Author Archives: cantum

Special Edition Toyota 4Runner Bows at the State Fair of Texas

By | September 28, 2018

Toyota is unveiling a new special edition 4Runner and an appearance package for the Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks at the annual State Fair of Texas that starts this weekend in Toyota’s new home state.



The 4Runner Nightshade Special Edition is a dark appearance package that adds black exterior accents on the front and rear bumper spoilers, outer mirrors, door handles, window moldings, rocker panels, door garnish, roof rails, and badging. The exhaust tips are also in black and the grille receives black chrome moldings.

Black 20-inch wheels complement the dark look. Inside, the steering wheel, shift knob, shifter panel, center instrument cluster, center console panels, and inner doors grips are painted in black. Midnight Black, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Blizzard Pearl are the only available exterior colors for the special edition model.

Providing a cleaner look for the Tundra, the new SX package strips the truck of all exterior badging and adds body color front and rear bumper end caps and front grille surrounds. The front buckets seats are upgraded for added comfort, and the 18-inch alloy wheels are painted black. Select exterior colors for the package include Super White, Midnight Black Metallic, and Barcelona Red Metallic.







For the Tacoma, the SX package creates a dark theme with black badging, overfenders, mirror caps, grille, door handles, and headlight bezels. Matte black 16-inch alloy wheels are included and the package is limited to Super White, Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, Barcelona Red, and Quicksand exterior colors.

The 4Runner Nightshade will set you back an additional $1,740 and can only be purchased on the Limited trim. The Tundra’s SX package costs $1,630 and is available on the double cab body style with the SR5 trim and the optional 5.7-liter V-8. Keeping it affordable, the Tacoma’s SX package is priced at $560 and comes on the truck’s SR trim.




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Toyota Reveals Special Edition 4Runner, Truck Packages at State Fair of Texas

By | September 27, 2018

Toyota is unveiling a new special edition 4Runner and an appearance package for the Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks at the annual State Fair of Texas that starts this weekend in Toyota’s new home state.



The 4Runner Nightshade Special Edition is a dark appearance package that adds black exterior accents on the front and rear bumper spoilers, outer mirrors, door handles, window moldings, rocker panels, door garnish, roof rails, and badging. The exhaust tips are also in black and the grille receives black chrome moldings. Black 20-inch wheels complement the dark look. Inside, the steering wheel, shift knob, shifter panel, center instrument cluster, center console panels, and inner doors grips are painted in black. Midnight Black, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Blizzard Pearl are the only available exterior colors for the special edition model.

Providing a cleaner look for the Tundra, the new SX package strips the truck of all exterior badging and adds body color front and rear bumper end caps and front grille surrounds. The front buckets seats are upgraded for added comfort, and the 18-inch alloy wheels are painted black. Select exterior colors for the package include Super White, Midnight Black Metallic, and Barcelona Red Metallic.







For the Tacoma, the SX package creates a dark theme with black badging, overfenders, mirror caps, grille, door handles, and headlight bezels. Matte black 16-inch alloy wheels are included and the package is limited to Super White, Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, Barcelona Red, and Quicksand exterior colors.

The 4Runner Nightshade will set you back an additional $1,740 and can only be purchased on the Limited trim. The Tundra’s SX package costs $1,630 and is available on the double cab body style with the SR5 trim and the optional 5.7-liter V-8. Keeping it affordable, the Tacoma’s SX package is priced at $560 and comes on the truck’s SR trim.

Source: Toyota




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2019 Lexus ES 300h Review: 6 Things to Know

By | September 27, 2018

The longer, lower, and wider Lexus ES is better-looking than ever. Tech hasn’t been the brand’s forte, but the redesigned 2019 ES received a number of new goodies. But is it enough? We got our hands on an ES 300h hybrid to find out if the sedan known for its comfort and luxury retains those qualities but can also sway a younger buyer like me with its new tech features.


The Hybrid Powertrain

Powering the 2019 ES 300h is Lexus’ fourth-generation hybrid powertrain that consists of a revised 2.5-liter I-4 backed by a CVT, a generator motor, and a drive motor powered by a smaller but more potent 29.1-kW-hr nickel-metal hydride battery pack now located under the seat and not in the trunk. Due to the improved packaging, the trunk is the same 16.7 cubic feet as that of the non-hybrid ES 350.

Total system horsepower is rated at 215, up from last year’s 200 hp. The 2019 ES 300h delivers a fuel-sipping EPA-rated 43/45 mpg city/highway, which is impressive considering it’s a large 3,700-pound vehicle. That is up from 40/39 mpg in the outgoing model and 22/31-33 mpg in the 2019 ES 350 V-6. As I drove around town, the electric motor provided a very generous amount of initial thrust, and the sedan didn’t feel underpowered on the highway. The gasoline engine kicks in smoothly and the CVT felt smooth. At full throttle, NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) was surprisingly minimal.


A Soft Interior

An abundance of soft premium materials cover the luxury sedan’s interior. The door panels and center console are wrapped in indulgent and cushiony leather, which also covers all the major touchpoints. A few times I caught myself touching the door panel just to enjoy its smooth feel. The seats are trimmed in NuLuxe perforated synthetic leather, and the front seats are 10-way adjustable (14-way seats are available). Our tester had the optional heated and ventilated front seats, but they don’t get very warm. And although there’s plenty of wood trim, I wish it had some texture to it.

Behind the wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel is a mostly digital instrument cluster with a 7.0-inch screen (8.0 on the ES 350 F Sport model), and to the right is a large and crisp 12.3-inch multimedia screen that’s part of the Navigation package. The standard 10-speaker Pioneer audio system sounds good, but audiophiles should spring for the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. Other 2019 ES features not on our tester include semi-aniline perforated leather seating, a heated steering wheel, hands-free power trunk, a panoramic sunroof, and a power rear sunshade. Also, except for moving the analog clock and removing a tuning knob, the interior layout of the 2019 ES is similar to the outgoing model, so previous ES owners should have an easier time adjusting to the current model.


Technology

The ES is the first Lexus vehicle with Apple CarPlay, and it’s standard on the ES 300h along with Siri Eyes Free voice control. Android Auto is still not offered, but owners of Amazon Alexa-enabled Android phones can take advantage of the service’s car-to-home and home-to-car verbal commands (iPhone compatibility is scheduled for late 2018). A standard Wi-Fi hotspot is complimentary for one year and allows you to connect up to five devices. A 10.2-inch head-up display, a wireless phone charger, and a navigation system are optional. Lexus’ Enform App Suite 2.0 offers various entertainment and service apps but can also access other apps on compatible smartphones.

Although the 12.3-inch center display is impressive, the infotainment system it displays and the touch pad that controls it don’t quite measure up. The system has been improved over previous versions, but there’s still a big learning curve to figure out simple things like adjusting the audio settings or scanning through SiriusXM channels. The control pad is also improved, but it’s tricky at first. I often missed the icon I wanted to click and sometimes didn’t how to get the cursor where I wanted it to go. After a few days of using it, I got used to the system, but if someone else drives your ES they’ll likely be confused. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay is quick to load and easy to use. Tech in the new ES is a definite step in the right direction, though some additional tweaks could improve its usability.


