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2018 Audi A4 allroad: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you’re done with conventional sedans and station wagons but not quite ready for a tall crossover sport utility vehicle, take a look at a ‘tweener like the 2018 Audi A4 allroad.

It is a station wagon, yes, but taller — though not as tall as the crossovers that are steadily taking over the marketplace to the point where sedans and wagons are an endangered species.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-582Unfortunately, tall wagons are few in number and mostly  tilted toward the luxury class. Besides the A4 allroad, they are the Volvo V60 and V90 Cross Country models, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and the Buick Regal TourX.

All of these offer all-wheel drive and a lower center of gravity for more sporting handling than most crossovers. They also are slightly taller than their station wagon brethren.

The Audi allroad is the granddaddy of the tall wagons, dating back nearly two decades in A6 and A4 trim. For 2018, as in 2017, the A4 allroad arrives with a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 273 lb-ft of torque.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sends the power to Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system, now with a new wrinkle. For economy, it operates in front-wheel drive under normal conditions. As soon as slippage is detected, it switches instantly and seamlessly in milliseconds to all-wheel drive.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-583We know this only because we have been told verbally and in the literature. Driving the A4 allroad, you never detect the changeover. The twin-clutch automatic is similarly quick, said by Audi to shift in 1/100thof a second.

All of this conspires to launch the allroad to 60 miles an hour in less than six seconds, according to Audi and independent tests. Top speed is governed at 128 mph, though most owners likely will never bother to experience it.

However, the rapid acceleration can’t happen if you allow the engine stop-start to be turned on. Then you get that dreaded hesitation off the line, although it doesn’t shudder as much on the allroad than on some other vehicles. Fortunately, the stop-start can be turned off, though you must do it every time you start the engine.

Of course, you don’t buy a tall wagon like the A4 allroad to compete in autocrosses or bounce over trackless terrain like a Jeep or Land Rover. However, it is equipped with five driver-selectable drive modes, including an off-road setting that optimizes transmission shifting, steering and adaptive suspension settings that enhance performance off the pavement.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-571Besides off-road, the other settings are comfort, automatic, individual and dynamic, with the last the tightest for on-road performance. The individual setting can be tailored for the driver.

Most owners are unlikely to do much off-roading in any case. The allroad, like other Audi models, is a classy, luxury vehicle to be polished and admired, not bashed and scratched.

The quattro all-wheel drive does impart an ambiance of confidence in foul weather conditions, especially deep snow, and does so with the panache of a quiet butler in a palace, always ready with a tray full of capabilities.

One of those, of course, is utility. The allroad has midsize sedan space for passengers, though the center-rear position, as is usual in almost every vehicle, is cramped and uncomfortable. But the big payoff lies in cargo space. There’s 24 cubic feet of it behind the second-row seats, more than enough for everyday favorite things. Flop the rear seatbacks and it expands to 59 cubic feet to haul the dorm room stuff of a new college freshman.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-578Though it is a luxury vehicle, the allroad is not outrageously expensive given its features. The base price is $45,475 and, with options that included a Premium Plus package, the tested price came to $53,750.

That covers full safety equipment, including Audi’s pre-sense collision avoidance system, which detects objects and pedestrians, and can bring the allroad to a stop anywhere under 25 mph — a boon in modern urban stop-and-go traffic.

Other equipment included LED lighting all around, Audi telematics with navigation, Bang & Olufsen audio with SXM satellite radio, tri-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats, eight-way power front seats with memory settings, power tailgate, garage-door opener, heated and folding outside mirrors, and a parking assistance system.

However, the equipment did not include such items as adaptive cruise control, lane departure mitigation or blind-spot warning.

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-592Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Audi A4 allroad 2.0T quattro S tronic four-door station wagon.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 94/24 cubic feet. (59)
  • Weight: 3,815 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/30/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,475.
  • Price as tested: $53,750.

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

2017-Audi-A4-allroad-570Photos (c) Audi.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 Momentum: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the debut of its new XC40, Volvo is the proud parent of triplets vying for attention in the crossover sport-utility class.

