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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The granddaddy of crossover sport utility vehicles, the Subaru Outback, rolls into 2020 with a host of enhancements, including a new Onyx model aimed at outdoors-oriented customers.

It was in 1994 when Subaru, witnessing the trend to truck-based SUVs but without a competitive product, recast its Legacy station wagon as a special edition called the Outback, which later was defined as a car-based crossover.

GREEN_SURF_CF027673Other manufacturers followed and now crossovers of every size and price have eclipsed traditional sedans as the overwhelming favorite vehicle. Subaru has sold more than two million examples of Outback.

The designers resisted any urge to make the new Outback look more like a traditional tall SUV. Built on a new global platform, it still looks more like a modern station wagon and, of course, like an Outback. Subaru says its customers preferred the traditional styling.

The 2020 Outback comes in seven trim levels with two different horizontally-opposed engines, also called “boxer” or “flat” engines because the cylinders lie on both sides of the crankshaft, feet-to-feet, instead of standing upright or leaning as in a V engine.

23._2020_OutbackWith their vertically squished profile, boxer engines enable a lower center of gravity and a tidy way to add all-wheel drive to a front-wheel drive vehicle, as well as a natural balance. Subaru is the only manufacturer that uses boxer engines exclusively and makes all-wheel drive standard on every model except the rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, also manufactured and sold as the Toyota 86.

The 2020 Outback’s engines are a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque, and a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 260 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

Equipped with the standard engine are the base Outback with a starting price of $27,655, Premium at $29,905, Limited at $34,455 and Touring at $38,355. Turbocharged models, designated XT, are the Onyx at $35,905, Limited $38,755 and Touring $40,705. Prices include the destination charge.

17._2020_OutbackThe transmission is Subaru’s continuously variable automatic (CVT), which also can mimic a stepped eight-speed automatic for manual shifting with paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

Subaru delivers its EyeSight suite of safety features as standard equipment on every Outback model. Cameras mounted inside on both sides of the inside rear-view mirror monitor traffic ahead and activate pre-collision emergency braking and throttle management. Adaptive cruise control maintains a pre-set distance from the car ahead, and lane keeping assist keeps the Outback centered in its lane.

11._2020_OutbackThe system also uses an infrared camera with facial recognition technology to monitor the driver and identify any sign of distraction or fatigue, when it provides visual and audio alerts. Also available are automatic reverse braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a head-up display.

Models with both engines were driven for this review. The conclusion was that the standard engine would satisfy the majority of Outback buyers. With car-like handling and ride, it also has enough power to hold its own on any road or traffic condition.

20TDI_OBKpl029But the focus here is on the Onyx XT with the turbo motor, which delivers more rapid acceleration and passing power, though as might be expected lower fuel economy. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 23/30/26 mpg compared to 26/33/29 for the standard engine.

The Onyx comes with a new polyurethane-based faux leather upholstery that the company says cleans easily and is more comfortable in heat and cold than vinyl-based seat coverings. Because the model is aimed at customers who spend time in the outdoors, the Onyx also comes with Subaru’s dual-mode X-Mode system that enhances off-road performance, including automatic hill descent control. There are settings for snow, dirt and mud.

20TDI_OBKpl010Other Onyx equipment includes 18-inch black aluminum wheels, black exterior trim, a 180-degree front-view monitor, full-size spare wheel and tire, hands-free power rear tailgate and dual exhaust pipes. The tester also had a $1,845 option package that included a motorized sunroof, reverse automatic braking and Subaru’s Starlink navigation system with an 11.6-inch center screen.

On both paved highways and rutted forest roads, the Outback Onyx demonstrated stellar performance. It was fast, comfortable and handled competently on twisting northern California highways, aided by brake-based torque vectoring for the rear wheels.

Off-road, its 8.7-inch ground clearance enabled it to traverse deep and steep holes that would have trapped many other vehicles. The hill descent control took the anxiety out of steep downhill grades.

Gotta love it.

20TDI_OBKpl006Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 260 hp, 277 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with eight-speed manual-shift mode and full-time all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 106/33 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,884 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/30/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,905
  • Price as tested: $37,750.

