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2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 possesses a heritage that none of its sport utility siblings can claim.

It is the direct descendant of the 1998 Mercedes ML320, originally described as the M-Class All-Activity Vehicle. It astounded the motoring public as the first SUV from a luxury manufacturer with an affordable price tag of $34,545.

All-new Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV to start at $53,700

By the standards then and now, it was a midsize. It also was a true SUV with truck-like body-on-frame construction, and solid off-road capabilities with an all-wheel drive system that could get you out of trouble even if only one wheel had traction.

Moreover, it was a true five-passenger vehicle, with a flat floor and three separate and equal back seats. It was unlike most vehicles nowadays, most of which are crossover SUVs with unit-body construction like automobiles. They usually disrespect any center-rear passenger with a narrow, hard cushion and little if any comfort. The GLE450 follows that trend.

Over the 22 years since the ML320, Mercedes switched it to unit-body construction and designed additional crossovers, to the point where it now has four: small GLA, compact GLC, midsize GLE and full-size GLS. It also markets the G-Class, a military-style truck-like SUV.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

Interestingly, the 2020 GLE450 comes across as a modern iteration of the original — better in most ways but not as good as in some. Besides the lack of comfort for the third-row passenger, and despite the fact that it is more than a foot longer than the ML320, it has less interior room.

The ML320 had 105 cubic feet of space for passengers and a generous cargo area of 45 cubic feet. The new GLE has 102 cubic feet for passengers and 38 cubic feet for cargo.

Of course, the GLE has way more sophistication, safety equipment and power than its predecessor. With twin turbochargers, its new inline six-cylinder engine makes 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four-wheels with a nine-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

The 1998 ML320’s 3.2-liter V6 engine had a five-speed automatic transmission to handle 215 hp and 233 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy was rated at 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Now, using the EPA’s new system, the city/highway/combined rating for the GLE works out to 19/24/21 mpg.

Other than years, the biggest gap between the original and the new GLE450 is price. The ML320’s price of $34,545, including the destination charge, as tested by this reviewer, pretty much covered everything. The standard upholstery was a sturdy cloth trimmed with leatherette that usually outlasted the optional leather. You also could order such options as side-step rails and a multiple-disc CD changer mounted in the cargo area.

In today’s dollars, that ML320 would cost $53,890. The 2019 450GLE tested for this review had a base price of $62,145 and, with options, the bottom-line sticker came to a whopping $85,120.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

Of course, the standard equipment and $22,975 worth of options included items not dreamed of two decades ago: Automatic emergency braking, active lane-keeping assist, Distronic adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic braking, rear collision protection, idle stop-start technology, blind-spot monitor, navigation with voice control, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, four-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled cup holders and front seats, powered rear- and side-window sun blinds, and even a way to perfume the passenger pod. To name a few.

The instruments and infotainment center screen are combined in a broad display across the dash that looks something like a wide-screen video game. Functions are accessed by a controller for the screen and a tiny button on the steering wheel to change instrument views. Younger owners will adapt immediately; older folks will require lessons.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

On the road, the GLE450 exhibits everything you expect from a modern Mercedes. The steering has a substantial, heavy feel. The luxurious interior is isolated from almost all nasty environmental noises. Seats are designed for long-distance support and comfort.

Though it’s a tall, nearly 2.5-ton machine, the GLE450 comports itself well on twisting roads, though of course it’s no sports sedan. The optional air suspension system keeps the wheels planted and the ride supple, though there is some delayed pitching and bouncing on undulating roads.

Time marches on. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 incorporates way more performance, comfort and convenience than the original M-Class. But it’s an evolution. The ML320 was a game changer. Which is better?

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder; turbocharged, 362 hp, 369 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall Length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: TBA/TBA.
  • Weight: 4,990 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $62,145.
  • Price as tested: $85,120.

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

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLE, San Antonio 2018

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

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2019 Jaguar I-PACE: Driving the Future

by Tod Mesirow

The Future of the Automobile is electric.

The gasoline powered car will battle it out with electrics until all the ice on earth melts and we’re just scrabbling as a species to find food and shelter.

That could happen. If there is a future.

