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2018 BMW 230i xDrive Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With automobiles, especially an expensive sport coupe like the 2018 BMW 230i xDrive, it’s all about the return on investment.

It is the same in business as well, but there the focus is on profits measured in dollars. With cars, it’s about the tangibles and intangibles they deliver.

Buy a minivan and you get practicality for family vacations. Buy a BMW 230i xDrive and practicality flies out the window. The return on that investment comes in driving enjoyment, preferably with two people on board.

This compact two-door coupe, though it delivers strong performance, capable handling and decent fuel economy, has a cramped back seat. And because the front seatbacks move minimally forward, it requires athletic ability to access.

Offsetting that is a large trunk of almost 14 feet that can swallow a couple’s luggage for a week. If the trip is longer or you have a lot of stuff, the rear seatbacks fold to expand the cargo-carrying capability to 53 cubic feet.

Arguably, the 230i xDrive, which is the lowest-price sedan in the BMW lineup, is the lineage successor to the 1967 BMW1600-2, which had a bigger and more accommodating back seat. Car and Driver Magazine  trumpeted it as “the World’s Best $2,500 Car.” It was a boxy two-door with a cavernous trunk that in this writer’s family was big enough to conceal all of Santa Claus’s gifts for four children.

It had an 84-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that drove the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. Its independent suspension system and rack-and-pinion steering delivered great handling and the capability to hammer steadily over railroad tracks at 100 mph, all while delivering fuel economy in the mid-20s.

P90258121Contrast the 1600-2 (later joined by the more powerful 2002) with the tested 2018 230i xDrive and you see a great deal of price creep. The writer’s 1600-2, with options, had a $2,850 price tag, which has inflated over the years to $20,920 in 2017. The 2018 230i—the lowest-priced sedan in BMW’s expensive lineup—starts at $34,145, much of the difference because of modern emissions, safety and convenience requirements.

The tested xDrive, which is BMW-speak for all-wheel drive, started at $37,795. With $12,520 in options, it ended up with a $50,315 price tag.

Whether that investment delivers a substantial return depends on the individual owner’s delight and involvement, and whether he or she concludes that it merits the “ultimate driving machine” label. But the 230i xDrive is a sweet piece of machinery.

Its tidy size—three inches shy of 15 feet long—and quick steering makes for confident moves in city and freeway traffic. Need to make a quick lane change or dodge a clueless and careless driver intruding into your lane? A flick of steering and tap on the throttle and the troubles are gone.

Open highway cruising is relaxing. A supple ride, supportive sport seats with good seatback bolstering and a quiet interior means you can put on many miles without fatigue.

The engine is a 248-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 258 pound-feet of torque, or twisting force. Power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. For traditionalists, the 230i xDrive can be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Though the engine slurps premium gasoline, city/highway/combined fuel consumption with the automatic works out to 24/33/27 mpg.

The test car was well equipped with optional leather upholstery (leatherette is standard), navigation system, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, motorized glass sunroof, power front seats with memory settings, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, WiFi hot spot and Apple CarPlay. A $2,300 track handling package included an adaptive suspension system, sport brakes and variable steering.

Still, there were shortcomings. On the automatic settings, the air conditioning could not keep up on a hot day. Fortunately, BMW included a knob that delivered a manual maximum air conditioning blast. However, with a capable system it should not be needed.

In addition, the infotainment system is needlessly complicated, sun visors did not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side, and there was no blind spot warning, though it is not needed if the outside mirrors are properly adjusted.

For those drivers who value a car for visceral entertainment as opposed to pedestrian competence, the 230i xDrive returns a bonus on the investment.

P90258118Specifications

  • Model: 2018 BMW 230i xDrive two-door coupe.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 248 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 90/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,483 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/33/27 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,795.
  • Price as tested: $50,315.

Disclaimer: This test drive was based on a loan of the vehicle from the manufacturer. It was driven by the author in circumstances similar to everyday driving by consumers.

Photos (c) BMW.

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2017 Infiniti QX70

by Jason Fogelson

I get to drive a wide variety of SUVs and crossover vehicles. Sometimes it’s hard to pick a favorite. But every time I get a chance to drive an Infiniti QX70, I fall in love all over again.