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

GREEN_SURF_CAT2718Photos (c) Subaru

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2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With its 2020 XT6 crossover and the upcoming  refreshed XT5, Cadillac fields its first-string four corners offense against competitors in the sport utility tournament.

The big difference is that this offense does not seek to stall or  dribble in place. It’s more of a full-court press against Lincoln, Acura, BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Audi and Volvo.

Cadillac SUV familyPair the XT6 and XT5 with the compact XT4 crossover and the silk-gloved brute Escalade, with its truck-like body-on-frame construction, and General Motors’ luxury division has a lineup that can compete across the premium SUV spectrum.

The XT6 slots in below the giant Escalade. Like its bigger sibling, it comes with three rows of seats and either seven- or eight-passenger seating, depending on whether the buyer wants a second-row bench seat or separate captain’s chairs.

Though it is three inches shorter than the 17-foot long Escalade, the XT6 has generous interior space of 153 cubic feet, with 140 for passengers and 13 for cargo behind the third row. The Escalade has 178 cubic feet of interior room, divided 163 for passengers and 15 for cargo.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

A touch of a button drops the XT6’s powered third-row seatback to deliver 43 cubic feet for cargo. Fold the second row, which also provides access for third-row passengers, and the cargo space expands to 79 cubic feet.

The XT6’s standard configuration is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available, where the Escalade starts with rear-wheel drive like the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and adds four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

With its car-like unit body construction, the XT6 has a stiff structure that contributes to secure handling. As a luxury vehicle, it also must deliver a quiet and comfortable ride. To that end, the Cadillac engineers incorporated 15 different insulating enhancements, including hush panels in the side doors and noise absorbent shock towers.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

However, no road-going vehicle is completely silent—not even electric cars — especially traveling pockmarked U.S. highways. The XT6 manages quite well though some wind and tire noise work their way into the cabin.

Power comes from a robust 310-hp V6 engine with 271 lb-ft of torque. It quietly works its power through a nine-speed Hydra-Matic (remember that?) transmission. The combination is enough to propel the XT6 to 60 mph in a guesstimated less than seven seconds.

Cadillac offers two XT6 trim levels: Premium Luxury and Sport. The names are descriptive. The more expensive (by $2,400) Sport is  oriented toward driving dynamics with quicker steering, continuous active suspension damping and aggressive transmission shift points at higher rpms.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

The Sport also gets a more, to be sure, sporting interior featuring trim that looks like woven carbon fiber, while the Premium Luxury version gets beautiful genuine wood enhancements.

Not unlike its European counterparts, the XT6 makes its reputation on the options side of the window sticker. Both the Sport and Premium Luxury models offer Platinum option packages ($3,700 or $4,900 respectively) with upgraded perforated leather upholstery for all seats; leather-wrapped instrument panel, door trim and console; microfiber suede headliner, and premium carpeted floor mats.

It doesn’t end there. The $58,090 all-wheel drive Sport model, the focus of this review, carried $14,950 worth of options, including such items as $2,000 for night vision and $2,350 for enhanced visibility (a rear camera lens washer among other things), that brought the sticker to $73,040.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

A similarly equipped Premium luxury version came with a base price of $56,690 and, when tricked out with a long list of options, checked in at $70,890.

Both models had full safety equipment, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, following distance indicator, front and rear park assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

An innovative feature hides the rear camera, with a washer for inclement weather, underneath the spoiler at the top of the hands-free power tailgate. The rear windshield wiper also is located there, protected from snow and ice.

The Cadillac XT6 Sport is defined by darker accents and more aggressive, performance-inspired details, including available 21-inch wheels.

Among the luxury accouterments are a panoramic “ultraview” glass sunroof, tri-zone climate control, 21-inch alloy wheels, powered and heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an air ionizer and particulate filter, wireless smart phone charging and color head-up display.

In the first half of 2019, sales of Cadillac’s crossovers and the Escalade SUV totaled 56,827. But the XT6 was barely a blip. With the 2020 model, Cadillac’s aggressive four corners offense has the potential to close the gap with other luxury nameplates.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 310 hp, 271 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 140/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,690 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 4,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,090.
  • Price as tested: $73,040.

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

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Photos (c) Cadillac

 

 

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The folks at Chevrolet are convinced that the 2020 Silverado heavy-duty pickup truck will substantially reduce towing anxiety among their devoted customers as well as newcomers.