Loads of Standard Safety

Lexus’ suite of driver-assist features—dubbed Lexus Safety System+ 2.0—comes standard on the 2019 ES 300h and includes emergency automatic braking that can now detect bicyclists, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, rear parking sensors, and road sign assist, a feature that displays certain road signs in the instrument panel or head-up display. Lane tracing assist is a new feature that tracks lane markings in order to center the vehicle; it can also center the car behind the vehicle ahead when lane markings disappear and adaptive cruise control is activated. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and emergency automatic reverse braking are available in a separate package.


Comfortably Quiet

The ES 300h’s interior is a very pleasant place to be, not only for its luxury but for its notable ride quality and vault-like quiet. Its superb ride is a result of the newly developed Dynamic Control Shocks, which can respond to the smallest movements by utilizing an additional auxiliary valve in addition to the main damper valve. Lexus also revised the front suspension for improved ride comfort and straight-line stability. Trailing arm and stabilizer bar mount adjustments in the rear suspension increase damping ability and reduce body roll.

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Jaguar Announces the I-Pace eTrophy Championship Calendar

By | September 13, 2018

The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy racing series calendar has been announced, with the first race scheduled to take place on December 15 in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The 10-round series will be held before each of the main ABB FIA Formula E races on the same city circuits throughout the 2018-19 season.

Teams who want to compete will have to purchase a $530,000 Arrive and Drive package that includes the race car, entry into all 10 rounds, vehicle transportation and storage, technical assistance, and applicable equipment. Up to 20 identical I-Pace electric race cars will participate in the series with the drivers and the car’s unique setup as the only differences. Race teams will receive their I-Pace later this month at the Silverstone circuit where they will conduct the first official pre-season tests.

Following practice and qualifying trials, each eTrophy race will last 25 minutes plus one lap. It will also feature a different VIP entrant and the grand prize for the series of more than £500,000 (about $655,000 at current exchange rates).

Sabelt will partner with the series, providing seats, seatbelts, steering wheels, and head protection nets.

“Seeing Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY racecars line up on the grid in December will be a proud and historic moment for Jaguar, and spectators can expect plenty of action from the races. As we travel to some of the world’s most exciting cities we’ll be bringing a new kind of electric street racing to the public and inspiring the next generation of electric vehicle owners,” said Championship Manager, Marion Barnaby.

Source: Jaguar

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Aston Martin Teases the Rapide E, the Brand’s First-Ever EV

By | September 12, 2018

Last year, Aston Martin announced plans to build its first-ever battery electric vehicle, the Rapide E. The special edition all-electric sedan was said to be limited to 155 units and would be produced with the assistance of Williams Advanced Engineering, an EV technology company. Today, Aston Martin revealed the production specs.

The Rapide E’s 65 kW-hr battery pack consists of 5,600 lithium ion cylindrical cells mounted where the V-12 engine, transmission, and fuel tank are located on regular Rapide. Two rear-mounted electric motors maintain the sedan’s rear-drive layout and are targeted to produce a potent 601 hp and 700 lb-ft of torque.

Aston says it targeted a range of 200 miles (using the overly optimistic WLTP model), but the 800-volt battery system means the Rapide E will recharge extremely quickly. On a 100-kW charger, it should gain range at a rate of more than 300 miles per hour.

With a claimed top speed of 155 mph and a sub-4.0-second 0-60 mph time, the EV should maintain the Rapide’s high-performance credentials. And while some EVs can only deliver maximum power with a fully-charged battery, Aston says the Rapide E was developed to deliver the above performance throughout the majority of the battery’s state of charge (similar to a traditional internal combustion engine). Additionally, the electric Rapide will reportedly be able to lap of the Nürburgring while delivering full power to the electric motors the entire time.

Aston Martin also tweaked the Rapide’s exterior and underbody for improved aerodynamics, aerodynamically optimized wheels, and added Pirelli P-Zero low rolling-resistance tires with noise-canceling foam. Supposedly, it will still retain the feel and handling dynamics of the V-12 powered Rapide with unique powertrain and chassis tuning, a limited-slip differential, and revised spring and damper rates.

The Saint Athan production facility (still under construction) will build the Rapide E and is considered the future “Home of Electrification” for both Aston Martin and Lagonda brands. Expect customer deliveries to start in the last quarter of 2019.

Source: Aston Martin

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2018 Subaru Crosstrek Long-Term Update 4: Hitting the Mountain

By | September 11, 2018

Our Subaru Crosstrek has proved it can handle the urban jungle like a pro with its comfortable ride, spacious interior, efficient engine, and solid driving dynamics. But that’s just half of what the crossover is intended for. Eager to see how the Subaru performs outside of Los Angeles’ asphalt maze, I took the little lifted hatch to Mount Baldy for a day of hiking with three friends and their large, 90-pound dog.

With four seats occupied by passengers and the cargo area by a human-sized dog, I knew I needed more room for this trip than the Crosstrek could offer. Fortunately for us, Subaru sent a set of Thule extended crossbars ($459.85) and a Thule extended cargo carrier ($529.95). Both are available as Crosstrek accessories and can be purchased with the vehicle. Installation was straightforward and easy with two people. So how much of a difference did the carrier make? Plenty.




Without the carrier up top, our backpacks, cooking gear, and several gallons of water would have been stacked on my passengers’ laps or smushed in the cargo area where they would have been soaked by dog drool during the two-hour drive. Instead, everything fit in the 17-cubic-foot cargo carrier, which has a weight limit of 200 pounds. (A smaller 13-cubic-foot carrier is also available.) The Thule carrier is lockable and can be opened from either side.

As soon as I hit the road, one thing quickly became apparent: Wind noise increases significantly. But this shouldn’t be surprising when you add a sizable object to the roof. With roof rails, the Crosstrek is 63.6 inches tall; the additional 17 inches from the carrier takes the total height to 80.6 inches, short enough for every parking garage I entered.

Up the mountain, the Crosstrek ironed out road imperfections and was fun to toss around on the twisty canyon roads. Using Apple CarPlay, I played music while following directions on Apple Maps. (Soon, CarPlay will allow the use of other apps, such as Google Maps.) On the steeper stretches of the climb, the flat-four engine struggled to maintain speed with the added weight of my passengers and cargo. If the Crosstrek had more muscle, the only significant complaint would have been from my rear passengers, who wished they had air-conditioning vents.

Other than those issues, the Subaru Crosstrek fitted with the Thule crossbars and cargo carrier turned out to be a fantastic hiking partner.

