Rogue is Nissan’s top-selling vehicle, has been around awhile and proved itself reliable, and if you’re a Star Wars geek, its name appeals like none other on the market.
What it has going for it in the small sport-utility/crossover market is that it’s not too small. It has good interior space for four adults and generous cargo room behind the rear seat. It’s comfortable, has supportive seats and is priced competitively. Last year its styling was updated and Rogue remains a handsome SUV.
But it has its limitations. Some of its competitors perform better, for instance the Subaru Outback, which is of similar size. Both have AWD to make them appealing in our sometimes snowy climate, and all the utes in this class offer that feature.
For instance Rogue’s power is modest with its 2.5-liter I4 kicking out 170 horsepower. Mated with a smooth, but uninspiring automatic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), its acceleration is mild. Rogue doesn’t feel terribly heavy, which is good, but if you want or need quick acceleration you won’t find it here.
In fact, if you press the accelerator to the floor demanding more power you’ll get some, but the engine noise grows substantially, the growl often disturbing to riders. Rogue sounds like it’s working hard to get up to highway speeds if you tromp it. There is a Sport mode button that once engaged will give the Nissan more torque, but again, engine noise becomes an issue. Read more
It’s the largest show in North America
Mark and I love this show and have been making the trip down south from Milwaukee for a long time. Besides seeing the latest from the auto manufacturers, we spend time catching up with our fellow reporters. And we got some exercise walking two miles in the one million square foot exhibit area at McCormick Place. Read more
A benefit I didn’t even know about in the beginning
Like the millions of other families all over the world we became Amazon Prime subscribers because of the special deals and many times free shipping. But it wasn’t until my wife and I gave each other a brand new 65 inch smart TV for Christmas which just happened to be an Amazon Prime Fire Edition. I was just excited about getting the TV because it is UHD and would be great for watching football games but after setting it up found motorhead city, all for just $99 a year. I now do a lot of binge watching.
My favorite show, The Grand Tour
While theaters are bulging with “Star Wars,” auto dealer showrooms are embroiled in car wars as top-selling mid-size sedans butt heads with their latest models.
Top of the sales heap are the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, both of which have been revamped for 2018. But one of the sedans each of those has set its sights on is the already snazzy Mazda6. Mazda isn’t sitting still though, it will launch a new Mazda6 this spring, but its most updated model, the 2017.5 version is well worth a look now.
I visited family in the Las Vegas area last week and slipped behind the wheel of a Soul Red ($300 extra, and worth it) Mazda6, a muscular, sporty sedan that still is among this segment’s styling leaders. The sparkling metallic red test car was the top-level Grand Touring edition, so it was loaded.
But before you pooh-pooh it for fear its price is out of reach, consider that the GT starts at $31,570, including delivery, and even with options this one clocked in at $34,695. That’s below the average selling price for a new car and well below a crossover or sport-utility equipped this well.
First consider that all Mazda6 models come with what Mazda calls SkyActiv-G technology that delivers good power and excellent fuel economy. SkyActive-G is applied to Mazda’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and include a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. This one came with paddle shifters too.
Weight remains moderate at 3,305 lbs. and the engine’s 184 horsepower is plenty perky when you tromp the accelerator to get on the highway. But, as with many cars today, Mazda includes a sport mode, this one activated by a toggle on the console. Boom! The tranny holds the lower gears longer to boost power and in this mode the Mazda races to highway speeds. Read more
Finally Honda has come out of its conservative styling funk to make its always solid Accord sedan look like more than a very reliable box.
The 2018 Accord is wider and lower than its predecessor and looks more muscular and exciting with a larger grille, snazzy taillights and a fastback profile that is more like a coupe. This isn’t your uncle Ed’s Accord anymore.
That alone makes the latest Accord worth a look, but as always, the car is solid from stem to stern. It has plenty of power, handles well and delivers a smooth sedan ride that will please any family of five or fewer.
First a few basics. Accord comes in five trim levels ranging from the LX at $24,460 to $36,690 for the Touring model that I tested. There are two new engines for 2018, a 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 that creates 192 horsepower and a 2.0-liter I4 turbo that cranks 252 horses. The smaller engine makes 7 hp more than the previous I4, while the 2.0-liter is down 26 horses from the earlier 3.5-liter V6.
A key reason for the change is gas mileage and the smaller engine tops the mid-size class with a combined 33 mpg rating. That’s 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The tested 2.0-liter is rated 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I tested the car during a frigid week with morning temps starting below zero, so I managed just 21.0 mpg.
Yet for those with sportier leanings the 2.0-liter turbo will be the winner. It’s a strong engine that actually spins the front tires on our salty streets when you hit the gas pedal with any muscle. Harnessing that power is a 10-speed automatic transmission. Amazing that we’ve gone from 6- to 8- and now 10-speed transmissions in less than 10 years. Read more
Like Porsche when it launched the unlikely Macan, its first sport-utility vehicle, Kia has crushed expectations by creating a premium level sports sedan with its 2018 Stinger.