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But for now, billions and billions are being spent by every major automobile manufacturer on electric cars. Think of all that investment like a ship-destroying iceberg. Even if the icebergs are melting, that’s not the kind of momentum you turn around for hydrogen, or diesel. Unless Tony Stark lets everybody in on his super-secret glowing blue power source, we’re looking at an electric wheeled future for all our mobility options.

Sure the purists will hold on to gasoline-powered cars the way Charlton Heston held on to his guns. But he’s gone, and soon, so will the majority of the gasoline-powered vehicles.

And really – what’s to be missed?

Well, I will admit, plenty. The throaty grumble turned to a roar as small explosions power the piston – say, eight of them – up and down as the gears are manually engaged one at a time through the power curve, the wind whipping in the windows or over the windshield, the peripheral view a blur as the world is altered with a sense of certain power and the sensation of speed. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy those moments in spectacular cars, and hope to have more such experiences before it becomes completely out of reach for the non-billionaire.

An apparent 180 from those rarefied gasoline infused realms, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a 2019 Jaguar I-PACE all-electric SUV.

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One of the early challenges to Tesla’s dominance from a major manufacturer of the upper echelons of electric vehicles – with a nod to the Leaf, and the Bolt, and others – the I-PACE from Jaguar looks like a car, by which I mean a gasoline powered car, unlike the Teslas, which feel more like high end display booths at a technology trade show, or the cockpit of a shuttle one might find on the starship USS Enterprise. The Teslas are wide open, with minimal controls, and a massive touch screen – like a computer tablet – that replaces every knob and dial on an old-fashioned car.

And that’s part of the appeal. Tesla owners embrace their journey to the future every time they open the door and climb in to their cars. More power to them. But their numbers after the initial stampede seem to have plateaued, and the brass ring of a giant best-selling all electric vehicle has yet to be grasped by any company riding the scary not merry go round. Huge fortunes have to be committed to bring about the electric vehicle future, and there is no way that everyone in the car manufacturing world is not terrified and consistently tense about when the future will arrive.

Meanwhile, the I-PACE.

I walked to the NY garage where I was to pick up the car. It was parked on the street in front of a garage. Passersby stopped and gawked, a few inquiring about it. Being orange helped it stand out from the other cars, but the design was the major factor. It looks sleek, with the signature Jaguar nose, scoops to either side, low to the ground, powerful haunches over the rear wheels. Appealing slope to the roof line, which becomes glass, leading to straight rear, 90 degrees from the ground. Overall, a successful first impression, of refined aggression, that looks commanding and potentially fast.

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The instructions from the representative were brief but thorough – the interfaces all very intuitive.

I was ready to hit the road.

My destination was Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

As I sat in the car, and the display told me I had a full charge, and 231 miles of range, I wondered how much of a fool I was.

Rehoboth was 210 miles. That gave me a 21 mile cushion. Or so I thought.

My friend Brett Burke, automotive writer, gave me some helpful advice. Download the apps, he said, that will tell you where there are charging stations. You’ll need them.

He was right.

Jaguar included a small piece of plastic attached to the key chain with an RFID and their account. Radio Frequency Identification. It was linked to a Charge Point account. Which was one of the apps that Brett suggested I download.

Off I went. My iPhone linked easily with the I-PACE, not just because they both use the “I” naming architecture. I had my route plotted.

jipace19mystudioimage01031814Helpfully, the map also displayed Charge Point stations along the route.

One thing that everyone says about electric cars is that there is no power curve. All of the energy is immediately available.

What this means is that when you put your foot on the gas, and press it to the floor, the acceleration is fantastic. Rocket launch amazing. The battery sends all the power the wheels can handle to them in an instant, and that’s why electric cars routinely get to 60 from zero in 4.5 seconds. With a weight close to 5,000 pounds that’s impressive. The lowest priced level I-PACE, the S, has an MSRP of $69,500. Which is part of its appeal.

The First Edition I-PACE I drove has an MSRP of $85,900.

But all that speed comes at a price. The faster you drive, the faster the batteries are drained.

