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2020 Lincoln Corsair: A DriveWays First Look…

by Frank A. Aukofer

New York, N.Y. — Looking back and into the future, the luxury Lincoln division of the Ford Motor Co. unveiled its all-new technology and serenity cocoon, the 2020 Corsair, here at the New York Auto Show.

ImageIt is a luxury compact crossover sport utility vehicle that looks forward with innovations like smart phone control, as well as a return to its heritage of giving its vehicles glamorous names instead of sterile alphanumeric designations.

At a time early in the 20th century, Lincolns were revered as staunch competitors to the likes of luxurious and high-performing cars from Duesenberg, Packard and Cadillac. They were named Cosmopolitan, Lido and Capri, and especially Zephyr, arguably the most beautiful passenger car of its era.

But that fell into a ditch somewhere along the line, as this quintessentially American car company tried to emulate German luxury cars with confusing letters and numbers to identify them.

Image-3In the burgeoning category of crossover sport utility vehicles, the Lincolns became identified as MKC, MKS and MKT, although its full-size body-on-frame SUV received the more appropriate name of Navigator.

Now the company has come full circle with the 2020 Corsair. It says the name comes from the Latin “cursus,” meaning “journey.” But almost anyone with a memory of history will relate it to the World War II F4U Corsair, the gorgeous gull-winged fighter plane that heroic U.S. Marine Corps pilots flew off aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

Obviously, Lincoln has no intention of evoking devastating wartime battles. Nope. The new Corsair was designed to be a serene, welcoming, comfortable place for youthful 21stcentury achievers with the wherewithal to step up from a Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Mazda CX-5.

Image-4And guess what? All the old letter designations have gone to the junkyard. The Lincoln SUV lineup, in order of size, now starts with the Corsair and moves on in price and size steps to the Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator—in short, the alpha and omega of current SUVs, though a subcompact may be in the offing.

So what’s the new Corsair all about? There’s some old and much that is new. It replaces the 2019 MKC and shares its basic power plants, though the new engines have been recalibrated, or tweaked in common parlance.

New are two four-cylinder turbocharged engines. The base 2.0-liter in the front-wheel drive models delivers 250 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive models can be equipped with that engine or a 2.3-liter with 280 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

Image-9Power surges to the pavement through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. The previous MKC had a six-speed automatic.

There are five drive modes, similar to those on other vehicles, but Lincoln has chosen to give them descriptive names: Normal, Excite, Slippery, Deep Conditions and Conserve. In another place they might use aliases.

But the Corsair’s emphasis eschews the performance side of the equation to concentrate on exterior and interior design. Designers exult over the form, shapes and lines of the exterior, which is attractive even to a layperson but bears a passing resemblance to the Range Rover Evoque.

Image-10The interior is similarly elegant with attention to horizontal lines, modern design and quality materials. There’s also a manifest effort to isolate the driver and passengers from any unwanted sounds from outside or the engine compartment, isolated by extra insulation in the firewall.

Lincoln officials used the word “sanctuary” to describe the motoring experience. We already have sanctuaries in places of worship, as well as sanctuary cities. Now we have a sanctuary crossover. It even extends to warnings with “symphonic chimes” instead of beeps or buzzers.

Corsair’s kicker is its “phone as a key” technology, which enables owners to control and operate the luxury conveyance from their smart phones. Using the Lincoln Way app, drivers can lock and unlock doors, open the lift-gate, and start and drive their Corsairs.

Image-11For the more Luddite-inclined in the customer base, a standard key fob is included as a—whew!—substitute for the smart phone app.

If a smart phone’s battery dies, the owner can gain entry with the Corsair’s standard exterior keypad, then use the center touch screen to drive off. Also, if the phone is lost or stolen, “phone as a key” can easily be deleted.

The Corsair comes standard with driver assist features called Lincoln Co-Pilot 360. They include pre-collision emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist and automatic high-beam lighting. There’s also Wi-Fi and wireless charging for mobile devices.

Image-2An option, called “Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus,” adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering, roadside speed sign recognition, emergency evasive steering assist, reverse braking assist, and active parking assist, which automatically parks the Corsair in parallel or perpendicular spaces.