Some folks likely were still stuck on the notion that the South Korean car firm only churned out econoboxes and low-cost mainstream vehicles. But they are living in the past.
Kia has broadened its lineup in the past decade and has been hitting home runs on initial quality, beating the competition on content and price and destroying it with styling that leads the industry. Its Optima is still the best-looking mainstream sedan on the market, and has been for going on 8 years.
But Stinger (a great name) takes Kia in a new direction, mainly into a head-to-head battle with German luxury sport sedan makers. It’s being compared with the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. That’s good company, and it’s winning those comparisons.
First, this is a luxury car to be sure, but one that pumps up the fun with distinctive sporty looks. Stinger comes in five trim levels too, and I tested the top-line GT2 with all-wheel-drive. It’s not inexpensive, but then neither are its competitors.
The base Stinger 2.0T packs a 255-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but the tested GT2 blows away the competition with a 3.3-liter turbo V6 that pumps an aggressive 365 horses. Read more
Part of the fun of any die-cast or model car collection is in comparing the differences of similar cars made a couple years apart.
So when American-Excellence sent us the Le Mans-winning Ferraris from 1958 and 1960, both made by Ixo, the fun began. These are from the classic sports car era when road cars were lightly modified to race and when drivers like America’s Phil Hill were braving it with little more than an open-face helmet and racing gloves for protection.
The two 1/43 scale red racers are the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, No. 14, that Hill and Olivier Gendebien drove to a Le Mans victory in 1958 and the similar TR60, No. 11, that Gendebien and Paul Frere won with at Le Mans in 1960.
Phil Hill was America’s primo sports car racer in the late 1950s into the 1960s and the first U.S. driver to win the F1 World Championship, which he did with Ferrari in 1961. He and Belgian Gendebien frequently teamed up for endurance races and both were highly successful, witness Gendebien’s second Le Mans win in 1960 with Frere, another Belgian racer.
Hill would win Le Mans again in 1961 and 1962 with Gendebien as Ferrari was a dominant entrant at Le Mans. It posted overall wins from 1958 through 1965, with the exception of 1959 when Aston Martin won. Read more
I liked the high-value Hyundai Accent sedan a week ago, so it stands to reason I’d like its cousin, the sportier looking Kia Rio hatchback this week.
Accent no longer comes in a hatch, so if you prefer this body style, which I do, the Rio is your low-cost, high-value option for this lineup. Although it should be noted that Rio also comes in a sedan, like the Accent.
I drove a metallic gray Rio EX hatchback, the top level as opposed to the entry-level Accent SE I tested last week. The price difference is minor, but significant if you’re looking for low cost transportation. Yet the EX comes with more comfort and safety features than the base Accent did.
First, the car is a bit longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. That translates to a bit roomier and a handsome, yet sporty look.
Rio has the same engine as Accent, a 1.6-liter direct-injected I4 that creates 130 horsepower. No pocket rocket, the Rio still gets up to highway speeds fairly easily and much more readily when the Sport mode button is depressed on the console, just in front of the shift lever. Read more
Who doesn’t recognize, and like, the Michelin Man? He’s probably even more famous than the Pillsbury Dough Boy, although I’ve never heard Bibendum (Bib for short) giggle.
Well, IXO loves him too and has come up with an unusual Michelin tire truck, especially for the North American market. This is a French Saviem truck from 1970, something you’d see delivering tires to the local Michelin tire store, or maybe backed up to the garage area at a European racetrack.
In 1/43 scale it’s a showcase stopper in its yellow and blue trim and runs roughly 7.5 inches long. Our review copy was provided by American-Excellence, which handles IXO, BOS Models and NEO, among other brands.
Saviem’s history is interesting, and to be honest, it’s a truck maker I had never heard of until the sample arrived. Turns out that Saviem existed from 1955 to 1978 in France and the name is a mash-up of its original truck firms that were all merged at that point, by Renault after it has abandoned the commercial truck and bus business following World War II.
Need new wheels at a low price, but don’t want to look like you’re driving an econobox that could tip over in a heavy wind or snag a trophy at the ugliest car on the block contest?
Hyundai has an impressive answer for just such a buyer, it’s redesigned 2018 Accent sedan. This week I tested a “rental-car white” SE, the base model, with an automatic transmission. And get this, with delivery fee, the Accent was $16,985. That’s right, just under $17 grand and you have a new car with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
It has been a while since I tested an entry-level model and boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The Accent doesn’t feel cheap or look it. This is not bare bones by any means. Hyundai gave the Accent crisp body styling and a large grille to reflect the rest of the sharp-looking Hyundai lineup. Most entry-level cars appear squished, too narrow, and top-heavy. Or they simply are truncated and look out of proportion.