The first of three all-new luxury entries from the Swedish manufacturer was the three-row, full-size 2016 XC90. Next came the midsize XC60. Separately, each won top awards from the North American Car of the Year jury, an independent organization of automotive journalists from the US and Canada.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Now we have the 2019 XC40, smaller and lower-priced, but with many of the same qualities that jury members found in its siblings. It is luxurious with exhilarating performance, quiet and comfortable ride, decent handling and state-of-the art embellishments.

One is Pilot Assist, Volvo’s semi-autonomous system. It uses adaptive cruise control and lane-departure mitigation to take over driving chores, though the driver must pay attention and maintain contact with the steering wheel.

The other is the optional Park Assist Pilot, which automatically backs the XC40 into either a parallel or perpendicular parking space. It takes practice, requires a bit more space than a skilled driver would need, and the driver must do all the braking.

沃尔沃全新XC40外观

Though Volvo now is owned by Geely Holding Corporation of China, it operates independently and without much apparent interference from the owner. The Swedish designers and engineers have cleverly delivered three different crossovers that essentially use the same engines and transmissions.

The engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a configuration that is becoming ubiquitous among manufacturers around the world as it replaces V6 and even V8 engines. In the XC90 and XC60, it delivers 316 hp and 296 or 295 lb-ft of torque; in the new XC40, the horsepower is 248 and the torque is rated at 258 lb-ft.

All three of the Volvo crossovers use an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode to deliver the power to all four wheels.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Two versions of the XC40 were available at the introduction: the tested T5 AWD Momentum, with a starting price of $36,195, and the R-Design, which costs an additional $2,500. Later in the model year, Volvo will offer a less-powerful T4 version with front-wheel drive at a starting price of $34,195.

With a substantial list of options, including the aforementioned Pilot and Park Assist systems, the tested XC40 had a bottom-line sticker price of $44,315. Full safety equipment included a collision avoidance system that detects, pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals.

New Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid

Other features included a panoramic glass sunroof, leather upholstery, hands-free power tailgate, blind-spot warning, dual-zone automatic climate control, inductive smart phone charging, an overhead surround-view camera, 19-inch alloy wheels, SXM satellite radio, configurable cargo area and an “ice white” painted roof topping a pale blue body.

With rear vision from the driver’s seat restricted by wide roof pillars and large back-seat headrests, the equipment included a nifty — and welcome — feature. A touch of an icon on the center screen drops the headrests below the top of the seatback. The rear seatbacks also can be folded by touching buttons inside the cargo area, which then expands from 21 to 58 cubic feet.

From the outside, the XC40 exhibits modern, flowing styling that includes doors that wrap over the rocker panels, a clamshell hood design and a cutesy touch: a tiny Swedish flag made of rubber that peeks out from under the hood on the left side.

Park and Pay application in the Volvo XC60

Inside, like its siblings, the XC40’s center screen uses swipe and tap features familiar to anyone who uses a tablet or smart phone. It takes a bit of learning and should not be used underway by the driver because it can be distracting. You must divert your attention in order to tap small rectangles on the screen for different functions.

Two interior shortcomings include a perforated cloth sunscreen for the panoramic glass roof which allows too much sunlight to intrude. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the side.

New Volvo XC40 - interior

The interior exudes luxury with comfortable, supportive and well-bolstered seats; large door pockets made possible by relocating speakers for the upscale audio that includes SXM satellite radio, and even a small, easily emptied trash bin in the center console. The back seat delivers ample room for two but the center-rear position should be avoided.

Overall, the XC40 is a formidable contender against luxury compact crossovers that include the Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Infiniti QX30.

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 248 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,855 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,195.
  • Price as tested: $44,315.

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

XC40 teaser

Photos (c) Volvo.

 

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

When you buck the automotive tide, like the classy 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake does, you’re either in the vanguard of a fruitful pursuit or on your way to a flop.