Read more about our 2018 Subaru Crosstrek:











































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2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS First Drive: Expanding the Malibu Lineup

By | September 4, 2018

Sedans aren’t dead, Chevrolet says. The automaker still sees them as vital to business, even though both of its American rivals have shifted their focus to crossovers, SUVs, and trucks. Seizing on its domestic foes’ passenger-car timidity, Chevrolet has refreshed its Cruze, Spark, Camaro, and Malibu models for the 2019 model year. The Malibu sedan received not only visual and tech updates but a sporty new RS trim, as well. We drove the new 2019 Malibu RS to see how competitive Chevrolet’s updated midsize sedan really is. Updates across the Malibu line include restyled front and rear ends with updated fascias, headlights, taillights, and grille; an optional 8.0-inch instrument panel screen; the latest version of Chevrolet’s infotainment system displayed on an 8.0-inch center touchscreen; and a new CVT that replaces the outgoing six-speed automatic on the standard 1.5-liter turbo-four model (the more powerful 2.0-liter model keeps its nine-speed automatic). The visual changes are small, but they improve the sedan’s looks and are necessary considering the tough segment the Malibu competes in.

The RS trim sports a visual package that includes a unique black grille, black bow tie emblems, a rear spoiler, dual-outlet exhaust, unique 18-inch machined aluminum wheels with gray pockets, and a rear RS badge. As a result, the RS carries a sportier look compared to the other trims. Inside, the steering wheel and shifter are wrapped in leather, and the black cloth seats match the rest of the black interior, which looks almost identical to non-RS Malibus. It’s well laid out but bland, especially the outdated instrument gauge cluster  and the trim level’s small 3.5-inch info screen. Beyond the RS-specific features, the sporty-styled sedan comes nicely equipped with an eight-way power driver’s seat, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the previously mentioned 8.0-inch touchscreen, which is the highlight of the interior. The screen produces crisp images and displays the automaker’s quick and easy-to-use infotainment system (or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto). Considering the $24,995 price tag, the Malibu RS packs plenty of value. But how does it drive?

To get us behind the wheel of the 2019 Malibu RS, Chevy invited us for a day of driving around Seattle’s picturesque outskirts, an area filled with towering pine trees, sea inlets, and lakes. Thanks to our long 120-mile route that consisted of highways, streets, and back roads, we got the chance to get to know the RS and the new CVT in lots of different driving conditions. Highway performance is commendable. The sedan soaks up rough patches with ease and provides adequate passing power, though only after you dig into the throttle. Steering is light and accurate, but road noise is quite noticeable.

Off the highway, I got a better feel for the 163-hp, 184-lb-ft of torque 1.5-liter turbo-four engine. From a stop, give the engine a little extra throttle, and it surges to life after a brief delay, providing good initial acceleration. During normal driving, the well-programmed CVT acts much like a normal automatic, shifting through gears in an automated fashion. Under heavy load, though, the engine becomes buzzy as the CVT holds the small-displacement engine high in its rev band. Chevrolet should add more power to the engine as it sometimes struggled to get the 3,135-pound RS up to speed (more power-hungry midsize sedan buyers may also consider the 2.0-liter model). The Malibu’s ride is comfortable, and brake feel is linear. Although it isn’t a back road sport sedan, the Chevy holds its own when the road starts to twist. The Malibu meets initial turn-in with well-controlled body roll, and the chassis is solid enough to keep the sedan stable through corners.






If you don’t care for the RS’ sporty looks or if you want more features, the better-equipped LT trim starts at $27,340 and includes heated front seats, dual-zone automatic temperature control, remote engine start, rear seat air-conditioning vents, and LED daytime running lights. The LT also opens the availability of packages not offered on lower trims, including two driver-assist packages. For another $1,605 you can have the efficient hybrid engine, which is projected to get an EPA rating of 49/43 mpg city/highway. If you want the most the 2019 Malibu has to offer, opt for the $32,545 range-topping Premier. It comes standard with the more powerful 2.0-liter engine, perforated leather seating, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, Bose audio system, wireless phone charging, an 8.0-inch instrument cluster display, and LED headlights. A dual-pane sunroof and 19-inch wheels are available.

Chevrolet did a fine job keeping its midsize sedan fresh with updated styling, tech, and a sporty new trim, but the Malibu will need more than that to properly compete against segment sales leaders like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and redesigned-for-2019 Nissan Altima. The sedan’s lackluster interior and underpowered base powertrain are not good omens. Furthermore, the Accord’s and Camry’s base models come standard with a suite of driver-assist features including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. With the Malibu, you must step up to the LT trim to get automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control is only available on the top Premier trim.

Still, the Malibu, and especially the sporty RS trim, delivers a well-rounded package that will likely attract paycheck-restricted buyers who wince at the content-packed but more-expensive Honda and Toyota.


























































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Mercedes Teases Electric EQC Crossover Once More

By | August 31, 2018

Mercedes is revealing the first vehicle from its EQ electric sub-brand, an all-wheel drive electric crossover called the EQC, on September 4. Earlier this week, the automaker teased the vehicle’s rear end and headlights, but now we get an even better look at the front end as the video tease continues.

Unlike the prototype revealed two years ago, the production model will have a traditional-looking grille. That change dramatically tones down the show car’s futuristic look, but a few elements did survive the concept stage, including curved LED daytime running lights that connect with an LED strip above the grille. Though not quite the vivid blue light strip that framed the Generation EQ concept’s simulated grille and headlights, the light signature retains the same general shape.

Yet another teaser that Mercedes dropped this week gave us a good idea of what the EV’s interior will look like. The center stack and door panels look similar to the GLC’s (the vehicle the EQC is based on) but the MBUX infotainment system with its crisp-looking dual-screen layout is new. Like we have seen in other Mercedes applications, the instrument panel and multimedia screen (likely 10.25 inches each) combine to create one large display that spans half the dashboard. The rectangular air vents appear to be unique to the EQC, not circular like in many other Mercedes models.

As we learned from our ride in a prototype, the EQC will use a battery pack rated between 70 and 75 kilowatt-hours and will have a driving range between 200 and 240 miles. The front- and rear-mounted motors will generate about 400 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The Jaguar I-Pace (on sale this fall) also uses front and rear motors but is powered by a larger 90-kilowatt-hour battery pack that generates 394 hp and 512 lb-ft and offers a driving range of about 240 miles. Both vehicles are capable of using DC fast-charging stations.

Mercedes will have more details next week, but we expect the EV to hit U.S. dealers by 2020 with a similar starting price to the I-Pace (about $70,000).

Source: Mercedes via Facebook

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Volvo Teases Mysterious Finned 360c Concept

By | August 30, 2018

Last week, a very cryptic audio clip from Volvo kept everyone guessing what new product it has hiding up its sleeve. Recently, the Swedish automaker gave us a little more to go off of with a short video clip showing shadowy glimpses of an upcoming concept vehicle. Judging by the 360 in the name and the Blade Runner-esque lighting, we suspect this will be an autonomous concept equipped with an electric powertrain.

The video first shows what appears to be the front of the vehicle, which sports an illuminated Volvo badge and two thin strips of lighting that stretch all the way to the edges to join a group of vertically stacked light bars that could simulate headlights. The front end’s cascading light also spills out onto a thin piece that juts out from the body, possibly a sensor or camera (or both) replacing the traditional side view mirror.