QX70 used to be known as the Infiniti FX back before 2014. A front-engine/rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive crossover, it was based on the same platform as the Infiniti G37. As such, it inherited great driving dynamics, with a low center of gravity and great handling dynamics. For a few years, it was available with a 5.0-liter V8 engine as the FX 50. The combination of a distinctive, scarab-shaped exterior with a cozy, driver-centric interior made it a standout in the burgeoning crossover marketplace.

The 2017 QX70 comes with a 3.7-liter V6 engine and a choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It’s not quite the hot rod that the FX 50 was, but it is still fun to drive, luxurious and unique. It’s not the most utilitarian of SUVs, as it lacks a substantial cargo compartment and third row, but it’s still got room for five and stands out in a crowd.

Many other crossover vehicles have come along to compete for my affection, but the 2017 Infiniti QX70 still has a piece of my heart.

Read my 2017 Infiniti QX70 Test and Review on Forbes.com

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

Photos (c) Infiniti.

2017 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The Greek philosopher Aristotle, who pondered concepts of matter, substance and form, might have enjoyed analyzing the 2017 Infiniti QX30 crossover sport utility vehicle.

That’s because a good share of the QX30’s matter — the stuff of which something is made — comes from Mercedes-Benz. Its form, or its essential characteristics and attributes, give it substance as an Infiniti, which is the luxury division of Japan’s Nissan.

OK, enough armchair philosophy. In the real world, where small crossovers are the current hot fad, Infiniti needed to economically deliver a competitive successor to the old small EX in the luxury category. Mercedes-Benz was willing to sell the innards of its GLA-Class compact crossover, including the engine, transmission and some other smaller components.

2017infinitiqx30fogelson-3The QX30 gets its Mercedes motivation from the GLA250’s turbocharged 208-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers 258 lb-ft of torque. All four wheels get the power to the pavement through the German manufacturer’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which also can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel.

There are three selectable driving modes: Eco, Sport and Manual, which are reminiscent of the “Goldilocks” fairy tale, where the girl tries out beds belonging to the Three Bears. Papa Bear’s is too hard, Mama Bear’s is too soft and Baby Bear’s is just right.

But the QX30’s settings don’t include a just right, or Normal, selection. Eco maximizes fuel economy with lazy shifts and Sport maximizes performance by shifting at higher rpms. It is possible to mimic a Normal setting by using the Manual mode but that takes attention and practice.

2017infinitiqx30fogelson-8Likely most motorists, in everyday driving, won’t notice much of a difference between Eco and Sport. The QX30, responsive to throttle inputs, delivers plenty of pep either way. There sometimes is a bit of hesitation off the line that could be attributed to either turbo lag or a bit of slippage from the dual-clutch automatic transmission.

With a curb weight of 3,530 pounds, the QX30 earns a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 21/30/25 mpg. On the road, it tracks true with few corrections and is capable, with some body lean, around tight curves.

In any category of vehicle, of course, styling sells — though whether it’s exciting or off-putting always is in the eyes of the beholder. That said, the QX30 exhibits flowing, sculptured lines that bespeak a low-slung, sport/luxury orientation more than that of a utilitarian tall crossover.

2017infinitiqx30fogelson-9It becomes evident entering and departing both the front and back seats, where you have to remember to duck or you can bang your noggin overhead. Inside, the front seats feel roomy and the back outboard seats tight. The center-rear position is hopelessly compromised by a large floor hump and a hard cushion.

Despite that, the Infiniti designers managed to scoop out more interior space than in the Mercedes GLA. The QX30 has 108 cubic feet of interior volume — about what you get in a compact car — divided into 89 cubic feet for passengers and 19 cubic feet for cargo behind the back seat.

Though the GLA’s overall length of 14 feet 6 inches is the same as the QX30’s, the GLA’s numbers are 99 cubic feet of interior volume, with 87 cubic feet for passengers and 12 cubic feet for cargo.