That’s because the Sportbrake is a station wagon — also called a hatchback by some — a body style that was long ago rejected by American buyers after the introduction of the minivan in the mid-1980s and, later, the advent of the sport utility vehicle and its car-based variant, the crossover.

jxfsb18myrsport20dsiliconsilver161017002-resize-1024x682SUVs and crossovers threaten to take over the market across the board, from economy to luxury. Ford announced recently that it was dropping conventional sedans to concentrate on those two configurations and its hot-selling pickup trucks.

Even ultra-luxury manufacturers are getting into the game. Bentley markets its Bentayga and Lamborghini has its Urus, both crossover SUVs with price tags starting around $200,000. And even Rolls-Royce reportedly will introduce a crossover starting at around $700,000.

Jaguar sells its compact two-row F-Pace crossover at a price just shy of $50,000, with options. But the Jaguar/Land Rover company has expertise in SUVs, large and small, so a bigger Jaguar crossover or SUV is likely.

jxfsb18myrsport20dsiliconsilver161017041-resize-1024x682A note about nomenclature: Generally, an SUV is a tall body-on-frame vehicle with rear- or four-wheel drive. Crossovers are built like cars, with unit bodies and front- or all-wheel drive. Most manufacturers (and the buying public) like to lump them together as SUVs.

The new Jaguar Sportbrake wagon — the S trim with all-wheel drive — is an outlier along with a few other marketplace entries: the new Buick Regal TourX, the Audi A4 Allroad, the BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon and a few others.

In Europe, station wagons are often regarded as a step up from a standard four-door sedan. Enthusiasts like them, especially the sport-oriented models like the new Jaguar Sportbrake, because they look great, are practical and, best of all, handle like sports sedans. Most crossovers and SUVs, though they deliver satisfactory handling in daily driving, have higher centers of gravity that can make them feel tippy when pushed hard.

jxfsb18myrsport20pfirenzered161017067-resize-1024x670The Jaguar Sportbrake name is derived from what the British, back in the mid-20thcentury, called a Shooting Brake — usually a small two-door hatchback like a Volvo P-1800 or an MG-B GT.

With a stylish and streamlined profile, the tested Sportbrake S with all-wheel drive is impressive at first sight. It is 16 feet 3 inches long with ample interior room: 107 cubic feet of space for passengers with a cargo area of 22 cubic feet that expands to 67 cubic feet with rear seatbacks folded.

Comfort is first-class for the driver and three passengers, with good seatback bolsters in front to hold the torso in spirited driving. However, with a large center hump and a hard cushion, a fifth passenger in back gets disrespected. Outward vision to the rear is restricted by big back headrests and fat rear pillars, so outside mirror adjustment is critical even with the blind-spot warning.

jagxfsportbrake18my140617104accipadlargelowres-resize-1024x970The tested Sportbrake S with all-wheel drive gets its power from a 380-hp supercharged V6 engine that delivers 332 lb-ft of torque. The muscle gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel. EPA city/highway/combined fuel economy is rated at 18/25/21 mpg.

Acceleration to 60 mph arrives in a claimed 5.3 seconds, with a top speed of 121 mph. There’s some minor hesitation off the line unless you keep the revs up before releasing the brake.

But the beauty of the Sportbrake lies in the precision steering and handling. Despite its stretched length, it responds quickly to driver inputs and changes direction like a smaller sports sedan.

jagxfsportbrake18my140617111acclowres-resize-1024x810Contributing to the handling is a rear air-suspension system and automated torque vectoring, which judiciously applies the inside brakes to move the Sportbrake more smoothly around corners and curves.

With a starting price of $71,445, this Jaguar is up in nosebleed price territory. But it includes full safety equipment, leather seating and such equipment as a panoramic glass sunroof, though the sunroof shade is one of those trendy, cheesecloth-like perforated fabrics that admit too much sunlight. Sun shades should be opaque.

Options included adaptive cruise control, Wi-Fi hotspot, surround-sound audio system, four-zone climate control and other luxury touches that brought the price up to $84,245.

jagxfsportbrake18my140617074acclowres-resize-1024x822Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD four-door station wagon.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter V6, supercharged, 380 hp, 332 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 107/22 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,045 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/25/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $71,445.
  • Price as tested: $84,245.