Coming soon: our vision for the future of travel. #360c

A post shared by Volvo Cars (@volvocars) on

The last clip in the brief video shows what is likely the rear end of the vehicle, with what looks like a red taillight that connects to a fin that extends from what might be the rear glass or liftgate. Red lighting continues onto the fin, which bears the 360 logo. It’s unclear if this is merely a design element or if it’s somehow part of the vehicle’s autonomous systems. Whatever the case, we’re not opposed to fins making a comeback. Out of focus and in the background, you can once again see the thin, illuminated bit protruding from the front of the Volvo.

Volvo hasn’t given us any clues as to what this is besides the few words accompanying its Instagram post: “Coming soon: our vision for the future of travel.” But based on what we can see in the video, the front end looks very upright and pod-like, meaning this could be a large, multi-passenger autonomous shuttle. The concept could tie into Volvo’s recently announced M mobility brand, which the automaker says “aspires to deliver a better alternative to car ownership for urban and metro consumers.”

Then again, we could be getting our first sneak peek at a bizarrely styled Volvo SUV. But one thing we’re pretty sure this won’t be is a revival of the Volvo 360 hatchback that the U.S. never got. Oh well.

In a comment on its latest Instagram post, Volvo says it will share details on the 360c “very soon.”

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Spied! All-Electric BMW iX3 Caught Testing

By | August 30, 2018

With the Jaguar I-Pace crossover hitting dealerships this fall, BMW is hard at work on its own electric SUV, as these new spy shots show. Our spies in Germany have caught the upcoming BMW iX3 conducting tests on public roads, and based on this prototype, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to wait long to see the production version.

BMW revealed the electric iX3 concept in April, looking almost production-ready. The production version is expected to share many of the same underpinnings as the regular X3, but with a specially developed rear axle subframe and chassis accommodations for the battery pack.

The concept utilized a 70-kilowatt-hour battery that powered a 270-hp electric motor. Using the global WLTP cycle, BMW estimates a driving range of about 249 miles, but we can’t say how that will translate to the EPA scale. The automaker claims the crossover is compatible with 150-kilowatt fast-charging stations, and can juice up to a full charge in as little as 30 minutes. Though those specs seem plausible for a production version, things may change going from concept to reality.

Don’t expect too many odd EV styling quirks, as the iX3 prototype in these photos looks much like the conventional X3. Still, expect blue exterior accents, aero-optimized wheels, and a unique “i” brand kidney grille to separate the EV from the rest of the X3 lineup. The crossover will be built in Shenyang, China, and is part of BMW’s plan to add 12 all-electric vehicles to its lineup by 2025.

For some comparison, the Jaguar I-Pace is powered by two electric motors that generate 394 hp and has a driving range of about 240 miles. Mercedes will reveal its first all-electric vehicle next week, the EQC crossover, which is based on the GLC-Class. The EV will develop about 400 hp and be capable of driving about 200-240 miles on a single charge.

By the time the iX3 launches in 2020, the crossover will have additional EV competition from other automakers. We’ll see if BMW’s offering can carve out a niche for itself in a segment that’s getting more and more crowded by the day.

Photo source: CarPix







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2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE First Drive: Point Me to the Corners

By | August 30, 2018

As I exit a corner with my foot nailed to the floor and all the nannies switched off, I can’t help but mutter to myself, “So much grip.” The new 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE oozes it. The car combines the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine and the wizardry of the famed 1LE Performance package, which is a thing of beauty, even with the least powerful engine option. The ZL1, SS, and V-6 have had their turn; now it’s time for the base engine to get the track treatment.

Producing 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Turbo 1LE isn’t a straight-line speed brute, though Chevrolet claims a pretty quick 5.4-second 0–60 run. Instead, it shines in the corners. During my time in our former long-term 2016 Camaro SS, power oversteer was a worry when pushing the V-8 version hard through corners. But this isn’t the case with the Turbo 1LE. I found myself eagerly applying full throttle exiting corners, not fearing the worst. If I’d driven the SS that way, the ditch on the side of the road would’ve been my next stop. You might miss the power of a larger engine on a straight stretch of road, but the coupe makes that up with impressive cornering control. Three sports cars with “low” power outputs and superior cornering capability come to mind: the Mazda Miata, Subaru BRZ, and Toyota 86. But the Camaro is quicker and more powerful than those three and has a lower starting price than their top trims. If you’re curious, the above SS hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and produces 455 hp from its 6.2-liter V-8.

The $4,500 1LE package (available on all LT trims) gets you Camaro SS suspension components, including larger-diameter front and rear stabilizer bars, uniquely tuned dampers, stiffer rear cradle bushings, and upgraded rear toe links designed to improve lateral stiffness. The goodies continue with lightweight 20-inch forged aluminum wheels shod in Goodyear Eagle F1 Run Flat summer tires (245/40R20 front, 275/35R20 rear), a mechanical limited-slip differential, track cooling package (engine oil, differential, and transmission coolers), short-throw shifter, dual-mode exhaust system, an upgraded fuel system borrowed from the SS (for high-load cornering), and Touring, Sport, and Track drive modes. If that’s not enough, Competition mode enables launch control and displays performance instrument readouts and shift lights. Recaro seats, a suede-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, and a suede-covered gear shifter are extra. Outside, you won’t find “Turbo” or “1LE” badging. Instead, the hood, front splitter, and three-piece spoiler are wrapped in satin black, distinguishing the Turbo 1LE from other, less track-focused Camaros.






To get us behind the wheel of the Camaro Turbo 1LE, Chevrolet invited us to drive a picturesque 60-mile route from our hotel in Renton, Washington, to Ridge Motorsports Park, where a 16-turn, 2.47-mile road course was waiting for us. On the way there, the 1LE provided good ride comfort, better than the Camaro SS. I expected an overly stiff ride given the performance suspension, but I was happily surprised. The throws from the Tremec six-speed manual (the only available transmission, and rightly so) are short and precise, which is a good thing because I found myself downshifting a gear or two whenever I passed on the freeway or simply to pick up some speed due to the transmission’s tall gears. Sixth gear should be used strictly for cruising, not for passing. But 30 mpg highway is nice (20 mpg city). Turbo lag doesn’t help the situation, and it’s noticeable since peak torque hits a little late at 3,000 rpm (and lasts until 4,500 rpm). Still, Chevrolet claims that 90 percent of torque is available below 2,000 rpm. Why not 100 percent? Many modern turbo engines hit max torque below 2,000 rpm. Plenty of road noise seeps into the cabin. If you don’t like it, about your only choice is to tack on the optional Bose audio system and crank it up.