Which is why of the Mode choices, I chose Economy. My goal wasn’t speed, as much as I enjoy speed whatever the power source, my goal was to arrive at my destination without stopping.

Good luck with that, I can imagine some of you saying. And you would be correct.

Because the modern electric cars – there were actually many electric cars built and sold and happily owned by Americans from the late 1890’s through the 19-teens but they lost out at that time to gasoline powered cars – are new, the calibration of power, and speed, and distance, and battery life are not an exact science.

jipace19mystudioimage01031817Which means that as I’m driving south from New York to Delaware, I’m watching the number of miles I have left – my range – reduce at a rate greater than the miles traveled.

In other words – when the display indicated I had 183 miles left, and I drove ten miles, which would, in a perfectly calibrated world, result in 173 miles of range left on the display – the display instead said 161 miles. I was losing energy faster than the display had indicated that I would.

And – this is based on highway driving, in Economy mode, with Cruise Control engaged, so I wasn’t using energy in a reckless, foolhardy or fun manner.

This was serious. I wanted to avoid a charging stop.

Driving the I-PACE is superb. It’s quiet inside, comfortable, all the elements one expects to find in a luxury car. But less the Starship Enterprise and more what all modern cars have become – sleek with touch screens – but with some functions performed by buttons knobs and dials, and not just the touch screen. Awesome sound system. Huge panoramic moonroof.  Seats with many adjustable areas. The automatic systems function well, and are easy to turn on and off. The lane reminder includes haptic feedback – the steering wheel shimmered when the car went over a lane line without signaling first. Super handy for these days of distracted driving. The cruise control includes an automatic braking system that reads cars in front of you, and adjusts speed and braking accordingly. The I-PACE will stop itself when the car in front stops. And the distance from the car in front – when following someone on the highway – can be adjusted depending on the driver’s preferences.

jipace19mystudioimage01031818But range anxiety is real. I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to experience the concern of running out of power.

“What happens if you run the battery down to zero?” someone asked me.

The car stops, I told them. Time to call the Three A’s. As my Mom calls them.

So running out of power, out of charge, out of energy, is something to be avoided.

The Charge Point app has a location function built in, among other helpful tools, so it knew where I was. And I knew where I was going. I searched along the route and found a Level 3 charger at a Royal Farms in Smyrna Delaware.

Royal Farms are like 7 Elevens for people who have not been to one, but better in my opinion. The sell gasoline, and all manner of food and snacks. And they sell giant drinks for $1.00. Including unsweetened iced tea. Or if you want a sugared fizzy soda beverage – they have that too, of course. They also had two chargers, and both were available.

Entering the Royal Farms at a destination and doing some elementary school level math I figured I had 40 miles to spare. Which felt like a big enough cushion. I wasn’t trying to run the car to zero. That would not be pleasant.

But from the time I realized I had to make that stop, and actually arriving at the Royal Farms, with less than the 40 mile buffer, I was a tad anxious.

IMG_4910Electric car chargers cost money. The price differs from station to station. The amount of charge per time on the charger varies as well. Level 3 chargers are the fastest. The app said in an hour it would yield 180 miles of range. More than enough.

So I put the car on charge, and went for a walk around Smyrna.

Which is an interesting many hundreds of years old town. Brick sidewalks. 19thand 18thcentury houses. A great small public library. And a really delicious falafel at a small restaurant that seemed to be run by a husband and wife in a shopping center named Freedom Plaza. Every now and then America can still offer up surprises.

Back at the car, all was well, and the display indicated many more miles of range than I needed.

Because the Level 3 charging stations seemed to be a bit scarce, and because I had to return to New York in a few day’s time, I used the I-PACE sparingly around Rehoboth, mindful every time I turned it on, I was using energy, and of my upcoming trip.

Why not plug it in to the house current? The rate of energy gain from the 110 outlets available were not worth buying or finding the long extension cords. Again – the infrastructure, out on the road and at home – needs to be built out to reduce or remove the range anxiety.

IMG_4815When it was time to head back to NY, I had more than enough range to reach my Smyrna charger – mine, because it had served me well before, and therefore was my friend – and with a full charge there, more than likely enough range to reach the garage where I was to drop it off.

