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luxury suvs

Setting Sail in Volvo’s Flagship SUV, the 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription

by Jason Fogelson

We’ve been waiting a while for the 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD to arrive here in the U.S. It’s the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) of Volvo’s flagship three-row SUV, combining the very best of Volvo’s design and engineering prowess in one vehicle. XC90 comes in three models: T5, which uses a direct gasoline-injected turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (250 hp/258 lb-ft of torque); T6, which uses a direct gasoline-injected turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter engine (316 hp/295 lb-ft of torque); and T8, which adds an 87-hp electric motor to the turbo/supercharged gas engine to produce a combined 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque.

New Care by Volvo Additions

The electrified part is what we’ve been waiting for. Like almost all automakers, Volvo has committed to electrifying its lineup over the next decade, adding hybrid and pure EV powertrains into the mix.

XC90 T8 is a PHEV, which means you can plug it in to power to charge up its onboard 10.4-kWh battery, and (in theory) drive for up to 17 miles without ever starting the gasoline engine. In practice, I discovered that the T8 charged up just fine when connected to my standard household 120-volt outlet with the vehicle’s included charging cable. I plugged in every time I parked at home, and kept the battery topped off. I could have gone to a commercial public charging station for quicker power-ups, but I didn’t need to. There’s no range anxiety with a PHEV like the T8. If you should happen to drain the battery, you might not every notice, because you’ve still got a powerful gasoline engine onboard. In normal operation, the SUV does all the work of selecting the most efficient mode of operation – gas only, electric only, or a combination of both. You can see what’s happening, if you wish, on an info screen in the Sensus system, or on a gauge on the instrument panel. But you don’t never need to worry about it.

2020 Volvo XC60 - Banff

EV mode, on the other hand, was a little more of a challenge to engage and sustain. In order to run the SUV on battery power alone, you first select EV mode, then gently, very gently, depress the throttle pedal. Stomp too assertively, and EV mode is cancelled. Exceed 37 mph, and EV mode is cancelled. And it doesn’t automatically re-engage if you slip below 37 mph again or let off the throttle – you have to re-select EV mode. In a week of testing, I never really mastered the fine art of EV mode.

2020 Volvo XC90-R - Banff

Full disclosure: On my very last drive in the XC90 T8, the dashboard alerted me to “Hybrid System Failure” upon startup. It also displayed an icon of a turtle, and said “Service Necessary.” I was only three miles from my house, so I drove home at 30 mph or slower, and parked in my driveway. I alerted to car delivery company about the issue, and they drove the car away the next day as usual. I’m not sure what the problem was, but it got me thinking about modern cars in general, and in complicated hybrid systems in specific.

2020 Volvo XC90 - Banff

Not to sound too much like an old guy (which I am, or will be soon), a few years ago if I got a “Check Engine” light or similar message, my first impulse would have been to open the hood and see if I could figure out what was wrong. I’d look for a loose wire, a leaking hose connection, or some other visual clue, and eight times out of ten, I could figure out what was wrong – and fix it quickly. Most car engine compartments are now shrouded with ABS plastic covers, nominally to help manage heat, airflow and noise. So, when you open the hood, there’s nothing to see. Add in the complex circuitry and electronic controls involved in a powertrain like the T8 – direct injection, turbocharged, supercharged, battery-powered and gasoline-powered – and the idea of looking under the hood is laughable. So is the idea of pulling into your trusty corner service station. If you’re considering an XC90 T8, you’d be wise to check out the service department of your closest Volvo dealership before closing the deal. I wouldn’t extrapolate about Volvo’s reliability from my isolated experience – that would be unfair, and meaningless. But awareness is important.

2020 Volvo XC90 - Banff

As a flagship SUV, the 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription is something special. It is beautiful inside and out, extremely capable, fun-to-drive and luxurious. It benefits from Volvo’s traditional commitment to occupant safety, and can be fitted with the latest and greatest technology for driver assistance. It comes with a base price of $67,500. My test SUV had a long list of optional features that drove the as-tested price up to $86,990, which has the XC90 competing with luxury SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, BMW X7, Audi Q8, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus RX L Hybrid, Acura MDX Hybrid and a few others.

XC90 would be on my list for a luxury family SUV because of its many merits, and in spite of its potential weaknesses. Your situation may vary – do some serious research and homework before buying.

2020 Volvo XC90-R - Banff

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

The New Volvo XC90 R-Design T8 Twin Engine in Thunder Grey

Photos (c) Volvo

Peak Luxury SUV in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

by Jason Fogelson

It looks like we’re approaching the end of the era of the full-sized gasoline-powered luxury SUV. Electric and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles are closer than the horizon; they’re taking up parking spaces all around us. So, I’m glad that I’ve had a chance to spend a week in an SUV that may represent the peak of its genre – the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC – just before its genre begins to disappear.