2017infinitiqx30fogelson-11The QX30’s luxurious interior, especially its infotainment systems, is distinctly Infiniti, though its Mercedes underpinnings become immediately obvious when you go to adjust the front seats. It uses the same clumsy power switchgear mounted on the doors that is a Mercedes hallmark. Though you can get used to them over time, controls down on the sides of the seats are way more intuitive.

2017infinitiqx30fogelson-12Tested for this review was the top-line QX30 Premium AWD, which had a $38,695 starting price. That included the all-wheel drive, run-flat tires on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, powered and heated front seats with memory settings, cruise control, roof rails, power folding outside mirrors and rain-sensing wipers with heated windshield washers.

The tested QX30 also came with $7,340 worth of options, bringing the suggested delivered price to $46,035. They included a panoramic sunroof, navigation system and a technology package with adaptive cruise control, lane departure and blind spot warning, parking assist and Infiniti’s around view monitor, which displays an overhead view of the vehicle and its surroundings.

Competitors include the Mercedes GLA250, Lexus NX200t, Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

2017infinitiqx30fogelson-4Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 208 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 89/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,530 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/30/25 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,695.
  • Price as tested: $46,035.

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

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.

2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible

by Tod Mesirow

There’s not a deep reserve of demand for an SUV convertible – as far as anyone knows.  In fact, convertibles in general make up less than 1 percent of all registered cars in America.  (Hawaii leads the way with almost 4 percent but Florida is beating California with 2.12 to 1.59 percent.)  As we all know, though, there is a growing demand for SUVs.   Even while overall sedan sales slowly decline, sales of SUVs continue to rise.  And the compact luxury crossover SUV class is especially crowded.  So maybe – just maybe – someone at Land Rover looked at the Range Rover Evoque and asked the question: “How do we get some extra attention?”  A young upstart in the back of the room timidly raised his or her hand and said, “Turn it in to a convertible.” The suggestion was no doubt greeted with uproarious laughter heavily tinged with derision.  But then, someone in authority chimed in: “Great idea!”

Looking at the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque convertible, however, I’m not so sure about how brilliant an idea it really is.  Already a distinctive looking SUV, making it a convertible is like doubling down on the odd lines, the raked rear roof and chopped look.  While driving it around a guy in a 911 convertible asked at a stoplight if it was a custom car – not an odd question, especially in Los Angeles.  When I told him “no,” he gave a thumbs-up and an appreciative head bob before blasting off.

With an aluminum turbocharged four-cylinder engine putting out 240 hp, we weren’t going to be able to keep up with the 911.  And yet the Evoque manages to feel sure-footed and capable of effective highway speeds.  It’s also able to pull its way up one of the steepest streets in California, Baxter Street, where limousines have been known to become teeter totters, and grown drivers pull over part of the way up to stop and cry.

When I was growing up, my parents each had their own convertible.  Our two family cars were a 1970 Ford LTD convertible – yellow – and a 1970 Mustang convertible – orange. I knew those cars pretty well. One of my weekly chores was to wash each of them. Driving them was fun for a teenager, sometimes, but the Washington, D.C. weather didn’t do me many favors. Instead of becoming a life-long lover of open air cars, I have in fact never owned one, and have never considered owning one. I find them too windy at speed and too hot sitting at a stoplight.  Maybe 17 percent of the time there’s a great feeling of whisking along with a 360-degree unobstructed view – if in fact it was possible to be owl-like with one’s head and swivel the whole way around.

Getting into the Evoque is easy – it’s not a giant climb up like some full-sized SUVs.  And the mechanism for putting the top down – and up – has been amazingly well-crafted. There’s just one button that needs to be engaged throughout the brief process. It causes the windows to go down, and the top to unlatch and fold its way back behind the rear seats.  Simple.  Putting it up works just as easily. Unlike my parents’ old cars, there’s nothing to be done beyond engaging the button. No seating of pins, placing of latches, matching sure things are aligned. The mechanism works smoothly and easily.

With the top down, it’s off we go. The Evoque has the full complement of modern systems available, including proximity warnings while parking and driving, rear-view camera, guiding stripes placed on screen, full touchscreen access to the temperature controls, navigation, seat adjustments, entertainment systems and cell phone connections. It’s becoming standard to feel like settling in to the cockpit of some modern space age vehicle when getting in to a new car, and there’s something reassuring about all of that technology.