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

jxfsb18myrsport20dsiliconsilver161017031-resize-1024x682Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though not well-known in the U.S., Japan’s Mitsubishi, with its 2018 Outlander PHEV, bows to no automaker in the realm of technological development.

For openers, the plug-in hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle uses a gasoline engine and two electric motors to drive all four wheels. With an app, you can control vehicle climate settings and other functions like battery charging remotely from your smart phone. Communication is direct; a WiFi hot spot is not needed.

2018 Outlander PHEV Named New England Motor Press Association's

There are two standard 120-volt plugs onboard that deliver 1,500 watts of power from the drive battery, enough to run household appliances like toasters, mixers, small refrigerators, electric grills and coffee makers while tailgating.

Mitsubishi — the name means “three diamonds” — has not been a major player in the U.S. It sells a couple of cars — the Lancer and Mirage — along with two smaller crossovers, the Outlander Sport and Eclipse Cross. It also previously sold an electric car, the iMIEV. Overall sales in 2017 totaled 103,578, the first time in more than a decade that it topped 100,000. That included 35,409 Outlanders, its best seller. The new plug-in should enhance that.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The tester was the top-of-the-line Outlander GT with S-AWC, which stands for Super All-Wheel Control — or full-time all-wheel drive. There’s also a four-wheel drive lock mode that mimics a center differential lock for off-road terrain.

The main engine is a 117-hp, 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder that delivers 137 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels along with an 80-hp electric motor with 101 lb-ft of torque.

Driving the rear wheels is another 80-hp electric motor with 144 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a gasoline-fueled generator that boosts the electric motors and helps charge the onboard lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted under the cabin and does not intrude on passenger space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Because electric motors deliver their maximum torque as soon as they are switched on, there’s no need for a conventional automatic transmission. It’s described simply as single-speed automatics front and rear.

All of this works seamlessly. The only indication that this is a complicated plug-in hybrid is when you press the ignition button and a dashboard light reads “ready.” On the road, the Outlander automatically cycles among three hybrid modes. The driver also can physically switch into economy, battery-save and battery-charge modes.

The stated range primarily on electric power is 22 miles. But you’ll seldom get that unless you have a feather foot on the throttle. In conventional urban driving, the test vehicle usually delivered less than 20 miles. Overall range — gasoline and electric — is stated at 310 miles. The EPA rating is 74 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent in hybrid running, and 25 mpg in gasoline operation.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It takes up to eight hours to the charge the battery pack from a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you have access to a 240-volt charger, it takes about four hours. The Outlander PHEV also is capable of handling a level 3 fast charger, which can deliver an 80% charge in 25 minutes.

The tested Outlander came with a full suite of safety equipment, including forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, multi-view rear camera with overhead view and automatic headlight high beams.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Press Launch

Other equipment included LED running lights and taillights, leather upholstery with heated front seats, motorized glass sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers with wiper de-icer, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, auto-dimming inside mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The base price of the tester was $41,190. With a modest list of options, the suggested delivered price came to $42,185. However, it did not include a navigation system. Shortcomings included sun visors that did not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the side, and power front seats without lumbar adjustments.

On the road, in addition to the silent running on electricity, the Outlander PHEV exhibited a decent ride and handling for a midsize crossover. The front seats were supportive but a tad hard. Out back, the outboard seats were similar to the fronts. The seat bottoms flipped up to allow the seatbacks to fold flat to expand the cargo area’s 30 cubic feet of space to 78 cubic feet. However, the headrests must be removed to attain maximum space.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 117 hp, 137 lb-ft torque. Two electric motors: front 80 hp, 101 lb-ft torque; rear 80 hp, 144 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 101/30 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,178 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA miles per gallon equivalent: 74 MPGe; 25 mpg gasoline only.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,190.
  • Price as tested:$42,185.

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

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Photos (c) Mitsubishi.

