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Luxury Cars

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.

 

2017 Lincoln Continental: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Ford Motor Co. resurrected a storied luxury nameplate with the 2017 Lincoln Continental.

It didn’t happen without controversy. When the concept was introduced, the chief designer at Great Britain’s Bentley accused Lincoln of copy-catting the Bentley Flying Spur, a luxury sedan which, curiously enough, was built off the same platform as Bentley’s own Continental, a high-performance coupe and convertible.

17LincolnContinental_06_HRBut Bentley could not gripe about the name because Lincoln had an unassailable prior claim, having introduced its Continental in 1939 — also as a coupe and convertible. It carried on through 10 generations of sedans, coupes and convertibles, with arguably its most beautiful and famous the Continental coupe of 1956-57.

Lincoln canceled the Continental in 2002 as superfluous because it already had the big Town Car and the LS model, which did double duty as the British Jaguar S-Type at a time when Ford owned Jaguar.

Over the later years, Lincoln sagged as Ford neglected it, along with the now-defunct Mercury, to concentrate on high-profit models, especially the Ford F-Series pickup trucks. Lincoln was eclipsed by Cadillac and new luxury cars from Japan and Germany.

2017-Lincoln-Continental-Gary-Clark-Jr_L1390370-HI-RESAfter the recession of 2008, Ford started a campaign to recapture Lincoln’s aura, renaming its luxury division as the Lincoln Motor Co. Yet by 2012, its U.S. sales remained the lowest in a group of luxury and near-luxury vehicles behind Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.

Now with the livery-centric Town Car gone, the 2017 Continental reigns as Lincoln’s pinnacle in a competitive fleet of luxury cars and crossovers, as well as the full-size body-on-frame Navigator sport utility vehicle.

17LincolnContinental_09_HRThe new Continentals are starting to turn up as classy for-hire conveyances, though the complaint from drivers is that they do not have big enough trunks compared to the sturdy old body-on-frame Town Car sedans, which had a run from 1981 to 2011.

But Lincoln already has finessed that by revamping its full-size three-row crossover sport utility vehicle, the MKT, with the second row of seats moved back to provide additional leg room and the third row eliminated entirely for luggage space.

Oh, and just so everybody gets the message, that special MKT bears a Town Car badge.

17LincolnContinental_10_HRRegardless of any resemblance to the Bentley Flying Spur, the new Continental looks the part of a classic luxury car (though it sells for less money than most of its competitors, some of which break into six figures). The model tested for this review, the top-of-the-line AWD (all-wheel-drive) Reserve, came with a starting price of $57,000 and, with full safety equipment and a complement of optional convenience and luxury features, topped out at $75,020.

For luxury car fans, this is one to salivate over. It has a comfortable, even cushy, ride without inducing motion sickness like some of the big luxury sedans of yore. The tested Continental even had built-in massage therapy for the driver and front passenger, including settings to knead both the back and buttocks.

1421874_17_LNC_CTN_200097_RHS_Hires_RGB_160803Three engines are available, each linked to a six-speed automatic transmission: 245-hp twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6, 305-hp 3.5-liter V6 and the top 400-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 on the tested Reserve model.

Though the Continental is nearly 17 feet long and weighs 4,547 pounds, it is not a slug in urban traffic, and is blessed with relatively nimble handling. The all-wheel drive incorporates dynamic torque-vectoring — a system that selectively applies the rear-wheel brakes to ease handling around corners. Even so, it’s not the sort of car you’d use to chase sports cars or even small sports sedans on curving mountain roads.

As a premier luxury car, the Continental comes with state-of-the art safety and convenience equipment. They include a twin-panel glass sunroof, backup camera with a 360-degree overhead view, pre-collision detection and warning, three-zone automatic climate control, and electronic door latching and opening. Inside or outside, merely touching the button opens the door.

1395139_17_LNC_CTN_200135_CHL_Hires_RGB_160620One caution: Don’t mess with the entertainment and information systems, including the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, without a thorough briefing or detailed reading of the owner’s manual. Trying to access some of the obtuse functions without instructions can be infuriating.