With the scenic drive over, it was time for the track. Before I set out, I inserted an SD card into the optional Performance Data Recorder slot for later viewing. On the track, it’s hard to find many faults with the coupe. Almost nonexistent body roll provides for crisp and confident turn-in, and the chassis is rock-solid. Over- and understeer almost never happened unless purposely induced, something that put a smile on my face the few times I did it. Steering felt similar to that of the SS, heavy but quite telepathic. The front four-piston Brembo calipers—borrowed from the SS—bite hard and help bring the sports car to a stop from 60 mph in a Chevrolet-claimed 112 feet, not bad for a car weighing at least 3,350 pounds. Braking power never seemed to fade and the Recaro seats offered plenty of lateral support and comfort during our numerous runs.






Moving at a very quick pace, we stayed in third gear for most of the lap, only going to second gear once or twice and hitting fourth at the end of the long straightaway. Automatic rev-matching is not available, so ready your heel-and-toe action. I never noticed the engine temperature creeping up, even though we were at wide-open throttle for a significant amount of time. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because Camaro engineers claim the Turbo 1LE can survive 24 hours of cumulative track time in 35-minute sessions (not counting consumables like tires and brakes). Furthermore, due to the engine’s efficiency, the Camaro can potentially run on a track for 60 minutes using a single tank of gas.

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Volvo Teases Mysterious Finned 360c Concept

By | August 29, 2018

Last week, a very cryptic audio clip from Volvo kept everyone guessing what new product it has hiding up its sleeve. Recently, the Swedish automaker gave us a little more to go off of with a short video clip showing shadowy glimpses of an upcoming concept vehicle. Judging by the 360 in the name and the Blade Runner-esque lighting, we suspect this will be an autonomous concept equipped with an electric powertrain.

The video first shows what appears to be the front of the vehicle, which sports an illuminated Volvo badge and two thin strips of lighting that stretch all the way to the edges to join a group of vertically stacked light bars that could simulate headlights. The front end’s cascading light also spills out onto a thin piece that juts out from the body, possibly a sensor or camera (or both) replacing the traditional side view mirror.

Coming soon: our vision for the future of travel. #360c

A post shared by Volvo Cars (@volvocars) on

The last clip in the brief video shows what is likely the rear end of the vehicle, with what looks like a red taillight that connects to a fin that extends from what might be the rear glass or liftgate. Red lighting continues onto the fin, which bears the 360 logo. It’s unclear if this is merely a design element or if it’s somehow part of the vehicle’s autonomous systems. Whatever the case, we’re not opposed to fins making a comeback. Out of focus and in the background, you can once again see the thin, illuminated bit protruding from the front of the Volvo.

Volvo hasn’t given us any clues as to what this is besides the few words accompanying its Instagram post: “Coming soon: our vision for the future of travel.” But based on what we can see in the video, the front end looks very upright and pod-like, meaning this could be a large, multi-passenger autonomous shuttle. The concept could tie into Volvo’s recently announced M mobility brand, which the automaker says “aspires to deliver a better alternative to car ownership for urban and metro consumers.”

Then again, we could be getting our first sneak peek at a bizarrely styled Volvo SUV. But one thing we’re pretty sure this won’t be is a revival of the Volvo 360 hatchback that the U.S. never got. Oh well.

In a comment on its latest Instagram post, Volvo says it will share details on the 360c “very soon.”

Source: Volvo via Instagram

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2019 Honda Insight Review: 6 Things to Know

By | August 23, 2018

Honda’s third iteration of the Insight hybrid is stunning compared to the first- and second-generation models, but looks are just the beginning. Although the 2019 Insight is based on the Civic, the car is much more than a Civic with a hybrid powertrain. We called the Insight a “Swiss army knife of a car” in our First Drive review because the well-rounded sedan offers advantages beyond good fuel economy and value. Find out what distinguishes the 2019 Insight from other fuel sippers and why it will likely compete well against the most successful hybrid to date, the Toyota Prius.


A Powerful and Efficient Powertrain

With 151 net horsepower, the 2019 Insight is more powerful than its closest rivals, the 121-hp Toyota Prius and the 139-hp Hyundai Ioniq, yet the Honda still delivers competitive fuel economy. The 2019 Insight LX and EX trims have an EPA rating of 55/49 mpg city/highway, while the top Touring trim has a lower rating of 51/45 mpg. The 2018 Prius has an almost identical rating to the Insight’s LX and EX trims, delivering 54/50 mpg, but the Prius Eco (one of the lower trims) increases efficiency to 58/53 mpg. The base 2019 Ioniq Blue trim tops all at 57/59 mpg, and the higher trims are rated at 55/54 mpg.

The Insight’s hybrid system consists of a 1.5-liter I-4 that produces 107 hp and 99 lb-ft of torque, a propulsion electric motor that makes 129 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque, a generator motor, and a 60-cell lithium-ion battery pack.


Packaging Perfection?

Packaging a hybrid vehicle without eating up interior space and functionality is not easy, but Honda has figured it out with some clever techniques. The battery pack and small 10.6-gallon fuel tank are housed under the rear seats, allowing the trunk to maintain the Civic sedan’s cargo capacity of 14.7 to 15.1 cubic feet as well as the ability to fold down the rear seats. The back seat is just as spacious as the Civic’s and offers more legroom than the Prius and Ioniq. The Prius and Ioniq are hatchbacks and naturally provide more cargo room, but the Insight has more passenger volume and looks sharper inside and out. One more neat trick: The Insight’s battery (not the battery pack) is not located under the hood or in the trunk but inside the cabin, under the push-button shifter.


Oozing with Tech and Value

The Insight already sports a high-tech hybrid powertrain but also comes loaded with tech features. The standard Honda Sensing package includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, and traffic sign recognition. The base LX trim also includes automatic high-beams, automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights and brake lights, push-start ignition, one USB port, a 7.0-inch instrument cluster screen, and a 5.0-inch infotainment screen. This comes out to a starting price of $23,725, less than the 2018 Prius’ starting price of $24,395 and a little higher than the 2018 Ioniq’s $23,085. But with the base-model Hyundai, you miss out on those great driver-assist features found in Honda Sensing.

The Insight’s midlevel EX trim adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, remote engine start, a proximity key, Honda LaneWatch, and an additional USB port. The top Touring trim will get you leather-trimmed seats, power-adjustable and heated front seats, a moonroof, mobile hotspot capability, an upgraded 10-speaker audio system, a navigation system, LED foglights, and a Honda Link subscription that can remotely lock/unlock the car, help you find your car, and check the fuel and range status.


A Premium Interior

If you opt for the top Touring trim, you might forget that you’re in an economical hybrid as soon as you sit down on the perforated leather-trimmed seats and grip the thick, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel. The door panels and passenger-side dashboard feature soft-touch, leatherlike surfaces with contrast double stitching. Unlike most vehicles, the Insight has a dedicated area for cell phones right next to the electronic shift-by-wire gear selector and two USB ports.

The Insight’s instrument cluster also looks good with a 7.0-inch screen on the left side and an analog speedometer on the right. At the corners of the display is a small strip of lighting that changes color depending on drive mode. The center stack’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is sharp and responsive and is neighbored by a volume knob that has fortunately found its way into the Insight. The Touring trim’s standard 10-speaker (including subwoofer), 450-watt audio system sounds as premium as many name-brand systems. Additionally, most of the exterior lighting uses LEDs, which looks neat at night.