No prices were announced, but an educated guess puts them in a range from about $35,000 for the base model, marching through trim levels to a top-of-the-line Corsair that could have sticker price of around $57,000.

The Corsair, built in a plant in Louisville, Kentucky, will arrive at dealerships in the fall.

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

Image-6Photos (c) Lincoln

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2019 Jaguar E-Pace and I-Pace: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You’re forgiven if you haven’t figured out the 2019 Jaguar E-Pace and its sibling, the I-Pace.

Contrary to initial knee-jerk reactions, the E-Pace is not electric, and the I-Pace is not the ghost of past BMW i cars. Nope, in this case the I-Pace is the 100% electric and the E-Pace is merely the little brother of the F-Pace.

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2019 Jaguar E-Pace

In a sense, they are the offspring of the F-Pace, in 2017 the first luxury crossover sport utility from the storied British sports car manufacturer. Now they are three. Next thing you know Jaguar will come out with a big three-row SUV.

Wait. That likely won’t happen because Jaguar is the conjoined fraternal twin of Britain’s Land Rover, which specializes in luxury SUVs. Both are now owned by Tata of India.

Jaguar could hardly have done differently. Truck-based SUVs and car-based crossovers have become so popular across the board that even Bentley and Rolls-Royce build them.

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2019 Jaguar I-Pace

With these crossovers, the affinity of Jaguar with Land Rover becomes more obvious. The center-screen infotainment systems in both the E-Pace and I-Pace are similar in befuddlement to those in Range Rovers and Land Rovers. Also, the nomenclature of HSE for certain models now is common to both the Land Rover and Jaguar brands.

Because the E-Pace was introduced as a 2018 model, the I-Pace electric is the new kid in the family. It also is the most interesting, exciting and expensive of the three, and the less expensive main competitor to Tesla’s Model X75D crossover.

Jaguar I-PACE Global Drive, Portugal, 2018
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace’s power comes from two electric motors — one each for the front wheels and rear wheels, giving it automatic all-wheel drive. In easy cruising, it switches to rear drive for economy. The all-wheel drive is mainly important for foul weather than actual off-roading. There are numerous Land Rovers for customers interested in that sort of thing.

The two electric motors combined make 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Because electric motors deliver maximum torque instantly, the I-Pace rewards the driver with an exhilarating jump off the line, reaching 60 mph in slightly more than four seconds with its single-speed automatic transmission.

jipace19mystudioimage01031815
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Of course, doing that habitually will cripple the manufacturer’s claimed range of 234 miles and a city/highway/combined consumption of 80/72/76 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent. But it might be worth it for some hot-shoe owners.

The I-Pace uses regenerative braking to help keep the batteries topped up. It is so aggressive in slowing the vehicle that it should enable so-called one-pedal driving, as with the BMW i3. But it cuts out at about six mph, so the driver still must use the brake pedal to stop.

Handling is sharp and the steering responsive, abetted by an air suspension system and brake-induced torque vectoring. But the emphasis on handling compromises the ride on rough roads.

jipace19mystudioimage01031817
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Front seats are supportive but not plush and the outboard rear seats have plenty of head and knee room. The center-rear position is compromised by tight space, a hard cushion and big floor hump. Because of the sloped roof, there’s only 26 cubic feet for cargo, which expands to 51 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

A negative comfort note: There’s a full panoramic sunroof that does not open and does not have a sunshade. It darkens in bright light but on bright sunny days the glass gets so hot it radiates heat uncomfortably into the cabin and defeats the air conditioning in some areas.

With a bottom-line sticker of $88,840 on the test car, the I-Pace is uncommonly well equipped with state-of-the-art safety and convenience equipment.

jagepace18myonroaddynamic13071714
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

But if you don’t hanker to sample the electric future and still crave a Jaguar experience, there’s the E-Pace, which has a $53,845 price tag and a sportier personality. It is a subcompact crossover, 14 feet 5 inches long and a shade over 5 feet tall.