The Continental’s forte is as a boulevardier around the city and suburbs, and as a long-distance road car. Settle into the soft leather seats, tune in the satellite radio or your choice of music from your own smart phone, set the adaptive cruise control and make sure the lane departure warning is activated. You’re in for a pleasant, quiet trip without fatigue.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Reserve four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 400 hp, 400 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,547 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/24/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,000.
  • Price as tested: $75,020.

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

17_LNC_CTN_200200Photos (c) Lincoln.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

They call it a “major refresh,” but the 2018 Acura TLX looks and feels more like a comprehensive makeover of the sport/luxury sedan.

Although it carries over engines, transmissions and other components from the previous TLX, the new car has been re-sculpted from the windshield forward. A handsome “diamond pentagon” grille replaces the earlier face, which some critics likened to a dental overbite.

There also are new rear styling touches as well as an upgraded model, the A-Spec, which features state-of-the art suspension modifications, quicker steering, 19-inch alloy wheels and premium sport-tuned Michelin tires that combine to muffle road noise and improve the ride, response and feel. Engine sounds are enhanced to make music for enthusiasts’ ears.

2018 Acura TLX

The musicality extends to the to the rhythm and tone of the driving experience, in which the TLX — particularly in the models with the V6 engine and all-wheel drive — evokes tactile sensations and emotional driver responses. Overall, the feel is of heft and substance.

The first TLX was designed to replace two Acura models: The acclaimed TL sedan, produced from 1996 to 2014, and the slightly smaller 2004-2014 TSX sedan. A TSX station wagon also was sold for a few years.

There are six versions of the new TLX, all with front-wheel drive, starting with the standard model at $33,950. It comes equipped with a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automated manual transmission that incorporates a torque converter for smoother starts off the line.

2018 Acura TLX

Basic equipment is extensive, including the AcuraWatch suite of safety features: autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

Also standard are Apple Car Play or Android Auto infotainment systems, XM satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, motorized sunroof, power and heated front seats, and pushbutton starting. A 2.4 TLX with the Tech package, at $37,650, adds navigation, premium ELS audio system, perforated leather upholstery, blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic monitoring.

There also are four versions of the TLX with Acura’s 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. They range from the standard model at $37,150 with equipment similar to that of the standard 2.4-liter version, ranging up to the Advance trim level. That carries a price tag of $44,700 but includes a full load of equipment, including wireless cell phone charging, surround-view camera, heated steering wheel and rear seats, and a heated windshield.

2018 Acura TLX

Off by itself is the slightly less expensive but more engaging A-Spec model, which lists at $43,750. It was the version tested for this review and is aimed at customers who appreciate the nuances of sharper, more responsive handling as well as raspier exhaust notes.

The tested TLX was equipped with Acura’s state-of-the-art super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD in Acura-speak). It is available on any V6 TLX model for $2,000, and not only delivers confidence in foul weather conditions but enhances the driving experience even in fair weather climates.

Sure, almost anyone would be perfectly happy driving a TLX with front-wheel drive. But aficionados will appreciate the SH-AWD for the precise way it contributes to rapid lane changes and high-speed handling stability on curving roads. The torque vectoring system, housed in the rear differential, apportions power to the rear wheels automatically depending on conditions. In a high-speed corner, it slows the inside wheel slightly and increases power to the outside rear wheel to follow the driver’s chosen line. It also modifies the steering angle. The principle is the same as that used on the Acura NSX super car and the new Acura MDX Sport Hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle.

Although the A-Spec with SH-AWD still has the TLX feeling a bit as if it is under-steering — that is, pushing forward in a straight line — it obeys the driver’s wishes if you trust it.

2018 Acura TLX

Interior appointments, ergonomics and front-seat comfort are first-rate. But the outboard rear seats are barely adequate for average-sized adults. The center-rear position should be reserved for purses and small backpacks.

Though the TLX is marketed as a midsize sedan, its interior volume of 107.6 cubic feet (including the trunk) places it in the EPA’s compact class. To get a midsize designation, a sedan must have 110 to 119 cubic feet inside.