Fun to Drive

You read that right: This hybrid is fun to drive when the road gets twisty. Honda’s 10th-generation Civic platform already provides great driving dynamics, but Honda further improved it with upgraded front lower L-arms and an E-shaped multilink rear suspension (three lateral links instead of two). The standard Agile Handling Assist feature improves cornering prowess with the use of brake torque vectoring.

The Insight’s torquey electric motor gives the sedan a quick takeoff for a hybrid and instant initial power when needed. At slower, street-level speeds, the Insight feels plenty quick (especially in Sport mode), but on the highway, I’d recommend stomping on the accelerator pedal past the click point at about three-quarter pedal travel when merging or passing. Much to my enjoyment, the low rolling resistance tires aren’t that noisy when pushed, unlike most hybrids and EVs.

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Jeep Wrangler Plug-in Hybrid on Track for 2020 Launch

By | August 17, 2018

Jeep confirmed plans to produce a Wrangler PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) last year and announced today that the 54-year-old Toledo Machining Plant in Ohio will produce the plug-in’s Power Electronic module, install the applicable software, and conduct final testing before the units are shipped off to the Toledo Assembly Plant, where the Wrangler plug-in will be built.

The Power Electronics module is comprised of the Power Inverter module and the Integrated Dual Charger module, which includes both an onboard charger and a DC/DC converter. Jeep will mount the module in a protective structure under the SUV between the exhaust and drive shaft.

Like with most plug-in vehicles, the electric motor (or motors) will provide additional power, improve fuel economy, and should offer a short all-electric driving range. Jeep has yet to announce what gas engine will be utilized in the hybrid system, but it could be a 3.6-liter V-6 like the one used in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

Currently, the Wrangler’s optional 2.0-liter turbo-four uses the automaker’s eTorque mild-hybrid system and delivers an EPA-rated 22/24 mpg city/highway in the four-door Unlimited model, and 23/25 mpg in the two-door. That’s a nice improvement over the 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic combo that delivers 18/23 mpg for both models.

The Wrangler plug-in is expected to launch in 2020 and is part of FCA’s commitment to have 30 models with electrified powertrains by 2022. The Pacifica Hybrid is currently FCA’s only plug-in vehicle and is rated at 32/33 mpg with a 33-mile all-electric driving range.

Off-roading quietly on all-electric power probably doesn’t sound very enticing to your average Jeep customer, but the extra power and fuel economy that the hybrid powertrain affords could expand the SUV’s appeal.

Source: Jeep














































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2019 Kia Forte Gets up to 35 MPG Combined

By | August 8, 2018

Borrowing design cues from the Stinger, Kia’s redesigned Forte is as stylish as ever, but the compact sedan is also more efficient thanks in part to a new CVT (dubbed IVT) replacing the outgoing six-speed automatic transmission.




The 147-hp, 132-lb-ft 2.0-liter I-4 engine carries over from last year and now delivers an EPA-rated 31/41/35 mpg city/highway/combined in its most fuel-efficient trim. Higher trims have a slightly lower rating of 30/40/34 mpg. That’s a nice increase from the outgoing model’s 29/37/32 mpg rating. The more powerful GDI 2.0-liter I-4 in the outgoing 2018 model (not available in the redesigned 2019 Forte) was rated at 25/33/28 mpg. If you choose to row your own gears, the standard six-speed manual transmission is now rated at 27/37/31 mpg, up from last year’s rating of 25/34/28 mpg.




For a little perspective, the Hyundai Elantra is rated at 29/38/33 mpg in its base trim and 28/37/32 mpg in higher trims when equipped with the same 2.0-liter I-4 found in the Forte. That engine is backed by a six-speed automatic, however. The Elantra Eco, powered by a 1.4-liter turbo-four, has an almost identical rating to the redesigned Forte: 32/40/35 mpg. Meanwhile, the Chevrolet Cruze’s 1.4-liter turbo-four delivers 28/38/32 mpg with its six-speed automatic and 30/38/33 mpg with its new CVT. The Forte barely edges out the Honda Civic’s base 2.0 I-4, which is rated at 31/40/34 mpg, but the optional 1.5-liter turbo-four beats all the above vehicles with a rating of 32/42/36 mpg.

Expect to see the 2019 Kia Forte on sale later this year, and look for a more powerful model later down the line.

Source: Kia


















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The 12 Quickest Pickup Trucks Motor Trend Has Ever Tested

By | August 6, 2018

Just because it’s a pickup truck doesn’t mean it needs to be slow. Unladen, many trucks are actually pretty light, giving them a strong power-weight ratio. And while load-hauling low-end torque (and appropriate gearing) is usually the priority for a truck, every now and then, manufacturers endow their most utilitarian offerings with surprising levels of accelerative thrust.

Below is a list of the 12 quickest accelerating production trucks Motor Trend has ever tested. We looked at our extensive database of test numbers and ranked each truck by its 0–60 mph time. If multiple trucks had the same 0–60 time, then the quarter-mile result was the tiebreaker. From big-displacement street trucks to desert-running off-road specials to well-equipped luxury pickups, each entry in the top 12 is exceptionally quick for a truck. And some are quick by any standard.


2019 Ram 1500 Laramie 4×4

Starting the list is Ram’s redesigned 1500 Laramie, which clocked a 0–60 mph time of 6.1 seconds on its way to a quarter-mile run of 14.7 seconds at 93.7 mph. The truck’s 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is to thank; it produces 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque and is backed by an eight-speed automatic.


2017 Ford F-150 Platinum 4×4 EcoBoost

Ford’s F-150 Platinum truck ties the Ram’s 0–60 and quarter-mile times, but its trap speed is slightly higher at 95.0 mph. This is done with Ford’s twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that churns out 375 hp and a potent 470 lb-ft (10 lb-ft more than GM’s 6.2-liter V-8). The truck’s slick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission also contributes to its swiftness.


2007 Toyota Tundra Limited 4×4

The first model year of the second-generation Tundra just beats the Ram, the F-150, and all the newer Tundras we’ve tested (with the exception of one, stay tuned). The Toyota’s 381-hp, 401-lb-ft 5.7-liter V-8, backed by a six-speed automatic, propelled the Tundra to 60 mph in 6 seconds flat and resulted in a 14.7-second quarter mile at 93.9 mph.


2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

It should be no surprise to see GM’s 6.2-liter V-8 on this list. The sizable V-8 makes a potent 420 hp and 460 lb-ft, driving the High Country to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and on to a quarter-mile run of 14.6 seconds at 96.6 mph—and that’s with the old six-speed automatic transmission. GM just introduced next-gen versions of the Silverado and GMC Sierra equipped with an updated 6.2-liter and new 10-speed auto, and we look forward to seeing how they stack up.