Pulling in to the Royal Farms, I was happy to see the Charge Point available. Even though the app indicated it was free, part of the modern world is that technology is often less than reliable – it fails us in unpredictable ways, which is worse, and why range anxiety falls under an entire umbrella of technological dread – not just fear of Terminators, but fear of internet connected toasters and microwaves, of all of IoT in general, and the people or robots watching everything we do.

I plugged the I-PACE in, used the RFID, heard the buzz of electricity flowing into the car, saw the % start to climb, and headed out on another walking tour of Smyrna.

When I returned after an hour plus I was confronted with the unhappy fact that for whatever reason the charging had not happened as it had before. Or as I had wanted it to. I was 4% more charged than when I had arrived at Royal Farms. Not good.

There was no need for immediate panic – no one was injured, it wasn’t a disaster – but it wasn’t ideal. I called the Charge Point people, and a nice woman on the line was able to link her system up to the car, and the Charge Point station, and confirmed that what I was seeing was correct – the charge hadn’t happened as planned. She didn’t know why. We both came to the genius conclusion that I should move the car to the other Charge Point right next to the one that had failed – which luckily was unoccupied – and try again. She stayed on the line as I moved the car, and plugged in the other charger. Again I heard the buzz, the charge started, and it seemed as if all would be well. I waited a few more moments with her on the line, as the battery began to fill up, and after passing 4% gain, was assured enough to thank her for her help, hang up, and head out for more walking around Smyrna.

IMG_4826Happily – luckily? – upon my return after another hour – I found the batteries had reached 98% charge. The range stated was quite a bit more than the number of miles from Smyrna to NY – a good 50 or so – and I thought if I had to stop again I would, but that 2% more wouldn’t make much of a difference. So off I went.

As I drove past all the rest stops on the New Jersey Turnpike – and stopped at one for coffee, where I saw wild mushrooms growing next to the parking lot trash can – why do these not have charging stations? None of them do.

And that’s the big problem with electric cars – today – and was the problem around the turn of the 20thcentury when they were battling it out with gasoline engines. The infrastructure just isn’t here yet. Why haven’t state governments taken steps to combat greenhouse gasses by mandating more electric charging stations? One positive aspect of the horrific illegal and deeply evil scheme promulgated by Volkswagen to cheat everyone on the planet by rigging their emissions testing of diesel engines – for which they were caught and prosecuted – is that as part of the settlement they’re required to spend two billion dollars to install fast charging stations nationwide that work for all electric cars over the next decade. But that’s probably not enough to eradicate the range anxiety that almost any owner of an all-electric vehicle has felt, especially for now.

And yet.

The I-PACE is amazing to drive. It won’t be alone for long among major manufacturers – there are a bunch on the way. The Audi e-tron SUV is due this year, with a base MSRP of $74,800, the Mercedes EQC Crossover arriving in the U.S. supposedly after the start of 2020, has a price for its UK release this July, at £65,640, or $83,625 give or take a few based on currency fluctuation, and the Aston Martin Rapide E with no announced price but a 2020 sale date projection.

IMG_4825Electricity generation itself is not always a climate change plus. If the electricity comes from burning coal, then in all likelihood there is no net gain over gasoline. But if the electricity comes from renewable resources like solar wind or hydroelectricity then bring it on. California is faced with a glut of renewable energy – and storage is becoming the key issue.

We’re facing a future that in some ways looks exactly like the past. And in other ways, looks and feels a whole lot better.

I will miss the visceral pleasure of gasoline powered internal combustion engines, but I will enjoy the crisp clean and pleasingly shocking speed of electric cars.

The 2019 Jaguar I-PACE is a nice entry point.

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Specifications:

  • Zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds
  • 90 kwH battery
  • 234-mile maximum range

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Photos (c) Tod Mesirow

I-PACE interior photos (c) Jaguar USA

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a rarity. It is among a few crossover sport utility vehicles that openly disdain their category because they are all about extremist performance.