Surprisingly, despite a tight back seat, it offers nearly as much passenger and cargo space as the I-Pace — a total of 117 cubic feet versus 122 cubic feet.

jagepace18myinterior13071701
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a configuration that is taking over the motoring world. In this installation,  it delivers 246 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.

Well-equipped, the E-Pace has the entertaining handling expected of a Jaguar, though its aggressive and erratic lane-keeping assist  should be simply turned off.

Oh, and by the way, it bucks the luxury cliché of perforated cheesecloth in favor of an effective, opaque sunshade for the sunroof.

jagepace18myonroaddynamic13071713
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 246 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 93/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,225 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 1,653 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/27/13 mpg (premium fuel).
  • Base price, including destination charge: $53,845.
  • Price as tested: $53,845.

 

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2019 Jaguar E-Pace

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  • Model: 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400HSE four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Motors: Twin electric-powered; combined 394 hp, 512 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 96/26 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,790 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 80/72/76 MPGe.
  • Range: 234 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $81,495.
  • Price as tested: $88,840.

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

Jaguar I-PACE Global Drive, Portugal, 2018
2019 Jaguar I-Pace

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Think of the 2019 Infiniti QX50 as Nissan’s significant other. The two-row luxury crossover SUV, like its cousin the midsize Nissan Altima sedan, gets its power from the automotive world’s first variable compression engine.

It is a design and engineering tour de force, developed in cooperation with Germany’s Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz. Internal mechanical wizardry automatically varies the piston travel and cylinder volume by a small amount to enable the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to operate at compression ratios ranging from 8:1 for high performance to 14:1 for maximum efficiency.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Looking at a cutaway demonstration model, you get the feeling that you’re witnessing a contraption by famed cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who dreamed up impossibly complicated gadgets to perform simple operations.

Called the VC-Turbo or simply VC-T, the new engine also is turbocharged. Tuned for premium gasoline, the QX50’s engine makes 268 hp (compared to 248 hp in the Altima, which runs on regular fuel). Both engines deliver 280 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force.

The QX50’s sends the power to the front wheels or all four wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which uses belts and pulleys to multiply the engine’s power.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Ordinarily, CVTs have no shift points but because that bothers some drivers who are used to feeling automatic transmissions shifting through the gears, the QX50’s CVT uses computer software to mimic shift points. The transmission also can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel as if it were an eight-speed automatic.

With its all-new basic architecture (called a platform in the industry), the QX50 transitions from its previous rear-wheel drive to front- or all-wheel drive. Luxury compact crossover competitors include the new 2019 Cadillac XT4, Acura RDX, Mercedes GLC, Jaguar E-Pace, BMW X3, Lexus RX and NX, and Audi Q5.

2019 INFINITI QX50

It’s a tough playground but the QX50 exhibits the sort of array expected by customers who can spend upwards of $50,000 on their rides. Though the QX50 starts at $37,545 the tested front-drive Essential topped out at $55,385. All-wheel drive is a $1,800 option on all versions.

Exterior styling is handsome, though not especially head-turning — given the limitations of what is essentially a tall station wagon.

The interior is similarly attractive with quality materials and workmanship, especially on the upper trim lines. Overhead on the tested QX50 Essential was a panoramic glass sunroof with one-touch operation for the glass and sunshade. Thankfully, the sunshade was opaque instead of the perforated cheesecloth-like sunshades on too many luxury vehicles.

All-new INFINITI QX50

Front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the outboard rear seats have ample head and knee room with adjustable fore and aft travel and seatbacks that recline for comfort. Even the center-rear seat has decent knee and headroom, though it is compromised by a small, hard cushion and a prominent floor hump.

Cargo space is a generous 31 cubic feet and the rear seats fold nearly flat for bigger loads. On the tested Essential version, there was no spare wheel or tire. Instead, it rode on hard-rubber run-flat tires, which likely contributed to the stiff, choppy ride. Hammering over some rough surfaces, it felt as if the suspension system was bottoming out.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Other than that, the QX50 delivered capable handling given its tall profile, as well as a reasonably comfortable ride on smooth roads. It cruised quietly with little intrusion of wind and road noise, and only some minor engine drone because of the CVT.