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019

GLS is a three-row SUV, now entering its third generation of production. The first-generation (2007 – 2012) and part of the second-generation (2013-2019) vehicles were called “GL” until 2016, when the Mercedes SUV lineup underwent a change of nomenclature to correspond with its car-naming conventions. Instead of a disorganized set of class names, Mercedes now has GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE and GLS models (and the roguish G-Class), roughly corresponding to the A-, C-, E- and S-Class sedans, wagons, coupes and cabriolets (B-Class is not currently sold in the U.S.). If you think of the GLS as the S-Class of SUVs, you’ll have a good picture of where it fits into the Mercedes lineup.

Exterior

GLS is a big and beautiful SUV, with assertive, elegant styling that is not overwhelming or overstated. It is 205 inches long, 84.9 inches wide (with mirrors) and 71.8 inches tall, and weighs in at 5,699 lbs. Somehow, wearing 21-inch wheels and with a minimum of 7.9 inches of ground clearance, it still manages to have a great stance. Fit and finish are first-rate, as expected on a luxury car. My test vehicle wore a coat of optional ($720) Mojave Silver Metallic paint, the automotive equivalent of a grey flannel suit, and projected an air of executive competence.

Exterior

Inside, the GLS cabin is like a taller version of the S-Class cabin. Drivers who prefer a tall seating position and commanding outward view will love the GLS. The third row is easily accessible, and actually makes GLS a superior passenger conveyance over S-Class. With 17.4 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third row, it has almost as much capacity as the S-Class’s 18.7 cubic-foot trunk. Fold down the second row, and you’ve opened up 42.7 – 48.7 cubic feet of room. If both second and third rows are folded flat (which you can do with the push of a few buttons), 84.7 cubic feet of luxury goods can fit in the GLS.

Exterior

Luxury is a given in a Mercedes-Benz, and so is technology. GLS is loaded with it, from the ridiculous to the sublime. On the ridiculous side is a new Car Wash mode, which can be triggered to automatically fold in the side mirrors, close the windows and sun roof, turn on the forward-facing camera, and disengage all-wheel drive. If you’ve invested $100,000 in your GLS, I guess you’ll want to keep it clean. On the sublime side, a widescreen digital instrument cluster and widescreen infotainment display, along with optional ($1,100) head-up display provide clear, uncluttered information to the driver at all times. Mercedes-Benz’s interface has improved over the years, and is now intuitive and simple to navigate, responding to swiping gestures familiar to tablet and smartphone operators. The standard Burmester Surround Sound System is nothing short of magnificent. The leather seating is firm and comfortable, with standard massage, ventilation and heating for driver and front passenger, optional ($4,400) Executive Rear Seat Package Plus adding heat and ventilation to the second row. My test car also had the Energizing Package Plus ($2,100), which gilds the lily with Active Multicontour front seats and Air-Balance with fragrance – so you can add specially curated scents to your interior.

Interior

It would be easy to spend all day listing features on the GLS 580, none of which would matter if it weren’t for the beast of an engine that lurks under its hood. A 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 pumps 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque into a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (4MATIC). Mercedes estimates 0-60 mph times at 5.2 seconds, which is plenty quick for a car, and downright impressive for a 5,700-lb SUV. What’s even more impressive is the way that the GL handles and steers. Air suspension is standard, and my test vehicle came with $6,500 E-Active Body Control, which can actively alter control spring and damping forces at each wheel and even lean the vehicle into bends like a motorcycle (subtly, of course). A stereo camera is employed to scan the road surface ahead, so the suspension can be pre-loaded to compensate for bumps and dips. The result is a smooth ride, even over the winter-ravaged Michigan roadways that I had to contend with during my test period.

Exterior

Make no mistake, this is a high end, luxury conveyance with a big price tag. GLS 580 starts at $98,800, and my test vehicle was loaded with options, taking it to an as-tested price of $119,950. Compare it to the BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q8, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX, and Volvo XC90.

Until the Mercedes-Maybach GLS ultra-luxury SUV arrives for 2021, I think we’ve seen the peak of gasoline-only luxury SUVs in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 4MATIC.

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

Der neue Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019 // The new Mercedes-Benz GLS Utah 2019

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

To paraphrase Erasmus: in the land of multiplying bitty crossovers, the luxury 2020 Acura MDX still reigns.

Desiderius Erasmus, in the 15th or 16th century, famously wrote, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

The maxim is interpreted to mean that even someone with limited abilities or opportunities can be dominant over and considered special by those who have fewer abilities and opportunities.

Front 3q Left WhiteIt is apt when considering the new MDX, and other luxury crossover SUVs, awash in a flood of subcompact, compact and midsize crossovers.

Many of the newer small crossovers have much to recommend them: low prices, practicality over any four-door sedan, good performance and handling, and decent fuel economy.

They are named Kicks, Corsair, GLA, C-HR, Venue, Enclave, QX-30, HR-V, Niro, Kona, X1, Renegade, Seltos, CX-3 and Trax, among others. Some are luxury; most are popular priced.

