Perceptions can shift and auto writers often perceive differences in similar models they drive. This happened on a couple fronts with my latest drive of Hyundai’s attractive Elantra Limited, its near top-level compact.
I still like the car, its looks, its features, its gas mileage, its value. But compared with a 2016 drive of a quite similar model, well, I noticed differences.
First, the acceleration from Elantra’s somewhat new 2.0-liter I4 seems milder than in the previous test car although it’s the same engine. In the earlier car I pressed the Drive Mode button on the console and when Sport mode kicked in I felt decidedly different acceleration, more aggressive. This time there was a difference, but whether the algorithms were changed or what, acceleration was not as aggressive.
Second, there’s still modest road noise, although that seemed somewhat better on the tested bright Electric Blue Metallic test car this time. Funny, this time I test drove between Milwaukee and Indianapolis, so mostly highway driving where you’d think road noise would be more noticed.
Third, I’d found the earlier model’s seats supportive enough, but this time (possibly because I spent longer periods sitting) the black leather seats seemed harder and featured only modest hip support.
All that said, the Elantra remains an exceptional value. Consider this, the base SE model starts at $18,000, while the Sport model with more horsepower goes for $22,485 and the tested Limited lists at $22,350. All have an $835 delivery fee. Read more
Simply put, Ford’s Focus RS is a street-legal race car.
Not many of those out there, and most that are require you to sell your house in order to make a down payment on said speedster.
So here, for “just” $36,995, Ford will put a scorching hot rod, drifter, rally car in your driveway, enticing neighbors, especially young males, to drool. It’ll also increase your heart rate, something on the order of being a real race driver.
The backstory on the German-made RS is that it, or similar Foci, have been sold in Europe for years and U.S. lead-footers have been itching for it, begging for it, praying for it to hit our shores. Now it has. I don’t know how many will be sold, but the Subaru Impreza WRX now has serious competition. In fact, folks considering a Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger may want to consider saving some dough and going this route for serious performance.
In a nutshell this fast Focus, complete with a big deal rear spoiler, pumps 350 horsepower out of its tiny 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine along with a matching torque rating. It’s said to do 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. By comparison, a Mustang GT can do it in 4.4 seconds. That’s pretty close and this handles better! Read more
In many regards Kia’s cute little Soul had everything going for it — first, its looks. The slope-roofed compact stands out in the dull boxy crossover market.
It’s also decidedly economical to buy and operate, with a low starting price and good mpg figures. The darned thing even handles well and has oodles of interior room so four hipsters can hop in, slap on their headphones and head for the beach, or, well, in Milwaukee, maybe a brew pub.
What it didn’t have was power. Now it does, thanks to Kia adding a turbocharger to its 1.6-liter I4. That boosts what had been a mild 130 horses up to 201. That may sound like it turns Soul into a rocket, but let’s just say it makes it quick, once you trounce the accelerator.
Still, this week’s metallic gray Soul! (Exclaim) with its snazzy neon red accent stripe below the lower door line, was peppy and still had all the other good stuff in its plus column.
This is the top-level Soul, but you’d be hard-pressed to prove it by the price tag. With delivery built in, the Soul! lists at $23,695 and this only added floor mats to end up at $23,815.
For that you get the zippy and efficient turbo engine that’s rated 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. I got 30.2 mpg in a mix of driving, and you know I was testing the turbo pretty aggressively at times. Nice! Read more
I laid a lot of praise on Kia’s new Niro hybrid recently, all deserved, but I was basing my hybrid comparison to the previous Toyota Prius. Now I’ve driven the 2017 Prius Two Eco and wow, this is a stellar hybrid.
Get this, I got 57.5 miles per gallon in a week’s drive. That includes plenty of city and two longish highway jaunts. But that’s just a number, and as the EPA says, your mileage may vary, although it rates this Eco version at 58 mpg city and 53 highway. Believe it!
Yet, if this were a tinny econobox that rode like a soapbox derby racer, well, most of us wouldn’t care so much about the mileage. We still need function and comfort, and Prius delivers.
First, note that there are nearly as many Prius models as there are pickup versions from most automakers. The Two Eco is the cost leader at $24,540, with a $865 delivery fee to end up at $25,405. There are five other trims of the four-door hatch model that, while slightly more streamlined than its earlier version, still remains dowdy looking. The exception are its stylish taillights.
Looks aside (and that’s where the Niro wins hands down), the new Prius is light and agile and so tightly built it feels as snug as a three-piece suit. There are no squeaks or jiggles. It’s as quiet inside as most entry-level luxury cars. The doors close with such a resounding thud as to need a little extra elbow grease to latch the doors, the seal is that tight.
Road and tire noise is nearly non-existent.
And at just more than 3,000 lbs., the Prius Two is light, leading to nimble handling, good cornering and creating a relatively fun driving experience. Read more
Unless your name is Hellcat or you sport some semblance of racing stripes and a hood scoop you’re not supposed to gurgle and pop with power if you’re simply a luxury sport sedan.
Ah, but the Lexus GS is everything from a fine luxury sedan to a NASCAR wannabe, a racer in street clothes.
A base GS 200t, you see, is equipped with a 241-horse 2.0-liter I4 that’s turbocharged. Oh that’s nice and sporty in its own way and a potential Lexus owner that’s pushing the limits of his home equity loan to snag one will shell out roughly $47 grand and change.
But there are so many other choices, two more engines and a hybrid model too. So say sayonara to that base model if you want to light up the tires and thumb your nose at German luxury sedans, or domestic muscle too. The tested GS F, or F Sport model is the sharp end of the GS line and it’ll flat out fly.
No, it’s not a HEMI, but the Lexus has a sexy sounding V8 that’ll nearly put the roughly 4,000-pound sedan into orbit. The numbers are this, 5.0-liter V8 creating 467 horsepower and 389 lb.-ft. of torque. Don’t go pooh-poohing that because your Vette or Hellcat has more ponies. With its modest weight and a dandy drive mode system that allows you to go from Normal to Sport or Sport+, you’ll suddenly find the GS turning surly.
I was expecting good power, but punched the console’s drive mode button just as I was pulling onto the freeway and the rear-drive GS twitched its tail and rocketed up to, er, well, more than the standard highway speed before I was halfway down the entry ramp. Haven’t had this much fun since my last Vette drive, and that’s been a while. Read more
Roughly once a year a test car knocks my socks off, trips my trigger, simply surprises the heck out of me and this week’s Kia Niro Touring has me amazed.
Looking at it you’ll say that’s no car, that’s a crossover vehicle. And that’s what Kia wants you to say. The styling is typical Kia wonderful with good looking nose, tail and beautifully proportioned profile. It has a taller stance like a crossover, but (and this is one of at least two surprises) it is front-wheel drive, and as of now AWD is not an option.
Second surprise, from a driving standpoint, this little beauty is a hybrid.
Sure, left in Normal drive mode the acceleration here is (yawn), shall we say, modest. But simply by sliding the 6-speed Sportronic gear lever to the left into Sport mode the Niro jumps to life. Acceleration is quick and quiet as the electric motor propels this honey to normal city cruising speed.
I found myself leaving the shifter in normal mode, which is the most economical way to go, and then slipping it into Sport at stoplights. Fun, and zippy! Read more
Young folks wanting a Jeep for its looks and rugged personality, but who are on an entry-level budget and prefer comfort to mudding ability can find refuge in Jeep’s Renegade.
This is a multi-trim model that ranges from $20 grand, including delivery, up to $30 grand for an off-roading version. Renegade is built on the Fiat 500X chassis in Italy, so quite a ways from Toledo, Ohio, the spiritual home of Jeep and its predecessor, Willys.
But Renegade, despite being a downsized Jeep offers much more civility for daily driving, plus that low-ball entry price. Mine was a near fluorescent neon green (dubbed Bright Hypergreen) that seemed to glow in the parking lot like one of those radioactive bars that Homer Simpson gets stuck in his pocket.