There are four driver-selectable driving modes: Eco for leisurely acceleration and fuel economy; Sport for rapid throttle response (called throttle tip-in); Standard for comfort, and Personal, which allows the driver to choose a mix of settings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

There’s some slight turbo lag off the line before the VC-T comes on with a vengeance, especially in the Sport mode. Zero-to-60-mph acceleration arrives in the six to seven second range. Under hard acceleration, the engine announces itself with a satisfying growl.

The QX50 comes with Nissan’s semiautonomous ProPilot driver assist, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic lane centering, forward collision warning, backup emergency braking, blind-spot warning and a backup camera with overhead surround-view monitor.

Though there is no Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, dual center screens handle navigation and infotainment functions, including apps, vehicle settings, audio controls and phone pairing. Buttons handle some of the chores as well, including climate control settings.

2019 INFINITI QX50

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential FWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter variable-compression four-cylinder, turbocharged with direct fuel injection; 268 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall Length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 102/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,950 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/31/27 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,345.
  • Price as tested: $55,385.

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

2019 INFINITI QX50

Photos (c) Infiniti

2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 actually is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle. But its lead exterior designer prefers to call it an Escalade puppy.

Robin Krieg was talking about the all-new XT4 at its national introduction. He said the challenge was to design a new small crossover for an audience that mainly thinks of Cadillacs as always big.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

The Escalade certainly qualifies. It’s a full-size body-on-frame traditional SUV, 17 feet long and 6 feet 2 inches tall, built like a pickup truck. He said it was a challenge to translate that concept into the XT4, a small unit-body crossover, built like a car.

Some of the result was immediately apparent at first look. The XT4 is an inch over 15 feet long and 5 feet 4 inches tall. Moreover, it has styling that hints at a pickup truck, mainly looking at the wheels.

In an era when luxury crossovers often emphasize performance, the wheel openings are usually filled with big wheels and fat tires. The XT4’s wheel openings, however, have wheels and low aspect-ratio tires that look small, more like they belong on a sports sedan or roadster.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Krieg said the look was deliberate, aimed at imparting an impression that the XT4 was light and agile. Given its size, it would seem like that in any case, but the space around the tires does remind one of a pickup truck.

However you look at it, the XT4 puppy is another step in an offensive at Cadillac, which plans to introduce a new model every six months through 2020. Right now there are seven — four sedans and three SUVs, including the Escalade, Escalade ESV, XT5 and, now, the XT4. Many will go to China, now Cadillac’s top market.

The XT4 represents an all-new Cadillac architecture, designed to compete in the compact luxury class against the likes of the Volvo XC-40, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3 and the BMW X2. Its tidy dimensions make it a nimble partner in modern dense traffic.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury

But it also manages to be roomy with midsize sedan passenger space of 101 cubic feet, plus 22 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat. The rear seatbacks fold flat to expand the space to 49 cubic feet. A temporary spare wheel and tire lies under the cargo area.

Front-seat passengers get supportive and comfortable power seats and, in the case of the tested Sport model, a massage function for both front seats. Outboard passengers in back get decent head and knee room, though the seatbacks do not recline. The center-rear passenger is disrespected with a hard cushion and big floor hump.

A new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels or all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

To enhance fuel economy, the middle two cylinders deactivate during sedate highway motoring. Also contributing to a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 22/29/24 mpg on all-wheel drive models, the XT4 uses a system in front that can disconnect the driveshaft and rear wheels.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Though there’s a bit of a steering wiggle off-center, the tested XT4 handled securely, abetted by twin clutches at the rear axle that can send 100% of the available torque to either wheel depending on conditions.

The XT4 is comfortable, and remains mostly quiet except under hard acceleration, when the engine gets a bit raucous. On harsh surfaces, some road noise also intrudes, though wind noise is mostly nonexistent.

There are six versions: Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport, available with front-wheel drive or, for an additional $2,500, all-wheel drive. The focus of this review is the Sport, which carried a base price of $40,290 and, as tested with all-wheel drive, $56,835. Both prices include the destination charge.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Not many customers are likely to order the base model. The tested AWD Sport came with $15,915 worth of options, including the all-wheel drive. They included forward collision alert with pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, perforated leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, automatic lift gate, XSM satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Cadillac deserves congratulations for an opaque sunshade for the motorized sunroof. Too many luxury cars and crossovers these days follow a fad of using sunshades made of perforated cloth that allows heat and too much sunlight to intrude on passengers.