Out on the road, the Evoque handles the basic tasks as it should – cornering, accelerating, braking.  It’s not a giant SUV, so there’s no ungainly feeling to driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, which is where convertibles belong.  Looking to the left while driving north, the ocean glimmers with its perpetual motion.  To the right, the hills are pregnant with houses.  It’s easy to imagine a small surfboard or boogie board stuck into the foot wells of the back seat. Okay maybe not a boogie board – the wind would whip it up and away. But a surfboard – that image works. And the trunk, while not very large because of the space necessary to stow the convertible top, is plenty big enough for a few boogie boards.

The back seat, as well, is not as big as it would otherwise be, again because of the top.  It has to go somewhere.  Which makes the Evoque convertible a three-person car for adults, or four if the two in the back are smaller children.

Comparing the Evoque convertible is difficult – because since the demise of the Nissan Murano Convertible, there are no other SUV convertibles. But it might be instructive to look at two others in the same compact luxury crossover class – the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5 and compare things like horsepower, size, MPG, and price.

The X3 with a turbo four-cylinder produces 240 hp, the same as the Evoque convertible.  The Audi Q5 also with a turbo four-cylinder produces 220 hp, the lower of the three, with an eight-speed automatic transmission and AWD.   MPG is 20 city/28 highway and has a $42,750 price tag.  The Q5 is 182.6 inches long.  The Evoque is 172 inches long.   The X3 is 183.4 inches long, also with AWD and eight-speed transmission.  MPG is 21 city/28 highway, and carries a $40,950 ticket.  The hardtop version of the Evoque five door model for a straight comparison is $51,470 msrp, with a nine-speed transmission and 4WD.  The convertible version is only slightly more – $52,095, which is a departure from cars like the Mustang and the Camaro, where convertible versions incur a $5,000 and $7,000 premium over their hardtop siblings. The Evoque convertible is rated a similar 20 MPG city/ 28 highway – though one has to imagine that with the top down highway mileage would be lower due to the reduction in the streamlined shape cruising up the California coastline.

Regardless of the details, for most drivers the big questions come down how does it feel to drive, and how do I feel driving it?  The 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible feels like a luxury vehicle while driving it, but I feel like I’m in an oddball when I think about how it looks. Almost as if it came from an alternate bubble universe, where things were familiar, but somehow just off that little bit. For the right person, the Evoque convertible is a dream car. For everyone else, it’s a bit of a curiosity, an ugly duckling that looks like a swan to those who fall for it. And for Land Rover/Tata, their new model may just be the thing that calls attention to the rest of their flock, which can’t help but be a good thing.

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

 

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow.

The Porsche Experience

by Tod Mesirow

Carson, CA sits in a geographically desirable area – in which to build a small race track.  Porsche looked far and wide for a location in the Los Angeles area, as a huge percentage of Porsches are sold here.  In fact, California, we were told at the press event christening the new Porsche Experience by the folks at Porsche, is the most important market in the U.S., and that one-third Porsches sold worldwide are sold in the United States.  This is the second Porsche Experience in America – following the one in Atlanta next to their U.S. headquarters.

On what used to be a municipal golf course, where the 110 and the 405 meet, down the block from the Goodyear Blimp airfield, Porsche built a playground for driving, with four distinct opportunities – a straightaway that ends with a sharply banked circle that one drops in to; a road course, with great twists and turns, slight changes in elevation, and plenty of chances to find the best line – if one can; a slick track, where the driver’s ability to respond to a loss of traction is tested and can be improved; and an off-road course, with a teeter totter to perfect balance and touch, and steep drops to feel the automatic descent mode in action.

The 53-acre site includes a 50,000-square-foot building with a Porsche shop, a restaurant on the second floor with a view of the driving courses, and plenty of Porsches on display — most new, some old, and one race car that’s half Lego blocks.

one-half-lego-porsche-wideGuests can spend as little as $35 for 30 minutes in a simulator, or as much as $850 for an hour-and-a-half in a 911 GT3 on the tracks with an instructor. Almost all of the Porsche line is currently available, except for the Panamera. Porsche anticipates 50,000 visitors in the first year.