They consider that there are two groups at risk: The working men and women who need the hauling and towing capabilities of a heavy-duty truck for their livelihood, as well as owners anxious to protect prized possessions like sport fishing boats or designer-home trailers.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Z71

There’s a country music song that says, “Worry’s like a rocking chair; it don’t get you anywhere. Back and forth and you’re still there. Worry’s like a rocking chair.”

Chevrolet calls its new anti-worry system the Transparent Trailer. It is designed to eliminate anxiety experienced by both independent truckers and the people who fret about their prized possessions.

Though the design was a collaboration between Chevrolet and an outside supplier, Ndikum Atang, the engineer who put the system together, installed as many as 15 strategically placed cameras on the trailer and the truck — for this review a Silverado 2500HD High Country crew cab with Chevy’s 445-hp, 6.6-liter turbocharged V8 diesel. It makes a humongous 910 lb-ft of torque — the twisting force that enables towing of 18,500 pounds and beyond.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

The cameras are hard-wired — no trusting of wireless here — and are accessed from the now-ubiquitous center screen in the truck cab. Touch the screen and the driver can see right through the giant box trailer out back.

Of course, it’s an illusion. There’s a camera at the back of the trailer, as well as others, so the center screen can display both sides of the trailer as well as a transparent view, seemingly through an invisible trailer.

With a touch of the screen, the driver also can check the truck’s cargo bed, as well as look at the hookup between the Chevy 2500 and the trailer in enough detail to determine whether anything needs attention.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

As important, another touch of the screen activates a camera inside the trailer so the driver can check the trailer contents—a car, a couple of motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles, or the tangle of beach chairs and umbrellas for the family vacation.

The system also enables a driver to back up his Silverado HD and place the towing ball precisely under the trailer hookup. This maneuver has been done by others before but this system also allows the driver to program up to five different profiles to simplify the process.

Though the Transparent Trailer system — a $1,800 option — gets  the most attention, the 2020 heavy-duty Chevy pickups, in 2500 and 3500 load capability as well as dual rear-wheel 3500s, get the power to the wheels through an all-new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country

In addition to the 2500 turbo-diesel, with its extra cost of $9,750, you can also order the heavy-duty Silverado with a 6.6-liter V8 gasoline engine that delivers 401 hp and 484 lb-ft of torque. You won’t get the all-new Allision 10-speed automatic transmission but the six-speed automatic works fine.

The gasoline-engine 2500s can’t haul quite as much as the brutish diesel model but with a trailer weighing up to 16,900 pounds another tester moved as effortlessly as the diesel towing a ton more. Either way, there’s little of the back-and-forth lurching that sometimes characterizes a tow vehicle and trailer.

With the gasoline V8 and six-speed automatic, the Silverado 2500 4WD crew cab in LT trim had a base price of $46,195, including the destination charge. With a short list of options that provided 18-inch aluminum wheels, all-terrain tires and a spray-on bed liner, the bottom-line price came to $47,985.

The Silverado High Country turbo diesel had a starting price of $62,695. It came with a long list of features that rivaled high-priced luxury cars, as well as performance and convenience items specific to truck use.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country

Among them: the Transparent Trailer camera system, powered up and down tailgate, Durabed cargo box liner, assist steps both on the bed sides and rear bumper, power driver’s seat and heated towing mirrors with memory settings, and power sliding rear window.

Other luxury items included heated and ventilated leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, Chevrolet infotainment system with navigation, eight-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bose premium audio; dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Options, mainly the Duramax turbo-diesel engine, brought the suggested delivered price up to $76,215.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD High Country Crew Cab four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel; 445 hp, 910 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed Allison automatic.
  • Overall length: 20 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 8 inches.
  • Passenger volume: 139 cubic feet.
  • Standard cargo bed volume: 70 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 7,467 pounds.
  • Payload: 3,597 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 18,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Heavy-duty not EPA required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $62,695.
  • Price as tested: $76,215.

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

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD

Photos (c) Chevrolet

 

2020 Hyundai Palisade: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With the introduction of the Palisade, its all-new midsize crossover SUV, Hyundai lines up for a long-distance race against its sister company’s similarly homologated entry.