Overall, this Escalade puppy aims to please — and does.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 237 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,900 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/29/24 mpg (premium fuel).
  • Base price, including destination charge: $40,290.
  • Price as tested: $56,835.

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

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport

Photos (c) Cadillac

2019 Range Rover Supercharged: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because it emerges from the storied Land Rover company in England, the 2019 Range Rover Supercharged arrives with a presumption that it can conquer trackless terrain anywhere.

In the United States, that translates into recreational off-roading in many venues around the country. But driving this powerful, expensive giant, it’s hard to imagine it being used as anything but a beautiful luxury boulevard SUV.

rr19my25071814At 16 feet 5 inches long and an inch over six feet tall, it’s way big for serious off-road adventures. For another, the luxurious tester came with a bottom-line price of $118,320. Unless you have megabucks to burn, it’s not the vehicle you’d want to scratch and bash in the outback.

As with any Land Rover, the right stuff nevertheless is there, delivering the serenity of knowing you’d have a possible exit in a dystopian scenario of aliens blowing up streets and freeways.

Other than that, most owners likely will have little inclination to learn its sophisticated all-wheel drive, air suspension system, terrain response with hill descent control, low-traction and hill launch assist, and roll stability control.

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

So, Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, country clubs and cruising sedately to black-tie Oscar awards await. It’s a bit of a shame because the Land Rover Supercharged is a high-performance machine that can rip off zero to 60 mph acceleration in five seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph — notwithstanding a curb weight of 5,235 lbs.

In an era when turbocharged smaller engines are taking over the light vehicle landscape, the Land Rover Supercharged gets its motivation from a supercharged, 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 518 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque.

It gets the grunt to all four wheels under any road or off-road condition through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel — just like super cars — although paddles now show up on lesser cars as well.

rr19my25071810There’s a Sport setting on the rotary transmission selector that amps the acceleration and allows manual shifting. But underway in Drive you can’t get to it without shifting into neutral first.

With its air suspension system, which among other skills can lower the back end to ease cargo loading, the Land Rover Supercharged handles decently on twisting, hilly back roads. There’s little body roll or other drama unless you push it too hard. But understand that it is no sports sedan — or even a quick, smaller high-performance SUV like the Porsche Macan.

As a long-distance Interstate cruiser, however, it has few peers. The seats are sinfully supportive and comfortable, there’s minimal intrusion of wind, mechanical or road noise, and it tracks truly with few steering corrections needed.

rr19my25071817The difficulties come in little things that could be easily corrected. Worst is the so-called sun shade for the panoramic glass sunroof. Adhering to a current fad among luxury vehicles, the shade is made of a sort of perforated, cheesecloth-like cheap cloth that admits too much sunlight.

On the Land Rover Supercharged, especially on the sunny and extremely hot days much of the country experienced this last summer, the sunlight through the cheesecloth heats the cabin to the point where the air conditioning can barely keep up.

It’s reminiscent of military cargo airplanes where passengers sit in cloth sling seats with their torsos overheated while their legs freeze. The cheesecloth “sunshades” should prompt a movement among buyers to demand opaque shades that return the cozy ambiance of a closed vehicle.

rr19my25071818The Range Rover Supercharged is British, of course, which implies a certain amount of quirk. Another is the awkward power seat controls mounted on the doors. Most vehicles place them on the sides of the seat, which is way more intuitive. In Land Rover’s defense, Mercedes-Benz uses a similar system.

Then there are the Range Rover’s two big center touch screens that control vehicle and infotainment functions. They are mounted below the driver’s line of sight, at chest and belt-buckle height, and use tiny icons that require focus of the eyes and an aimed finger touch, making the driver take his or her eyes off the road.