2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

Large-31740-2018KonaStart with a blank screen or a clean sheet of paper, designers and engineers who understand the territory, and you can deliver a vehicle like the 2018 Hyundai Kona.

It is an all-new, sharply competitive compact crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean manufacturer, which arrives at a time when it targets the sweet spot in U.S. automotive preferences. All crossovers, but especially the affordable compacts and mid-sizes, are threatening to overwhelm the market.

They are proliferating like mechanical rabbits, as witness the Kona’s competitors, which include the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek and Jeep Renegade.

Large-31653-2018Kona2.0-litermodelCrossover SUVs generally are described as vehicles built with car-like unit-body construction, with front-wheel or optional all-wheel drive, and configured like jacked-up station wagons with hatchbacks to access  the rear cargo areas. The definition doesn’t apply across the board because some, like the Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul, do not offer all-wheel drive.

The Kona, however, does have that as well as a comprehensive package that checks all the crossover boxes, and not only among the affordables. Its full range of features also makes it competitive with more expensive compacts.

For example, it offers such modern safety installations as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning and driver attention warning. Though included for improved handling on curving roads but which also qualifies as a safety feature, the Kona offers torque vectoring braking, which selectively applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.

Large-30381-2018KONANot all of this comes in the base package. To get different features, the buyer chooses from trim levels. There are four: Base S, with a $20,450 price tag, including the destination charge; SEL, at $22,100; Limited, $25,650, and the focus here, the top-Line Ultimate with Lime interior trim at $29,660.

Keeping options to a minimum is not a new concept, but the powers at Hyundai correctly decided that keeping pricing simple was customer-friendly. 

In all trim levels, the Kona delivers a rigid and tidy package that enhances handling, delivers unexpected stability and a comfortable and quiet ride. Fifty-two percent of its innards are constructed of high-strength steel and the body incorporates 375 feet of structural adhesives.

Large-31685-2018KonaIt’s apparent the first time you get behind the wheel. The tested Ultimate delivered a solid and planted feel. It also tracked true with few corrections needed from the nicely weighted steering. That same feel came through in a shorter drive of the less expensive all-wheel-drive SEL. 

All-wheel drive models share an independent, multi-link rear suspension system, which contributes the secure handling. Front-wheel drive versions use a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle. Front-drivers were not among the testers at the national press introduction in namesake Kona, an area on the big island of Hawai’i. But they are likely to be the models of choice in sunbelt areas.

Large-31647-2018KonaThe Kona is available with two drive trains. The S and SEL models come with a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 pound feet of torque mated to six-speed automatic transmission. The package delivers EPA-rated city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 25/30/27 miles to the gallon.

The Limited and tested Ultimate are equipped with a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 195 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic delivers instant, smooth shifts and rapid acceleration. The EPA rating is 26/29/27 mpg.

Though the S and SEL models have less power and slower acceleration, they share the body rigidity and stable feel with their more powerful siblings. Cornering is fuss-free with little body roll. The more powerful Limited and Ultimate models, with driver-selectable Normal and Sport modes that adjust transmission shifting and steering feel, are quicker. 

Large-31688-2018KonaLarge-31737-2018KonaTypically with Hyundai, the new Kona is uncommonly well-equipped. On the tested Ultimate model, they included LED gauges, a power driver’s seat, heated leather seats, motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and an innovative head-up display screen that rises from the dashboard and offers comprehensive information on a screen mounted in the driver’s line of sight.

The eight-inch center touch screen displays vehicle functions as well as navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. In what Hyundai says is a first in the class, the Kona also offers wireless smart phone charging. It also is equipped with Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which offers a variety of services, including remote starting.

Large-31689-2018KonaSpecifications

    • Model: 2018 Hyundai Kona Ultimate AWD Lime four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 175 hp, 195 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
    • Overall length: 13 feet 8 inches.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 92/19 cubic feet. (46 2nd folded)
    • Weight: 3,344 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/29/27 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $29,660.
    • Price as tested: $29,775.

