With cars like its compact Jetta and crossovers like its compact Tiguan, Volkswagen seems poised to rebound from a dreadful period brought on by its corporate diesel emission scandal, not poorly designed vehicles.
This new 2019 Jetta SEL Premium (top-end model) is slightly larger than its predecessor while remaining a fun easy driver that’s user friendly and an automotive bargain. All that should make Jetta a runaway sales success, but the likes of Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Subaru’s Impreza and the Mazda3 continue to run away with most of the sales. Continue reading 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium→
Cadillac’s CTS remains one of GM’s biggest success stories and for good reason. The mid-size sport sedan features edgy styling and handles like a fine European sport sedan, but with better ride characteristics and now, all-wheel-drive.
The dark metallic gray test car was the CTS AWD 3.6L Premium Collection, which is a long way of saying its the upscale version with AWD. Same well chiseled profile, long and wide hood, mouthy grille and slender retro vertical taillights. The car looks, and feel, upscale.
What I like, and I’ve said it before, is that Cadillac delivers performance and luxury in equal doses.
Standard in this model is the strong 3.6-liter VVT V6 with auto start/stop. No turbo, and it still gets 335 horsepower and creates 285 lb.-ft. of torque. Others may crank up more ponies and the turbo versions rock like race cars, but this has good power to get the car up to highway speeds in a flash, but with a smoothness befitting its luxury nameplate.
Helping that effort is Caddy’s silky 8-speed automatic, which first debuted a couple years back. The tranny seems perfectly suited to the V6 and there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel if the driver wishes to take shifting into his, or her, own hands. Continue reading 2016 Cadillac CTS AWD→
Lexus IS350 a BWM 3 Series fighter heavy on luxury
Star Trek groupies may already believe in mind melds, but BMW and Lexus engineers and designers have convinced me it’s a real phenomenon.
Their convincing argument is their creation of two like models that if more identical would be sold in the same showroom. Lexus calls theirs the IS350, while BMW sticks with 335i.
It’s no surprise really, BMW’s 3 Series rear-drive sport sedan has for decades been the holy of holies for auto enthusiasts and many magazines that cater to their Bimmer fetish. Lexus got the idea to fight the 3 Series about 10 years back, launching the IS series in 2005 as it looked to induct younger buyers into the Lexus family.
Jaguar’s image has been polished, tarnished and polished several times, but its history of racing success, generous power and spirited road manners, along with an expectation of gentlemanly comfort, endures.
The restyled XJL does nothing to dispel the legend, with its muscular but trim lines, big chrome grille and vertical tail lamps. But there are some surprises, too.
First, this is a large sedan with mammoth interior that will accommodate five adults with NBA length legs. The XJ’s long-wheelbase model features a limo-like 124.3-inch wheelbase, or somewhere between Chevrolet’s big Tahoe and Suburban SUVs for wheelbase, and they aren’t small. Overall length is sizeable too. In fact, a Tahoe is more than four inches shorter in lengthy. Trust me, this Jag is roomy.
Jaguar’s engine creates 340 horses, which may sound mild for a Jag, but since the car is light for its size, just 4,153 lbs., the car feels relatively nimble. The surprise to long-time Jag devotees may be that there’s no V8 in this model, but the 3.0-liter V6 is supercharged. That gives you quick power when you need it, but doesn’t tax your gas mileage too much in normal stop and go driving.
The XJL, and this one had all-wheel drive (another surprise), is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 highway. I ran it about 60% highway miles and got 20.1 mpg. That’s good for the size and power of the vehicle, plus it being all-wheel drive.
Acceleration is smooth and strong with the Jag’s 8-speed automatic transmission delivering seamless shifts. My only concern with the drivetrain is the gas-saving “intelligent stop-start” feature. Like a hybrid, the Jaguar’s gas engine shuts off at stoplights or nearly anytime you’re stopped in traffic, or at a drive-up window, etc. When you take your foot off the brake, the engine automatically refires. Both on the shutdown and the startup there is a noticeable shudder that seemed less refined than I’ve felt in various hybrids. Several riders commented on it, saying they would be disappointed in that shake after paying roughly $85 grand for such a luxury yacht.
That’s right, the XJL starts at $83,700 and with only a delivery charge, no options, hit $84,595. This, apparently, is the price for merging luxury and notable styling.
But while there was that hiccup when the engine shuts off to save fuel, the powertrain and the interior are incredibly quiet. This may be the quietest car I’ve driven in several years. With the car stationary and running I got 64 decibels on an iPhone app that my friend loaned me. That jumped to only 67 when a friend’s daughter played her French horn just outside the car in a sound test we did for my You Tube video review. Outside, by the horn, the decibels hit a peak of 118.
Full-size luxury has a new name – Equus – and plenty of ponies
Hyundai’s full-size Equus is a fine luxury car with one major drawback, the Hyundai name.
Unlike Honda and its Acura line or Toyota’s Lexus or Nissan’s Infiniti, Hyundai has chosen to simply offer its luxury liner as an extension of its standard line. Thus the Hyundai Equus Signature edition that I tested proudly wears its parent company’s name along with a $59,650 price tag. Continue reading 2012 Hyundai Equus Signature→