Best to get everything set before moving off. Even better, get some lessons on how everything works to avoid angry outbursts. True, an owner’s time with the Supercharged will breed familiarity. But, as with so many luxury vehicles, these functions could easily be more intuitive.

rr19my25071811Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Range Rover Supercharged four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 5.0-liter V8, supercharged; 518 hp, 461 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 113/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,235 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,716 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/21/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $105,845.
  • Price as tested: $118,320.

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

Range Rover PHEV Media Drive, March 2018

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2018 Bentley Bentayga: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Wealthy people have plentiful options for relaxation: five-star hotels and spas, yacht cruises, pricey entertainment and fine-wine dining. Some also choose the 2018 Bentley Bentayga crossover SUV, among the most easy-going vehicles on the planet.

In the current pattern of the runaway popularity of these tall tailgate-equipped conveyances, the Bentayga represents the pinnacle of luxury and power, although its onetime garage-mate, Rolls-Royce, is ready with its new Cullinan and other manufacturers will follow. Among them: Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.

Duo_Tone_002When it was introduced as a 2016 model, the Bentayga was touted by its maker as the fastest SUV available anywhere, with a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of four seconds and a top speed of 187 mph.

All that continues with the 2018 version, which is powered by a 600-hp W12 engine that delivers 664 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels.  A W12 has four banks of three cylinders each – in contrast to a V12, which has two banks of six cylinders.

Not that any of its customers cares, but the Bentayga avoids a gas guzzler tax in the U.S. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption works out to 12/19/15 mpg on premium fuel. Deactivation of six cylinders when cruising economizes somewhat.

Though Bentley once was allied with Rolls-Royce, both companies are now owned by German manufacturers. Bentley is part of the Volkswagen conglomerate, which also includes Audi and Lamborghini. Bavaria’s BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Mini.

Verdant_Bentayga_004The Bentayga’s body is built at a Volkswagen plant in Germany and  shipped to the sprawling Bentley works in Crewe, England, where it is assembled to customers’ tastes with old-world hand craftsmanship. Many Bentayga models are custom-built — or bespoke in United Kingdom-talk.

With a base price of $231,825 and a tested price of $258,910, the  Bentayga W12 obviously is not an everyman’s vehicle. But it is part of the growing public infatuation with crossover SUVs. For example, in 2017 Bentley sold 1,152 Bentayga crossovers in the United States, just 101 fewer than the combined sales of all the other Bentley vehicles — Mulsanne, Flying Spur and Continental.

To augment the lineup, the company has added a lower-priced Bentayga for 2019. Powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine with 456 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, it comes with a base price of $197,725. Both the V8 and the V12 engines were developed by Volkswagen, with the Bentayga the first to get the W12.

Sequin_Blue_017It’s hard not to feel a rush the first time you enter the Bentayga environment. Like other Bentley models, the surroundings ooze high quality materials and bespoke craftsmanship. You sit on the finest leather upholstery available, with front seats that have built-in selectable massage choices. Rear seat passengers have burr walnut-veneered fold-down picnic tables. Expert hand-stitching stands out everywhere you look.

The only slightly jarring note in the interior is the sun shield for the panoramic sunroof. Hewing to a current fad among luxury vehicles, it is made of a perforated, cheesecloth-like material that admits too much sunlight. Sun shields should be opaque, although it’s certain Bentley would substitute one at a customer’s request.

Another minor drawback is a smallish cargo area behind the second-row seat. Space is compromised by an inflatable temporary spare tire beneath the cargo floor.

Bentley Bentayga named SUV of the Year by Robb Report UK 07Though you have 600 hp murmuring under the hood, it almost seems superfluous. You’re not likely to floor the go pedal at stoplights to reach triple-digit speeds in seconds. No, the Bentayga’s forte is relaxed cruising in utter silence. Even tire-slap sounds on rough roads barely make it through to the passengers.

The competence continues for off-roading, suggested by the Bentayga name, which is a combination of Bentley and the Taiga, the world’s largest land community of compatible plants and animals that stretches through 10 countries in the northern hemisphere.

Bentley Bentayga-3There are eight driver-selectable settings of driving modes on and off the road, including a system that fine-tunes the front and rear anti-roll bars. Others adjust the engine, transmission and steering. For on-road handling, the all-wheel drive is biased toward the rear. Off-road? Who would bash a Bentayga through the backwoods?