One thing to look forward to – as if this isn’t enough – Porsche made sure to emphasize their $1 billion commitment to making an electric sports car by 2020. Gives a whole new meaning to the teenage saying “silent but deadly.”

The media day at the Porsche Experience included me having the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Carrera 2, among other vehicles, and be guided through the course by an instructor.  Josh Allan displayed patience and good humor with my less-than-Fangio level skills.

porsche-exerpience-press-briefingWatch Tod’s video experience here.

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow.

2017 Audi Q7: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It seems fitting that the 2017 Audi Q7 made its debut at the same time that the world focused on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Both are symbolized by interlocking rings: five for the Olympics, representing the continents of Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania, on a white background in five colors: blue, black, green, red and yellow, which appeared on the flags of the countries that participated in 1912 when the Olympic rings symbol was adopted.

The four similar Audi rings that adorn the Q7’s grille represent the automobile companies—Audi, Horch, DKW and Auto Union—that merged in 1932 to become Auto Union and, later, simply Audi.

The luxury/performance car manufacturer now is part of Volkswagen, which also owns Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT and Škoda.

news-2017-audi-q7-exterior-38-lrMore apt than the rings, however, is the similarity of the Q7 to the Olympics celebration of quality, capability and athleticism, which the Q7 has in abundance.

It is a four-door, seven-passenger crossover sport utility vehicle of the type that now is all the rage. Crossovers of every size are multiplying in the U.S. and around the world.

The interest spans the affordability spectrum from inexpensive crossovers like the Honda HR-V to the super luxury Bentley Bentayga, which sells for about a quarter of a million dollars.

The Audi Q7 doesn’t come close to that mark. But in temperament and accouterments it qualifies as what most people would consider a  luxury crossover SUV. With a base price of $55,750, the Q7 comes with standard items like a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, leather upholstery, heated and powered folding outside mirrors, satellite and HD radio, and a full suite of safety equipment.

news-2017-audi-q7-exterior-25In addition, the tested Q7 was loaded with optional state of the art equipment that included adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, backup camera with full overhead view, four-zone automatic climate control, four-way power lumbar adjustments on both front seats, navigation system, a Bose 3D sound system and 20-inch alloy wheels.

With that equipment, and more, the tested Q7 came with a sticker price of $68,925.

The frosting is nice but where the Q7 shines is in its overall performance, ride and handling. It cruises powerfully, quietly and comfortably on the highway, requiring few steering corrections. On twisting roads, it follows the driver’s steering inputs instantly and changes direction with minimal body roll.

Power from the turbo 333 hp V6 engine goes to all four wheels through Audi’s eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. It’s entertaining to shift for yourself but the automatic operation is spot on, delivering rapid shifts that keep the engine in its sweet spot.

The transmission shift lever is a bit of a riddle. When you push it forward all the way, expecting it to shift into “park,” it stops at “reverse.” You must press a separate button for “park.”

There are five selectable driving modes: off-road, comfort, automatic, dynamic and individual. They tailor the Q7’s performance settings to suit driver preferences. In truth, you have to pay attention to detect differences; the automatic setting worked satisfactorily.

news-2017-audi-q7-60Inside, the Q7 demonstrates why Audi consistently gets high marks from critics for interior design, which on the tester was an elegant and simple combination of wood grains, leather and piano black finishes.

Interior comfort in the first two rows is first rate. Front seats have big bolsters for lateral support and the upholstery is perforated for heating and cooling. Outboard back seats are nearly as comfortable, and even the center rear position is an actual seat instead of a hard, lumpy cushion as on many other vehicles. The drawback is that feet must be splayed on both sides of a big center floor hump.

The power-folding third row should be saved for special circumstances. Although the second row slides fore and aft to give third-row passengers improved knee and foot room, the accommodations there are cramped and not easy to access.

Most of the Q7’s instruments are digital — sort of like looking at a video game. But they are bright and easy to read, and even are set up to scold the driver for, say, using the air conditioning because it hinders fuel economy.

