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2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s still a puzzle why any luxury manufacturer would produce a vehicle like the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe.

It must have something to do with the psyche of some of its customers — people who maybe have the same mindset of those who rushed out to buy the BMW X6 after it was introduced in 2008.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

To some, it looked ridiculous. Take a tall midsize luxury sport utility vehicle, with all its attendant practicality, and shave the roof so at least the part above the beltline vaguely resembles a sleek fastback like an Audi A7.

Never mind that the effect is that of a clumsy effort to produce a stylish SUV with limited rear headroom and visibility, as well as truncated cargo space. Or, as a Car and Driver magazine critic wrote, it “proves that some people really do want a running shoe with a hiking sole attached.”

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

Mercedes gives ‘em the Old Razzle Dazzle by describing its new AMG GLE 53 as a four-door Coupe. It’s even part of the official name. The company has produced other so-called coupes with four doors but some are tempting designs with sensuous fastback styling—what was called a torpedo body in the World War II era.

Except for the odd body and nosebleed price, the AMG GLE 53 Coupe has solid Mercedes-Benz credentials, enhanced by the company’s high-performance AMG arm. It is a mild hybrid with a 48-volt electric supercharger that contributes 21 hp to get things going without discernible turbo lag, connected to a 429 hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that makes 384 lb-ft of torque.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

It could hardly have less given its high performance image and curb weight of 5,250 lbs. Mercedes-Benz says that the AMG GLE 53 can nail 60 mph in about five seconds, assisted by the mild hybrid system off the line, which also enables a sophisticated idle stop system that barely makes itself felt. Top speed is governed at 155 mph.

The transmission is a nine-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel. Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel drive and an AMG Ride Control air suspension system are part of the standard equipment.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

There are seven selectable drive modes for on- and off-road motoring: Sand, Trail, Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. The last is intended only for race track duty, and the onboard computer informs the driver whether there are any race tracks — or none at all — in the neighborhood.

The AMG GLE 53 Coupe is an easy driver, obviously with plenty of power, though it is almost six feet tall and has the substantial, even somewhat ponderous, feel of a big vehicle, though the heavy steering and handling feel secure on twisting roads. Because of the bias toward handling, the ride is a bit stiff.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

Despite the off-road equipment, this is more of a confortable road runner suited to long-distance travel on Interstate highways. It is uncommonly well dressed, and the price tag bears witness to the long list of standard and optional equipment and features.

The starting price of $77,495, including the destination charge, looks almost reasonable. But the tested Coupe also came with a whopping $27,829 worth of options — an amount that could buy you a nice compact crossover SUV.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

The equipment is too extensive to fully list here, but includes a suite of safety features enhanced by one of the biggest head-up displays anywhere, along with Distronic adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, heated and ventilated seats, four-zone automatic climate control, navigation, Burmaster surround-sound audio, SXM satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A particular favorite for this review was the massage function built into the driver’s seat. Relaxing.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

There’s a bewildering array of buttons, switches and icons on the  console, steering wheel and center screen, some of them redundant. They can be learned but it takes time and practice to get everything set up properly. Don’t fiddle with them while driving.

The AMG GLE 53 Coupe does come up short in a few areas. There are no assist handles inside for entering and exiting. Visibility to the rear is limited, with wide pillars flanking a small rear window that resembles a machine gun port in a military bunker. And the sunshade for the glass sunroof is made of a perforated cloth that admits too much light and heat.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter six-cylinder, supercharged and turbocharged; 429 hp, 384 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 3 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: NA/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,250 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/23/20 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $77,495.
  • Price as tested: $105,324.

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

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

2021 Hyundai Elantra: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Historians may one day view the 2021 Hyundai Elantra as America’s first coronavirus car.

It’s possible because of the unusual global introduction of the all-new sedan. The event had been scheduled as a glitzy Hollywood production for a group of automotive journalists from around the country.

The novel coronavirus changed all that. Close to the event on Mar. 17, the South Korean manufacturer was forced to disinvite the entire press corps because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the nation.

Large-40594-2021ElantraBut the show went on anyway, via YouTube from the Lot Studios in West Hollywood and headlined by José Muñoz, Hyundai’s president and CEO, along with other company heavyweights.