That’s because the three-row Palisade starts life as a direct competitor of the also all-new Kia Telluride. The two vehicles even share many of the same genes.

Large-38050-2020PalisadeSouth Korea’s Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai, and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their own interior and exterior designs, as well as suspension system tuning and other components.

With similar DNA, you’d expect the Palisade to be something of a knockoff of the Telluride. But no. They were developed in parallel automotive universes and each is distinctive in its own dimension.

However, both vehicles are excellent contenders in the midsize, three-row crossover category, against such worthy competition as the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder.

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThe conclusion here in an earlier review was that the Kia Telluriderolls as an example of the heights of perfection that vehicle manufacturers have achieved, getting to the point where reviewers are reduced to criticizing at ever-narrowing margins.

The same applies to the Palisade. With the departure of Hyundai’s Genesis nameplate to become its own brand, the Palisade now is Hyundai’s flagship — the model at the top of its pyramid of sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers with gasoline, hybrid, electric and fuel-cell power trains.

As is usual in all-new vehicle introductions, Hyundai put its best bumper forward at the national news media introduction. So the focus inevitably — at least for this review — settles onto the top-line, fully equipped Limited model.

There are half a dozen trim lines, three with front-wheel drive and three with all-wheel drive, including the version that is the subject here. If you don’t live in a place where nasty conditions prevail, you can save $1,700 by ordering the Palisade with front-wheel drive.

Large-36542-2020PalisadeHowever, if you customarily trundle the kids and their gear off to winter family vacations, you’ll want the tested Palisade Limited with all-wheel drive. It comes as a fully-equipped, near-luxury, three-row crossover SUV with about every feature you’d want. The $47,445 price reflects that.

It includes such items as an exclusive blind-view monitoring system. When you click the left or right turn signal, the rear view on either side shows up directly on the instruments, substituting briefly for the speedometer or tachometer.

It means you can check the blind spots without looking at the outside rear-view mirrors. Of course, if you are among the few drivers who actually know how to adjust the original blind-spot monitors — the outside mirrors — you don’t need the system. Still, it’s a comfort for the vast majority.

Large-36544-2020PalisadeOther Limited features include an auto-leveling rear suspension system, second-row captain’s chairs, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, third-row power folding and reclining seats, heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, high-zoot Harman Kardon audio system and a speaker system to yell at the kids in back without raising your voice. (They don’t get the assist if they talk back).

But you can also get a satisfactory Palisade SE model for as little as $32,595, assuming you don’t want any options. Still, it is decently equipped with all the same basics as the higher trim levels, including the 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with 262 lb-ft of torque, eight–speed automatic transmission and the capability to tow a trailer weighing 5,000 lbs.

The Palisade is three inches shorter than the Telluride, weighs 246 lbs less and has slightly less passenger and cargo space — 157 cubic feet for passengers versus 167, and 18 cubic feet versus 21 for cargo. But it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Both vehicles earn city/highway/combined EPA fuel economy numbers of 19/24/21 mpg on regular gasoline.

Large-36545-2020PalisadeIn the top-level trims, the Telluride is slightly less expensive. The SX all-wheel drive tested earlier had a sticker price of $46,860, or $485 less.

In the end, with two family-oriented vehicles as closely matched as these two, it will come down to individual reactions, mainly due to styling. Like other Kia models up against those from its sister division, the Hyundai Palisade comes across as more mainstream in its orientation, while the Kia Telluride presents a slightly more sporting personality.

Pay your money and take your choice. You can’t go wrong either way.

Large-37498-2020PalisadeSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 157/18 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,236 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,445.
  • Price as tested: $47,605.

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

Large-34822-2020PalisadePhotos (c) Hyundai

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

When Toyota unveiled the redesigned 2020 Corolla sedan to a group of automotive journalists in November 2018, the shining examples showed like compact luxury cars.

Now that this all-new Corolla has arrived, the emphasis is not on luxury but economy. Instead of top-line trim levels, the spotlight is on the 2020 Corolla Hybrid LE, which among its other attributes gets 52 miles to the gallon of regular gasoline.