2003 Ford F-150 Harley Davidson

Going back 15 years, Ford’s bold F-150 Harley Davidson edition also hits 60 mph in 6.0 seconds but beats all of the above trucks to the quarter mile with a time of 14.3 seconds at 96.3 mph. The rear-wheel-drive truck is powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that pumps out 340 hp and 425 lb-ft and is backed by a four-speed automatic.


2014 Ford F-150 FX4 Tremor

The F-150 Tremor graced us with its presence for just one model year and is the first on the list to break the six-second mark, hitting it in 5.8 seconds. The single-cab truck’s twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 produces 365 hp and 420 lb-ft (six-speed automatic), good enough for a quarter-mile time of 14.3 seconds at 94.4 mph.


2016 GMC Sierra Denali 4×4

Packing the same 6.2-liter V-8 as the above Silverado but with an eight-speed automatic, the Sierra Denali hit 60 mph a little quicker with a 0–60 mph time of 5.8 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 14.2 seconds at 97.1 mph.


2009 Dodge Ram R/T

Back when Ram was part of the Dodge brand, the R/T sport truck was one of the quickest trucks on the street. The single-cab truck was powered by a 390-hp, 407-lb-ft 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Even with a five-speed automatic, the old R/T clocked a 5.7-second 0–60 time on its way to a 14.4-second quarter-mile run at 93.4 mph.


2017 Ford F-150 Raptor (Supercab)

It may weigh a sturdy 5,661 pounds, but the off-road-spec 2017 Raptor still hit 60 mph in a quick 5.2 seconds and is the first on the list to break the 14-second quarter-mile mark with a time of 13.9 seconds at 97.3 mph. Its twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 puts out a strong 450 hp and 510 lb-ft and is backed by a 10-speed automatic. Ford just announced this engine as an option for the 2019 F-150 Limited trim, so you can bet that equally powerful truck will make this list next time around.


2004 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning

Our bronze finisher is the quickest Ford production truck we have ever tested and the first one on the list to break 100 mph in the quarter mile, with a trap speed of 102 mph crossing the line in 13.6 seconds. Under the hood is a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that makes 380 hp and 450 lb-ft, which routes power to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic and rockets the Lightning to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.

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2018 Volkswagen Passat First Test: Tough Company

By | July 26, 2018

The Volkswagen Passat competes against talented rivals including the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, yet the 2018 model is essentially the same midsize sedan that won our coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year award way back in 2012—that’s a lifetime in today’s car market. Sparking some life back into the lineup, Volkswagen updated the Passat with a new base engine and a fresh V-6-powered GT model for 2018. So is this former Motor-Trend-favorite still a viable option against the redesigned Camry and Accord? We recently spent some time with R-Line and GT models, and it’s not hard to see where the Passat currently stands.

Volkswagen claims the Passat’s updated base turbocharged engine—which grew from 1.8 liters to 2.0 liters—is more powerful and efficient. EPA numbers agree. The new 2.0-liter delivers 25/36 mpg city/highway, up from the 1.8’s 23/34 mpg. The new engine produces 174 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, up 4 hp from the 2017 model. Unfortunately, the extra horsepower didn’t make a difference at the track. Our R-Line trim tester hit 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, 0.4 seconds behind a 2016 SEL 1.8T model we’ve tested. It was a similar story in the quarter-mile run.

On the other hand, the 280-hp GT is quick; it hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, tying a more loaded V-6-powered 2016-model-year Passat SEL we’ve tested. The 2018 Passat GT’s quarter-mile run of 14.4 seconds at 98.0 mph is almost identical to the 2016 SEL’s run of 14.3 seconds at 98.8 mph.

For a little perspective, the Accord, equipped with its base 1.5-liter turbo-four engine, hit 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, over half a second quicker than the 2018 Passat 2.0T. With Honda’s optional 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four engine, the Accord hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and tied the GT’s quarter-mile time. The Accord’s engines are more fuel efficient, though (29/35 mpg for automatic-transmission Sport and Touring 1.5T models and 30/38 mpg for automatic LX and EX models). Road test editor Chris Walton noted that the two 2018 Passats’ acceleration times might have been quicker if the power-cutting stability control was defeatable. Around town, the R-Line’s 2.0-liter feels quick at residential street-level speeds thanks to good throttle response and plenty of low-end torque, but on the highway, the 174-hp engine struggles to get the 3,354-pound sedan to speed.




The Passat’s braking feel should be better and could be improved by making it more linear. Initial bite is weak, but once you get about halfway through the pedal, it quickly becomes strong. This can cause a lot of unintentional and unsettling quick stops during daily driving. Nonetheless, stopping power is adequate. The R-Line and GT stopped from 60 mph in 126 and 122 feet, respectively. With its base and optional engines, the Accord’s stopping distance is 135 and 116 feet, and the Camry’s is 122 and 123 feet. On both Passats, Walton noted the VWs had a “squishy pedal, hard tires, very little initial bite (actual delay), but excellent fade resistance.”

Most drivers will be pleased with how the Passat handles, but for those who like to have fun on twisty roads, neither model inspires much confidence (sorry, GT). The steering is nicely weighted but not precise. Body roll is plentiful, even on the GT model. Still, the chassis is pretty solid, providing enough control for daily driving duties. On our figure-eight course, testing director Kim Reynolds felt a little underwhelmed and said, “It’s a pleasant, agile car, but VW’s historic edge in terms of sheer handling quality isn’t much of an edge anymore. In fact, these cars might easily pale compared to an Accord in terms of driving sportiness.” The Passat’s platform is showing its age here, but surprisingly, its figure-eight performance is on par with the Camry and Accord.

On the highway, plenty of outside noise seeps into the cabin, and handling at higher speeds only seems to get sloppier. The Passat handled fine during normal highway driving, but I almost never took a long, sweeping highway curve fast—it was a little scary (even in the GT). The more affordable, subcompact Honda Fit Sport hatchback and full-size Toyota Avalon Touring sedan I reviewed earlier this year both provided more confidence during high-speed maneuvers.

The dated VW platform also demonstrates its age gap during stop-and-go driving. And when the engine hits a certain low rpm, it emits a vibration throughout the entire car along with an annoying droning sound. It only lasts a few seconds and disappears when the transmission shifts, but this really shouldn’t happen in a car at this price point. In the R-Line, another annoyance happens during the shift from park to drive or reverse (and vice versa). If you shift when you’re on an incline or decline, the car will roll during the transmission’s very slow gear engagement if you lift off the brake too soon. It’s not a good feeling when you’re trying to park on a hill, forcing you to leave your foot on the brake pedal longer than you should.

When it comes to safety, the Passat does fine but doesn’t excel. Like the Camry and Accord, the Passat earned the highest five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. But things change in IIHS testing. The Camry earned the institution’s highest rating of Top Safety Pick+, and the Accord is considered a Top Safety Pick (though it doesn’t get a “+”) for 2018. Although the Passat earned the highest rating of Good in five crash tests, the second-lowest score of Marginal for the passenger-side small overlap test kept it from being a Top Safety Pick.

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2018 Subaru Crosstrek Long-Term Update 3: It’s Time to Grumble

By | July 20, 2018

It has been six months since we received our long-term Crosstrek tester, and although we’re enjoying our time in Subaru’s smallest crossover, it’s time to complain. Sorry, little Subaru, but the honeymoon is over.

At Motor Trend, we have a large fleet of short- and long-term testers to review, and because automakers like to send us higher-trim vehicles to test, it’s rare we get one that doesn’t have a push-start ignition. A proximity key—a feature that allows you to simply touch or push a button on the door handle to lock and unlock the door—almost always accompanies a push-start ignition. Sadly, our mid-level Premium trim Crosstrek is equipped with neither a push-start nor a proximity key, and these aren’t available unless you opt for the top Limited trim. This is unfortunate considering the Premium trim’s price (the 2019 model carries an MSRP of $24,870 with an automatic transmission).

Now, this might sound like nitpicking but trust me: Once you get used to the convenience of just touching a door handle to get in and pushing a button to start a car, you’ll never want to go back. Gone are the days of searching for your key fob while you hold items in your hands, or hunting for the ignition and scratching the area around it from failed attempts.

Another feature I miss that the Crosstrek should have at this price point are door locks that automatically unlock when the vehicle is put into park and automatically lock again when the vehicle is put into drive or reverse. I don’t see this as only a convenience feature that makes life a little easier but also as a safety feature because it secures your doors as you take off.




And Subaru, please give the Crosstrek linear acceleration. A common complaint about many Subarus is their neck-snapping initial throttle response. We complained about this in our First Test review on the Outback 3.6R. Touch the throttle pedal just a little too aggressively, and the Crosstrek surges forward quickly, surprising passengers with an uncomfortable jerk. During daily driving with passengers, this is always in the back of my head and forces me to apply the throttle carefully so that I don’t annoy my occupants.

Read more about our 2018 Subaru Crosstrek:
































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2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid First Test: Hat Trick

By | June 23, 2018

“What does the SH stand for?” a curious woman asked while loading groceries into her newish Explorer, referencing the “SHAWD” badging on my Acura’s tailgate. “Super handling,” I responded. After a pause and a slightly confused look on her face, she replied, “But it’s a big SUV, why would anyone want that? … And [is it] even worth the extra money?” she asked. Two fantastic questions about the 2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid. After spending several days in the three-row premium hybrid crossover, I can tell you exactly why someone would opt for a big hybrid SUV with a so-called “super handling” all-wheel-drive system.

Powering the MDX Sport Hybrid is a powertrain consisting of a 3.0-liter V-6 producing 257 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque, a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, and three electric motors powered by a 1.3 kWh battery pack. The largest of the three motors is housed in the transmission and makes 47 hp and the other two are located at the rear (where you would normally find the axles and differential on non-hybrid AWD models), each can power their own wheel separately. The system’s total power output comes to 321 hp and 289 lb-ft, topping the regular MDX’s rating of 290 hp and 267 lb-ft from its 3.5-liter V-6. A similar system—originally derived from the NSX hybrid supercar—can be found on the RLX Sport Hybrid sedan.

Where this particular Acura excels most is in around-town driving. The four-mode drive system, which is standard on the Sport Hybrid, is to thank for that. When cruising in traffic or in parking lots, Comfort mode provides all the ride comfort most need, and the hybrid system does a good job of using just the electric motors at slow speeds—as long as you don’t stab the throttle—and during steady highway cruising. With a mostly charged battery pack and feathering the throttle, I was able to get the MDX to 25 mph on all-electric power when driving through parking lots and streets with low speed limits. When the gasoline engine kicks in, the transition is sometimes not noticeable if the road is slightly rough.

Normal mode provides a good balance of ride comfort and handling by slightly stiffening the suspension and increasing steering weight and throttle response. Sport mode significantly stiffens the suspension, further increases throttle response, and makes the steering feel heavier. Sport+ mode entertainingly keeps the electric motors on, providing full power during takeoff. Sport+ mode also adjusts throttle response and transmission shifts for maximum performance, while the active suspension flattens the crossover during rapid steering changes and maneuvers. The SH-AWD’s torque vectoring capability is also maximized. We found most three-row crossover buyers would likely most  enjoy the crossover’s handling dynamics in Normal mode. Testing director Kim Reynolds wished the SH-AWD system would react sooner during hard cornering but still said, “This is fun and way better performing (subjectively) than the vast majority of SUVs.”




But most folks buy a hybrid for improved gas mileage, not sporty drive modes. So how much better is fuel economy with the MDX hybrid compared to the non-hybrid model with all-wheel drive? On the highway, the gasoline engine is running most of the time so EPA-rated fuel economy is only improved by 1 mpg to 27 mpg—carrying an extra 238 pounds doesn’t help the hybrid, either. City driving is where the difference is significant. The non-hybrid MDX AWD is rated between 18-19 mpg (depending on whether engine start/stop is equipped) but the Sport Hybrid takes that figure to 26 mpg, almost matching the highway rating. Because both MDX models use the same-size gas tank, the total driving range is also extended to 526 miles over the non-hybrid’s 410-429 miles (based on 45 percent highway and 55 percent city driving). Using that city/highway driving ratio and an expectation of 15,000 miles a year, the EPA says that MDX AWD drivers will spend $450 more on gasoline annually than MDX Sport Hybrid buyers (personalize those values for yourself at the EPA’s site here). Considering the $1,540 premium for the base Sport Hybrid Technology trim over the same trim in the all-wheel-drive non-hybrid MDX, that’s not a bad deal for buyers considering a $50,000+ premium crossover.

In comparison, the Lexus RX 450hL premium three-row rival edges the MDX with a 29/28 mpg rating, while the smaller and similarly priced Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid does 26/28 mpg when in hybrid mode and can run on all-electric power for up to 17 miles on a full battery.

Some buyers assume hybrids are slow and not fun to drive, but that is not the case with the MDX Sport Hybrid. The extra power from the hybrid powertrain is evident during acceleration. During Motor Trend instrumented testing, the hybrid performed slightly better than the regular MDX, hitting 60 mph in 6.0 seconds compared to the non-hybrid hitting the mark in 6.2 seconds (the two-row RX 450h took 7.0 seconds and the XC60 T8 took 5.4 seconds). In the quarter-mile, the hybrid took 14.6 seconds at 95.2 mph, just beating the non-hybrid’s run of 14.7 seconds at 94.6 mph. Test driver Chris Walton was surprised by the hybrid SUV’s quickness and described the upshifts as smooth. During normal driving, the hybrid system provides plenty of power whenever needed and the twin-clutch transmission is quick and smooth.

Our figure-eight handling course runs were almost identical; the non-hybrid’s 27.0-second run just beat the hybrid’s 27.2 seconds (both averaged 0.65 g). Both variants stopped from 60 mph in a respectable 121 feet but with the hybrid, Walton noted a “big delay between jumping on the pedal and actual slowing.” Additionally, as with most hybrids, the brakes feel a little mushy but still stop well.

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