Front 3q Right RedAs good as most of them are, many buyers aspire to something bigger, more luxurious and comfortable, with better performance and, important to some, reputation and presence. Those sentiments are what gave rise to luxury crossovers — at a time when truck-based SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Wagoneer of the last century dominated what then was a tiny slice of the market.

Mercedes-Benz was the first to introduce a luxury SUV, the ML-320 in 1998, though then it was not a crossover but a proper body-on-frame hauler built like a truck. It was followed in short order by the Lexus RX and the Acura MDX, both built with unit-body construction like automobiles, which the ML-320 also morphed into. The MDX distinguished itself by starting out as the first three-row, seven-passenger crossover SUV.

DashIt remains that way in 2020 and fits the interpretation of the famed Erasmus admonition. It is not a perfect vehicle, meaning it has some limitations, but it has been dominant in the marketplace.

Acura brags that it was the retail sales champ among three-row luxury competitors in 2019, beating Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Tesla and Volvo then and in every year since 2010. The claim gets some argument because it counts only sales to individual buyers and ignores fleet sales.

Nevertheless, Acura also says the MDX is the best selling three-row luxury SUV of all time, and has completed its eighth straight year of sales higher than 50,000.

Center ConsoleNo vehicle is perfect and the MDX A-Spec tested for this review is no exception, fitting the Erasmus definition of limited capabilities in some areas. The most obvious: It seats seven passengers, but only four of them comfortably.

The front bucket seats, done up in suede-like Alcantara cloth with leather trim, are supportive and comfortable for both long-distance cruising and challenging mountain curves. The same goes for the outboard rear seats.

Unaccountably, however, the center-rear seat, despite a flat floor, has a hard, uncompromising cushion that would be torture on a long trip. The second-row seats can be adjusted as much as five inches fore and aft, but there’s no way to divide the knee room to prove space for second- and third-row passengers.

2020 Acura MDX A-Spec

The third row is tiny, difficult to access for all but athletic youngsters, and without decent space for adults. So it’s best to think of the MDX as a two-row crossover with the third row folded to open a giant cargo area, usable mainly for extra passengers in emergencies.

So much for the MDX’s limited capabilities. In other respects, especially the driving experience, it is a superb performer despite its two-ton heft and length of 16 feet 4 inches.

WheelThere’s an old adage that says small vehicles should drive big and big vehicles drive small. The MDX, for all of its bulk, drives small. On curving roads, the MDX feels soft and flexible while also clipping corners with the composure of a smaller vehicle tuned for sporty handling.

Buttressing the handling is Acura’s integrated Dynamics System, which provides driver-adjustable settings for steering effort, throttle responses and, with SH-AWD (super-handling all-wheel drive), torque vectoring to tighten cornering. Settings are Comfort, Normal and Sport, but the differences are small and handling remains confident.

Under the hood lies Acura’s 3.5-liter V6 engine, as smooth a power plant as you can find anywhere. It makes 290 hp with 267 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, delivered to Acura’s SH-AWD through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode. It’s a personality any driver would embrace.

RearSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 138/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,303 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/25/21 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,895.
  • Price as tested: $55,895.

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

Rear 3q Left WhitePhotos (c) Acura

2020 Lexus RX 450hL AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though they don’t rack up huge sales numbers, luxury crossover utility vehicles like the 2020 Lexus RX450hL operate in a highly profitable, and therefore competitive, place in the market.

In that territory, the Lexus RX continues as the best-selling nameplate. The addition of the 450hL, a midsize gasoline/electric hybrid with six- or seven-passenger seating, should help maintain that distinction.

2020_Lexus_RX450hL_02_B419CCEE05FD93C1324D9F072A2231E3087A74001Lexus, the luxury division of Japan’s Toyota, also is the best-selling brand among luxury manufacturers that sell SUVs and crossovers.

In 2019, the Lexus nameplates — UX, NX, RX, GX and LX — had total sales of 217,139 in the United States. Mercedes-Benz of Germany had a slightly larger total of 218,148 but two of its eight nameplates — the Sprinter and Metris vans — are commercial vehicles that together had 41,635 of those sales. For counting purposes, luxury crossovers and SUVs are classified as trucks.

The Lexus RX came on the market back in 1998, right after Mercedes-Benz introduced what was widely regarded as the first luxury SUV, the ML320. But the RX was a crossover, built with a unit body like a car, while the original ML320 was designed like a truck with body on frame construction. It has since converted to a crossover design.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_03_8EBCB13234463AD450880174D2F5FDEBA45450DC1The 2020 RX450hL’s forte is silent running in plush comfort, with a suspension system that absorbs nasty road surfaces while still delivering decent handling, though it’s not the sort of vehicle you’d want to enter in an autocross.

It comes with a host of standard and optional equipment to testify to its luxury status, including such items as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with parking assist, rear cross-traffic braking, an informative head-up display that shows the compass, tri-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming and heated outside mirrors, motorized glass sunroof, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power hands-free tailgate, SXM satellite radio and Mark Levinson premium audio.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_06_2B21FFCA34432D4CE1D52CBFB37344C9A67EF2E71An annoyance is the fussy console-mounted touchpad that controls infotainment and other functions on the center screen. It requires focused attention and should not be used while under way.