Corolla_Hybrid_013_E8752A42C66E156C23136C861E7A6BAF9B59801DMoreover, it has a base price of $23,880, including the destination charge. With a few minor options, the Corolla Hybrid tested for this review had a bottom-line sticker price of $24,524. Get one each for mom and pop.

Where the gasoline-engine model has six variants over five trim levels, the Hybrid comes one way: mid-level LE with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine and a 71-hp electric motor. Together, they make 121 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque transferred to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Gasoline-engine models are the base L, LE and XLE along with the more sporting SE and XSE. The SE can be ordered with the CVT or a six-speed manual gearbox for those who like to shift for themselves.

Corolla_Hybrid_016_F877FFF1D0CC1E9E62B2B38F35CDC86320654023With more than 43 million sales world-wide, the Corolla is the best-selling nameplate in history, although it has gone through many different versions, including multiple configurations with rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive.

Throughout, however, it has maintained a reputation as among the more durable and reliable cars available. Now with its first hybrid version, it adds stellar fuel economy to the package.

Ironically, its main competitor is Toyota’s own Prius, the best-selling hybrid in the world. Unlike the Prius, with its funky controls and instrument displays, the Corolla comes across more like a regular car with familiar surroundings. Both use the same 121-hp hybrid power package and CVT, and compete in similar price brackets.

2020_Corolla_LE_Hybrid_BlueCrushMetallic_015_5FFD7C54695C1A21AE859CADDF038ABAB6B6B57AOther competitors are the Hyundai Ioniq, Honda Insight and Chevrolet Volt, as well as a number of hybrid crossover sport utility vehicles, including the Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4.

The U.S. government classifies cars by total interior volume, which includes the space for passengers and cargo. By that definition, the Prius is classified as midsize, bordering on full-size, while the Corolla is classified as a compact.

Much of that has to do with the Prius’s hatchback design, which gives it 27 cubic feet for cargo and 93 cubic feet for passengers. The Corolla is a standard sedan design with a trunk of 13 cubic feet and 89 cubic feet for passengers. If extra cargo space is needed, the split rear seatback folds 2/3 and 1/3.

2020_Corolla_LE_Hybrid_BlueCrushMetallic_037_6DFA2E153484B87955A00735E0FC37737A513E2CThe Corolla’s design delivers ample head, leg and knee room for four, though as usual in most vehicles, the center-rear passenger gets squished with limited room, a hard cushion and a big floor hump.  Seats are covered in an attractive, comfortable cloth that looks long-lasting — preferable, in this view, to leather or leatherette.

Equipment on the LE Hybrid — as noted the only trim level — covers full safety equipment, including collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, adaptive radar cruise control and automatic high headlight beams.

Other equipment: stop-start idle system, pushbutton starting, automatic climate control, hill start assist, electronic parking brake, LED headlights and taillights, and power windows and outside mirrors.

2020_Corolla_LE_Hybrid_BlueCrushMetallic_039_B5761486DC80A4597CAB1C0917650157427F8CD3An eight-inch center touch screen provides access to the audio system and infotainment functions. However, it does not include SXM satellite radio, though it is compatible with Apple Car Play and Siri Eyes Up.

Given its modest power, the Corolla Hybrid gets a good jump off the line, boosted by the electric motor. The CVT has no shift points so delivers uninterrupted acceleration with little or none of that annoying sensation of slipping or roaring that are characteristic of some CVTs.

2020_Corolla_LE_Hybrid_BlueCrushMetallic_059_0198C3BB115B28B00655AF19B368D7D5EE2AF5ADHandling is competent and secure, and the Corolla tracks true in a straight line, requiring few steering corrections. The main downside is road noise. It could use additional sound-deadening insulation, which likely is included in higher trim levels with gasoline engines.

In this era of electrification, a standard hybrid is the best bet. Plug-in hybrids are more expensive with limited electric range, and pure electrics have no backup if batteries are depleted.

Then there’s the matter of money. The Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees fuel economy ratings, estimates that a Corolla Hybrid owner will save $3,500 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle.

Corolla_Hybrid_008_C12A8DE2AAB24DFD329CCCFB6A2A6CFEEBA9A403Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE four-door sedan.
  • Engine/motor: 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 71 horsepower electric motor; total system 121 hp, 105 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 89/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,050 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 53/52/52 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $23,880.
  • Price as tested: $24,524.

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

Corolla_Hybrid_009_7AB3C30F7FDDA2997F5A75013AC0E9623044E8D0Photos (c) Toyota

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications

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

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

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

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You can almost hear the cheering from far-flung outposts of off-road and truck country, welcoming the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, the famed brand’s first pickup truck in 28 years.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Launch Edition

The original Jeep — a name derived from GP, for general purpose military vehicle, made its debut in 1941 for duty in World War II. It was originally built by Ford and the Willys-Overland vehicle manufacturers. Eventually it became the Willys Jeep and, later, was owned by American Motors and Chrysler, and now by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From 1947 to 1992, Jeep marketed a variety of trucks, the last of which was the Comanche pickup. Now, after years of entreaties from both Jeep owners and truck enthusiasts, especially those with off-road interests, the Gladiator arrives as a complete package that can be customized for almost any motoring taste.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

But the Jeep folks are not catering only to the faithful. They expect that the Gladiator will attract new customers for midsize pickup trucks like the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado, and especially those who have gravitated toward the most popular midsize, the Toyota Tacoma.

The Gladiator slots in firmly as a competitor of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, which comes in standard and long bed versions. It is 18 feet 2 inches long, four inches longer than the Tacoma standard bed and eight inches shorter than the long bed.

Its 3.6-liter V6 engine delivers 285 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque compared to the Tacoma’s 278 and 265. The Gladiator’s automatic transmission is an eight-speed; the Tacoma’s is a six-speed.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

The new Gladiator inevitably will be compared to the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which has become Jeep’s best-selling model. But the Gladiator is bigger, stronger and more capable in many ways with a heftier payload, towing capability and price tag.

There are four Gladiator models, each of which is available with a six-speed manual gearbox as well as the eight-speed automatic transmission. Base prices range from $35,040, including the destination charge, for the base Sport model, to $38,240 for the Sport S, $41,890 for the Overland and $45,040 for the top-line Rubicon.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

But those are starting points. At the Gladiator’s national introduction, Jeep officials estimated that a Rubicon loaded with options could easily top $60,000. And that doesn’t include the many extras from the Mopar aftermarket company to tempt well-heeled enthusiasts.

Chosen for this review was the base Sport with the six-speed manual gearbox and four options: trailer towing package ($250), anti-spin rear differential ($595), SXM satellite radio ($295) and Mopar rubber slush floor mats ($150). That brought the tested price to $36,330, which is about the average price of a new car in the U.S. these days and a lot of truck for the bucks.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

But don’t expect much in the way of frills. Though it had all of the fundamentals for serious off-roading, this Gladiator came with comfortable cloth upholstery but without power locks, seats, windows and mirrors, and automatic climate control. But, so what? You have to hand-crank the windows but you can remove the doors anyway. Reach out the windows to adjust the outside mirrors and fiddle with the air conditioning and heating controls to get comfortable.

Many Jeep adventurers don’t bother with that anyway. The Gladiator’s doors all can be removed and the windshield folded down for open-air adventures in the boondocks. Same for the fabric roof, which can easily be flipped back to open to the sky. The framework and truck bed are steel but the doors, fenders, hood and tailgate are aluminum.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

With solid axles front and rear, and an array of off-road assists, including a grille-mounted forward camera, the Gladiator easily conquered a serious off-road course at a ranch near a town with the neat name of Cool, California. Its disadvantage is size; a two-door Jeep Wrangler would do better. The course was complicated by mud with a peanut butter consistency from heavy rains.

The Gladiator also performed admirably on paved roads, except for light steering that required frequent corrections to keep a straight line. That was the price of a compromise to handle difficult off-road maneuvers. Instead of the ubiquitous rack-and-pinion steering, the Gladiator uses a recirculating-ball setup.

The surprise was the low intrusion of mechanical and road noise with the soft top. Though there was more wind noise than in a closed truck, the Gladiator was reasonably and amiably quiet at highway speeds.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Launch Edition

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport midsize pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 285 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with four-wheel drive, high and low range.
  • Overall length: 18 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:103/36 cubic feet.
  • Cargo box length: 5 feet.
  • Weight: 4,650 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,600 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,650 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/23/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,040.
  • Price as tested: $36,330.