Folks at the office taunted me about the color, but it turns out to be quite fun to drive around in such a glow stick and was incredibly easy to find in any parking lot.
It’s the civility that strikes me most about Renegade. Ride is downright comfortable and tame, not the usual don’t-come-knocking-when-this-baby-is-rockin’ ride of its original off-roading cousin, the roughhewn Wrangler. Even on Wisconsin’s crumbling roads the Renegade delivered a relatively well-controlled an smooth ride, no small accomplishment for a vehicle riding on just a 101.2-inch wheelbase. Read more
If looks are important to you, styling that will get you noticed or at least be recognized as a non-generic luxury car, then Jaguar’s new entry-level luxury sedan, the XE, should have your name printed on its title.
The new small Jag has dashing looks that communicate immediately that it’s a Jaguar. Oh there’s the leaping animal’s silhouette on the trunk lid and steering wheel, but it’s the car’s lean looks, long hood and big chrome grille that tell folks this is a Jaguar.
That’s all well and good, plus Jaguar offers nearly as many model choices as do the domestic pickups. The XE comes in 19 models, all the way from a rear-drive 25T model to a 35T First Edition with all-wheel drive. The vast numbers come from all trim levels coming in either rear- or all-wheel-drive and offering three engine choices.
The base model in each trim, including Premium, Prestige and R-Sport, is the 25T with a 2.0-liter, I4 turbo generating 240 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque. A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel also is available. It cranks 180 horsepower but features a tremendous 318 torque rating. The tested supercharged 3.0-liter V6 delivers a healthy 340 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque.
Confused? Well, there also are a couple First Edition models, but we’ll let the dealers explain all that to you.
For now, let’s focus on the pretty white test car, the XE 35t Prestige. Its targets include the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes E Class, Audi A4 and possibly the Lexus IS. Each has their advantages, and the Jaguar’s is its looks. Read more
When Toyota launched Lexus in 1989, its first sedans impersonated Mercedes-Benz models, but cost a lot less. Now Hyundai has launched its impressive new Genesis luxury car lineup with two models and the top-level G90 looks like a Bentley. Even its logo resembles that of the British make.
Again the formula is to create a car that visually screams luxury while undercutting the original by thousands of dollars. To be sure the new G90 competes mostly with the large Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac sedans. But if you could convince your neighbors you were driving a Bentley, yet only spent $70 grand or so, well, you just might try.
Certainly the G90 is impressive and dressed in Caspian Black, a metallic black paint job, the tested rear-drive Ultimate model turned heads. People asked what it was. Genesis didn’t ring any bells.
But it may soon. Along with this 5.0-liter, 420-horse, V6-powered G90 Genesis offers the G80 with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that creates a substantial 365 horsepower. Both models are rear-wheel drive, but offer all-wheel-drive versions too. Read more
Honda’s Accord is a car that’s hard not to like. It’s comfortable, handles well and provides a first rate ride. There’s room for four or five adults and the trunk is sufficiently large. Sexy it ain’t.
Now add a hybrid power system and well, for many, yawning will ensue.
Honda though has tweaked its 2017 Accord to cut a few pounds, add a little overall length, which aids trunk space, and given it a 16-horsepower boost. Refinement defines the Accord, which has been around now for 40 years. Accord never has been about sexy, it has been about service. Owners get their money’s worth in fuel and design efficiency.
The new Accord hybrid punches up its pony power by 16, now at 212 horses, but still with a modest 129 ft.-lbs. of torque. The tested dark red Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine along with a hybrid electric system. Power is applied smoothly via the electronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), and the car is exceedingly quiet, inside and out.
But while the Accord cruises like a champ, it’s still fairly slow away from a stoplight and takes a while to wind up to highway speeds. There’s an Econ button to further slow the shifts to save fuel, but I left the test car in normal mode just for the small boost of power it provided. That said, there IS a Sport button on the console that actually gives the Accord more power away from a stop. You’ll want it engaged, a lot! Read more