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

Large-31649-2018Kona2.0-litermodelPhotos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

In any automotive era, the hot-rodders will eventually rise to the bait, as they have with the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition with its 6.2L Performance Package.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s post-World War II gear-heads stuffing V8 engines into 1930s Ford Model A coupes, or modern street racers hopping up old Honda Civic Si hatchbacks. Someone will always figure out a way to dredge artistry and performance out of pedestrian machinery.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

That’s expected, but the hop-up imperative has become institutionalized. The German luxury manufacturers — Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi — all have performance divisions to inject their already hot machines with ever more power.

Now, with the new Tahoe RST, Ford’s Raptor pickup truck and the mind-boggling Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the blastoff mindset has insinuated itself into the biggest of the big vehicles that were originally designed to simply tow, carry and haul lots of stuff on and off the road.

Which brings us to the Tahoe RST (rally sport truck), a monster SUV based on the Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck. It comes with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine that delivers 460 lb-ft of torque through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. 

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

It has four driver-selectable drive modes: two-wheel drive for leisurely highway cruising, full-time all-wheel drive for nasty conditions, and locked four-wheel drive with high and low ranges for off-road forays. In short, there’s not much it cannot handle. Moreover, it can tow loads up to 8,100 pounds. 

Equipment also includes GM’s magnetic ride control, an active suspension setup that takes readings of road conditions and electronically adjusts the shock absorbers in milliseconds. It works in concert with gloss black 22-inch aluminum wheels.

Still, don’t expect a cushy ride. This fundamentally is a truck outfitted for performance despite its monster size, so the ride gets harsh and choppy except on pool-table smooth surfaces. If you’re a truck person, you’ll grin from ear to ear. If you have more of a comfortable sedan or crossover SUV orientation, it likely will produce a frown.

Chevrolet Unveils Tahoe RST

The biggest drawback — or enhancement, depending on your preference — of the Tahoe RST Edition is its sheer size. It stretches 17 feet in length and weighs 5,631 pounds. With that big V8 engine it doesn’t bow to anything — zero to 60 miles an hour arrives in less than six seconds — but don’t expect to toss it around like a sports sedan or performance-oriented crossover.

Nope. The RST works best when it is driven deliberately, in slow motion with well-planned moves. That way, with practice, its bulky dimensions come under control. Moreover, it is surprisingly docile in urban traffic given the power lurking under the hood. 

2015-Chevrolet-Tahoe-InteriorPowerFoldFlatSeats-004If you must demonstrate performance, it’s best to do it in a straight line. Punch the pedal at a stoplight and all those horses will pin you back in the seat. Choose either two-wheel drive or automatic all-wheel drive. Either way, the RST Edition gets off the line with little or no wheel spin. 

For all of its truck and performance credentials, the Tahoe RST Edition comes equipped as well as many luxury cars. There’s tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, heated and ventilated front seats, rolling WiFi, head-up display, wireless smart phone charging, and an eight-inch center screen for navigation and infotainment functions,   including Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a rear-seat entertainment system.

None of this, of course, comes cheap. The tested RST Edition had a starting price of $66,425. With the equipment mentioned, along with other options, the bottom-line sticker price came to $78,450—not a territory for many middle-class buyers.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ

However, if you are not captivated by the awesome performance, which by the way takes its toll in fuel economy, there are lesser Tahoe versions that would be more friendly to the family budget. The RST has a city/highway/combined fuel consumption rating of 14/22/17 miles to the gallon.

The tester was a seven-passenger model with two captain’s chairs in the second row. Working with the power tailgate raised, a touch of a switch folds the rear seatbacks and the third-row seats to produce a flat load floor with nearly 98 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Seats in the first two rows deliver comfort and support. But the  third-row seats are impossible for anyone but small children, watermelons or backpacks. There’s little knee room and no help because the second-row seats do not adjust fore and aft.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Brembo brake package

Specifications

    • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Edition four-door sport utility vehicle.
    • Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 420 hp, 460 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: 10-speed automatic.
    • Overall length: 17 feet.
    • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 122/15 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 5,631 pounds.
    • Towing capability: 8,100 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 14/22/17 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $66,425.
    • Price as tested: $78,450.

