Tag Archives: all wheel drive

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited hybrid

New Pacifica hybrid a refined people hauler …

Chrysler has been making minivans since the 1984 model year, but its latest, the 2020 Pacifica, is easily the best of the bunch.

Chrysler minivans have nearly always been comfortable and easy to drive. The company’s Stow N Go seats were a brilliant addition, as were its earlier rear seats that could be rolled out for easy removal and storage. But, let’s be honest, there were some mechanical issues, something about transmissions. That’s behind the company, now part of Italian conglomerate, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Continue reading 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited hybrid

2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-3 sticking with a good thing …2019 Mazda CX-3

Not much seems to have changed with Mazda’s stylish small crossover, the CX-3, since I last tested it a couple years ago.

I mean it gained two horsepower (big whoop), but really nothing much needed to change. I’d still like more horsepower, but at least there’s a Sport mode toggle on the console to boost power when you need it. Continue reading 2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

2018 BMW 530e xDrive iPerformance

BMW 530e hybrid defines ‘ultimate driving machine’ … 2018 BMW 530e xDrive

The 530e sedan defines why BMW can justifiably lay claim to building the “ultimate driving machine.”

This plug-in hybrid exudes everything one would want from a luxury car, with the added benefit of a hybrid system. Continue reading 2018 BMW 530e xDrive iPerformance

2018 Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T quattro

Audi A5 Coupe a rare breed …2018 Audi A5 Coupe

Coupes used to be a more plentiful subset of cars, but as cars become a smaller subset of vehicles the coupe appears closer and closer to extinction.

But Audi, for one, is committed to the segment and its A5 Coupe is a good example of how much pleasure can be derived from a coupe. It looks sharp, and melds sporty handling and power with a smooth-shifting 7-speed automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive, which Audi calls quattro.

The A5 does everything well, but is not a racer, nor a true family car, unless your little ones are in booster seats and can latch themselves in, or big enough to not need a booster, yet not too long-legged. Rear seat room is fairly cramped.

But a coupe is meant to transport two folks, mostly, and here they ride in comfort and style.2018 Audi A5 Coupe

The silver test car ($575 extra for the paint job) came with Audi’s stout 2.0-liter turbo I4 that creates a spirited, if not rambunctious, 252 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque. Turbo lag is non-existent, in fact, I looked under the hood to make sure there was a turbo. The power here comes on so smoothly and in such a linear manner that it’s not obvious that all this boost is from a turbo. Continue reading 2018 Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T quattro

2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport RWD

Jaguar XF R-Sport has the looks and the handling …2016 Jaguar XF R-Sport

Jaguars look better than most other luxury cars, and that matters in a world and a time when all luxury cars offer similar features and performance.

The Jaguar tradition is one of lean looks and mighty power, plus excellent handling. This new XF sedan fits that bill and pumps new blood into the Jaguar lineage. There’s the muscular nose and curved haunches that still resemble, albeit less obviously, a pouncing cat.

Power is generous too, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 pumping out 340 horses and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. The spirited V6 pushes this rear-drive R-Sport edition to highway speeds quickly via a silky 8-speed automatic that you can let do its thing and not give shifts a thought, or you can flick the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Such flicking will make the XF seem more spirited, but the automatic is so good you’ll likely let it do the job most of the time.

2016 Jaguar XF R-SportEven old muscle cars had plenty of power (although mostly horrible transmissions), so if handling is pedestrian the XF R-Sport would be just another sport luxury sedan. Ah, but handling is fine too, a fairly heavy feeling wheel, but one that is responsive and helps put some sport into the R-Sport. You can clip off a corner’s apex and accelerate hard out the other side and the Jaguar is purr-fectly (sorry) happy and stable.

The XF also features four dynamic driving modes, Sport, Normal, Eco and Winter. That last one will get a workout here most winters, especially with this being rear-wheel-drive. And Eco may save you a tiny bit of gas along with the annoying stop-start feature, that is easily turned off via a console button. Continue reading 2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport RWD

2015 Chevrolet Trax LT AWD

Trax AWD offers high value for young SUV buyerstrax

            As Millennials and Gen-Xers battle for jobs and income in a challenging work environment it seems natural that small cars and small sport-utility vehicle sales would blossom.

Affordability and a high degree of usability would seem to be just what the new car/ute buyer would crave. So it’s no surprise that a host of small utes are being launched this year, with Chevrolet decidedly in the hunt.

Chevy already had the Aveo and Sonic small cars, but for 2015 launches the Chevy Trax a small ute riding on a 100.6-inch wheelbase and extending a modest 168.4 inches. That’s just about four inches longer than the recently tested Nissan Juke and Trax has a 1-inch advantage in wheelbase.