Overall, high achieving and environmentally sensitive Olympians likely would feel a kinship and embrace the Q7.

news-2017-audi-q7-exterior-31Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro Tiptronic four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, turbocharged, 333 hp, 325 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle operated manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:16 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:136/15 cubic feet. (max 72).
  • Weight: 4,938 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,700 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/25/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,750.
  • Price as tested: $68,925.

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

2017 GMC Acadia Denali: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In pocket billiards, snooker or pool, it’s called “Reverse English.” Among crossover sport utility vehicles, it’s the 2017 GMC Acadia.

A player using the technique aims the cue to strike the cue ball down low, sinks the object ball in the pocket, and the cue ball simultaneously backs up into position for the next shot.

That’s what GMC has accomplished with the new downsized Acadia. It started a decade ago as a midsize crossover with three rows of seats and accommodations for seven or eight passengers. Similar garage mates were the Chevrolet Traverse and the Buick Enclave.

The Acadia has played well. But now the designers have improved its game with Reverse English to position the Acadia for further success in an era when customers increasingly covet crossovers.

The 2017 Acadia is lighter by 700 pounds and marginally smaller inside, by about 19 cubic feet of space, than its 2016 predecessor. It is eight inches shorter bumper-to-bumper but can accommodate five, six or seven passengers depending on the layout.

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

That may not read like much on paper. But the 2017 Acadia is a tidier, nimbler vehicle that doesn’t give away much in accommodations. In the seven-passenger version, with sliding second-row seats, it’s easy to divvy up the space so second- and third-row passengers are not unduly scrunched. Climbing into the two third-row seats, however, requires agility despite cleverly designed second-row seats that flip out of the way.

General Motors likely is hedging its bets. The Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave continue as before as larger seven- or eight-passenger crossovers. But there are hints that they may follow the downsized Acadia. For now, the two GM vehicles that share the smaller new architecture are the Acadia and the all-new 2017 Cadillac XT5, a midsize, five-passenger two-row crossover.

Overall, the 2017 Acadia has a personality that’s easy to like—maybe even love. With its more compact overall dimensions, it handles more crisply and imparts confidence in urban and freeway traffic. With the 310-hp V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, it cruises quietly and comfortably for long distances on freeways but welcomes twisting roads as well.

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

All-wheel drive models are equipped with five driver-selectable modes, starting with front-drive, in which the driveshaft and rear differential automatically uncouple for improved fuel economy. The tested V6 Denali, with cylinder deactivation during cruising, delivered 18/25/20 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption cycle.

Other settings allow the driver to choose all-wheel drive, which has the capability to transfer power front-to-rear as well as side-to-side so the Acadia can keep going even with traction for one wheel. The sport mode tightens the steering and suspension system for confident handling on curves. Other settings enhance trailer towing and off-road driving.

There are eight Acadia models, starting with the $30,920 SL, which comes only with front-wheel drive. It is powered by GM’s 195-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 21/26/23 city/highway/combined mpg. It exhibits plenty of power off the line and in passing but is nowhere as turbine smooth as the V6.

Another is the $40,965 All Terrain AWD version that carries five passengers. It is designed for customers who like occasional off-road adventures and carry extra gear.

2017 All-New GMC Acadia Denali Interior
2017 All-New GMC Acadia Denali Interior

Others are the SLE, SLT and Denali versions, available with front-drive or all-wheel drive. Denali, a name GMC borrowed from the original name for the tallest mountain in Alaska, has been very good to the brand. It designates GMC’s top luxury versions and accounts for huge sales chunks of its Yukon, Sierra and Acadia nameplates.

The tested Denali AWD exhibited a luxury interior with comfortable leather upholstery, soft touch surfaces and tasteful faux wood trim. Instruments and controls are ergonomically designed, and easy to read and operate.

Safety and connectivity features abound, including automatic braking for objects and pedestrians, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, SXM satellite radio, Android and Apple Car Play, and GM’s OnStar system.

Also included was an innovation that is certain to save lives. It’s called the rear seat reminder. On any given trip, if a rear door is opened and closed, the driver gets a reminder to check the back seat when the engine shuts down. It’s designed to prevent those horrific situations where forgetful parents have left children to die in hot parked cars.