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

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

Photos (c) General Motors.

2018 Buick Regal TourX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

There are several clues that the 2018 Buick Regal TourX has its roots in foreign soil, not in the United States. The biggest is that it is a station wagon.

Wait. A Buick station wagon, something we’ve not seen since the big Roadmaster of two decades ago? Yup.

American buyers, who embraced big station wagons for 50 years after World War II as essential family haulers, all but abandoned them after the inventions of the minivan, sport utility vehicle and crossover SUV.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

A notable flop in recent years was the Dodge Magnum, a rear-wheel drive wagon with some performance chops that was introduced as a 2005 model but lasted only until 2008.

Still, a few manufacturers — none of them American — persisted in building wagons, mainly because they continued to be popular in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, many buyers regard a station wagon as a step up from a traditional sedan, though they too are starting to succumb to the allure of crossover SUVs.

Note that traditional SUVs are based on pickup trucks, with rear- or all-wheel drive and body-on-frame construction. Crossovers usually have front- or all-wheel drive and the unit-body construction of traditional sedans. For example, the Chevrolet Tahoe is an SUV; the Chevy Equinox is a crossover.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Yet despite the fact that some foreign manufacturers — Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Subaru — tested the U.S. market with wagons, all of them fizzled. Subaru finessed the situation by converting its Legacy wagon into the Outback by jacking it up for better ground clearance and calling it a crossover SUV. Currently, a few lonely automakers still persist here with wagons, including Sweden’s Volvo and Germany’s Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.

So, the Buick Regal TourX comes as something of a surprise, especially coming in the tire tracks of the Regal Sportback, a four-door hatchback with fastback styling that resembles the Audi A5 and A7, as well as the new Kia Stinger.

As with many automobiles in an industry that has become globalized, the Regal TourX is an ethnic amalgam. Based on the Opel Insignia, it is built in Germany with a U.S. engine and a Japanese transmission. Only about a quarter of its components come from the U.S. and Canada.

2018-Buick-Regal-TourX-011A couple of minor tipoffs to its origins: as with some other European cars, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side, and the steering wheel telescopes but does not tilt.

Nearly 16.5 feet long with streamlined styling, the Buick TourX displays the modern attributes that could herald a station wagon comeback. It has 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seatbacks, which expands to 74 cubic feet if you fold the seatbacks. With its low profile comes a low lift-over height, which facilitates loading.

It also comes standard with all-wheel drive, which will come in handy in slippery conditions. But don’t think of the TourX as an off-road vehicle. There’s only 5.8 inches of ground clearance, where the Subaru Outback has 8.7 inches.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

The Outback is one of only a couple of competitors. It has comparable interior space to the TourX, though it’s a foot shorter. It also is less expensive. The only other competitor is the Volvo V60, which has a new model that arrives in 2018.

Motivating the new TourX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is becoming an industry standard. In this application, it makes 250 hp with 295 lb-ft of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

In daily driving, the TourX proves itself to be a responsive companion in traffic, though there’s hesitation off the line because of the stop-start technology that shuts off the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy. The city/highway/combined fuel consumption, as rated by the EPA, is 21/29/24 mpg.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Handling is nearly up to midsize sports sedan standards, with a solid steering feel around corners and good straight-line tracking. The brakes are excellent with a strong pedal feel. One minor drawback: the TourX’s length requires searches for generous parking spaces.

The tested TourX Essence was well equipped with a base price of $36,015. With options that included adaptive cruise control, forward pedestrian alert, automatic braking and collision alert; rear cross-traffic alert and park assist; blind-spot warning; premium audio, HD radio, and navigation and infotainment systems, the bottom-line sticker came to $40,950.

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Specifications

  • Model:2018 Buick Regal TourX Essence AWD four-door station wagon.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 250 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission:Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length:16 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:101/33 cubic feet (74).
  • Weight:3,745 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption:21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge:$36,015.
  • Price as tested:$40,950.