The RX450hL doesn’t come cheap, though it is less expensive than some of its luxury crossover competitors. Base price of the tester, including the destination charge of $1,025, was $57,485. With options, the bottom line suggested delivered price came to $65,340.

The hybrid system consists of a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine connected to two electric motors — one for the front wheels and the other for the rear wheels. On the tested all-wheel drive model, the system’s 308 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, gets to all four-wheels through Toyota’s gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_13_5086ED6AAE7EDB539987485C444F6D26FAAB40B11There are no shift points. You sense rather than feel that the engine seamlessly controls rpms to provide maximum power and efficiency. Even using the steering wheel paddles to drive in manual mode, which mimics a six-speed automatic transmission, there’s almost no sensation of shifting.

To broaden the RX’s appeal, Lexus introduced the L model in 2019 but stretched it by four inches over the five-passenger version to make space for a third row of seats. The L can accommodate six with captain’s chairs in the second row or seven with a second-row bench seat.

But it’s a squeeze, and even more so in the hybrid 450hL hybrid version. Where the gasoline-engine RX350L has 121 cubic feet of passenger space and 19 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, the hybrid RX450hL has 114 cubic feet for passengers and just 8 cubic feet for cargo.

2020_Lexus_RX_450hL_16_0BC25A96F8C13A59D5201AD12FB94E9F10BC0F451The culprit is the hybrid battery pack, which resides underneath the second row of seats. That raises the floor, which stretches into the cargo area. (A compact spare wheel and tire are stashed outside). Even with about eight inches of second-row seat travel, it’s not enough to adjust passable knee room for passengers in the second and third rows.

On the tested six-passenger RX450hL, the two second row captain’s chairs delivered luxurious space and comfort when pushed all the way back. But that virtually eliminated knee room for anyone in the third row.

So it’s best to simply touch the power button to fold the third row and keep it tucked away, which expands the cargo area to 24 cubic feet. But the seats still are available for emergency transportation of backpacks, watermelons or the family dogs.

2020_Lexus_RX450hL_012_A0E1C49D26B5F0BCCB1666042FC5BC14A865885D1Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lexus RX 450hL AWD Lux hybrid four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine/motors: 3.5-liter V6 gasoline with two electric motors; combined 308 hp, 247 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 114/8 cubic feet. (23, 34)
  • Weight: 4,905 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 29/28/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,485.
  • Price as tested: $65,340.

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

Lexus_RX_450hL_01jpg_25CC5457FD664F12CABA89FF8F8AC3BC60E51A6BPhotos (c) Lexus

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HST

Iconic vehicles carry both a benefit and a burden with each new iteration. Does it get harder to live up to the past with each successive model? Perhaps. And with the changing automotive landscape, as the realities of climate change begin to penetrate the obfuscation thrown up by short sighted financial interests of oil companies, and major manufacturers plan for a greener, more electric-focused power source for future offerings, the impediments to purchasing a large, heavy, SUV from a legendary manufacturer are not insignificant.

DSC_5238And yet, there is no denying the pleasure of driving a new 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HST. The Land Rover company traces its roots back to 1948’s introduction of the second four wheel drive vehicle following closely behind the Jeep. Four doors, the normal hatch rear opening, and all the trimmings the six cylinder twin turbo with electric supercharger all-wheel drive panoramic moon roof British luxuriousness on full display. Carbon fiber dash and other interior and exterior appointments, smooth leather, not just any leather, but Windsor leather with suede cloth bolsters. Beautiful silver paint, black roof and wheels – the sizable car has that slightly menacing, definitely imperious, potentially fast appearance.

DSC_5246With a curb weight of 5,130 pounds the zero to 60 isn’t bad – 5.9 seconds – but the 40 to 60, given the twin turbos, is a bit of a blast. And when all of that weight gets up and going, the feeling of the speed combined with the heft of the vehicle gives one a sense of serious security, and the allure of being able to impose one’s automotive will on the other lesser vehicles on the road. Which can be a dangerous feeling if not tempered by good sense and an awareness of the necessity to be safe, first and foremost. Safety is helped by the large, red brake calipers, which are larger in the front than the rear. (Red is part of the HST package – which isn’t an acronym for anything, just the name of the trim package.) An interesting result of physics – the front brakes do more of the stopping than the rear. Which if you think about it makes sense – the car is moving forward, so the energy is in the front, which always gets there first, except when driving in reverse of course. But we’ll leave that to Tom Cruise and stunt drivers in the Fast and the Always Furious. It’s also why on older cars that are updated it’s not necessary to replace drum brakes with discs all around, if you’re being judicious with the dollars spent, and the front brakes are enough. Drums do work to slow vehicles – it’s just that discs do work better.