Yet unlike Juke, the Trax makes a compelling argument for small utes or crossovers. It’s fun to drive with nimble handling and a pleasant ride. While obviously trim, with a modest rear overhang, it’s reasonably attractive in a fit-in-with-the-neighbors sort of way. Folks won’t laugh at you.

trax1And if they ride with you and know what you paid for a Trax, they may even envy you.

Here’s why! Consider this the facts on Trax.

Trax, which is sold as the Holden Trax in Australia and built by General Motors in South Korea, is useful, equipped well at a low price, is available with all-wheel-drive and delivers excellent fuel economy. Continue reading 2015 Chevrolet Trax LT AWD

2015 Subaru WRX Limited

Subaru’s WRX still wicked fast, and somewhat practicalIMG_0004

WRX is Subaru’s abbreviation for wicked fast!

Has been for 23 years too, and yet, this flipped-out head case of a car is still a rush, a thrill, a beast. But it’s way more affordable than most speed-oriented machines, and as practical in most ways as any sedan, plus not all that tough on gas, considering.

Let’s start with a few numbers. The WRX, which is a Subaru Impreza on steroids, starts at $27,090 (including delivery), comes standard with all-wheel-drive to make it stick to the street, boasts 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque and is rated 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway in its 6-speed manual configuration. Weight is just 3,267 lbs.

Continue reading 2015 Subaru WRX Limited

2015 Lexus IS350

Lexus IS350 a BWM 3 Series fighter heavy on luxurylexus3

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.

Continue reading 2015 Lexus IS350

2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD

New Journey Crossroad improves the breed

All credit goes to Chrysler and its Italian parent, Fiat, for constantly improving the handsome Journey mid-size crossover.dodge1

My first couple drives in the Journey left me wanting, the last one four years ago was a step up and now this latest tester, a bright pearl red Journey Crossroad with all-wheel-drive, was a leap forward.

Outwardly you’d think this is pretty much the same vehicle as a few years back with some exterior tweaks. But many of my previous complaints are gone. That’s not to say Journey is perfect, but heck, what $32 grand vehicle is?

Let’s start with the overall drive quality. That always has been pretty good, the big upside here being a comfortable ride, quiet interior and reasonable power along with light easy handling. This model also has all-wheel-drive, so should perform well in winter, a decided plus in Wisconsin.

Journey is easy to drive, its six-speed automatic shifting smoothly and its 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing providing ample power. The V6 is rated at 283 horses and if you tromp the gas pedal it’ll get up and go, but there is a noticeable lag in acceleration at the start. I noticed it most when cruising between Milwaukee and Indianapolis on a weekend jaunt. Press the gas pedal as you ease into the passing lane and then wait for the acceleration to pick up. Yes, you can pound the gas pedal, but that creates a less than appealing ride for passengers. So plan ahead, as you might with a vehicle packing a turbocharged engine.

dodge3Handling is light and Journey is easy to park in a tight spot. Braking is fine with four-wheel discs plus stability and traction control. Journey rides on 19-inch tires. Continue reading 2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD

2014 Lexus RX 450h

H = hybrid in luxurious 450h crossover for a smooth quiet cruiser
lex450Lexus makes quiet, comfortable and reliable vehicles as well, if not better, than most car makers and its RX crossover has been a hit for years, being an early entry into the crossover, or tall wagon, market.

Certainly Lexus does nothing to embarrass itself with its latest RX iteration, and this was the 450h, which means it’s a hybrid. That translates to better gas mileage and quiet startup and running. But then all of the RX models are quiet as a church on a snowy Sunday morning.

Yet quietness is just one of the RX 450h’s virtues.

The metallic tan (satin cashmere metal is what Lexus calls it) test vehicle delivered good gas mileage with its hybrid assist system and in both Normal and Sport mode it accelerates well. Steering effort is moderate and handling is smooth and linear so you always feel in control.

A seamless all-wheel-drive system keeps it well planted even in heavy snow. I had this during a pre-Christmas snowstorm and traction was excellent.

Under the hybrid’s hood is Lexus’s proven 3.5-liter V6 that features variable valve timing and is backed up by a hybrid battery system that combined gives the RX a substantial 295 horses. There are three driving modes, with Normal and Sport allowing all those ponies to be used, although you’ll likely burn more gas. The ECO mode, which I used for several days, delivers lame low-end power. You creep, although smoothly, away from stoplights.

The hybrid uses an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission with an intelligence feature that helps it understand your power needs and driving habits. This system gives it an infinite amount of gear ratios, allowing the crossover to accelerate as efficiently as possible. It’s incredibly smooth, but again, most of us will prefer anything but the ECO mode. Continue reading 2014 Lexus RX 450h