Of course, the Bentayga comes with all modern safety and convenience equipment, active and passive. The tested Bentayga also had $27,085 worth of options that included Bentley-wing escutcheon puddle lamps that illuminate the pavement under all four doors at night.

Duo_Tone_006Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Bentley Bentayga W12 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 6.0-liter W12, twin turbochargers; 600 hp, 664 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 109/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,380 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 12/19/15 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $231,825.
  • Price as tested: $258,910.

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

Bentley Bentayga

Photos (c) Bentley

 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Specifications

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

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

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Photos (c) Acura.

2018 Range Rover Velar: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Moneyed people can be picky, which likely is one reason for the all-new 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar compact sport utility vehicle.

That’s a mouthful, but needed because all of the company’s SUVs bear the Land Rover name. The storied British company was founded after World War II and is renowned world-wide for building vehicles that can traverse almost any terrain.

Land Rover now is part of Jaguar Land Rover, still British but owned by Tata Motors of India, which has nurtured both brands to new respect in the global automotive industry.

rrvelar18mystatic070817004Land Rovers may bend — as in allowing lights or clutches to burn out in the Serengeti — but they almost never break down completely.

In recent times, with computerization and more sophisticated designs, they still project an aura of a vehicle that can go anywhere, any time. But they have morphed into the stuff of a different call of duty, one in which they serve the famous and wealthy on their rounds of country clubs and five-star resorts.

Though the Land Rover people assert that a surprising number of their customers take their expensive machines off-road purely for entertainment, it is quite likely any number of them never negotiate anything other than a paved highway or parking lot.

rrvelar18mystatic070817010For 2018, the company’s lineup has been simplified, bereft of any of those confusing alphanumeric designations. There are 11 models and trim levels, all bearing the Land Rover name. On the larger side are the Discovery and Discovery Sport models, two with 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines.

There also are eight versions of the Land Rover Range Rover: Evoque, the new Velar, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. Smallest is the Evoque, which is the outlier of the bunch with a convertible model as well as hard tops with two or four doors and a choice of all-wheel or front-wheel drive. To satisfy customers who want their Rover just so, the Velar slots between the Evoque and Range Rover.

Though the new Velar — the name was cobbled up from letters in the Land Rover name — is classified as a compact SUV, it tilts toward midsize. Passenger space amounts to 99 cubic feet — about what you find in a midsize sedan. But it also has a whopping 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. It competes against the compact Audi Q5 and BMW X3, as well as the midsize Audi Q7 and BMW X5.

rrvelar18my281glhdinteriordetails010317The Velar, which shares its underpinnings with the Jaguar F-Pace, embodies a new design language for Range Rover vehicles. Aimed at the on-road driving experience, it is more streamlined with seating for the driver down lower than on other Land Rover vehicles.

Though you can order a four-cylinder Velar with a base price of about $51,000, the tested model was the R-Dynamic HSE P380, which has a single price of $78,095 that includes a full load of optional equipment.

It is powered by a 380-hp, 3.0-liter V6 supercharged engine that delivers 332 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel this all-wheel-drive, 4,675-lb metal sculpture to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

22.12.16   V1
22.12.16 V1

Despite its bulk, the Velar has a sprightly feel in traffic. If you turn off the stop-start system, which was the preference here, there’s no hesitation off the line when you punch the gas pedal. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and you can shift for yourself with paddles on the steering wheel.

The Velar exudes luxury. Seats are supportive and comfortable, upholstered in soft leather. Sound deadening materials eliminate most road and wind noise, though some engine sounds intrude through the firewall under hard acceleration.

rrvelar18mystaticaccessories070817025Infotainment functions are controlled by two 10-inch touch screens that eliminate almost all buttons and switches. However, the screens themselves incorporate 41 (count ’em) virtual buttons. There also are another 16 buttons and switches on the steering wheel, so figure on a lengthy study period to learn the whole megillah.

One cool feature: a shockproof and waterproof “activity key” that substitutes for the ignition remote. Leave the remote in the Velar while you go swimming or kayaking; the activity key will get you back in the driver’s seat.