The 2018 TLX competes in the entry premium segment of the market against the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, BMW 330i, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50. It doesn’t bow to any of them.

2018 Acura TLX

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and SH-AWD all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,616 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,700.
  • Price as tested: $45,700.

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

2018 Acura TLX
2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec

Photos (c) Acura.

2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Cadillac creeps closer to parity against Europe’s high-performance luxury brands with the 2017 CT6 full-size sport/luxury sedan.

Though there likely are some aficionados who yearn for the days of the Cadillac de Ville or Fleetwood, the company now is committed to befuddling the public with alphanumeric designations—just like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Audi.

That’s how it stays hip, while also testifying that the venerable American purveyor of softly sprung land cruisers now delivers models that travel in the same grid with the best from Germany, Japan and Great Britain.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

It started in 2003 with the rear-drive CTS, which gladdened the hearts of American chauvinists because it was the first modern Cadillac to butt bumpers with the German performance sedans.

Since then it has gradually upped its game with overachievers like the CTS-V. But it has not totally abandoned the potbellied gentry who in days of yore drove their Fleetwood sedans majestically up to valet parking at the country club.

The company still produces the big XTS, with a personality that carries hints of earlier times. It comes with front-wheel drive, as had most Cadillac models following the General Motors rejection of rear-wheel drive more than a decade ago.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

Now the pendulum has swung again. To deliver a proper high-performance contender, rear-drive — or, increasingly, all-wheel drive — is mandatory.

The 2017 CT6 qualifies. Depending on the model, it is available either way. Tested for this review was the CT6 Platinum AWD, which parks at the top of the lineup. It had a starting price, including the destination charge, of $88,490. With options, it came with a suggested delivered price of $91,580.

As might be imagined, that sticker covers a lot of stuff, starting with a 404-hp 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that makes 400 lb-ft of torque. The power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

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There’s enough power to move this 4,370-lb sedan to 60 mph in an estimated five seconds — as long as you first turn off the stop-start system that shuts the engine down at stoplights to conserve fuel. Even with all that power, there is a hint of turbo lag when you punch the pedal to downshift and pass at highway speeds.

Handling is enhanced by magnetic ride control and a rear-wheel steering system that makes turn-ins quicker on curving roads. Straight-line cruising, depending on the road, requires steering corrections. Loafing along on a smooth freeway is quiet and relaxing, though the ride can get lumpy on undulating pavement.

The CT6 is a big car, a couple of inches longer than its garage-mate, the XTS, and a few inches shorter with slightly less passenger space than the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Inside, it has ample space for four passengers, who sit on soft leather perforated to deliver heat and cooling.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

The driver’s seat is equipped to deliver en route back massages and the back seats recline comfortably like those in upscale movie theaters. On the tested Platinum model, outboard back seat passengers get their own entertainment screens nestled inside the front seatbacks.

A console containing function controls and cup holders divides the back seats. It can be folded up out of the way to expose a fifth seating position, but it’s not worth the bother. Headroom disappears as you park your bottom on a hard cushion, and a giant floor hump eliminates foot space.

cq5dam-web-1280-1280-2

Overhead, there’s a panoramic sunroof. A large touch screen resides in the center of the instrument panel, controlling a variety of functions with swipes and touches. There are no buttons or knobs, though a pad on the console supplements the touch screen controls.

An unusual feature is a rear-view camera embedded in the inside mirror. It delivers a clear picture and a wide view behind the car. But it is mostly distracting because the driver’s eyes must re-focus every time they shift to glance at the mirror, and double vision often results. Fortunately, the camera can be switched off for a normal view.

Another minor annoyance: the power seat controls are mounted on the doors, similar to those found on Mercedes-Benz models. They are awkward to use, not as intuitive as controls mounted on the sides of the seats.

Overall, the new CT6 comes across with a personality more akin to that of a big sports sedan than that of a boulevardier like the XTS.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum AWD four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 404 hp, 400 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 107/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,370 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/26/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $88,490.
  • Price as tested: $91,580.