That alone makes the Acadia a compelling choice. It’s a complete family crossover.

2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 GMC Acadia Denali AWD four door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, 310 hp, 271 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 146/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,956 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,845.
  • Price as tested: $52,285.

Photos (c) General Motors

2017 Jaguar F-Pace: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In comedy, politics, vehicles like the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace, and a host of other human endeavors, timing is everything.

The all-new F-Pace, the first ever crossover sport utility from the British manufacturer of performance sedans and sports cars, comes at an opportune time. It is a compact, two-row crossover—a body style that is rapidly eclipsing midsize and compact sedans.

You’d think Jaguar might not need a crossover SUV. After all, the company—now owned by India’s Tata Motors—also produces a full lineup of Land Rover and Range Rover SUVs.

But the two divisions attract different buyers. Land Rover customers, even though they may never take their expensive machines off road, cultivate an image of outdoorsy individualism. Jaguar buyers lean more toward tuxedoed performance on the highway.

The modern Jaguar enterprise has hewed to the performance line, now with three models: XF and XJ sedans, and the exciting F-Type sports car in convertible and coupe versions. For 2017, they are joined by the new F-Pace and XE compact sedan.

It doesn’t take a two-by-four to the backside of any automobile executive to discern that customers can’t get enough of crossovers. Across the price board, they are taking over.

Porsche, the storied German maker of ultra performance sports cars, is a prime example. Its current best sellers are both crossovers: the Macan in the compact category and the Cayenne midsize. Jaguar executives expect that before long the F-Pace will become the company’s best seller.

jagfpacegoodwoodfosimage24061619The F-Pace is aimed directly at performance crossovers from other luxury manufacturers, including the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus NX, Acura RDX, Volvo XC60, and even the Porsche Macan and oddly-shaped BMW X4.

At the introduction, Jaguar started with two models: F-Pace 35t, with a starting price of $43,385, and F-Pace S, which starts at $57,695. Both numbers include the $995 destination charge. A diesel model with a 180-hp, 2.0-liter diesel engine will be introduced this fall.

There are five trim levels, including Premium, Prestige and R-Sport types.

The gap between the 35t and S versions is a whopping $14,310, with the difference accounted for by equipment and engine power. Though the 35t delivers 340 hp from its supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine and the S makes 380 hp, the perceived performance is similar.

According to Jaguar’s specifications, both models have a top speed of 155 mph. The S accelerates to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and the 35t gets there in 5.4 seconds. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be shifted manually.

On the road, with either of the gasoline engines, the F-Pace delivers a quiet cabin, comfortable ride, responsive handling, good steering feel in a straight line and competent braking. Though road-oriented, it has some boondocks chops as well, including an off-road cruise control called “progress control” from Land Rover that maintains speeds up to 19 mph.

JAGUARFPACELESStudio01-resize-1024x769Jaguar expects the 35t to account for about 60% of sales, with the diesel at 15% to 20% and the S taking the remainder. The diesel should be a decent performer, but test models were not available initially.

Driven for this review was a 35t Premium version with a bottom line sticker of $49,495. That covered a modest list of options, including a navigation package, satellite radio, 19-inch alloy wheels and metallic paint in British Racing Green. Also driven: an S model with $13,740 of extras and a $71,435 price tag.

Even with all the technology, driver assistance, comfort, convenience and luxury upgrades, the F-Pace exudes an aura of simple, understated elegance. Surroundings are crafted in high quality leather and wood, with comfortable, supportive seating and controls that are easy to use. However, the navigation system requires a good bit of instruction to use easily.

For all of its luxury orientation, the F-Pace delivers practicality as well. The area behind the second row delivers 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space with tie-downs built into the floor. A compact spare tire resides under the floor. Drop the rear seatbacks and the cargo volume increases to 63.5 cubic feet.

There’s decent back seat comfort for two average-sized adults. But despite five seatbelts, the F-Pace is a four-passenger vehicle. The center-rear position is hopelessly compromised by a large floor hump, hard seat cushion and the intrusion of the center console. Other shortcomings: flimsy sunroof shade and sun visors that don’t slide on their support rods.