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

2018 Buick Regal TourX

Photos (c) General Motors.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Any cook who uses all-purpose flour will understand the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, which stands out as an all-purpose automobile.

It is a compact four-door hatchback sedan which seats four adults comfortably — five in a pinch — and has ample cargo space — 25 cubic feet, or about double that in the trunk of a typical compact notchback sedan.

On a day trip with another couple? Open the hatch and toss all your bags, purses, sweaters, ponchos and umbrellas inside. There’s room left over for shopping spree items. Also, at 14 feet 3 inches long, the Elantra GT parks easily almost anywhere.

2018 Elantra GT

Want to cruise your state and visit historical sites? Load your valises and makeup cases into the cargo hold and forget them until you check in for the night. Any overflow can go on the back seat or you can fold the split rear seatback.

Need to help the kid move into the college dorm? Drop both rear seatbacks, load the stuff up to the headliner and hope there are a few square inches for a view to the rear. Adjust your outside mirrors to minimize blind spots.

Of course, there’s nothing unique about the utility of a compact four-door hatchback, which maximizes interior space. With a total of 122 cubic feet of area inside — 97 for passengers — the Elantra GT actually qualifies as a large car according to the government’s size classifications.

Large-30103-2018ElantraGTSportMoreover, there are plenty of choices out there. What distinguishes the Elantra GT is how well it integrates all of those practical touches into a pleasant, quality conveyance that lightens a chore, eases a commute, and delivers fuel economy, comfort, power and handling on multiple all-day drives.

The GT is one of half a dozen Elantra models. Four are sedans, including the tantalizing and inexpensive Elantra Sport. The others are the GT hatchback, tested here, and its more powerful sibling, the GT Sport. Sport models feature a 201-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The non-Sport GT model, though less powerful, has plenty of punch for its all-purpose duties: a 161-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 150 lb-ft of torque. It accelerates to 60 mph in about eight seconds, which is modest by modern standards. The $4,000 upgrade to the GT Sport’s power train gets you a zero-to-60 time of about 6.5 seconds.

2018 Elantra GT

Either engine is available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. The GT tested here had a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, which costs $1,000 more than the manual.

With dazzling white paint that reflected sunlight and helped the air conditioning cope with Florida temperatures, the South Korean-made GT displayed handsome, European-oriented styling. It came with a starting price of $21,235 that included a solid list of features: basic safety equipment, the six-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple Car Play infotainment, an eight-inch center screen, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, and a rear-view camera.

But the tester also was equipped with two options packages that elevated the features and price but fell short on safety equipment. The $1,800 Style package added blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert along with dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with pushbutton starting, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support.

2018 Elantra GT

An additional $4,300 for the Tech package brought a panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights and taillights, navigation system, electronic parking brake, Hyundai’s Bluelink telematics services, premium Infinity audio system, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a smart-phone charging pad.

All of that brought the GT’s tested price to $27,460, not overly expensive in an era when the average price of a new car is more than $34,000.

2018 Elantra GT

Although the GT uses a relatively simple torsion beam rear suspension system (the GT Sport has a more sophisticated independent multilink rear suspension), the handling is fuss free and the GT tracks cleanly on the freeway and cruises easily at speeds of more than 75 mph.

On smooth paved surfaces, the Elantra GT is quiet and fatigue-free over long distances. However, rougher pavement transmits noises that make their annoying way through the tires and suspension system into the cabin.

A major shortcoming is that some modern safety measures are available only on the more expensive GT Sport with its Tech package, which includes such desirable equipment as forward collision warning, emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

2018 Elantra GT
2018 Elantra GT

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 0-liter four-cylinder, 161 hp, 150 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 3 inches
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/25 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,925 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,235.
  • Price as tested: $27,460.

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

2018 Elantra GT

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2018 Range Rover Velar: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22.12.16   V1
22.12.16 V1

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

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

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

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

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

rrvelar18mystaticaccessories070817026Specifications

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

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

rrvelar18mystatic070817005Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover

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