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

Photos (c) Cadillac.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Genesis, the new luxury brand from Hyundai of South Korea, takes a turn down nostalgia road with its 2017 G80 5.0 Ultimate.

This big four-door cruises serenely with a powerful V8 engine thrumming under the hood, delivers stealthy shifts from its eight-speed automatic transmission and gets the power to the pavement with rear-wheel drive, just like a traditional proper American sedan.

2017 Genesis G80Any senior citizen who was fond of a big Oldsmobile, Buick, Chrysler or Mercury would settle in comfortably and experience familiar feelings in the Genesis G80. He or she also likely would be dazzled by its advanced performance and handling, and its array of modern safety, connectivity and convenience features.

Though it’s a youngster in the marketplace, the Genesis already has stutter-stepped its way to its current status as one of two new luxury sedans from a new luxury nameplate. It started out as the top-of-the line Hyundai, then dropped to second place when the company introduced its flagship Equus in 2009 as a competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS and Audi A8.

2017 Genesis G80Even at the outset, some Genesis buyers were reluctant to label their cars with their Hyundai parentage, which encompasses a variety of models from the economy Accent on up. They removed the Hyundai badges and substituted the Genesis escutcheon.

Then the company decided to establish a separate luxury brand, much as Toyota had done with Lexus, Honda with Acura and Nissan with Infiniti. It chose Genesis as the name and, using the Hyundai Equus as a starting point, introduced the new flagship Genesis G90.

The former Hyundai Genesis then became the Genesis G80, the subject here. It is the second model in the lineup, slotted below the G90, and will be joined in the future by other luxury Genesis models.

2017 Genesis G80One of them is expected to be a coupe. But what is really needed — and no doubt is being developed—is a crossover sport utility vehicle, either as a compact or midsize, because buyers cannot seem to get enough of those types of vehicles. For example, the best-selling Porsche is the Macan, a compact crossover.

Meanwhile, Genesis seeks to win converts with the G90 and the G80, the subject here. There are three versions: two with V6 engines and rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and the tested V8 model, which comes only with rear-wheel drive.

It’s fair to say that the G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate has little competition. There are other full-size luxury sedans but few that compete directly with the G80. The BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class are way more expensive, and others like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus have lower prices and come with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

2017 Genesis G80The closest competitor is the Chrysler 300, which is about the same size and priced a bit lower than the G80, though Chrysler offers all-wheel drive as an option.

The G80 starts at about $42,350. For the Ultimate V8 model tested here, the starting price — nearly the same as the bottom line sticker—was $55,500, including the destination charge. That’s because the Ultimate comes lavishly equipped. With a couple of minor options — mud guards and wheel locks—the tested Genesis checked in at $55,670.

Sumptuous describes it, with quality materials, including genuine wood and aluminum trim, perforated leather upholstery with built-in heating and cooling, full safety equipment including lane departure mitigation and automatic emergency braking, and a 9.2-inch touch screen to control navigation, audio and infotainment functions.

2017 Genesis G80A note about the G80’s blind-spot warning. Usually these systems, which flash a warning when a vehicle enters the so-called blind spot, are unnecessary if the driver has the smarts to adjust the outside mirrors properly.

On the G80, an icon of the car in the “blind spot” also shows in the head-up display along with the car’s speed and the speed limit. So even if the mirrors are adjusted correctly, the driver becomes aware of the “blind spot” vehicle without checking the mirrors.

2017 Genesis G80There is much to enjoy about the V8 G80. It is a great long-distance road car with a heavy feel and lavish comfort for four, cruises quietly and delivers reasonable fuel economy along with zero-to-60 mph acceleration of slightly more than five seconds.

The only daunting characteristics are a couple of owner’s manuals in English, Spanish, French and Korean that total 1,060 pages. Probably best to take them out of the car and exile them to a remote location.

2017 Genesis G80Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V8, 420 hp, 383 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode; rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 108/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,451 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/23/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,500.
  • Price as tested: $55,670.

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

Photos (c) Genesis.

