If you hold onto a gear too long, the transmission will shift for you. That’s not necessarily bad. You’d hit a rev limiter in any case; otherwise you could trash the engine.

With some turbo lag, the best you can do with the XE 2.0d in the 0-to-60-mph sprint is in the mid-eight seconds, according to independent instrumented tests. Though the engine delivers 180 hp and 318 lb-ft of torque, the Jag’s nearly two-ton weight cannot be overcome.

Interestingly, the Jaguar XE 2.0d compares with the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sport, which at $23,615 costs less than half the money. They are both about the same size, within inches of overall length and a few cubic feet of interior space.

JagXE17MYAWDLocationImage18111508-resize-1024x397The Impreza is 15 feet 2 inches long — three inches shorter than the Jag. Passenger/trunk space is 100/12 cubic feet compared to the XE’s 92/15 cubic feet. But the XE weighs 3,945 pounds; the Impreza checks in at 3,179 — 766 pounds lighter.

That’s likely why the Impreza’s 0-to-60 acceleration time is nearly identical to the XE’s, despite the fact that its 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed gasoline engine is rated at 152 hp, 28 less than the Jag’s. But the Impreza lags in a comparison of fuel economy at 27/36/30 miles to the gallon.

Subaru likes to think of its vehicles as the low-calorie versions of Audi’s all-wheel-drive cars and crossovers. Every Subaru model comes with all-wheel drive standard. Likely it also could now compare its Impreza Sport with the Jaguar XE diesel.

But there are intangibles. The Jaguar XE 20d exudes that indefinable heft and feel common to quality luxury/sports sedans. You pay for it, but for some people that’s the clincher.

JAGUARXEGRAHAMBELL01-resize-1024x684Specifications:

  • Model: 2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD Prestige four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, 180 hp, 318 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 92/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,945 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,395.
  • Price as tested: $55,485.

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

jagxemostbeautifulcarawardimage28011501Photos (c) Jaguar.

2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0 Sport illustrates what can happen to a pioneering car that leads the race but others catch up.

When it was introduced as a 2014 model, the Q50, especially in its S, or Sport iteration with all-wheel drive, was in the vanguard with new technology that placed it on the threshold of a self-driving car.

2018 INFINITI Q50

In fact, with its radar cruise control and direct adaptive steering (DAS), working seamlessly with a lane control system, the Q50 could be driven on a freeway with the driver’s hands off the steering wheel and feet resting comfortably away from the pedals. In fact, a test car driven for the 2014 model’s DriveWays review functioned perfectly that way in more than 10 miles of freeway driving.

DAS uses a drive-by-wire technology that sends the driver’s inputs to the steering wheel directly to the rack that turns the front wheels. The lane control system uses sensors to read lines on the road. If the car drifts to the left or right, the DAS keeps it in the lane. It also works to keep the car tracking around curves.

At the time, the Q50 was the only car that steered back into the lane. Other manufacturers mainly used computerized selective wheel braking. Simultaneously, the radar cruise control maintained a distance from the car ahead, down to a stop.

2018 INFINITI Q50

Both of those enhancements continue on the 2017 Q50 3.0T Sport AWD. The difference is that its competitors, along with some less expensive automobiles, have caught up and now have similar systems. The Q50 also has predictive front collision warning that not only monitors the car ahead but the one in front of that. If it senses a possible collision, it will slam on the brakes to avoid the impact. It also will warn the driver and automatically apply the brakes when the car is moving in reverse and another vehicle crosses its path. Infiniti claims reverse braking as a world first technology.

One thing has changed on all cars with lane departure mitigation: If a driver now decides to try hands-free driving, he receives visual or aural warnings to get his hands back on the wheel. It’s an obvious safety feature, even on the 2017 Q50 Sport. So, there’s no opportunity now to let the car drive itself.

2018 INFINITI Q50

The 2017 Q50 Sport’s midsize package mimics the 2014 model. It is the same length with almost the same passenger and trunk space, seats four comfortably (the center-rear passenger is severely disrespected) and delivers comparable performance.

However, there’s a new engine: a 3.0-liter V6 with twin turbochargers that delivers 300 horsepower. That’s a bit less than the 2014’s 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6, which had 328 horsepower. However, the fuel economy of the 2014 and 2017 models is identical at 19/27/22 miles to the gallon in city/highway/combined driving.

If you’re the sort of enthusiast who wants even more punch, Infiniti offers the Q50T Red Sport model, which squeezes 400 horsepower from the 3.0-liter V6.

2018 INFINITI Q50

As before, the transmission is a seven-speed automatic with a manual shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering column — a superior setup to those on the steering wheel itself because the paddles are always in the same place no matter where the wheel is turned.

The price has dropped from the 2014 S model, which had a starting sticker of $49,905 and, with options, checked in at $56,545. For the 2017 Q50 Sport model, Infiniti suggests a starting price of $47,555. With options, the version tested for this review came to $55,520.

On the road, the midsize Q50T AWD performs competitively with other sports sedans in its class. Most are classified as compacts by the EPA and, like the Q50, have rear-wheel drive with optional all-wheel drive. Among them: Jaguar XE, BMW 330i, Mercedes-Benz C300 and Lexus IS. Others, which have front- or all-wheel drive, are the Acura TLX and Audi A4.

2018 INFINITI Q50

An entry luxury car, the 2017 Sport comes with a long list of standard equipment, including LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights; dual-zone automatic climate control; leather upholstery; memory settings for the power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and power front seats; SXM satellite radio; rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a motorized glass sunroof.

Options included a rear camera with overhead viewing (which Infiniti was first to offer), radar cruise control, blind-spot warning, and the aforementioned lane departure mitigation and radar cruise control.

2018 INFINITI Q50 makes its North American debut at the 2017 New

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 300 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 101/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,996 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,555.
  • Price as tested: $55,520.

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

2018 INFINITI Q50

Photos (c) Infiniti.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