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

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Overland

Photos (c) FCA North America

2020 Lincoln Corsair: A DriveWays First Look…

by Frank A. Aukofer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image-6Photos (c) Lincoln

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2020 Kia Telluride along one of the most scenic roads in America, the thought occurs that vehicle manufacturers have achieved a level of perfection not dreamed of in the history of the automobile.

2020 Telluride

It has gotten to the point that reviewers are reduced to criticizing mainly at the margins, and the margins keep getting narrower. The new Kia Telluride achieves the narrowest of margins.

This is an all-new midsize crossover sport utility vehicle with three rows of seats in either an eight-passenger layout with a second-row bench seat or seven-passenger with second-row captain’s chairs.

It also comes with mid-pack pricing, ranging from $32,735 for the base LX trim level with front-wheel drive to the top-line SX with all-wheel drive at $44,535. There are four versions, each with front-drive or all-wheel drive. With options, the SX tested for this review topped out at $46,860.

2020 Telluride

Yet the tester drove as well as some luxury midsize competitors costing tens of thousands of dollars more. It is powered by a silky 291-hp V6 engine that delivers 262 lb-ft of torque. Though many manufacturers have moved to four-cylinder turbocharged engines, it’s hard to beat the effortless power delivery of a V6. Of course, there is some cost in fuel economy.

The tested Telluride gets the power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts so unobtrusively it could be mistaken for a continuously variable automatic (CVT) that has no shift points. It is rated at 21 mpg overall.

2020 Telluride

Kia chose to introduce its biggest new model on a drive between Gateway, in western Colorado, southeast to its namesake Telluride, the famed ski resort. The 206-mile round trip meanders through canyons surrounded by astonishing mountains, mesas and crumbling rock outcroppings likely more than a billion years old.

Best of all, highways 141 and 146 were bereft of traffic, offering challenging twists and curves as well as straightaways relaxing enough to enjoy the stunning scenery while driving.

2020 Telluride

The Kia Telluride, of South Korea, is built in a plant in West Point, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta. It settled into and easily handled the Colorado highways, tracked steadily on the straights, handled curves with aplomb, and its supple suspension absorbed the many road irregularities. Wind and road noise were noticeable mainly by their absence.

Kia boasts that the Telluride has more standard driver-assist safety technologies than any of its competitors, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-centering and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection with collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert.

Other innovative safety equipment included Kia’s safe-exit assist, which alerts left-side passengers before stepping into the road when the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear, and rear occupant alert, which sends a message to a smart phone and blows the horn if a passenger or pet are unintentionally left behind when the driver leaves.

2020 Telluride

Besides that, the top-line SX model, with the optional premium package, was about as well-equipped as anything you would find cruising the nation’s highways, including a quiet mode, which mutes second- and third-row audio speakers to allow the front-seat passengers to listen to music without disturbing rear-seat passengers.

Also: A comprehensive head-up display, premium leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, front and rear sunroof, memory driver’s seat, Harman-Kardon surround-sound audio, memory driver’s seat, navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and SXM satellite radio.

2020 Telluride

The tester’s second-row captain’s chairs were as supportive and comfortable as the front buckets. They had enough fore-and-aft adjustment to allow knee room for adult third-row passengers, who had better be starvation-skinny to accommodate three back there.

Gateway, the unincorporated community that was the starting point for the Telluride introduction, has a permanent population of about 140. But its jewel is a luxury destination resort called Gateway Canyons, which includes a spanking new automobile museum housing the collection of John Hendricks, the founder and former chairman of the TV Discovery channel.

2020 Telluride

The museum focuses on the history of American automobiles, with 52 examples dating from the early 1900s and including the one-of-a-kind 1954 concept Oldsmobile F-88. Every car is as pristine as a china plate at the White House, though unfortunately many are unidentified.

But placing the Kia Telluride in close proximity demonstrates how stunningly far automobiles have come. None have anything near what the Telluride offers and prompts unavoidable thoughts of where personal transportation will become in the future.

2020 Telluride

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6; 291 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height :5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 167/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,482 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,535.
  • Price as tested: $46,860.

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

Telluride Cadet Leader

Photos (c) Kia

 

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