DSC_5250There are the anticipated multiplicity of settings on the Rover. Up and down, wet roads, snowy roads, hills. Sport mode, comfort mode, auto mode. The Millennium Falcon is easier to fly than figuring out all the buttons and knobs and modes on most modern cars. My move is to leave it all in auto, and not worry about it. I did play with the height adjustment to see what it looked like raised all the way up. It’s funny for me, as a person on the taller side, to have to step down from a vehicle. And it made the wheels look small – which is funny, because they’re 21 inches and not small at all.

I was helping someone move some things, which provided a perfect real-world test of the Utility of the sport utility vehicle. The back lift door opens high, and the opening is wide, which is great. But for some reason the rear seats don’t fold all the way flat. There’s a chance I was doing it wrong – but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t operator error. Even with the slight elevation of half of the cargo space there was still ample room to move all kinds of items in one trip.

DSC_5254Like most high end modern cars – and many modern cars period – the Range Rover Sport HST comes with all kinds of driver assist technology. There are cameras all over the place – front facing, rear facing – and the ability to see a cobbled together overhead view of the car. Sensors on all the corners providing warnings of things like curbs or cars or people in proximity to the vehicle. If the lane guidance is on, and you change lanes without signaling there’s haptic feedback – the steering wheel shudders, lights appear on the screen in front of you. When cruise control is on the automatic braking system is engaged. And turning on the blinker initiates an automatic lane change, which is still a bit nuts but worked flawlessly. The big issue with all of these systems designed to make driving safer for the passengers, other cars, and pedestrians is that they may be having the opposite effect. Recent studies by the three A’s (as we call AAA in my family) Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have found that these systems are more a source of distraction for the driver than a source of safety for all concerned. A little smart evidently isn’t smart enough.

When it comes to the engine, the new technologies provide some serious power and return increased fuel efficiency, thanks to the new inline six cylinder engine, with twin turbos and an electrical supercharger that kicks on in a half a second. With the automatic system that turns the engine off when you’re sitting at a stop light, or you just haven’t turned your car off, these new systems allow for fuel efficiency numbers that aren’t bad given the size and weight of the vehicle – 19 MPG city, 25 highway, for a combined 21 MPG.

Range Rover Sport - Ingenium six-cylinder gasoline engineOne issue for me was legroom. I had plenty of legroom in the front. But when my seat was where I wanted it, only small children or diminutive adults would be comfortable behind me. Which for a car that is not small. In fact, it’s 192″ L x 78″ W x 71″ H, or 16 feet long, six and a half feet wide, and almost six feet tall. What I’ve always wondered about SUVs is why the rear seats don’t move back. Use some of the cargo space in the back to provide the option of more legroom for the rear passengers. Some minivans have rear middle row seats that slide back for enhanced legroom. It’s a serious deficiency in an otherwise super appealing vehicle.

DSC_5236The other impediment being the price. The base price is $82,950. Then add things like Driver Assist Package at $4k, Tow Package at almost $1.1k, Meridien Signature 1700 watt Sound System for just over $4.5k, Carbon Fiber Exterior Pack at $3.5k, On/Off Road pack for what sounds like a bargain $565, some of this and some of that and voila the sticker bottom line is $105,170. Which is a serious number. It’s hard to figure out comparable vehicles. Especially given the heritage that Range Rover brings to the category. But in the luxury world, the Bentley Bentayga with a 542 V8 that gets to 60 under four seconds stickers at $168,000. Of course the fuel economy isn’t as good. But really once you’re in the six figure range it doesn’t seem like fuel economy is a deciding factor. The Mercedes AMG-GLS63 is a three row SUV and stickers just about $126,000. It really becomes a matter of which badge you prefer. Any vehicle at this level will be pretty amazing, with some significant highlights, and some things one may like better or worse than other vehicles of this size, power, and price range.

DSC_5245We’ve reached that point in the creation of automobiles where there really aren’t any more Yugos – cars that may or may not work as intended – and it all becomes a matter of your personal preference, your pocketbook, and your proclivity for frugality versus frills.

I’ll admit I missed the imposing, sleek, powerful HST when I had to turn it back over to the nice people who loaned it to me and it pulled away, off to another lucky reviewer. DSC_5241

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

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow; Engine Image (c) Land Rover

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though it looks almost the same as its predecessor, the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque could be named the Evolve. It’s a more refined version of itself, as if it had attended finishing school.

On paved roads it is commendably quiet, comfortable and luxurious with understated agility and dignified road manners suited to royalty. Queen Elizabeth, who does some of her own driving, would be at home in an Evoque.

rrevq20mysilveroffroad007The Evoque comes from Great Britain’s storied Land Rover, which means its schooling included brawny feats of strength negotiating trackless wilderness. The Evoque has that, including the capability to motor through nearly two feet of standing water.

In the U.S., however, it’s doubtful that many customers would choose the Evoque — or its siblings — for anything other than the fashionable image of parking it outside the house or business. A hard-core off-roader likely would buy a used Land Rover or the all-new Defender.

