2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD

Palisade, like Telluride, a first rate family SUV …

I declared the Kia Telluride the finest SUV I’d driven in ages and an absolute winner in every way when I drove it last June, but its kissin’ cousin, the Hyundai Palisade is equally as praiseworthy.

I know us reviewers are supposed to pick at the loose threads that generally fray from any new make or model, but first I’d have to find one. Don’t make me choose between Palisade and the Telluride, although on price the Hyundai seems to have a slight advantage. Continue reading 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD

Die-cast: Autoart’s Nissan R390 GT1, 1998 Le Mans

Beautiful detail on Nissan’s 1998 Le Mans GT racer  …

Le Mans racers have always been cutting edge, even in the 1920s and ‘30s when the endurance race was new. But for the past 20 years or so many of the top cars have developed into bubble-top racers with carbon fiber chassis, and engines that are near bulletproof.

In 1998 Nissan rolled out its R390 GT1 for the famous 24-hour race in France, and for the remainder of the endurance racing season. It was a looker, as is this all black 1/18 scale version from Autoart, where the detail moves to a new level for the composite die-cast car maker. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart’s Nissan R390 GT1, 1998 Le Mans

2020 Volvo S60 T8 E-AWD Inscription

 Oh my, Volvo’s S60 hybrid delivers blow like Thor’s Hammer …

You simply must admire the marketing genius of a car company that dubs its LED headlights as Thor’s Hammer.

Volvo wins that honor with several of its latest models. The powerful headlights project a T, hence the Thor nomenclature. The latest hammering of lights I witnessed was on a beautifully sculpted Volvo S60 sedan, but not just any such sedan.

No, Volvo is committed to going all electric sooner instead of later, so this was the S60 T8-AWD Inscription model. It’s Volvo’s top-of-the-heap hybrid touting a combined 400 horses from its 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged I4 engine and an 87-horse hybrid electric motor.

The sexy sparkling pearl white (that’s $645 extra) mid-size luxury sedan was a powerhouse jumping onto the freeway, or hustling away from a stoplight. No wheel chirp from the AWD system and there are four power modes to let a driver decide how much oomph is needed at a moment’s notice, or how much economizing. Adjustments are made on the console.

Pure hybrid delivers plenty of kick as the S60 hybrid is rated 295 ft.-lbs. of torque. It feels like much more though. And yes, the gas engine with its 313 horses of turbo and supercharged power kicks in to add more thrust. Think of it as Volvo’s Saturn V hooked up to all four wheels.

In case you don’t want to pay extra for the hybrid, nor like the idea of plugging your car into your garage outlet each evening, a standard S60 is available with just the 300+ horse turbo/super I4. A standard turbo I4 that makes 250 horsepower also is available. Costs are less for those than the hybrid.

But for now let’s focus on this hybrid rocket, which also handles like a fine sports sedan. While feeling substantial it also is light enough to whip through a serious series of S-curves with no tail-wagging or sway. A new double A-arm suspension up front and multi-link system with composite leaf spring in back do the trick. This Volvo handles.

Ride is as you’d expect, firm, sporty and well-controlled. Not smooth enough to be considered ultra-luxurious, but nearly as good as most German makes that purport to be ultimate sports sedans.

The Volvo also was a fine machine to have during one of our incredibly rainy fall weeks. Its traction was stout, never putting a wheel wrong even when pushed a little harder than might be wise in the wet, certainly on wet leaf coated streets.

A quick word here on the car’s svelte looks before we gaze inward. I like the S60’s lines, its lowered hoodline gives it a slim profile, yet it still sports a large Volvo grille with equally imposing Volvo badge that could nearly pass for a superhero’s shield. Thor maybe?

It’s also worth noting for the uninitiated that plug-in hybrids are simple to recharge as popping the trunk, removing the charger and cord, and plugging the charger into a port just in front of the driver’s door. Then plug the cord into a garage outlet. Even with a 110-line it only took 3-4 hours for a full charge, which got me about 25-30 miles of pure electric zoom.

Note the plug-in’s cap just in front of the driver’s door. It looks like a fuel filler door.

While in that mode I saw 53-58 MPGe, but running mostly on gas with a little electric help throughout the week I ended up at 37.5 mpg. It appears the key to stellar economy is regular evening recharges.

Inside, the car is extremely quiet, as are most hybrids because there’s not much engine noise. Sound deadening is good too, so road noise is minute.

This white sedan featured a two-tone dark brown and medium brown leather interior, the dash, doors and steering wheel being dark, the seats the milder shade, with contrasting stitching. There are driftwood inlays in the dash and doors, plus satin chrome trim on the dash, air vents, and door handles. Black gloss finish trims the large vertical infotainment screen and there’s a crystal-like shift knob that glows at night.

Seats are well-shaped and power up front, with the lower cushion able to be extended, a benefit to taller drivers. The front seats also are heated and cooled, plus add a massaging feature activated via a control at the front of the seats’ door-side panels, yet visually adjusted on the infotainment screen. All of those perks are part of a $2,200 leather seat package.

Meanwhile heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel add $750 to the price tag.

The S60’s interior is roomy too, certainly to haul four adults cross country, while the trunk is a bit limited at 11.6 cubic feet.

The 9-inch tall Sensus infotainment screen works well and is much like a smart phone, allowing the driver, or preferably a passenger, to slide the screen either direction to reveal many options. Sliding one way unveals 19 functions while the other reveals 22 apps. While it’s easy to figure out, it really is complex enough that safety dictates a second operator, or only making adjustments while the car is at rest.

The advantage of a large screen, naturally, is seeing its navigation map more easily. For the record, the test car’s stereo also was an audiophile’s, well, dream. The Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system adds $3,200 to the car’s cost, but it could melt your ear buds, and I mean that in a good way.

Other pluses include a large power sunroof, a head-up display, and all the safety devices we’ve come to expect, from parking sensors and blind-spot warning to emergency braking and pedestrian recognition systems. City Safety helps avoid low-speed accidents, smart cruise is standard as is auto high-beam headlights that bend around corners. And yes, that backup camera delivers a 360-degree view.

What doesn’t the S60 include? A wireless charging station. Plenty of places to hook in a power cord, but nothing cordless for your phone.

Then there was one more concerning oddity. Occasionally there was no heat from this South Carolina-built car. Maybe it thought only air conditioning would be required.

I set the temperature, even to HIGH, and pressed the Auto button to fire up the heat several mornings. Nothing, no fan noise, no nothing. Adjust the fan and the air pouring from the vents was only cold. Then, miraculously, two days before I returned the car the heat popped on and continued working the rest of the drive. Odd!

Figuring that if your car had such a glitch a sharp dealer would fix it, I’d have no trouble buying a Volvo. At its base T5 Momentum level with the 250-horse turbo I4 the car’s a bargain starting at $36,795. And there are plenty of models to choose from between that and this top-line T8 hybrid.

The test car listed at $56,395, including delivery. With its various options this one settled at $64,190, including $800 for fancy wheels.

Bottom line? S60 is a lively hybrid that can increase your fuel economy substantially, while still providing a powerful, fun, sporty and safe drive. But check the heater before you drive off the lot.

FAST STATS: 2020 Volvo S60 T8 E-AWD Inscription

Hits: Sporty looking sedan, kick-butt power, sporty handling, AWD and with quiet, luxurious interior. Tall vertical infotainment screen, massaging front seats, 4 power modes, comfy seats, roomy interior, big sunroof, heated steering wheel and powerful great sounding stereo. Oh, and a plug-in hybrid so excellent mileage.

Misses: No wireless charging station and occasionally no heat, plus too much futzing with the multifunction info screen.

Made in: Ridgeville, S.C.

Engine: 2.0-liter super and turbocharged I4 & plug-in hybrid electric motor, 400 hp (combined)

Transmission: 8-speed Geartronic automatic

Wheelbase: 113.1 in.

Length: 187.4 in.

Cargo: 11.6 cu.ft.

MPG: 69 electric & gas / 30 gas only (EPA)

MPG: 37.5 (tested), 53-58 (when primarily electric)

Base Price: $56,395 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $53,071

Major Options:

Leather seating package (Nappa leather seats, ventilated front seats w/cushion extensions, power adjustable side support and backrest massage for front seats), $2,200

Heated rear seats and steering wheel, $750

Metallic paint, $645

Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system, $3,200

Park assist pilot, $200

19-inch Inscription alloy wheels, $800

Test vehicle: $64,190

Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

 

 

Die-cast: Auto World’s 1971 Plymouth GTX

A 1971 Plymouth GTX you can afford …

My neighborhood was packed with Road Runners back in the early 1970s, in no small part because we had one of the top-selling Chrysler-Plymouth dealerships in Indiana a few blocks from my house.

The wild fruity colors of the late 1960s and early ‘70s lit up the dealer’s lot, and us pre-teens and teens loved circling the lot on our bikes picking out what we just “knew” we’d own, once that $1.50-an-hour bus boy job came through down at the Chuckwagon restaurant. They were sweet dreams to be sure. Continue reading Die-cast: Auto World’s 1971 Plymouth GTX

2019 Lexus RX 350L AWD Luxury

Lexus RX 350L, when you’re entitled to more luxury …

There’s no doubt we’re an entitled society from top to bottom. But when one slides behind the steering wheel of a Lexus RX 350L it’s hard not to feel a strong urge of entitlement, and contentment.

Granted, I’m lucky to get such a chance, but my dark metallic blue (nightfall mica) 350L AWD Luxury model was the right vehicle at the right time for a road trip to northern Wisconsin (the Warrens area) for a slog around a cranberry bog with the family. So four of us settled into the gray and black leather interior, along with our luggage, and simply relaxed. Continue reading 2019 Lexus RX 350L AWD Luxury

Die-cast: Autoart Jaguar E-Type Lightweight

Jaguar E-Type “the most beautiful car ever made” …

There is nothing like an E-Type Jaguar, for style, pizzazz or sheer high-performance beauty.

When it was launched in 1961, the E-Type took the auto world by storm. Old men wished they were young again, young men wished they had the cash to buy one, and everyone declared them drop-dead sexy beasts. And this was well before Austin Powers came along.

Even Enzo Ferrari, never known to heap praise on competitors, called it “the most beautiful car ever made.” Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Jaguar E-Type Lightweight

2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited

Hyundai hybrid is low cost from the get-go …

Hybrids in general, and plug-in hybrids in particular, are becoming the way to go for families looking for the best fuel economy, or socially conscious buyers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fortunately the hybrid market just keeps expanding while becoming more affordable. Continue reading 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited

Die-cast: NEO’s 1958 Rambler Cross Country 6

Rambler wagon was economical, so is model …  

Station Wagons were the SUVs and crossovers of years ago, long before we knew to call them anything but wagons.

And there’s some thinking now in the car world that wagons, which behave much more like cars than trucks, may be on the verge of a comeback. Rumor has it that Millennials prefer the lower-riding wagons to the taller SUVs and CUVs of today. We’ll see. Continue reading Die-cast: NEO’s 1958 Rambler Cross Country 6

New Toyota Supra is super fun

We’re on a mission from God….

joliet prison, the blues brothers, jake, elwoodA  line out of the 1980 hit movie The Blues Brothers and totally appropriate for this blog entry as Mark and I traveled to the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s (MAMA) Fall Rally just outside of Joliet, IL, home of the Joliet Prison where after his release from prison, Jake (John Belushi) reunites with his brother, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) — collectively known as the “Blues Brothers.”  Yep, we drove right past the front door. Continue reading New Toyota Supra is super fun

Die-cast: Autoart’s Bugatti Chiron

Wow, even in 1/18 scale this Bugatti rocks …

The Bugatti Chiron, where to begin?

Starting price is $2.6 million in round numbers, and the first 200 made sold out immediately, even before the first car was delivered. It’s possible we need a new term that’s greater than Supercar. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart’s Bugatti Chiron

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo

GT-Line’s turbo makes this the Soul you want  …

This may be overstating it some, but if ever there were a modern-day Volkswagen Beetle in both spirit and style, it would be Kia’s sweet Soul.

Consider that 11 years into its run the styling has been updated in tweaks to nose and tail, but the basic shape has stayed the same with its boxy looks offering a bit of swagger with its roof that tilts slightly downward in back. Somehow the look is sporty and fun, as opposed to the boring boxes on wheels, such as Scion’s XB and Nissan’s freakish Cube, that have come and gone, not to be missed. And this time around the headlights are thin slits with a light bar up front that sort of reminds of a Chevy Camaro nose. Fun! Continue reading 2020 Kia Soul GT-Line 1.6 Turbo

2019 Chevolet Equinox AWD Premier

Chevy’s Equinox easy as a Moon Pie to like …

When you’re driving to the home of the Moon Pie, you need something that boasts American pride and craftsmanship, and that’s what I got from Chevy for a rare trip to Chattanooga, Tenn.

Up rolled a Cajun Red 2019 Chevrolet Equinox and I promptly packed it down for a roughly 1,600-mile roundtrip to Moon Pie central. The gooey s’mores-like treat was a bonus I hadn’t counted on. My goal was hanging with a couple thousand of my plastic modeling friends for the International Plastic Modelers Society’s national convention in Nooga. Continue reading 2019 Chevolet Equinox AWD Premier

2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport

Small Caddy offers sexy looks & luxury …

There was a day when a Cadillac HAD to be as big as a cruise ship and loaded down with enough chrome to make a knight on horseback feel inadequate.

No more. Cadillac has decided that affordable luxury with interesting styling is the way to get post-Boomer buyers to park their lattes and espressos in Cadillac cup holders. Witness the new XT4, the smallest Caddy SUV, just a notch below its fairly petit XT5. The XT4 is svelte and sexy with beautifully sculpted front and rear lights and a handsome grille that give it a more distinctive look than many SUVs. Continue reading 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD

Kia Telluride a perfect people mover, a slam dunk …

Kia’s first big SUV is a perfect game, a hail Mary touchdown pass, a buzzer beater, whatever superlative sports metaphor you’d choose, the Telluride is all that.

It’s harder to write a glowing review than one that picks a few nits, yet I found none to pick in this review of Kia’s new Telluride SX AWD. That’s the top level model, but there are four trims, so one should fit in most folks’ budget. Continue reading 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD

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