The Elantra is Hyundai’s best-seller, though its sales slipped from 200,415 in 2018 to 175,094 in 2019 amid the surging popularity of crossover sport utility vehicles. It dates back to 1990 and has had 3.4 million total sales in the U.S., according to Muñoz.

Large-40585-2021ElantraAll new from the tire patches up, the seventh-generation Hyundai sedan is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, but only by inches or fractions of an inch so interior space has actually increased slightly.

It is 15 feet 4 inches long and 4 feet 8 inches high.

The lower profile gives the Elantra a passing resemblance to cars like the low-slung $73,445 Mercedes-Benz CLS450, a four-door that the German company calls a Coupe. Muñoz said the Elantra was aimed at “young disrupters” or people with a disruptive spirit.

Large-40602-2021ElantraThough marketed as a compact, the Elantra likely will be classified as a midsize by the government based on its total interior volume. Without a sunroof, it has 116 cubic feet of interior volume, divided into 102 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 14 cubic feet. With a sunroof, the passenger space drops to 99 cubic feet but it is still comfortably in the midsize category.

The Elantra  comes both as a standard gasoline model or, for the first time, as a gasoline-electric hybrid. Standard on the gasoline SE, SEL and Limited models is a 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. It is mated to Hyundai’s IVT, a continuously variable automatic transmission that electronically mimics the shifting behavior of a standard automatic.

Large-40584-2021ElantraThe Elantra Hybrid uses a 1.6-liter gasoline engine with a 32-kW electric motor. Together they deliver 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, the Hybrid is projected to deliver a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of more than 50 mpg.

Hyundai’s Smart Sense safety equipment includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping and lane-centering assist, automatic headlight high beam switching, driver fatigue detection, safe exit warning of a vehicle approaching from behind, emergency backup braking and a rear-view camera with guidelines.

Large-40580-2021ElantraOptional equipment includes adaptive radar cruise control, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and blind-spot warning. Other new available features include a navigation system, natural voice control for a multitude of functions, Hyundai’s digital smart-phone key with wireless charging, wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and dual Bluetooth connectivity so a phone can be used simultaneously with streaming audio.

At the introduction, there was no word on whether the Elantra would continue to be available as a hatchback or as a high-performance N model. No prices were announced.

Large-40588-2021ElantraPhotos (c) Hyundai

 

2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With a few caveats, it looks as if the 2021 Kia Seltos follows the winning ways of its siblings from the South Korean manufacturer, especially the critically acclaimed Telluride.

A small crossover sport utility vehicle, the Seltos teeters in size between subcompact crossovers like the new Hyundai Venue and compacts like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. In fact, it’s almost the same size as the compact Kia Sportage — just four inches shorter with four fewer cubic feet of space inside.

2021 Seltos

But it has some of the same appeal of the new Telluride, where the Sportage, in SUV and crossover guise, has been around since 1998. The Seltos has rugged, SUV-stylish looks, a well-designed interior and, in the tested S model, outstanding driving dynamics and performance.

However, there are a few shortcomings, mainly owing to the fact that the only way to get some equipment is to choose which of five versions, or trim levels, fits your desires.

For example, on the tested S Turbo version with the 175-hp 1.6-liter engine, which delivers 195 lb-ft of torque, there is no pushbutton starting, exterior-touch locking, automatic climate control or SXM satellite radio. It has a starting price of $26,610, including the destination charge.

2021 Seltos

To get those items you must move up $2,400 in price to the top-line $29,010 SX all-wheel drive model, which has the same turbocharged engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. But then you must give up the S version’s excellent and comfortable cloth upholstery and seat yourself on leatherette.

Lower trim levels somewhat make up for the lack of satellite radio by including Apple Car Play and Android Auto so people can play music and navigation from their smart phones.

The S Turbo and SX are the only models with the upgraded engine and transmission. Others, including the base S with front-wheel drive, have a 145-hp, 2.0-liter engine with 132 lb-ft of torque and a continuously-variable automatic transmission.

2021 Seltos

All versions come with all-wheel drive except for the base S, which has front-wheel drive. Its starting price is $23,110 — the same as the LX with all-wheel drive. The S also can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

All Seltos versions come with basic safety equipment, including rear occupancy alert, tire-pressure monitoring, hill start assist and downhill braking control. But the LX does not have forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection. To get that, you must order one of the upper trim levels.