The original Evoque arrived in 2012 and has been a steady presence in Land Rover’s lineup. It is the smallest of the Range Rovers, competing in a class of small crossover SUVs that includes the Porsche Macan, Audi Q3 and Lincoln Corsair.

rrevq20mystonestatic004Though the base Evoque comes with a price tag of $43,645, the version tested here was a First Edition, which translated into the fully loaded model with every option and a sticker price of $57,845.

The most striking thing about it was its 21-inch wheels, which stylishly filled out the wheel openings and improved the ground clearance, already more than eight inches. However, for tough going at the original Evoque’s debut, the front bumper was removed for a better approach angle. The same might be needed for the 2020 model.

The tester came with Land Rover’s Terrain Response: selectable settings for on-road fuel economy; comfort; grass, gravel and snow; mud and ruts, and sand. There also was an automatic setting and hill descent control for off-roading.

rrevq20myredstatic013Power comes from Land Rover’s 246-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 269 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. The engineers have done a masterful job of smoothing out inherent vibrations so this turbo four feels more like a smooth six-cylinder engine.

Turbo lag is almost nonexistent. The annoyance comes from the idle stop-start system, which shuts the engine down at stops, then takes a few seconds to restart before moving off. Fortunately, the stop-start can be turned off with the touch of a digital icon.

There are few buttons or switches controlling the Evoque. Almost everything operates digitally by touching a smooth surface. The equipment should include lessons in emoji reading to figure out what all the little symbols mean. Adjustments can be distracting and should not be attempted while underway.

rrevq20myinteriornd22111805The power gets to all  four wheels through a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission that can be manually paddle-shifted. Besides the Drive position, there’s a sport setting that adjusts shifts to higher rpms for better performance.

Land Rover rates the zero to 60 mph acceleration at seven seconds, though the Evoque feels quicker and independent tests have put the acceleration in the six-second range. Top speed is rated at 143 mph.

But the proof is in the driving. Though the Evoque is a small, though not so tall, crossover SUV, it handles more like a sport sedan on twisting roads. Automatic torque vectoring divides the power side-to-side at the rear wheels to help hustle around curves and enhance the feeling of control.

rrevq20myinfotainments4422111801Inside, passengers are isolated from road, engine and wind noises in sumptuous surroundings that include dual automatic climate zones, supportive ventilated leather seats and quality trim materials.

As a small crossover, the Evoque does not offer generous space. Front-seat passengers have plenty and the back seat is barely accommodating of average-sized adults. But any poor soul relegated to the center-rear seat, with a hard cushion and big floor hump, should be a small child or gymnast. Rear vision is compromised by a small back window and large rear headrests. Behind the rear seat is a cargo area of 22 cubic feet.

Like some other European manufacturers, Land Rover doesn’t quite get a few things. The Evoque has a panoramic glass sunroof with an opaque sunshield. But it doesn’t open. The front sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides. And there are no assist handles front or rear to help people enter and exit.

rrevq20myinteriornd22111822Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque First Edition 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 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 92/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,935 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $57,845.
  • Price as tested: $57,845.

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

rrevq20mysilverstatic013Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Even as Lincoln advertises heavily to clear out stocks of the current MKC model, it is poised to charm customers with the all-new 2020 Lincoln Corsair, the MKC’s replacement.

With it, the luxury division of Ford Motor Co. fills out its cadre of sport utility vehicles, including three crossover SUVs, now with their old letter designations eliminated, and the traditional body-on-frame Navigator SUV.

2020 2.0L Corsair

Moving up in size from the compact Corsair are the midsize Nautilus and three-row Aviator (formerly MKX and MKT), with the full-size Navigator at the top. Although the Corsair could be considered the entry-level model, it is anything but that. Abounding with modern technology and conveniences, as well as plush passenger accommodations, it would be comfortable in any upscale automotive troupe.

Lincoln emphasizes the serenity of the Corsair’s interior, and it delivers that. If you did not have to occupy yourself with driving, certainly a pleasant enough pursuit in itself, you could simply relax inside and practice mindfulness in sumptuous surroundings.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Lincoln says the Corsair name comes from the Latin “cursus,” meaning “journey.” But to old-timers — among those likely to take this new crossover seriously — the name evokes the F4U Corsair, the beautiful gull-winged fighter plane that fought battles around Pacific islands from aircraft carriers with U.S. Marine pilots in World War II.

But the F4U was a raucous, noisy beast and a killing machine. The Lincoln Corsair is calm, quiet and built for genteel living and driving enjoyment. That, however, does not mean it is averse to high performance and athletic moves.

There are five trim levels, with the standard front-wheel drive model priced at $36,940, including the destination charge. Add $2,200 for all-wheel drive. Driven for this review, one of two, was a top-line all-wheel drive Reserve II with all the goodies that topped $60,110. But you can be well satisfied for less.

2020 Corsair Interior

More to the point and the focus here was an all-wheel drive Reserve model with the standard 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 280 lb-ft of torque, the twisting force that makes an engine feel powerful under acceleration. An eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode gets the power to the pavement.