2017 Genesis G80

2016 Audi RS7 Performance: A DriveWays Review

by Frank A. Aukofer

Purposeful people who save rubber bands and prefer practical automobiles also should have access to motoring exhilaration if they want it, which is the reason for the 2016 Audi RS7 Performance hatchback sedan.

This is a rip-roaring, expensive sports car loaded with adrenalin-inducing super-car credentials. Its sensuous lines define what used to be described as a torpedo body but now is called a four-door coupe.

Yet it has a hatchback and flip-down rear seatbacks that makes it as useful as a Prius or Mazda3. It carries four people—there’s no pretense of a center-rear seat, which wouldn’t work anyway because of a big floor hump. So the middle is occupied by a fold-down armrest with cup holders and storage.

There’s decent elbow and knee room, though a six-footer with a three-foot torso will head-bump the roof. With the seats up there’s nearly 25 cubic feet for cargo; drop the seatbacks and the space nearly doubles.

The RS7 Performance is as luxurious as anything out there, as well it should be given its $129,925 base price and, in this iteration, a $140,850 bottom line sticker. It represents the pinnacle of Audi’s low-rider streamlined series, which also includes the A7, S7 and RS7.

1920x1080_ARS7_PRF_D_151003_1Differences lie mainly in the supplied power. Almost anyone would be pleased with an A7, which comes with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that delivers 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The S7 has a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with 450 hp and 406 lb-ft torque, and the RS7’s 4.0-liter turbo V8 jumps to 560 hp and 516 lb-ft torque.

There’s also a diesel V6 engine available for the A7. It’s a 3.0-liter turbo V6 with 240 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. All 7-series Audi models get the power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with Audi’s Tiptronic manual shift mode.

But the Big Daddy, the subject here, is the new RS7 Performance. Its turbocharged V8 supplies a whopping 607 hp with 553 lb-ft of torque, which rocketed a tester to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds in an instrumented test by Car and Driver Magazine. Top speed—not that anyone short of a skilled driver on a closed course could attain it—is 190 mph.

The numbers don’t tell the story. The RS7 Performance has two drive modes: automatic and sport, which also includes manual shifting via paddles on the steering wheel.

In the automatic setting, the experience is quiet and velvety, as if the car were a boulevardier to chauffeur well-dressed friends to a fine restaurant.

But that’s not a tenth of what’s available. Flick the shifter into the sport mode and punch the pedal. It’s instantly scary; your head snaps back and you feel as if the car wants to rocket from under you and suck you into the back seat.

Don’t bother with the shift paddles. German engineers don’t trust you anyway. You can select a gear and the computer will alter it depending on the circumstances. So sit back and work your right foot.

Lift off the throttle and the exhaust alternates between blats and burbles, as if you were downshifting for a racetrack corner. Your head jerks forward when you lift off the pedal without touching the brakes.

1920x1080_ARS7_141001_1Ah, the brakes. They’re gigantic, with the discs filling the space behind the open 21-inch alloy wheels. They’re of the no-fade ceramic species that inhabit race cars and can slam to a panic stop in an instant or creep up to a traffic light with imperceptible ease to coddle a queen or princess.

The adjustable ride is supple in the European manner with cushy comfort taking a back seat to superb handling, abetted by Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive, which is omnipresent but never intrusive.

On the luxury front, the RS7 Performance’s interior is quintessentially Audi, which enjoys one of the best reputations in the motoring firmament for simple, quality design. You settle into seats of quilted leather with white stitching that have firm lateral support and superior comfort. But without perforations the seats are heated but not cooled.

The RS7 Performance incorporates a full suite of safety equipment, including optional adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The test car also was equipped with an audiophile’s dream: a $4,900 Bang & Olufsen audio system.

So if Charlie the neighbor sniffs at your precious ride, you can always point out that its hatchback design can help him move that side table.

1920x1080_ARS7_PRF_151003Specifications

  • Model: 2016 Audi RS 7 Performance four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 4.0-liter V8, turbocharged, 605 hp, 553 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,515 pounds (estimated).
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/25/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $129,925.
  • Price as tested: $140,850.

Photos (c) Audi

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