Also, some of the more sophisticated safety and convenience items like blind-spot warning, lane keeping assist and rear cross traffic alert, are not available on the LX. If you want adaptive cruise control, it’s available only on the top-line SX model.

2021 Seltos

One very unusual oversight on the tested S Turbo, the sun visors did not slide on their support rods to fully block sunlight from the sides. The South Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai have been in the forefront of including such items, as well as other convenience and safety equipment, even in base models.

Carping aside, the Seltos S Turbo — there was no opportunity to drive the lower powered versions — delivers an entertaining, even exciting, driving experience with handling more akin to a sports sedan than a small crossover. It is rabbit-quick off the line with little or none of the dreaded lag as the turbocharger spools up. Zero to 60 miles an hour happens in the six-second range but it feels quicker, especially with rapid throttle response for passing or jumping lanes in traffic.

2021 Seltos

The Seltos name is an adaptation of Celtus, a character in Greek mythology who was the progenitor of the Celtic people. But Kia changed the spelling to better connect it to “speed” and “sport.”

At 5 feet 4 inches including the roof rails, the Seltos is not particularly tall. But it has the look of a serious crossover SUV, unlike its funky smaller sibling, the Kia Soul.

In a smaller, less expensive package, the Seltos, especially in the top-line SX trim, has some of the same appeal as the Telluride, which was voted Utility of the Year by an independent group of 50 automotive journalists from around the United States and Canada, including this reviewer.

It would help its case if, as needed on the tested S Turbo version, a few additional stand-alone options like pushbutton starting and SXM radio were available. And Kia, please equip the Seltos with proper sliding sun visors.

2021 Seltos

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD 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: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 99/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,317 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/30/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,610.
  • Price as tested: $26,740.

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

2021 Seltos

Photos (c) Kia

2021 Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Los Angeles, CASparks are flying at Ford. Hot on the tailgate of the company’s all-new electric Mustang Mach-E, the company’s  Lincoln division brought its compact luxury sparkler: the 2021 Corsair Grand Touring crossover sport utility vehicle.

It was introduced here following the debut of the Mustang Mach-E, both in connection with the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve Appearance Package

The Grand Touring is not as avant garde as its Mustang cousin but qualifies as a somewhat electric, a plug-in hybrid that can run up to 25 miles on purely battery power. Of course, for hybrid running it has a gasoline engine as well.

It was a rapid addition to the lineup of the existing Corsair, itself introduced only seven months ago at the New York Auto Show, and furthers the company’s electrification ambitions. Lincoln now has a full lineup of SUVs and crossovers, including hybrid versions of the three-row Aviator.

The new Corsair Grand Touring doesn’t turn heads initially. Except for a unique “Spirit Blue” grille, 20-inch wheels and some trim items, it looks like the existing Corsair models, which are the replacement for Lincoln’s previous MKC crossover.

2020 2.3L Corsair

Like the other Lincolns, the emphasis is on serenity and sanctuary. In addition to designing a quiet, stress-free driving ambiance,  including noise canceling technology and additional insulation, the designers also are focused on what role music can play to enhance the experience.

Though there was no opportunity to drive the Grand Touring at its grand opening here, it doubtless will be similar to that of the other models, only with a smaller impact on the environment. Though no fuel economy numbers were available, a guesstimate here is that the miles per gallon equivalent could work out to 70 MPGe in electric driving and more than 30 miles to the gallon in hybrid mode.

2020 Lincoln Corsair

A 14.4-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, mounted under the passenger compartment, provides the electric power. Recharging from a level II, 240-volt charger takes three to four hours, Lincoln says. It takes 10-11 hours from a standard 110-volt household outlet.

The gasoline-engine Corsair has selectable driving modes for different conditions that adjust multiple functions, including shift points, and steering and suspension systems. They are labeled Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep Conditions.

The Grand Touring hybrid adds two modes: Preserve EV helps recharge the battery up to 75 percent while continuing to use both the engine and motor to deliver full performance. Pure EV puts the Corsair in full electric mode. When the battery runs down, the gasoline engine automatically switches on for hybrid driving.