Yet because of the public infatuation with crossovers, it is almost a given that increasing, and increasingly expensive, numbers of them will be equipped almost like road-racing cars. Think Mercedes-Benz AMG models, BMW M crossovers and Audi’s Sport Division offerings.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio goes bumper-to-bumper against those as well as more expensive exotics like the Aston-Martin DBS and Lamborghini Urus,

Italy’s Alfa Romeo is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It has been working to build the brand in the U.S., starting with the 4C coupe and roadster, which were more suited to a race course than cityscapes. Then the company followed with the exciting Giulia compact sedan.

For the 2018 model year, FCA delivered the Stelvio, which basically was a crossover version of the Giulia. The name is taken from the highest pass in the Italian Alps mountains, where there are 48 hairpin turns over 12 miles of highway.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio NRING

The Stelvio comes in six trim levels, starting with the base rear-wheel drive model at just shy of $42,000, and advancing through the Stelvio Sport RWD, Ti all-wheel drive, Ti Lusso AWD, Ti Sport and the tested Quadrifoglio (the name is Italian for four-leaf clover). The Ti Sport and Quadrifoglio come only with all-wheel drive.

What distinguishes the Quadrifoglio from its lesser brethren is its twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 engine, which delivers 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It enabled Car and Driver magazine, in an instrumented test, to nail 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and 100 mph in 8.8 seconds, with a governed top speed of 176 mph.

Though there’s hardly anywhere you can do that — at least without ending up in a jail somewhere — Alfa Romeo thoughtfully provided a race mode and Brembo racing brakes for weekend track use. There also are driver adjustable dynamic, normal and advanced efficiency (economy) modes.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio NRING

There’s a stop-start system, ostensibly to improve fuel economy, rated by the EPA at 17/23/19 mpg in city/highway/combined driving. Fortunately, it can be turned off.

The track mode must be set up separately. If you switch to it while plying the public roads, it defaults to dynamic, which provides performance shift mapping with suspension and shock absorber tuning. It delivers a stiffer ride, punishing on some surfaces, especially combined with the hard and well-bolstered sport seats. Best to use the normal mode, a good combination for everyday driving.

An eight-speed automatic transmission sends the power to all four wheels, where the all-wheel drive system is rear-wheel biased for better handling and cornering, although it can also send up to 60% of the power to the front wheels, depending on conditions.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio NRING

The transmission can be shifted manually with large paddles mounted on the steering column. Because they are fixed, the driver always knows where they are, even when the steering wheel is cranked one way or the other. It’s so efficient it’s a wonder that all shift paddles are not so located.

Inside, the Quadrifoglio is all about the business of driving. With the racing seats and some plastic trim here and there, it comes up a bit short on luxury. But it is as well-equipped as any sport/luxury vehicle.

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

The base price of $81,390 includes full safety and power equipment, though the cruise control is not of the adaptive type. Few would take it off road, yet it comes with hill descent control. Options that included a special $2,000 paint job, along with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, brought the tested price up to $84,890.

There is adequate seating for four passengers with decent head and knee room for the outboard rear passengers. There is a center seat but forget about it. With a giant floor hump and intrusion of the center console, it is not usable.

One drawback: the backseat headrests block visibility to the rear  quarters through the inside mirror, so it’s important to get the side mirrors adjusted properly to eliminate blind spots. For those who don’t or won’t do that, blind-spot warning is standard.The cargo area, with 19 cubic feet of space, is nicely upholstered and includes adjustable tie-downs to secure luggage during the inevitable temptation to engage in spirited driving.

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Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.9-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 505 hp, 443 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/19 cubic feet. (57)
  • Weight: 4,360 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/23/19 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $81,390.
  • Price as tested: $84,890.

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

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio NRING

Photos (c) Alfa Romeo

2019 Lexus RX 350L: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

When you produce the 2019 Lexus RX, the best-selling luxury crossover sport utility vehicle, it never hurts to up the ante.

That’s the reason for the RX 350 L model, a slightly stretched version of the original with three rows of seats. RX sales in 2018, including the L, totaled 111,641 nation-wide, more than any other luxury model and all of Land Rover’s or Cadillac’s SUVs.