Overall, the F-Pace merits serious consideration among its competitors.

JaguarFPACELA010-resize-1024x768Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace 35t Premium four door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, supercharged, 340 hp, 332 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,015 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/23/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,595.
  • Price as tested: $49,595.

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover North America

2017 Jaguar XE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

We live in an era of automotive excellence, so to conclude that the 2017 Jaguar XE is a worthy competitor in its class amounts to high praise.

Its particular drawback is the current direction of the automotive marketplace, in which crossover sport utility vehicles are conquering traditional midsize and compact sedans. So the XE appears to be rolling onto a cluttered and confusing stage.

Still, Jaguar needed to complete its sedan lineup, which was limited to the midsize XF and, at the top of the line, the superb XJ luxury sedan—especially in its limousine-like long wheelbase L version.

The XE is not Jaguar’s first foray into the compact sedan territory. From 2001 to 2009, when the company was owned by Ford, it sold the X-Type, which was based on the same platform as the European Ford Mondeo.

JAGUARXEAWDLocation09Now Jaguar is owned by Tata Motors of India, which has had the good sense to bolster financing while leaving the British company’s designers and engineers to their own competences. The results have returned Jaguar to the forefront among luxury and sports cars, though it remains a small player against BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Some critics carped that the old X-Type cheapened the Jaguar brand. It competed against the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. But sales never met the company’s expectations and the X-Type was consigned to museum duty.

Now there’s a new small Jaguar sedan. Marketed with rear drive or optional all-wheel drive, the XE sits right on the line between the compact and midsize categories with 110 cubic feet of total interior space—95 cubic feet for passengers and 15 cubic feet in the trunk.

There’s adequate room for four adults, although as usual in most cars these days, the middle seat in back disrespects a fifth passenger.

There are 19 XE variations using three engines: 180 hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, 240 hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, and 340 hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V6 gasoline engine. Transmissions are eight-speed automatics with manual shift modes.

Prices start at $35,895 for the 25t with the four-cylinder gasoline engine—not available at introduction—and top out at $58,995 for the 35t First Edition AWD V6 model. The lowest priced 20d diesel has a base price of $37,395.

An all-wheel drive 20d R-Sport diesel was tested at the introduction, though fuel economy ratings were not finalized. It performed smoothly and quietly on the road. With 318 lb-ft of torque to augment its 180 hp, it had strong acceleration, rated by Jaguar at 7.5 seconds to 60 mph. Its price tag, with options, was $56,345.

The focus here is the most powerful XE. Jaguar says its 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque deliver a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds, with a top speed of 120.

JAGUARXEAWDStudioInteriorEquipment included automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats with driver’s memory settings, motorized sunroof, heated steering wheel, pushbutton starting, navigation, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and HD and satellite radio.

The test car also carried extras that included 19-inch black alloy wheels, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Wi-Fi and a head-up display, all of which brought its suggested delivered price to $61,385.

Developed on the same platform as Jaguar’s new F-Pace crossover sport utility vehicle, the tested XE AWD R-Sport exhibited a fraternal kinship. The simple and functional instrument panel was similar to that of the F-Pace and, of course, the power train was a duplicate of the F-Pace’s 340-hp model. Interior surroundings also bore a resemblance to the ambiance of the F-Pace, with uncluttered design and quality materials.

The XE also shared a few of the F-Pace’s shortcomings. The sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sun from the side. And the shade for the motorized glass sunroof is made of a thin, perforated cloth that admits too much sunlight. Sunshades should be opaque—as they are on Jaguar’s flagship XJ L sedan.

On the road, the XE is a silent runner with minor intrusion of mechanical, road and wind noise. The powerful V6 triggers a quick jump off the line and the eight-speed automatic shifts crisply.

Augmenting the power on the test car was a sport tuned suspension system and steering, along with Jaguar’s full-time all-wheel drive, which kept the tires planted in aggressive cornering. Though it has a luxury persona, the XE earns sports sedan credentials.

JAGUARXEAWDLocation07Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport four door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, supercharged, 340 hp 332 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,795 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/29/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $52,695.
  • Price as tested: $61,385.

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover North America

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