2020 2.3L Corsair

All-wheel drive is standard on the Grand Touring, with an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and a second electric motor integrated into the continuously-variable automatic transmission. In hybrid mode, they work seamlessly with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine to make 266 hp.

As with other Corsair models, the Grand Touring comes with Lincoln’s “phone as a key” technology, which operates from a smart phone app to lock and unlock doors, open the lift gate and operate interior functions.

2020 Corsair at NYIAS

Also, Lincoln Co-Pilot 360, a driver assist system that includes pre-collision emergency braking, roadside speed sign recognition, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering, emergency evasive steering assist, reverse braking assist, and active parking assist to park the Corsair automatically in perpendicular or parallel spaces.

Estimated to start at more than $50,000, the Corsair Grand Touring will go on sale in the summer of 2020. It will be built at the company’s Louisville (KY) Assembly Plant.

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

2020 Lincoln Corsair Reserve Appearance Package

Photos (c) Lincoln

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: A DriveWays Preview…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Hawthorne, CA — With an event that would have done justice to a herd of stampeding wild horses, the Ford Motor Co. unveiled its newest and most radical Mustang, an all-electric crossover SUV named the Mach-E.

More than 600 witnesses, including automotive journalists from around the world and  a host of Ford supporters, engineers and designers, gathered Sunday evening, November 17, in an airport hanger in this suburb southwest of Los Angeles. Presiding was none other than William Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford and Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Co.

Mustang Mach-E 15Mr. Ford has a reputation as an environmentalist, and pronounced this new machine as “a new Ford for a new age,” a non-polluting vehicle that, as some naysayers might point out, gets its electric power from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels.

The event was both a gamble and a bold leap into the future for the storied automobile manufacturer, which made a calculated decision to trade on the name of its original and still popular pony car, the Mustang, which was introduced in 1964 with a small six-cylinder engine and a three-speed floor-mounted stick shift, and without air conditioning.

Mustang Mach-E 05Contrast that with the 2021 electric Mustang Mach-E, which goes into production next year with a choice of all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive and powered by one or two electric motors that in the top performance model can hit 60 mph in three seconds, faster than the current top performing Mustang Shelby GT500 — and without any of the ear-splitting exhaust sounds.

More realistically for consumers, Ford says the Mach-E, depending on the model, will deliver 225 to 332 hp and 306 to 417 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels or all four wheels. It will have a range of 210 to 230 miles in rear-drive or all-wheel drive trim. The former will deliver a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time in the low six-second range; the latter in the mid-five second  range.

Mustang Family PhotoMost important, from the company’s view, is the presence. The Mach-E, for all of its four-door crossover utility, looks like a Mustang from the outside with a comfortable and accommodating interior that, with its infotainment functions, vaguely resembles a Tesla, with a giant center screen.

At 15 feet 6 inches long and 5 feet 3 inches tall, the Mach-E slots into the heart of the crossover SUV category, somewhere between a compact and midsize. It has adequate space inside for four, and even the fifth center-rear passenger can plant his or her feet on a flat floor. Cargo space behind the rear seats totals 29 cubic feet and more than doubles to 60 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

Mustang Mach-E 26With production not scheduled until sometime in 2020, the Mach-E for now is something of a dream. It is Ford’s first foray into an all-electric vehicle. To the company’s credit, it could have introduced a battery-electric power train into an existing vehicle like the Escape compact crossover but chose instead to make a bold leap.

At this stage of the betting on the future, there were no specific prices announced for the Mach-E. Unofficially, the word at the debut was that the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E would start at around $45,000 for the base rear-wheel drive model and climb to around $65,000 for the ultimate performance all-wheel drive version. Under current law, it would be eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500, as well as other state and local credits.

Mustang Mach-E 27To inject a note of celebrity into the occasion, the company brought a rousing performance by the Detroit Youth Choir of TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” along with Idris Elba, the English actor, producer, writer, musician and rapper, who recalled that he had worked for Ford in Dagenham, England, and said he still felt like a member of the Ford family.

If Ford gets its way, the Mach-E could considerably expand that family.

Mustang Mach-E 14Disclaimer: This preview was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Mustang Mach-E 04 GTPhotos (c) Ford

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