Well equipped, the 2.0-liter Reserve came with a base price of $44,825 and, with options that included an active suspension system, a comprehensive head-up display and a technology package, it came with a bottom-line sticker price of $54,375.

2020 Corsair Interior

For an additional $1,140 you can order the 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder, which makes 295 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque. It obviously is more powerful than the 2.0-liter but it is doubtful that any Corsair buyer would be disappointed with either one. Both engines are smooth, quiet and up to any motoring situation.

Four-cylinder engines of around 2.0 liters, especially with turbochargers, are the 21st century successors to the lumbering V6 and V8 engines of yesteryear. Not only are they more powerful, they deliver exceptional fuel economy. On the EPA’s city/highway/combined cycle, Lincoln’s 2.0-liter delivers 21/29/24 mpg and the 2.3-liter is rated at 21/28/24.

Though you wouldn’t equate it with a sports car, the tested 2.0-liter Corsair performed admirably. It was quiet on the highways and byways, with brisk acceleration and passing power, tight steering with responsive moves and a comfortable, non-jarring ride.

All-New 2020 Corsair Reserve with Beyond Blue Interior Package

There are five selectable drive modes that adjust multiple functions, including shift points, steering and suspension system, among others. They are descriptively labeled Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep.

Inside, the multi-adjustable front seats, upholstered with leather, were supportive for long-distance cruising, and heated for cold weather.

All-New 2020 Corsair Reserve with Beyond Blue Interior Package

The back seat is uncommonly roomy for a compact crossover, though the center-rear passenger suffers from a hard cushion and compromised foot room.

Many functions can be controlled from Lincoln’s “phone as a key” technology, which works hand-free from an app on smart phones, including locking and unlocking doors, opening the lift gate, starting and driving, and operating interior features.

2020 Corsair Interior

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

An 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.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 250 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 103/28 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,842 pounds.
  • Towing capability: Up to 3,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,825.
  • Price as tested: $54,375.

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

2020 2.0L Corsair

Photos (c) Lincoln

2020 Audi Q3 S line Quattro: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If Audi adopted warm-blooded names for its vehicles, this new SUV could be christened Border Collie instead of the 2020 Q3 S line 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige.

German manufacturers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are fond of obtuse engineering-style descriptions of their vehicles. They may be thrilling to techies everywhere but for the rest of us personal names would paint a better picture.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-5678Case in point: the Q3. As crossover sport utility vehicles go, it’s analogous to the world-famous herding dog, the Border Collie. It’s smart, small, fast, changes directions quickly, stops immediately and is always willing to eagerly chase the sheep-like vehicles clogging the nation’s highways.

It also happens to be a luxury-oriented sporting machine with a price tag that won’t knock some wannabe owners out of the queue.

All-new for 2019, the 2020 model continues without a price increase but with standard tri-zone climate control and four USB ports.

Though the base price is $36,995, the tested Q3 had the Prestige package, which bumped it to $43,895 and, with options, a bottom-line sticker of $45,340 — not unreasonable in these times for a luxury or near-luxury crossover.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6053Of course, for that price you can get a mid-size crossover with three rows of seats like the new Kia Telluride, while the Q3 is classified as a small SUV. It has comfortable room for four and an uncomfortable seat with a giant floor hump for an ill-fated fifth passenger in the center-rear.

That’s not uncommon. On the plus side, the Q3 eschews the current cliché in luxury cars and crossovers of a perforated cheesecloth-like shade that admits too much heat and sunlight through the panoramic glass sunroof. The Q3’s thankfully is opaque, the way the shade gods intended.

Despite its classification as small, the Q3 has the interior space of a midsize car, divided into 95 cubic feet for passengers and 24 cubic feet for cargo under the rear hatch. The carpeted cargo space doubles with the rear seatbacks folded flat. Beneath the cargo floor lies a full-size temporary-use wheel and tire.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6050Audi’s Quattro full-time all-wheel drive is standard. Power pulses from the Q3’s turbocharged 228-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 257 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic with a Tiptronic manual-shifting mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

There are five selectable drive modes — comfort, automatic, dynamic, off-road and individual — that allow the driver to tailor handling, shifting and other performance preferences.

Audi lists the zero-to-60 mph run at 7.0 seconds with a top track speed of 130 mph. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel economy at 19/27/22 mpg.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6061In real-world driving, the Q3 feels powerful off the line, on freeway on-ramps and passing on two-lane highways. It has a nimble feel with  responsive steering and little body roll through fast curves.

Inside, the front seats are comfortable with solid support, including adjustable thigh cushions. The sun visors actually slide on their support rods to block sun from the side — unlike too many European luxury cars that do not bother installing such a desirable convenience.

On the other hand, don’t try fiddling with the infotainment system and the center touch screen without the owner’s manual close by. Even simple functions like setting and finding a pre-set for a favorite radio or SXM satellite radio station is a frustrating experience without detailed instructions.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-4348Moreover, the touch screen can be difficult and distracting, especially while under way. First you have to look to find what you want, then give it a determined push with a finger because it requires pressure with the touch. If you simply tap it, there’s no response.