So, right off the bat, the Accent makes you feel you’re driving something a notch up from the price point where it starts. Read more
In the early years, a lot of competitors, and winners, in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race were from France. Many of those makes are legendary, but many also are gone.
One that remains is Bugatti, now known as a super car maker of impeccable quality, speed and styling. Its pedigree is long and distinguished. That pedigree includes two Le Mans wins, one of only 11 car makers to score more than one win and one of just 24 brands to win at Le Mans. Porsche and Audi have each won more than a dozen times, but who’s counting?
Ixo now delivers a sharp 1/43 scale die-cast model of Bugatti’s 1937 Le Mans-winning Type 57G. Bugatti won with a similar car in 1939.
This car, and its drivers, make for a unique tale. Only three Type 57G Tanks were built and this one won Le Mans in 1937. It was driven by Jean-Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist (more on them in a moment) and completed 243 laps, 7 more than the second place Delahaye 135CS. The Bugatti ran a 3.3-liter straight 8 while the Delahaye was powered by a 3.6-liter straight 6.
The team was owned by Roger Labric, making this an all French team. In fact, the top four finishers were all French, with a British Aston Martin coming home fifth to be the top finisher among non-French entries. Only 17 of the 48 entries were running at the end of 24 hours. Read more
You can build anything from Legos
I love building things with Lego’s larger Technic line because it lets me feel like a real engineer. With this line I can build things that move, like cars. I’d run crash tests, view the results on the video, maybe move some blocks around and try it again. It was fun but never as elaborate as what Germany’s Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, their version of our AAA, did with their large-scale Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
A few years back at Road America, the Midwest’s finest road racing facility, I ran into racer Augie Pabst and his beautiful metallic blue Scarab Mk. II racer.
Pabst, an heir to the brewing fortune, had been a succesful sports car racer in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was running his Meister Brauser Scarab in vintage races.
I’m a racing nut, but I’d never seen a Scarab before, so I was intrigued by the long-nosed front-engine car that looks part futuristic racer and part late 1950s roadster. Now, Replicarz has gone and produced a superb 1/18-scale resin die-cast of one of three Scarab Mk. IIs that were made and raced. This one was driven by another Midwestern sports car expert, Jim Jeffords, and features Nickey Nouse, the Chicago-based Nickey Chevrolet mascot.
Lance Reventlow, son of Woolworth heiress Betty Hutton, was a California-based racer who owned Reventlow Automobiles Inc. He had cash! But had seen how the European automakers only sold year-old racers to outsiders, so decided to have the Scarabs designed and specially built for his team. He was looking for an advantage.
Scarab’s designers were Tom Barnes and Dick Troutman, both well-known race car builders. They created a space-frame chassis weighing 127 lbs. and plopped in a special-built Chevrolet 283 V8 built by Traco Engineering. Its 365 horsepower made the Scarab a beast that was hard to catch. Its first victory came at the 1958 Riverside International Grand Prix in California with noted sports car driver Chuck Daigh at the wheel. Reventlow also raced his Scarab. Read more
New Santa Fe a luxury sleigh ride …
Leading up to Christmas I spent a week luxuriating in Santa’s sleigh.
Say what? It was Hyundai’s Santa Fe? Well then, never mind!
Yet then again Hyundai’s mid-size SUV is certainly big enough to haul a lot of goodies to good girls and boys all over southeast Wisconsin. The Santa Fe is a luxurious ute that if it had sliding side doors could pass for a minivan. In the tested Limited Ultimate AWD trim it would haul six adults with its two second-row captain’s seats and twin fold-down third row seats.
If you opt for a bench seat in the second row, Santa Fe will seat seven, which matches most minivans. And the cargo space behind the second row for gear, suitcases and such is sizeable. Even with the third row in place there’s plenty of room for grocery bags and odds and ends.
The AWD makes the Santa Fe a champ in sloppy weather too, giving it even better footing than say a heard of reindeer.
Hyundai revamped this ute for 2017 and drastically improved its looks, moving it away from boxy minivan and old ute styling to a fresher, more muscular stance that gives it a bit of a BMW’s swagger.
Handling is among the best for mid-size crossovers and utes too. Santa Fe feels responsive and corners well with just a slight lean in fast tight turns. Steering feedback is on the heavy side in Normal drive mode, of which there are three, including Eco and Dynamic.
Punch the Drive Mode button for Dynamic and the wheel firms up even more, maybe more than most drivers would want to deal with. But it also allows the 6-speed automatic transmission to hold the lower gears longer in order to boost acceleration. So in this mode the Santa Fe jumps, not up onto house tops, but onto the freeway like an aggressive sport sedan. Read more