2018_RX_350L_01_1854DDD44F40A20159D5FB2E679DBF11CF655689In the Lexus lineup, the RX — the name originally was intended to signify “Radiant Crossover”—slots dead center among the SUVs: above the subcompact UX and compact NX but below the GX and LX. The latter two are full-fledged SUVs, with truck-like body-on-frame construction. The others are crossovers, built with unit bodies like automobiles.

The 350 L is built on the same platform with the same wheelbase — the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels — as the standard RX. Overall, however, it is four inches longer.

That enabled the Lexus designers to squeeze in that third row, which ostensibly seats two. But it was not enough. Even though the second row has about eight inches of fore-and-aft travel, it’s not enough to divvy up and provide enough knee room for passengers in either the second or third rows.

2018_RX_350L_19_544D1BB8ACAB86AAC1D207684F272EE8A4395A5FAdjust the second row for decent space and the third row becomes a storage place for backpacks or watermelons. Moreover, even if you set it up for a teeny bit of knee room, it’s a chore to twist and turn to crawl back there. Forget grownups and reserve the area for agile small children.

With the second row all the way back, there’s sumptuous comfort for four. Both the front bucket seats and the outboard back seats are supportive with cozy bolstering. Upholstery is ventilated leather with the front seats heated and cooled, and the back seats heated.

As usual in almost every vehicle on the market, the center-rear passenger is disrespected, though in the RX 350 L, he or she need not be. The floor is flat, and the center console intrudes only slightly. But the seat cushion is high and hard.

2018_RX_350L_17_C591F9A39AAC9742668074F4D7B952976997110BThe classy surroundings include a wood and leather steering wheel and wood trim. A jewel-like analog clock resides in the center of the dash, topped by a large center screen that displays infotainment and other functions.

There is much that is familiar. The shift lever has traditional slots and the cruise control stalk on the lower right side of the steering wheel would be familiar to any Toyota or Lexus owner.

Shorter drivers will appreciate the Lexus decision to mount the outside mirrors on the doors. That leaves a small pane of glass forward of the mirrors, which enables a view of the ground and vehicles approaching from the sides.

2018_RX_350L_15_D8C0267CB3C528EA3342A7BBB82CD615B35826C9The RX 350 L is powered by a 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that develops 267 lb-ft of torque, enough propel this luxury critter to 60 mph in less than eight seconds, which is respectable in any company. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends the power to all four wheels, which automatically adjust traction depending on conditions.

There are driver-selectable drive modes: eco, normal and sport. The modes adjust shock absorbers and shift mapping for fuel economy, more aggressive acceleration or everyday driving.

2018_RX_350L_21_EDEC9ADB65343041C6CD3386355726C32D9F2D53The normal setting will do fine for most drivers. This is not a vehicle for rapid flogging around hilly curves. Laid-back cruising in lavish surroundings with silent running exceeded only by an electric car is its forte.

Handling is capable, though not what any enthusiast would regard as sporting, and straight-line tracking is fatigue-free with minimal corrections needed. Augmenting the comfort equation is a supple suspension system that keeps everything planted and also delivers a creamy ride.

2018_RX_350L_12_34677EBDE98217061B58D281215B1EE07AD983BAStandard equipment, as part of the base $50,195 price, included pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, dynamic adaptive radar cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic headlight high beams, rain-sensing windshield wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, memory settings for seats and outside mirrors, and SXM satellite radio.

Options on the tested RX 350 L included the wood and leather steering wheel, rear camera with a panoramic view, parking assist with automatic braking, blind-spot monitor, a color head-up display, touch-free power rear tailgate, navigation system, Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium audio package, auto-leveling LED headlights with washers, and LED turn signal lights and rear combination lights. All of that brought the suggested delivered price up to $60,579.

2018_RX_350L_20_BA2ADF9A8AE9C9310258B2970A2DB0685106A11ESpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Lexus RX 350L AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 121/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,387 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $50,195.
  • Price as tested: $60,579.

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

2018_RX_350L_08_CC77938F17406CC47991BE560BAC65BCCCDB53D6Photos (c) Lexus

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

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.

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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.

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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.

 

HyperFocal: 0
2019 Jaguar E-Pace

*    *   *

  • 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

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