The Q3 comes with a comprehensive suite of safety enhancements, though it does not include forward emergency braking. The Pre-Sense system helps prepare the Q3 for an impact, including closing the windows and the panoramic sunroof, as well as pre-tensioning the front seatbelts. Visual and acoustic warnings alert the driver.

Other equipment on the tested Q3 included lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and a rear camera with overhead view.

Faithful to its luxury orientation, the tested Q3 Prestige came equipped with a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, leather upholstery with heated seats, navigation system, parking assist, LED headlights and taillights, power rear hatch, stop-start idle system, genuine wood trim, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-6051Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Audi Q3 S line 45 TFSI Quattro Prestige four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 228 hp, 257 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 95/24 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,916 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/27/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,895.
  • Price as tested: $45,340.

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

Large-2019-Audi-Q3-4345Photos (c) Audi

2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its all-new 2020 Aviator crossover SUV, it appears that Lincoln has gone all-in to recapture its traditional reputation as a tier-one luxury brand, one vehicle at a time.

Joining the Navigator, Nautilus and upcoming Corsair, this is a noteworthy piece of automotive engineering and styling, as expansive as it is expensive, and fully comfortable and competitive in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities named Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Audi, Volvo and BMW.

"Fresh Take" Aviator CampaignThere was a 20th-century era when Lincoln automobiles competed against the most exclusive nameplates, including Packard, Duesenberg, Bentley, Chrysler and Cadillac. Though Lincolns were not the most expensive, its Zephyr models with V-12 engines were among the most beautiful and sought-after by wealthy artistes.

The new Aviator mimics that template, with a range of high-achieving models that somehow manage to undercut competitors on price — not that most of its buyers would worry about that. Some competitors of the priciest Black Label trim level of the Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid, with a sticker of  $90,645, run well into six figures.

2020 Lincoln AviatorFor those who can’t or won’t spend that much but still seek to motor behind an Aviator grille, the base rear-wheel drive model starts at $52,095 — almost reasonable in an era when the average new car goes out the door for somewhere around $36,000.

Though the Aviator starts out with rear-drive, it is not a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Like the vast majority of sport utility vehicles these days, it is a crossover, built with a frameless unit body like an automobile.

Of course, few manufacturers show their entry-level vehicle at the introduction so Lincoln rolled out a bevy of its best in Napa Valley, California. They included three versions of the non-hybrid Aviator: Reserve starting at $57,285, Reserve all-wheel drive at $59,795, and the subject here, the all-wheel drive Black Label with an opening sticker of $78,790 and a tested price of $83,540.

2020 Aviator Grand TouringThere also were two versions of the all-wheel-drive hybrid: Grand Touring at $84,365 with options and the aforementioned Black Label AWD at $90,645.

The plug-in hybrid Grand Touring is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers linked to a 75-kW electric motor. A 13.6-kWh battery pack is stashed under the floor and can deliver up to 18 miles of driving on electricity alone. Altogether, the system delivers 494 hp and a whopping 630 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force.

Never mind the Grand Touring’s 5,673-pound curb weight, this hulk is plenty fast, with neck-snapping acceleration off the line and powerful passing on two-lane roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorBut the non-hybrid Aviator is no slouch. Its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, sent through the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the hybrid. There’s a manual-shifting mode operated by paddles mounted on the steering wheel. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 17/24/20 mpg for the all-wheel drive versions.

Driven for this review was the Black Label edition with all-wheel drive. Given its nearly 17-foot length and heft, it handled beautifully and rode serenely on a variety of twisting, hilly roads and high-speed straightaways. Mechanical and wind noises were nearly nonexistent and foam-infused tires helped muffle noise from rough roads.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe tested Aviator looked the part of a luxury sport utility vehicle, with a sumptuous interior and fashionable appointments of high quality materials and careful workmanship. Among them: a Revel Ultimate 3D audio system with 28 (count ‘em) speakers, panoramic vista glass sunroof with powered shade, acoustic sound-deadening side glass, second-row captain’s chairs separated by a functional center console, and Lincoln’s Phone As a Key technology.

With the optional Air Glide suspension system, the Aviator automatically lowers to ease entry. Owners then can use their smart phones to unlock and unlock doors, start and drive the Aviator, open the tailgate and program settings for seats, mirrors and steering wheel adjustments as well as entertainment preferences.

2020 Lincoln AviatorIf a phone battery dies, a passcode can be entered on an exterior keypad and another code can be entered to start and drive. Extra key fobs also are provided and if a smart phone is lost or stolen, Phone As a Key can be deleted.

The Aviator comes with full safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking, an adaptive suspension system that reads the road ahead to adjust for irregularities, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot detection with cross-traffic alert.

"Fresh Take" Aviator Campaign

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Black Label four-door, three-row crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6, twin turbochargers; 400 hp, 415 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 150/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,673 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $78,790.
  • Price as tested: $83,540.

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

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Photos (c) Lincoln

 

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