The Velar’s panoramic sunshade, following a current fad, is made of a cheesy cloth that admits too much sunlight. And the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides.

rrvelar18mystaticaccessories070817026Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE P380 four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, supercharged, 380 hp, 332 lb-ft of torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,675 pounds.
  • City/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $78,095.
  • Price as tested: $78,095.

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

rrvelar18mystatic070817005Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir may become as popular in its own way as its cousin, the GMC Yukon Denali, but it already was famous in typographical circles as a modern sans-serif typeface or font.

However, it may be that the Avenir name was chosen because it is the French word for “future.” Either way, it represents Buick’s effort to push its three-row crossover sport utility even more upscale to mimic the Denali versions in its GMC sibling division at General Motors.

Denali models, named for a mountain and national park in Alaska, have been an unqualified success for GMC, which is primarily a manufacturer of trucks and SUVs. It seems that many of its customers are eager to pay more for luxurious surroundings, so the Denali trim is available on six GMC models, including the Acadia Denali, a striver that is named for not one but two US National Parks, with Acadia located in Maine.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

A luxury ambiance also is the purpose of the new Enclave Avenir, a new, upscale trim level of Buick’s seven-passenger crossover SUV. It delivers stylish, flowing lines and is roughly the same size as the Chevrolet Traverse but a bit larger than the GMC Acadia.

The Avenir doesn’t directly compete with the three-row Yukon Denali, which comes in two lengths and is a fully-realized SUV built like a burly pickup truck with a body-on-frame. But the Avenir, properly equipped like the one tested for this review, can tow up to 5,000 pounds and accommodate six adults in reasonable comfort. A seventh can squeeze into the third-row seat.

Unfortunately, access to that third row is difficult and only available through the right-rear door. Plus, it takes muscle to flip the right-side second-row seat forward for access to the third row. However, the second row consists of two captain’s chairs so more nimble family members can scurry between them and get back in steerage.

2018-Buick-Enclave-Avenir-016The immediate impression when first seated in the Enclave Avenir is the plush surroundings — soft and supportive leather seats, heated and ventilated up front with heated second row seats; memory settings for the driver’s seat; pushbutton starting with remote locking; powered third-row seat that folds with the touch of a button; tri-zone automatic climate control; power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; dual-pane panoramic sunroof; full infotainment functions including navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, inductive device charging; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio.

2018-Buick-Enclave-Avenir-014The tested Avenir also came with 20-inch aluminum wheels and a $2,095 technology package that included adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking that augmented the standard safety equipment of lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, front pedestrian braking, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree surround-vision camera.

However, the inside rear-view uses not a mirror but a camera, which makes for confusion because the driver’s eyes must constantly adjust for depth perception to see what’s going on. Better to stick with a standard mirror.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

On the road, the Enclave Avenir feels like the big vehicle it is. At 17 feet long and weighing 4,565 lbs, it is more of an easy-riding rolling comfort zone than a frisky conveyance with quick moves. In that sense, it’s just the thing for a long family road trip, mostly on freeways. Though it doesn’t have the interior dimensions of a minivan, it comes close. Among its competitors are similar luxury crossover SUVs like the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX70 and the Volvo XC90.

There’s 24 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third-row seat. Press a button to fold it and the space expands to 58 cubic feet. If you have to move something big like a side table, folding the second row as well opens 98 cubic feet of cargo space.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

The Avenir’s 310-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine with 266 lb-ft of torque is more than adequate to any motoring task, from merging onto freeways or passing on two-lane roads. It runs on regular grade gasoline.

The Avenir is available with standard front-wheel drive or—as on the version tested here — all-wheel drive. Power gets to the wheels through an easy-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It is controlled by a new shift lever that requires some attention before you learn to use it without thinking about it.

Overall, the Enclave Avenir would work for anyone with a minivan aversion and a desire for luxury. The tester started at $56,690 with a bottom-line sticker of $59,435.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir AWD 1SP four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, 310 hp, 266 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,565 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/25/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $56,690.
  • Price as tested: $59,435.

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

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Photos (c) Buick.

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