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2017 Jaguar F-Pace 20d Prestige

First Jaguar sport-ute off to fast start …2017 Jaguar F-Pace

            Jaguar has its first sport-utility truck, the F-Pace and it’s already its best-selling vehicle. That tells you a lot.

First, it tells you that tradition and heritage take a back seat to the overwhelming popularity of sport-utes and crossovers. Second, it tells you Jaguar buyers were ready for a Jag truck. And third, it tells you that the F-Pace must be pretty good at satisfying that itch.

Jaguar smartly delivers three engine choices in its new ute. The same 3.0-liter supercharged V6 as in last week’s Jaguar XE sedan will likely be the main choice of buyers. It cranks a healthy 340 horsepower with 332 lb.-ft. of torque, but drinks premium fuel and gets just 18 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway.

The dark metallic gray test truck went the other way, packing an Ingenium 2.0-liter I4 turbo diesel under the F-Pace’s muscular hood that even includes a mild hood bulge. The diesel features 180 horsepower and a grunt-rich 318 lb.-ft. of torque.2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Fuel mileage is impressive. The diesel is rated 26 mpg city and 33 highway. I got 27.7 mpg in driving that was heavier on city driving this time. There also is a stop-start feature here to save fuel, but it can be turned off, which makes sense from a smoothness of operation standpoint once the truck’s engine is warmed. Continue reading 2017 Jaguar F-Pace 20d Prestige

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2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

New Hybrid Accord comfy family sedan with top-notch mpg …2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

            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.2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

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! Continue reading 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

New VW Passat hits for the cycle … 2017 Volkswagen Passat

            It may be a bit early in the calendar year to talk about hitting for the cycle, but the 2017 Volkswagen Passat does just that.

Rare is the mid-size car that delivers healthy power, refined handling and ride along with a quiet interior. Often a sedan with respectable power is noisy inside, or rides like a buckboard.

But the Passat is a pleasant blend that retains its sporty characteristics while delivering the “dreaded” practicality of room for five adults and their luggage, while also being a delight to drive and competitively priced. Its one drawback through the years (the car was redesigned for the 2016), has been reliability. The old model had issues. Time will tell if that monkey is off VW’s back for Passat, which is made in Tennessee.

From a driving standpoint I haven’t driven a more pleasurable mid-size car in ages. First, this pretty “Fortana Red” test car was the SEL Premium model with VW’s romping V6, a 3.6-liter number that creates a kickin’ 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a 6-speed automatic the power comes on in a hurry and gives the front-drive Passat major power.2017 Volkswagen Passat

Better yet, that power is smooth, not a burst as with the standard engine, a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 170 horses. You’ll drink more gas with the V6, 20/28 mpg vs. 23/34 mpg for the I4. But I still got 23 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned more toward city speeds. Continue reading 2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

A happy surprise, new 2017 Elantra arrives early …2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Looks like 2017 is already here, at least at Hyundai.

My test car was a sparkling white 2017 Elantra Limited, the compact sedan that improves with each iteration. One thing that hasn’t changed is its stellar looks. Hyundai and its cousin Kia have been leading the styling charge for mainstream car buyers for several years now.

This new Elantra is another sharp looker with a bit of swept-back styling that looks more like a fastback than your typical compact sedan.

Another thing that doesn’t change (and this too is good), is excellent gas mileage. The Elantra is rated 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. I got 32.1 mpg in a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving.

Some might wonder if that’s because the new Elantra is made of cardboard and powered by a lawnmower engine. No, there’s lightweight high-tensile steel to keep the four-door at 2,811 lbs. and there’s a 2.0-liter I4 under the hood providing 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque.

2017 Hyundai Elantra LimitedCertainly that’s not monstrous power, but it is sufficient and with Hyundai’s smooth 6-speed automatic seems well suited to everyday driving. The previous Elantra I’d driven had a 1.8-liter I4 of similar power, but this one gave the car steadier pull from a stop. Plus Hyundai includes Drive Mode Select, a button that allows you to choose between Normal, Sport and Eco. You won’t need Eco to extend fuel mileage as I rarely used it and still got excellent mileage. Continue reading 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited