Tag Archives: AWD

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB300 4Matic

EV puts a spark in new electric EQB wagon, er, crossover …

Automakers are doing buyers no favors with their insistence on introducing nonsensical alphabet soup when “naming” their vehicles.

German automakers are among the leaders in blending alphanumerics and the latest electric-powered wagon, er crossover, is a prime example, the Mercedes-Benz EQB300. Rolls right off the tongue, no?

To understand this is an electric vehicle one must know that Mercedes is now labeling its EVs as EQs, got it? So this is an electric B series, as in the GLB, which is the gas-powered wagon of the same design. Danke Herr Mercedes.

Know too that for 2023 Mercedes offers three EQBs, the 250, the 300, and 350. At least those ascending numbers are easy to figure in that each signifies more standard features and power that the one below it. The upper two also feature AWD, known to Mercedes as 4Matic, as standard. The base EQB250 is front-drive with just 188 horsepower from its single electric motor.

The 300 and 350 each pack dual electrics to power the front and rear wheels.

The 300 boasts 225 horsepower, while the 350 delivers 288 horses and, according to Mercedes, they will do 0 to 60 mph in 7 and 6 seconds, respectively.

I can attest that the EQB300 is a hoot that’ll scoot. Power delivered via the single-speed transmission is silky smooth and instantaneous. There was even a bit of chirp to the 18-inch tires, and secure traction once we got a little slop on the roads thanks to that AWD. But I can’t emphasize enough the fun of tromping the accelerator and being pushed back into the well-shaped black suede and leather seats, neatly trimmed in red stitching.

The car feels light too, despite its 4,718 pounds, but some of that is due to the low center of gravity it possesses with its heavy battery load cradled in the chassis. Handling is quick and precise. I liken the feel to that of a MINI.

Ride too is well-controlled and comfy as the Benz rides on a 111.3-inch wheelbase and uses McPherson struts and a wishbone arrangement for the front suspension and multi-link in back. Eyeballing the EQB’s petite countenance I expected a harsher ride, but this was pleasant if not plush.

Watch Mark’s video: 2022 Mercedes EQB Suv review by Mark Savage – YouTube

On the practical front there’s a 243-mile range if fully charged and I got 60 miles of range in an overnight charge on my ancient 110/120-volt garage outlet. Bravo! For plug-in hybrids it’s usually just 25-30 miles on such a charge. The Benz is a winner on fast charging and reportedly will do a 10% to 80% charge in 31 minutes on a fast charging system, when you can find one.

To my mind this one is practical for city and moderate travel, say to Madison and back.

For the record the higher powered EQB350 offers just 227 miles of full charge range. Electric range, as with gas engines’ mpg, is reduced substantially the more power their powerplants deliver.

The EQB300 is rated at 104 MPGe in city driving and 98 on the highway, again, you’re expending more power at higher speeds.

But this short wagon is smartly arranged and will haul four people in comfort or two and a load of cargo. In fact, even with the rear seat in place it’ll carry 22 cubic feet of goods, which is more than most mid-size sedans. Power up the hatch and drop those rear seats and that grows to 62 cu.ft., plus loading is easy as this vehicle isn’t a high rider, sort of like a MINI Countryman. Mercedes offers an optional third row, but no, please don’t.

A third-row seat is optional, but please don’t! Good cargo space without it!

As boxy and utilitarian as the exterior is, EQB’s interior is unexpectedly snazzy. There are those previously mentioned sharp seats, and they are well contoured and heated ($500 extra). But the dash is downright flashy with three round brushed metal air vents mid-dash and two more, one on each end of the dash for great looks, and air flow.

The dash and doors feature a diamond-patterned metallic trim and the door pulls and releases are a brushed metal. A fine red lighted piping frames the console, door panels and dash trim too. Sharp, and it complements the red stitching on the seats, dash and steering wheel, which wisely features a flat bottom, just $360 extra.

Overhead are dual sunroofs ($1,500 option), the front being larger than the rear. Seat power controls are located on the door panels too, so easy to reach and adjust.

The digital instrument panel blends into the info screen mid-dash, both just a smidge over 10 inches. And that touchscreen is easy to use and understand, although there’s still a touchpad on the console if you prefer that method. I don’t. It’s redundant.

I do though like that the climate controls are all toggles under the touchscreen, so are easy to adjust on the fly, as are the heated seat buttons mounted by the power seat control panels on the doors. Smart!

In case the default Comfort drive setting is not sufficient for the driver, three other modes are offered, Eco, Snow and Sport. In Sport the EQB nearly takes flight as the acceleration is so frenetic. I liked it, and that too is a toggle, which is simple to use even when wearing gloves. Hey, it’s Wisconsin!

Handsome door panels and easy seat adjustments here!

Naturally the safety systems are standard and prolific, including active brake assist, park assist, high-beam assist, driver attention assist (not touchy at all), blind-spot assist, stability control, and a rearview camera.

What’s missing? No wireless charger, heated steering wheel or cooled seats, and I’d lose that touchpad on the console.

Price is a bit steep too considering the vehicle size and middling looks. The base EQB250 starts at $53,400, the 300 at $57,545, and the 350 model at $61,200. Again those are all 2023 prices with delivery. The test EQB was a 2022, so slightly less, listing at $55,550 with delivery.

Add in the options and it hit $61,650, and that included $800 in unspecified credits. Maybe Mercedes felt bad it was adding $250 for the charging cable and $750 for the gray paint. I mean how else does one charge the vehicle without a cable? And sorry, gray paint is extra?.

The big add-on was the AMG night package that includes an AMG diamond black grille, and high-gloss black elements on the grille, window trim, and outside mirrors. Cost is a strong $2,890. Never mind!

But if smooth power, sporty handling and comfy ride are high on the shopping list for your first EV, you’ll do well to consider an EQB.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mercedes Benz EQB 300 4Matic

Hits: Super quick, excellent handling, controlled ride and AWD. Dual sunroofs, heated seats, cool dash and seat styling, climate control toggles, seat controls on door, quick overnight charging on 110/120 line, easy touchscreen and 4 drive modes.

Misses: Price, overall range, no wireless charger, no cooled seats or heated wheel. Touchpad on console is unnecessary backup system.

Aero-style wheels with star spokes and an MB emblem!

Made in: Hungary

Motors: Dual electric, 225 hp/288 torque

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Range: 243 miles

Weight: 4,718 lbs.

Wheelbase: 111.3 in.

Length: 184.4 in.

Cargo: 22-62.0 cu.ft.

MPGe: 104/98

Base Price: $55,550 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Mountain gray metallic paint, $750

Charging cable, $250

AMG sport steering wheel, $360

Augmented video, $350

Panoramic roof, $1,500

Speed limit assist, $300

Heated front seats, $500

AMG night pkg. (AMG body styling, AMG diamond black grille, high-gloss black elements on grille, window trim and exterior mirrors), $2,890

Credits: -$800

Test vehicle: $61,650

Sources: Mercedes-Benz, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Mercedes-Benz

2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate: Bright Theme

Plug-in hybrid XC90 long on luxury, power, efficiency …

Apparently it’s time for me to adjust my thinking on where luxury SUV prices begin and end, especially end.

Volvo, long the bastion of safe, solid wagons has made the transition to SUVs easily as it already knew how to make big family-haulers and so a taller version with AWD wasn’t a huge stretch.

Lucky for our eyeballs, it also got away from its box-on-wheels styling to create handsome SUVs with some distinction to their nose and tail. Yes, the logo is large up front, but the grille not as retina crushing as most and its T-shaped headlight add some zest, likewise its tall vertical taillights.

Now it adds hybrid power to its large luxury SUV lineup, the XC90, everything from a mild-hybrid 48-volt system that aids in smoothing out the now requisite stop-start function to a plug-in hybrid. The tested XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate (almost top tier) Bright themed 7-seater was just that, a PHEV. That’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for the non-initial literate.

The good news for any plug-in, excuse me, PHEV, is that the midsize SUV can run on electric power for the first 20-30 miles, or as a driver chooses. That means around town where the SUV is most likely to gulp high-octane petrol it can be both more fuel efficient and non-polluting.

A gorgeous dark metallic blue XC90 arrived in my drive with about 25 miles of electric range while 36 is the predicted maximum plug-in range when fully charged. Sadly, this one didn’t have an adapter that fit my garage’s ancient 110/120 volt outlet, so I couldn’t add to its range. Still, there was enough to learn that the power delivery is smooth and pretty seamless when it kicked over to the gas-powered unit.

In all XC90s that’s a turbocharged I4 linked to a silky 8-speed automatic. With electric power supplementing the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine), that makes 455 horses with a torque rating of 523. On its own the ICE makes 312 horses and in mid-level B6 models that’s 295 horses. Entry-level B5 models boast 247 horses, still not shabby.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate review by Mark Savage and Paul Daniel – YouTube

So power is generous and will kick the XC90 to highway speeds in a hurry. A quick trip to the northern Chicago burbs and back was comfy and smooth. The interior is quiet, the ride mostly well-controlled now and handling predictable and easy. Cruising at 75 on the freeway is where the XC90 excels.

An optional $1,800 air suspension also improved ride quality quite a bit.

Another plus, AWD is standard, so when the highway got a bit slippery the Volvo remained sure-footed, like a soccer player shod in his or her grippiest sneakers.

The test XC90 was the Bright themed version, a Dark version is also available. That means this one had chrome exterior trim, including the grille, roof rails and window trim. Guess what the Dark edition features? Yes, blackened chrome grille, etc.

Inside, Volvo has mastered the look of luxury and elegant simplicity with a strong Swedish accent.

In this model fine gray wool blend seats were substituted for the usual leather. Sheer a sheep, don’t skin a bovine.

This looked and felt divine on a cold day as it wasn’t as chill as leather. Yet the seats and steering wheel where heated, although controlled through the info screen. Second row seats also are heated, but not the third, which is (like most third rows) tight for anyone older than 13, mainly short of knee room.

Volvo’s seats are well padded and shaped too, with excellent side bolsters and naturally a bevy of power adjustments for the driver including three areas, lumbar, back and leg cushions. You do this with a button on the seat’s side, but see the changes registered on the infotainment screen. There are three memory settings for the driver’s seat too.

Oddly this high-end Volvo still does not have a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, but it did have a monster panoramic sunroof. Manual sun shades grace the side windows.

Other niceties include lights over the rear doors and on exterior door handles. There’s also a mighty 1,400-watt Bower & Wilkins stereo with 19 speakers that will blast loud enough to wake the dead or any hungover New Year’s revelers. It runs $3,200.

Three rows of seats allow for large family hauling, or toting lots of gear!

Volvo also includes an SOS system among its bevy of electronic safety devices. Prime is Volvo’s Pilot Assist program that helps make this a semi-autonomous driver and includes the likes of lane departure warning with a tug to center the Volvo in its lane, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert that detects pedestrians, automatic braking for said obstacles and collision avoidance.

Volvo continues with its 9-inch vertical info screen, but adds a new 12-inch wide digital instrument panel that’s easy to read. The info screen is certainly readable too, but one must press the home button and then slide the screen about to find other functions a driver may want. It’s hard to use while driving, but not that tough to figure out when parked, so adjust it before you head out on the road.

Panoramic sunroofs let a lot of light into the Volvo XC90.

Other stylish trim inside includes black wood accents on the doors and dash with satin chrome door releases and shiny chrome around the screen that’s trimmed in gloss black. The console-mounted shifter also features an Orrefors crystal shift knob, something more high-end makes seem to be employing. There’s a spiffy elegance to it all.

In back under the power hatch is modest cargo space when the third-row seats are in place, but fold those down and storage room increases to 65.8 cubic feet, or lower rows 2 and 3 and that hits 85.7 cu.ft. Note too that the XC90 will tow up to 5,000 pounds, so a fishing boat and trailer or a couple trailered snowmobiles will be no problem.

When coupled with the plug-in electric power the Volvo is estimated to get 58 MPGe in the city and 55 highway, but once that is used up you’re back to the mid-20 mpg range. I got 27 mpg in about 70% highway driving, and that’s not bad for a 7-person AWD SUV or van. That’s also the EPA estimate for the XC90.

Pricing cuts a wide swath, starting at $57,000 for the base Core model with its lesser content, lower power, no leather interior and a 4,000-pound tow rating. A Recharge PHEV model starts at $73,000 and the tested Ultimate lists at $80,495, including delivery. With the added fancy stereo and air suspension this one hit $85,495.

One imagines a full-electric XC90 must be in the works now that the mild hybrid system is in place on lower levels and the PHEV is the top trim. For now, this will satisfy a family’s hybrid luxury SUV needs, while looking great inside, and handsome outside.

FAST STATS: 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate: Bright theme

Hits: Good looks, excellent electric power, precise handling and full-time AWD. Big sunroof, heated wheel and front and second row seats, big touchscreen, quality stereo, a stylish luxury interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment.

Misses: Touchscreen (beyond main screen) is distracting to use while driving and no power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Made in: Gothenburg, Sweden

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4 w/plug-in electric motor, 455 hp/523 torque

Transmission: 8-speed Geartronic, automatic

Weight: 5,194 lbs.

Wheelbase: 117.5 in.

Length: 195.0 in.

Range: 36 miles per plug-in

Cargo: 15.8/65.5/85.7cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPGe: 58/55

MPG: 27 (gas only)

Base Price: $80,495 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $80,261

Major Options:

4-corner air suspension, $1,800

Bowers & Wilkins premium sound, $3,200

Test vehicle: $85,495

Sources: Volvo, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Volvo

2023 Lexus RX 350 Limited

Restyled RX 350 still fills luxury SUV prescription, but …

Luxury and utility are ubiquitous with the Lexus RX 350, otherwise known as the unofficial soccer mom car of suburbia.

This SUV that started out more as a tall wagon when introduced in the U.S. market in 1998 has been the best-selling luxury vehicle here for the past 10 years. Here’s why.

It is Toyota reliable, offers AWD for safety in sloppy weather, has a taller stance for better outward visibility, isn’t too tall to make access a problem, is quiet inside with a leathery interior, holds five comfortably, plus kid cargo under the power hatch, and has good power and ride. Oh, and for a luxury crossover it was reasonably priced.

One can now argue that last point, as the base front-drive RX 350 now tips the financial scales at $48,550 and the AWD model at $50,150. But those other points remain the same. Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, has not futzed with success much these past 25 years, other than the RX like an overwhelming majority of vehicles continues to grow larger. For 2023 the wheelbase stretches another 2.4 inches while for styling its tail overhang seems to have shrunk.

If anything, the styling might have stagnated a bit although the chrome roofline trim’s wave down toward the tail continues to add a bit of flair. The hood’s nose though now bulges more (Ram pickup inspiration?) as if its giant grille isn’t noticeable enough. Still, for practical purposes, the RX is just what the doctor ordered.

Handling is moderately easy and simple to control, the multi-link rear suspension provides a well-controlled ride and the new powerplant, a 2.4-liter I4 gives the crossover plenty of acceleration with 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. The only downside to this new engine, which replaces the old reliable V6 that had powered the RX for ages, is its growly nature. Accelerate hard and the RX’s air of luxury dissipates in a grumble that sounds more mid-priced than $50+k. The V6 sounded smoother.

Of course the point is to cut vehicle weight with a 4-cylinder vs. the V6 and with an 8-speed automatic to help gas mileage. To that point, the EPA rates the RX 350 at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Sadly in 30-degree weather I managed just 20.0 mpg in about 60% city driving.

But I did have the AWD available for when things got a little slick. Soccer moms and dads appreciate that too.

Watch Mark’s review: 2023 Lexus RX 350 review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Naturally Lexus loads the RX with all the relevant safety equipment one expects today, known here as Lexus Safety System+ 3.0. That includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intersection support (arrows flash on the screen to show vehicles approaching from either side), motorcycle detection, smart cruise control with curve speed management, and lane departure alert and steering assist.

That raised bulge in the nose and hood seems a bit much to me.

Other techy items include a digital key, intuitive parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking, a head-up display, advanced parking which is an automatic parallel parking system, and Traffic Jam Assist, sort of an autonomous driving mode to help a driver in slow stop-and-go situations where the car can creep along and stay in the lane by itself. Nice for commuters or folks who regularly drive on congested highways.

In theory it frees a little time for a parent to scold a child or work an app or two on a cell phone.

Inside, the driver and occupants will feel sufficiently coddled as the gorgeous dark metallic blue test SUV scored dark gray and brown leather and suede seats with black upper door and dash surfaces. There’s even some suede trim in the door panels. Trim is a satin chrome and the info screen and air vent trim is a gloss black, while the console top is flat black. Overall there’s a hushed tone to the interior.

The test SUV also included handsome Mark Levinson stereo speakers in the doors. That stereo happens to add $1,160 to the price tag, but then you do get 21 speakers and excellent sound quality.

Wisely too Lexus has abandoned that touchy and inconvenient touchpad on the console that was used for tuning the radio and other info screen functions. Now there’s a ginormous 14-inch touchscreen mid-dash to find nearly all driver-selected functions, plus the radio tuning. It works much better than that pad.

A big info screen has been added and the touchy console touchpad eliminated.

The screen seems overly large, yet for us oldsters, it may be just the ticket.

Seats are typical finely contoured Lexus models with power up front and heated/cooled front and rear seats too, plus a heated wheel, a must here among the frozen tundra. There’s also a wireless phone charger and oodles of USB plugs front and rear.

Rear seats get heating and cooling controls.

Those rear seats also will power down to boost cargo space, already a generous 29.6 cubic feet behind row two. The second row seats also can be powered to a slightly reclined angle. Head and legroom are spacious in row two, another reason this is a primo family hauler.

I like that the RX steering wheel is powered too, so it’s simple to tilt or telescope for driver comfort and there are three seat memory buttons on the dash’s left. The driver’s seat and steering wheel also power back and up for easier entry and access once the ignition is off.

A panoramic sunroof is standard and manual sun shades grace the rear side windows, all completing the inner bling for RX 350.

One glitch on this tested pre-production RX 350, an annoying false driver attention warning beep. This happened a LOT, often when I was turning the steering wheel and my arm would cross in front of the driver’s instrument pod, I suppose breaking the electronic beam that was watching my eyes. One hopes that will be less touchy on production models.

Rear seats are roomy and panoramic sunroofs let in oodles of light.

I also am not a fan of the heated and cooled seat controls being located on the digital touchscreen. I feel they belong on the console for easy access whereas the RX used that spot for the auto stop/start button, a hill descent feature, a parking brake, and another off-roading button. Those will rarely be used. In the screen’s defense, the heated/cooled seats and heated wheel controls have an automatic feature so one could set them and forget them, although I found that leading to an over-warm derriere and palm on occasion.

One other design concern as more vehicles move to push-button door releases, copying Tesla. That push button confuses a fair amount of passengers who are looking for a lever. Even after they push the button they’re not sure if the door is to open by itself (it does on the Genesis G90), or if they should push it, pull up on the button area or what. This style change is a solution in search of a problem.

Lots of room for kid gear under the power hatch!

All of which returns us to pricing. I mentioned the basics earlier, but the tested RX 350 Luxury AWD model starts at an even more robust $58,150, including delivery. Adding just the stereo brings it to $59,310 and there are certainly more options that could push it to $65k.

There are a variety of trims for the RX 350 including hybrid models for most, including the Luxury edition. All those hybrids get better gas mileage as regenerative braking and the hybrid system provides modest electric power for early acceleration. I’d opt for a hybrid even though their power is slightly less at 246 horses. Its mpg ratings are 37/34, so quite the bump over gas-only.

A top-line RX 450h F Sport also is available starting at $62,750 and touts 366 horses and a 406 torque rating. Ironically the more powerful 450h gets better fuel economy at 27/28 compared with the tested gas-only Luxury edition, again thanks to hybrid help.

No doubt the RX 350 is still a sound choice for a family luxury SUV that even Goldilocks would consider Just Right!

FAST STATS: 2023 Lexus RX 350 Limited

Hits: Quiet and attractive luxury interior, AWD, controlled ride, fine safety equipment. Huge touchscreen replaces awkward console touchpad, comfy seats are heated/cooled front and rear, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, power tilt/telescope wheel, wireless charger, power down rear seats, good cargo space.

Misses: Annoying false driver attention warning beeps, growly engine on heavy acceleration, heated seats/wheel controlled on screen, too many functions on screen, less used functions are buttons on console, push-button door release confuses riders. Modest MPG.

I like the chrome trim’s swoosh style to the hatch.

Made in: Cambridge, Ontario

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo I4, 275 hp/317 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,155+ lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 192.5 in.

Cargo: 29.6 – 46.2 cu.ft.

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/28

MPG: 20.0 (tested)

Base Price: $58,150 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $54,445

Major Options:

Mark Levinson PurePlay Surround Sound w/21 speakers, $1,160

Test vehicle: $59,310

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#lexus

2023 Genesis G90 3.5T E-Supercharger AWD

Trust me, Santa wants this new luxo-liner for his sleigh …

Stumped about what to get me (or anyone) as a gift for the holidays? Look no further than the new bauble-laden Genesis luxury sedan, the G90. Santa may want to trade in his sleigh!

G90 is simply a show stopper, maybe a traffic stopper too as several pedestrians inquired about its origins. Easy to understand the confusion as it doesn’t look at all like its two main competitors, the pricier BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S Class. They’re sharp, but the elegance of the G90’s lines, its horizontal twin headlight and taillight design that marks all Genesis luxury rides, exudes class. The Genesis logo looking much like that of Bentley and Aston Martin also can befuddle.

Yet there’s so much to gush about, even beyond looks.

A summary? G90’s ride is sublime, the power potent, the handling responsive, the braking superb. Inside, I simply don’t recall a finer interior, ever. That’s a pretty strong gush!

Start with power and you will not be disappointed.

The tested top-level G90 3.5T E-Supercharger AWD model packs a silky 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 with an electric supercharger. Output is 409 horses and 405 pound-feet of torque. The slightly lower tier 3.5T model without the supercharging creates 375 horses, still generous.

I could say the G90 blasts to 75 or so mph in a blink, but really it’s so smooth and quiet that you barely notice that triple digits are appearing on the giant digital instrument screen. An 8-speed automatic handles all that power and puts it to all four wheels as this is AWD, good for traction and steady grip.

Handling is quick, easy and smooth too, aided by rear-wheel steering to help the car corner efficiently and with little disturbance to driver or passengers. I’ve used the slot-car metaphor before, but it’s again apt.

Eco, Comfort, and Sport drive modes allow the power, handling, and suspension to adjust to the driver’s whims. Comfort is fine, while Sport firms wheel tension and pumps up the power driver’s seat’s side bolsters air bladders to accommodate the more spirited handling.

There’s air in the suspension system too. It cushions tushies and coddles passengers thanks to its multi-chamber configuration. Ah! Amazing how comforting this can be without wallowing. Such refined control!

Braking is smooth and steady and exceptional. Four-wheel discs of course, with 14.2-inchers up front and 13.6-inchers in back.

Watch Mark’s review: 2023 Genesis G90 3.5T E-Supercharger AWD

All this and we haven’t even gotten to the spectacular interior that is bathed in supple brown quilted Nappa leather stitched in a diamond pattern and as comfy as your grandfather’s recliner. Speaking of which, the powered rear seats both recline partially (enough for a snooze), and the rear passenger’s side seat has a small footrest that powers up for added comfort in dreamland. Headrests in back are basically fluffy suede pillows. I’d like one for my couch.

The roof’s headliner is a contrasting brown suede and the dash and door tops a dark brown (nearly black) soft leather-like material. Dash and door trim is a camo-like pattern that looks sort of like wood with a bit of inlay design. Trim around the trim is a thin chrome while all buttons, toggles and knobs are satin chrome. Classy!

Quiet? Yep, the cockpit is as quiet as Marcel Marceau arguing with himself. That is to say it’s perfect for listening to the incredible Bang & Olufsen 3D premium audio system, easily the best I’ve heard yet in a vehicle. Then again, there are 26 speakers.

Other premium touches. Start with two sunroofs overhead, one normal size and a smaller one in back, with its own power sunshade. The rear side door windows also host power sunshades and there’s another for the rear window, which either the driver or rear passengers can deploy.

Back seat folks have oodles of controls on a fold-down armrest that features its own digital control screen for heated and cooled rear seats, radio and climate controls. That’s right, both front and rear seats are heated and cooled and, get this, will deliver a stimulating massage, which is good for comfort and for keeping a driver awake on a long haul. A variety of massage speeds are offered via one button control on the front doors for the highfalutin front seaters.

Hyundai/Kia/Genesis designers are excellent at designing interiors and controls so they wisely put the 3-level seat heating/cooling on console buttons. Many makes now insist on embedding these essential functions in a multi-level info screen. Only the heated steering wheel is on the wide, but thin screen here, along with a button to spray a scented air freshener. The test car wasn’t loaded, but that’s ok, I know what the North Woods smells like.

Can this dreamy luxury liner get any better?

Well, there’s more, much more.

Staring with what Genesis calls its Mood Curator, settings that allow for various comfort modes (Vitality, Delight, Care, and Comfort). Engage these and the car presets music, scent, lighting, side sun shades and massaging features. There are nature sounds that can be emitted by the sound system too. I like the rainy forest as the crunch of the snowshoes in winter mode can be a bit much after a few minutes.

The G90 works on your emotional space too with its 3D surround system that can reenact the sound characteristics of famous theaters and other interesting environments. Hmm, would like this at home!

How about cutting the emotional stress of closing my own door?

Yes, the G90’s doors will open and close automatically. Press a button on the door (ala Tesla) and it unlatches and opens about a foot, then you must push the rather heavy door the rest of the way. But, press that button once you’re in the car, or another button on the console, and the door shuts itself. Genesis calls it the Easyclose system. Think of it as a power hatch/trunk for doors.

Outside door handles are flush when the car is locked, but like a Tesla, pop out for passengers to raise for entry. Posh!

Then there are the expected pluses from a luxury sedan, the wireless charger easily reached in the console where your phone inserts nearly vertically.

Safety equipment? You get the full load standard, no add-ons, so smart cruise, lane-keeping, blind-spot, collision avoidance, even something called Remote Smart Parking to squeeze the lengthy luxury liner into a tight spot.

The only misses here are the price and mpg, and neither are surprising.

In fact, the base 3.5T model’s $89,495 sticker with delivery only seems high if you haven’t priced the main competition, BMW’s 7 Series or Mercedes’ S Class. The Genesis G90 starts $5,000 less than the BMW and $13,000 less than the Benz. Where I come from that’s real money.

Of course, this AWD version with the e-supercharger pushes that envelope higher to $99,795 and the test car was $101,295 after adding just its snazzy semi-gloss Verbier (a town in Switzerland) White paint. It’s sort of glossy and sort of matte, but with a pearl base that could make Martha Stewart blush.

Even the wheels are fabulously styled!

Either of the German makes will hit $115,000 to $120k for their high-horse and AWD versions. Save your cash for a Danube cruise.

Time and experience tell me a luxury vehicle buyer rarely considers mpg ratings, and this one is a middler at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, still beating non-hybrid SUVs. I managed 20.5 mpg in about 60% city and 40% highway driving. Preferred fuel is premium, natch!

A few other points to consider. You can download a Digital Key app to your smartphone to allow you to go keyless, avoiding fob-in-pocket syndrome. There’s also a fingerprint authentication system on the console. That allows you to quickly be identified as the driver and recall your driver profile settings, such as seats, mirrors and radio presets. The memory button on the door also allows this.

Everything is artfully and beautifully packed into the G90, and standard, except the kitchen sink. But give Genesis a year, they may offer that as an option!

Think this looks a bit like a Bentley or Aston Martin logo? It does!

FAST STATS: 2023 Genesis G90 3.5T E-Supercharger AWD

Hits: Elegant looks, excellent power, responsive handling, stellar ride, multi-drive modes, AWD and rear-wheel steering. Stylish, quiet leather interior, with heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, two sunroofs, wireless charger, full load of safety equipment, massaging front and rear seats, reclining rear seats, rear pillow headrests, 26 speaker-B&O system, push-button power doors, big digital instrument panel and info screens, side and rear window shades.

Misses: Price and mpg.

Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo, e-supercharged, V6, 409 hp/ 405 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,861 lbs.

Wheelbase: 125.2 in.

Length: 207.7 in.

Cargo: 10.6 cu.ft.

MPG: 17/24

MPG: 20.5 (tested)

Base Price: $99,795 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $94,861

Major Options: Verbier white paint, $1,500

Test vehicle: $101,295

Sources: Genesis, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Genesis

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD

Crossover version another solid, reliable Corolla …

Many automotive brands have their own version of the golden goose, the go-to model moniker that virtually assures success due to long-term image and reputation.

Ford has Mustang and F-150, while Toyota has Camry and Corolla. For nearly 50 years now in the U.S. market, Corolla has been synonymous with quality, reliability and value. Flashy? No, but a family sedan that’ll last close to forever.

Not surprisingly, Toyota now slaps the Corolla name on its new small crossover, just a smidge up from its much cuter and zippier C-HR. Not just a naming thing though as the new Corolla Cross rides on the same platform as Toyota’s Corolla sedan and wisely opts for its optional, horsier engine for power.

Don’t get too excited though, the 2.0-liter I4 delivers just 169 horsepower with a torque rating of 150, yet linked to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) the Corolla Cross displays adequate power, however with a steady groan during acceleration. Ignore that, as many of us would, because the rest of the small crossover is pure family comfort and value.

Handling is light and easy, ride is compliant and actually better than many larger crossovers and SUVs. A family of four will fit here and not be jostled severely on crumbling Midwest roads. Nope, Corolla Cross is a steady and above average performer like its sedan namesake.

Plus, and if you’re a crossover or SUV fan this is perfect, the tested XLE model had AWD to provide good traction in winter slop, of which we had a bit when I first got the car. No need to engage it, this is AWD, not 4WD like a Jeep or many SUVs. The AWD model also incorporates a multi-link rear suspension in place of the former torsion beam.

All this, plus more, at a base price of $28,840, including delivery, for this top-level trim. Go front-wheel drive and base level L model and the price drops to $23,410. Add AWD and the L lists at $24,960 for a 2022 model. Prices are rising a bit for 2023 and there’s a wait still on the Corolla Cross, depending on what you order.

A mid-level LE model with AWD runs $27,310 and may be the best value.

Watch Mark’s video: 22 Toyota Corolla Cross review by Mark Savage – YouTube

The test car added quite a bit of extras to hit $33,550, but that’s still a value considering the average cost for a new car or crossover now is about $45,000. The big ticket here was the audio system upgrade at $1,465, adding a JBL sound system with 9 speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa capability. The power sunroof and power hatch also added $1,250 to the sticker.

All the rest of the options were minor, including $299 for roof rack rails, which one might want if taking this on camping outings with a family and need a spot for a tent and other outdoor gear.

Standard though on the XLE is the larger 8-inch info screen as a 7-incher is standard on the L model. The screen includes both a volume and radio tuning knob too, much easier than toggles and on-touchscreen buttons that often don’t function if the user is wearing gloves. Just sayin,’ winter in Wisconsin!

XLE also includes two major safety upgrades, the blind-spot monitoring system and cross-traffic alert viewed through the rear-view camera screen. But Toyota is one of the leaders in packing safety equipment onboard as standard via its Safety Sense 2.0 system, even on the L model. The safety system includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and assist, smart cruise control, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam headlights.

XLE also includes a wireless phone charger at the bottom of the center stack, but be sure to press the button there to turn it on or you’ll get no charge. Two USB ports are standard too, as are softer dash and door coverings.

That said, the plastic door and dash feel pretty good, but are indeed a textured hard plastic. Yet that’s what I expect at this price.

While the Corolla Cross exterior styling is pretty middle of the road, the interior looks sharp without being gimmicky. The seats are a two-tone tan and brown Softex (leatherette) and the dash and door tops are black. Trim around the screen and console is gloss black and trim around those and the dash is a satin silver. Handsome, yet simple.

Seats are well shaped to provide hip and lower back support and the XLE includes a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, an option on lower trims. The front seats also are heated. Bingo!

Headroom is more generous in the Cross than in the sedan as is rear legroom, so for growing families of four this provides some extra comfort. All the dash controls are easy to see, use, and reach and as with Subarus, the sightlines to the sides are improved by adding a vent window with a view between the A pillar and side mirrors.

Cargo space is generous in back, more than 25 cubic feet, and overhead are solid visors with extenders, something many higher priced vehicles no longer offer.

I drove the Corolla Cross during a chilly early winter week with off-and-on snow, but still was a bit disappointed in its gas mileage. Rated at 29 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, I got just 25.9 mpg in about an even mix of the two. I was expecting more like what the trip computer indicated at about 28.5 mpg.

For the record I had managed 33.7 mpg in a Corolla hatchback a few years ago and it featured the same engine and weighed just about 100 pounds less. Driving a hybrid Corolla sedan last year netted 65.6 mpg, which is tremendous. Know too that Toyota has introduced a hybrid version of the Corolla Cross for 2023, which may be the best value going!

As for competition, well, this is a super crowded market with the likes of Subaru’s Crosstrek, Kia’s Seltos, Hyundai’s Venue and Kona, VW’s Taos, Nissan’s Kicks and Rogue Sport, Mazda’s CX-3 and Honda’s HR-V as major competitors. Drive them all and decide, but ask about availability before you even head to the dealership!

FAST STATS: 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE AWD

Hits: Easy handling, decent ride, AWD, good interior room and cargo space, plus power hatch. Value pricing, solid safety equipment, heated front seats, sunroof, wireless charger, 8-inch screen w/volume & tuning knobs, visors w/extenders. A hybrid now available.

Misses: Growly engine and down on power, anticipated better mpg, tinny sounding stereo.

Made in: Huntsville, Ala.

Engine: 2.0-liter I4, 169 horsepower/150 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,170 lbs.

Length: 175.6 in.

Wheelbase: 103.9 in.

Cargo: 25.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 29/32

MPG: 25.9 (tested)

Base Price: $28,840 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $27,278

Major Option: Power sunroof, $1,250

Audio Plus (8-in. touchscreen, 9 JBL speakers, Sirius XM 3-mon., security alarm, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay/Amazon Alexa compatible), $1,465

Auto-leveling front lights, $615

Carpet floor mats/cargo mat, $249

Frameless HomeLink mirror, $175

Door sill protectors, $179

Roof rack crossbars, $299

Rear bumper protector, $79

Activity mount, $399

Test vehicle: $33,550

Sources: Toyota kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Toyota

#Corolla

2005 Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster

Eyeballing a rare molto bello Italian supercar …

Why should Paul have all the fun? Hey, I spot cars too, like this 2005 Lambo Murcielago Roadster I spied at the Chicago Mecum Auction in October.

This Italian hot rod was parked out back of the exhibition and auction hall where various employees could keep an eye on it in case car nuts like me were wandering about wanting to crawl inside. It was locked, naturally.

It’s so rare to see a Lambo in the Midwest, unless you’re in Chicago where the big money lives. But what makes this so special is the convertible top. The Murcielago had been out several years when it was redesigned to go topless.

Here’s how Motortrend magazine described it back in the day. The Lamborghini has “a body that magnetizes eyeballs like Heidi Klum in a Saran Wrap leotard.”

The sticker on this baby, when new, was $320,000 and for that you got a throbbing 6.2-liter V12, AWD supercar with scissor doors. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to flip these up for a photo, something about “Don’t Touch.”

Power is 575 horses, which may not seem so crazy powerful now that electric cars are touting that, and more, with twin electric motors in some makes. But the Lambo would scoot, doing 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and top speed was 205 mph.

Yet Lambo advised against driving more than 100 mph with the convertible top in place, as it might lift off and fly into Never Never Land! This thing is all metal tubes and cloth and the fit never was great, one supposes Lambo designers thinking most drivers would be removing the top before racing about.

A few other interesting points with the Murcielago? Well, the engine hatch is hinged at the rear to expose the V12, a design first used on the iconic Lamborghini Miura in even earlier days. The front brakes have 8-piston calipers as you’ll likely need to stop this in a hurry, and this windshield angle is incredibly low, driving home the car’s devilish wedge shape.

Just 4,099 Murcielagos were built, the last in late 2010. Just 899 were convertibles, er, excuse me, roadsters.

If only I hadn’t left the checkbook at home!

#Lamborghini

2022 Subaru WRX Premium

WRX better in a rally than on a road, but it rocks …

After we had been driving for two blocks my wife, a devout Subaru owner, asked rather emphatically, “WHO would ever buy this car?”

The car in question was a flashy metallic Solar Orange Subaru WRX Premium, the rally racer style compact sedan with a ride so rough that nine out of 10 dentists recommend it to patients with loose fillings.

It doesn’t help that we live in a 1950s subdivision with asphalt streets featuring cracks and crevices widened and sunk by 60+ years of Wisconsin winters. Even still, on better roads it only takes a manhole cover’s slight indentation or the dreaded expansion joints on cement streets to jolt the family jewels or crack that dozen eggs freshly purchased at the farmer’s market.

All this in spite of, or possibly because, Subaru engineers firmed up the chassis and suspension on this fifth-generation WRX to improve cornering and (supposedly) ride. To that end they mounted the rear anti-roll bar directly to the chassis, upgraded shock dampers and stiffened the torsional rigidity of the chassis by 28%.

That’s all excellent news for rally racers who take their WRX to rutted dirt-road racing contests every weekend, but for city driving, not so much.

There’s at least one other practical point that may not make this a top choice for the average family’s next sedan. That’s noise.

Again, for the boy or girl racer who thrives on the throb and rumble of a boosted boxer 4-cylinder, the Subie’s new 2.4-liter twin-scroll turbo engine is a positive. It creates 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque that feels like a rocket booster is strapped to this compact sedan based on Subaru’s Impreza platform.

For the rest of us the guttural growl, especially while the car is stationary or at modest city speeds, is deafening when the windows are lowered, and radio sound swamping with windows up. Once cruising at highway speeds the blat calms enough to allow radio listening, but still it’s best to crank that baby up.

That said, I told my wife that the WRX is aimed at young folks (mostly) who desire speed, speed and speed, yet at an affordable price.

In that case, the Premium model is a winner, starting at just $32,600, including delivery. For that you get a handsome neck-stretching sedan that easily carries four adults, has a decent-sized trunk for suitcases, boogie boards (fold down the split back seats), and AWD for any off-roading you feel appropriate.

Ride we know is an issue, but handling is fantastic with dual-pinion electric power steering that provides great road feel and more vital, a quicker response. That’s what you need for racing, or just driving fun, preferably on a smooth road.

This version also features a 6-speed manual transmission that adds to its friskiness. Throws are fairly long though, so think about paying $427 extra for an STi short-throw shifter. If you’re lazy, or getting older like me, you may want to opt for the 8-speed automatic that adds about $2,500 to the Premium model’s bottom line, but varies by trim level.

Speaking of which, there are four WRX trims, the base WRX that starts at $30,100 or $31,950 with the automatic, the tested Premium for $32,600 or $34,650 automatic, the Limited at $36,990 or $39,240 automatic, and the new GT, which is AWD and packs a drive mode selector, the automatic tranny, and Recaro seats. It lists at $42,890.

Recaro seats are snug to hold driver and passenger tight.

Recaro seats are wonderful for racing and look great too, so maybe going GT is worth it. But the seats in the Premium model are pretty stout already.

The interior here was black cloth with red stitching for a sporty look. But the seats were so well formed with sterling hip and back support that I wish we had the same in our family’s Outback. These are manually adjusted, but don’t look down your nose at that. Naturally it saves weight by foregoing electrics, but a pump handle easily dials in the optimal seat height and the rest is just fore and aft and seat back angle adjusted via levers. Simple!

Front seats also are heated and the interior is roomy enough for four adults, while the trunk will hold their bags.

The info screen is mammoth!

Subaru goes with a matte black dash while the trim across the dash, around the screen and shift knob, is a satin chrome. Both restrict glare and reflection. Fake carbon fiber trim on the doors looks realistic and I wouldn’t mind seeing that spread across the dash to sexy this up a bit.

Mid-dash from virtually top to bottom is Subaru’s 11.6-inch Starlink tablet-like info touchscreen. It certainly looks impressive, but I have two concerns. First, it’s tough to adjust the radio while driving and second that large screen can reflect big time when the sun gets at it. Sad that Subaru has done so well on all the other dash and interior trim to limit glare, and then there’s this.

Another view of the screen and shifter!

Otherwise I like the interior, with its aluminum alloy clad pedals, plus a racy D-shaped steering wheel. That allows for more knee room when entering and exiting, plus looks sporty. Some pricier makes that tout performance still don’t use this racier-styled wheel. Weird!

A slew of safety devices are available, but most only come standard with the automatic transmission-equipped models. That includes smart cruise, forward collision warning and emergency braking, lane centering and such. Blind-spot is standard starting on Limited models.

So beyond the AWD and great handling the main safety feature is excellent sight lines and visibility. Like all Subarus, there is an open sightline between the A-pillar and side mirrors. The majority of car makes don’t offer this design feature, creating a large blind spot.

Angular styling for the lights add character!

A couple other items notable by their absence, a wireless phone charger (in a car aimed at young people) and no sunroof. Ditto! The leather wrapping on the steering wheel, if it is leather, seems too slick to me. For a performance car I’d expect a wheel with more grip.

Finally, a few notes about the exterior, beyond the eye-catching metallic orange paint job.

First, there are black plastic front and rear diffusers and wheel well trim. The plastic has a bit of a pattern to its surface, so not just glossy or matte black plastic. There also is black cladding along the rocker panels that could be considered ground effects and on the trunk lid a subtle body-colored spoiler.

Many previous WRX models have gone with garishly tall wings on the trunk lid. This tiny lip-like spoiler looks much more presentable to adults. However, there is an optional $540 spoiler that is larger if your ego requires that.

That’s one wide air scoop in the WRX’s hood.

But there IS already a 25-inch wide air scoop on the hood that screams 1970s muscle car. For most of us, that would probably suffice.

All this leads us to the mundane mention of fuel economy. Performance always has its price, but it’s not too steep here. The EPA rates the WRX at 19 mpg city and 26 highway. I got 24.2 mpg in about an even mix. Be forewarned that this Subie prefers premium fuel though.

With just a couple minor options the test car hit $32,894. That’s not much in today’s market for anything with AWD, a hood scoop and thunderous thrust.

Party on!

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru WRX Premium

Hits: Powerful punch in a compact rally car, excellent handling and traction with standard AWD. Super comfy supportive seats, heated seats, low-profile spoiler, D-shaped steering wheel, hood scoop, big info screen, fake carbon fiber trim.

Misses: Rough, Rough ride, noisy interior, no wireless charging, no sunroof, long-throw shifter, limited standard safety equipment, steering wheel too slick, and big touchscreen both reflects and is not easy to adjust the radio while driving. Prefers premium fuel.

Made in: Japan

Four exhausts create a little ruckus upon acceleration!

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder boxer, 271 hp /258 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,320 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.2 in.

Length: 183.8 in.

Cargo: 12.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 19/26

MPG: 24.2 (tested)

Base Price: $32,600 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $30,712

Major Options:

Floor liners, $132

Side rail plates, $162

Test vehicle: $32,894

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Tesla Model S Long Range

All the hype is real from a performance standpoint, but …

Finally, I have driven the future, a Tesla.

No, this wasn’t my usual one-week test drive of a manufacturer’s new vehicle. Tesla didn’t provide me the bright Pearl White Model S Long Range, a private owner did.

Tesla, you see, is the Apple of automakers where its own early-adopter cultish clan that by scarcity, word of mouth, and superiority of intellect choose its future customers. Ferrari understands.

But marketing aside, the trendy Tesla was at my disposal for a couple days in stinking hot Las Vegas, where I estimate a good 10% of cars are now Teslas. Makes sense as Teslas are made just over the border in Freemont, California. Plus gas prices have forever been crazy high on the West Coast, and pollution is a big concern there too. So going electric holds much appeal.

It really should, from a performance standpoint at least, to many of us.

If muscle cars or exotics with neck-stretching acceleration are your obsession, well, electrics should be your new best friend. All are fast because electrics deliver instant torque via direct drive electric motors and single-speed fixed gear transmissions. No lag, no waiting for a turbo to kick in. Like your electric razor or hair dryer, the electrons flow instantly. Boom, there it is!

I have driven other electrics, so that part wasn’t new. It was the whole Tesla experience that was different. And, let’s get this out of the way now. Whether you like Elon Musk or not, Tesla is the top-selling electric car maker.

So how’s a Tesla drive? What are its advantages? And …what are the Model S’s drawbacks?

Let’s take a look, and be forewarned this is not exactly like most of my test drives as it was such a short duration.

First, the S is a sport luxury sedan in all the ways you picture one in your mind’s eye.

It’s sleek, including door handles that fold into the body panels’ sides and pop out when it’s time to open a door. Oh, and it’s really a hatchback as the back window and trunk open as one. That surprised me, but I love it.

Power and handling are pure sports sedan. How so?

Well, the dual AC electric motors, one powering the front wheels, one the rear, create (and I’m not making this up) 825 horsepower along with 960 pound-feet of torque. Is that a lot? You bet. Consider that a new rear-engine Chevy Corvette makes 495 horsepower with 470 pound-feet of torque and will do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 184 mph, says Car and Driver. That’s a two-seat sports car, but still.

No engine here! There’s a frunk in front, great for storing charging cables, etc.

The Tesla Model S gets all that power from a 100 kWh lithium ion battery pack, which due to its substantial weight also gives the Tesla a low center of gravity that makes it handle like, well, a sports luxury sedan. The car feels well planted, handles turns with a precision you’d expect and its AWD means that even if you were running it in soggy weather or on slipper streets it’ll perform with gusto and confidence.

Ride, due to that weight (the car weighs more than 4,500 pounds) and a long wheelbase is excellent too. Smooth and silky it’s what I’d call a Buick or Lexus ride, but with a more performance-oriented stiffness to make the car feel connected to the road. I must say though that Las Vegas roads are generally so smooth that it’s not like testing a car in the frost-heave capital, Wisconsin.

Safety is copiously covered. All the usual blind-spot, lane-keeping and parking sensors are here, and ready to beep.

Yours truly at the wheel, er, yoke! I miss that steering wheel top!

Luxury? Well, this Model S starts at roughly $96,000 and most are selling for more like $105,000 and there’s a waiting list that can stretch many months.

So you’d expect luxury, and Tesla delivers. The body on the test car was spotless and seams were straight and equal. So reports of poor build quality didn’t show here.

Inside, the black leather seating was excellent too and the seats well-formed. They also were heated up front, but cooled would make sense for 110-degree Vegas. My advice, don’t wear shorts if you’re driving one in Vegas, Phoenix, the Southwest, etc.

A lot of leather here, plus a giant screen and a yoke for steering.

Of course what everyone talks about in Tesla’s interior is its aircraft-style yoke that replaces the age-old steering wheel, oh, and a gargantuan info screen. It’s overwhelming.

First that yoke. It takes some getting used to, but is easy to master especially for highway driving. Where I noticed it feeling particularly odd was during parking maneuvers or turning a tight corner where one would naturally grab the top of a steering wheel to turn it sharply. Not possible here, so spin that power steering yoke with your hand on one side of the yoke, or a finger under one of the spokes. That maneuver reminds of early 1960s cars with over-boosted power steering that could be spun with a finger.

A close-up of the yoke and digital driver’s screen.

Ironically the steering wheel was heated, totally unneeded in much of the South and Southwest.

Touchscreen? OK, it’s way too much and of course controls virtually every function known to mankind short of rocket launching, but since this is Tesla, that’s likely to come.

The navigation system makes you feel like you’re looking at an entire city map, so a driver will always want to pinch it to visually zoom in on where they were driving.

Can a touchscreen be too big? Yes it can!

Also, you can open garage doors, call up radio stations ad nauseam, use voice command to find apps, ask it for directions, order lunch, etc. Naturally there’s a screen for setting up or observing battery charging (done through the driver’s side taillight). Ironically there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay here though.

And get this, you engage the single-speed fixed gear automatic transmission via the screen too. Slide your finger UP along its left edge and the car moves forward. Slide your finger down the screen’s left edge and the car moves backward. Weird, but I suppose one would get used to it. One also supposes this will soon be the norm for electrics.

The soft leather rear seats are roomy and comfortable, with a console for controls.

Of course there’s a 360-degree camera that looks amazing on the screen and the Tesla stereo is a high-quality number that makes you feel you’re in a concert hall. Heck, it’s so quiet in here that it feels like symphony hall.

Overhead is a giant tinted panoramic sunroof, which looks super, but really needs a sun shade. Why? Well, even though tinted and supposedly deflecting the sun’s rays, the roof gets incredibly hot … at least in Vegas. How hot? You do NOT want to touch it. It’s painful to touch.

Other interior bugaboos include an extremely wide console that feels somewhat intrusive and sounds hollow if you tap it, plus shoulder belts that cannot be adjusted for driver height. That seemed particularly odd as nearly all cars, crossovers and SUVs now allow the shoulder harness to be moved up or down a few inches. This one was too high for me, so crossed the left edge of my neck. Not comfy.

It’s possible you didn’t know the Model S was a hatchback, but it is.

In back the hatch’s cargo area is generous and easily accessed. It’s rated at 25 cubic feet and don’t forget there’s a 3.1 cu.ft. frunk (front trunk). Might wanna keep your charging cable there though.

Speaking of electricity, a Tesla supercharger will give the vehicle a 200-miles boost in 15 minutes of charging. But most folks will overnight charge at home and that can take most of the night. For efficiency you’ll want a 240-volt garage charger. That ran $500 in Vegas and installation was another $600 or so, varying by electrician.

But a nearly full charge (Tesla recommends 90% to preserve battery life) will get a Model S roughly 400 miles of range, plenty for a week’s commute to most downtowns and one of Tesla’s key selling points as it leads the industry in charge range.

Fancy wheels, big brake rotors too, and low-pro tires.

Extras are rare. A full self-driving feature (and we’ve all heard the sad tales) costs $10,000 extra, while stylish Arachnid wheels add $4,500. They look cool, but cut your driving range by 9%, according to reports.

Folks needing more power can move up to the Model S Plaid for $131,900. It has three electric motors making a mere 1,006 hp. That may be a bit of overkill even for folks with self-confidence issues. Probably not!

FAST STATS: 2022 Tesla Model S Long Range

Hits: Sleek looks, excellent electric power, precise handling, smooth ride, plus full-time AWD. Big sunroof, 360-degree camera, heated wheel and front seats, big touchscreen, quality stereo, a stylish quiet and comfy interior, plus a full bevy of safety equipment. Roomy cargo area inside rear hatch.

Misses: Touchscreen overwhelmingly large, no shade on sunroof that becomes extremely hot to the touch, extremely wide console, shoulder belts height is not adjustable, no cooled seats, odd steering yoke and odd touch and slide transmission engagement on screen.

Made in: Fremont, Calif.

Engine: Dual AC electric motors w/100 kWh lithium ion battery, 825 hp/960 torque

Transmission: Single-speed fixed gear automatic

Weight: 4,561 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116.5 in.

Length: 196.0 in.

Cargo: 25.0/3.1 cu.ft. (trunk/frunk)

MPGe: 124/115

Base Price: $96,190 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Option: Garage charger, $500

Test vehicle: $96,690

Sources: Tesla, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Tesla

#Model S

#electric cars

#EV

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC

Nissan partnership helps upgrade Outlander, fuel sales …

Pardon Mitsubishi if it feels like strutting a bit, chest out, chin up, wide grin.

You see, the Japanese automaker is on a roll, recording its eighth straight year of upwardly mobile sales in the giant U.S. market and its fourth in a row of 100,000+ sales. That’s still tiny by comparison with, well, just about any other make. But it’s still party time for a company with just four vehicles in its U.S. lineup.

Mitsubishi sells well around the world, but it has struggled over the past 20 years in the U.S. market until this recent uptick. Its products all have improved substantially in that period as the parent company has hooked up with Nissan to share platforms and hardware.

That brings us to the extremely attractive, new, and slightly larger 2022 Outlander SEL that will soon be Mitsubishi’s No. 1 seller. It rides on the Nissan Rogue chassis and features its powertrain. Rogue, by the way, is Nissan’s sales leader.

Using the Rogue as a platform for success while going ooh-la-la on the nose styling featuring giant three-tier headlights below slim modern slit headlights is bound to push Outlander far forward in the sales sector. Folks notice this one and the nose is a primary reason although the profile is smoothed and modern and the tail as handsome as SUV tails ever are.

Looks certainly can’t hurt, ask a Kardashian. But solid mechanicals and useful family transport are what will fuel word-of-mouth consumer cred. The Outlander has all that.

Its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine supplies ample power to the 3,681-pound SUV. Acceleration is smooth and satisfying for entering a highway, the automatic CVT doing a nice job of imitating a direct-shift model with 8 pre-programmed steps to mimic the feel of what we all think of as normal transmission shifts.

While not overly stout, the Mitsubishi will still tow 2,000 pounds of trailer and without the weight of a V6 the Outlander delivers excellent fuel economy. The EPA rates this at 24 mpg city and 30 highway and I can confirm the upper end as I cruised the highway about 80% of the time and logged 30.2 mpg.

This one will go off road some too, if needed. There’s 8.4 inches of ground clearance and 6 drive modes (Normal, Tarmac, Snow, Mud, Gravel and Eco), so slopping around a bit is acceptable. That Tarmac setting appears to be a Sport mod that stiffens the steering effort and aids low-end acceleration. Fine if you need it, but mostly you won’t.

Handling is easy and just responsive enough to feel well suited to either city or highway driving. The SUV is easy to keep in its lane on the highway, even on a blustery summer day. And while there is a wee bit of lean in turns the body remains well centered and the SUV simple to control.

Ride is quite pleasant on the highway but can be a bit stiff on bumpy city side streets. Never a severe ride, there is a bit of jiggle on big pot holes and pavement creases.

Yet the interior is so comfy and quiet that the family won’t squawk much.

The test SUV was a bright Alloy Silver Metallic with a light gray semi-aniline leather interior that looks fancier than the pricing indicates. The seats and door panels are quilted with a soft diamond patterned leather. That and the double-pane side front window glass help cut road noise and create a hushed quality to the interior.

The dash and door tops are black and there are brushed chrome look door releases, trim and air vent covers. A carbon fiber-look trim tops the door arm rests, along with more leather and there’s a tweed textured chrome trim and gloss black atop the console, which is a little wider than most so you may find yourself leaning your accelerator leg against it regularly.

Seats are well shaped and soft so quite comfy too, especially on a highway drive. The front seats also are heated.

Front and second row space is generous, plus there’s a third row seat for short hops with small ones snuggled in back. That third row neatly folds down into the cargo floor to create generous storage space and while row three may help for around town trips, it’s not really for a lengthy road romp. Loading cargo is easy as the SEL comes with a power hatch and there are remote seatback releases in back too.

Other interior details to consider?

  • The driver’s seat is powered and there are two seat position memory buttons on the driver’s door.
  • The shift knob on the console is quite wide and includes a push button for Park. And there’s a wireless phone charger in front of that, under the center stack.
  • This top-end SEL upgrades the standard 8-inch infotainment screen to a 9-incher. That seems just the right size and this one was easy to operate while driving.
  • Climate controls are handled with two large knobs and then buttons for fan speed and directional adjustments.
Quilted leather inserts soften the door panels.

About the only thing lacking here is a sunroof. Many utes and crossovers now offer panoramic ones standard on top-level trims. One is an option here as part of the $2,700 Touring package. That adds a head-up display, manual rear side sun shades, a Bose premium audio system with 10 speakers and heated steering wheel. Up to you Rockefeller.

Mitsubishi smartly includes its Mi-Pilot safety package as standard on all Outlanders. That packs a smart cruise control system, lane keep assist and lane centering, road sign recognition and a Stop & Go system to aid fuel economy.

The SEL also adds automatic high beam headlights, blind-spot warning and lane change assist, front parking sensors, driver attention alert, and rear cross-traffic alert and emergency braking.

More good news comes from the marketing department, in that Mitsubishi keeps Outlander affordable and a high-value family friendly small SUV. The base ES starts at $27,290 including delivery while this high-end SEL with AWD lists at $34,940. That’s still way below the average new vehicle starting price these days.

The test unit added just a Welcome package that includes carpeted floor mats, a touch-up paint pen, and a console tray mat) for $160, and a retractable cargo cover for $195 to end up at $35,295. That’s a bargain, especially considering Mitsubishi’s 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

For the record there are currently 7 trims for Outlander and all are standard with front-wheel-drive. Adding AWD is a $2,000 option. A plug-in hybrid is available too, but is a carryover of the former Outlander model, at least for now.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC

Hits: Sharp looks, especially the nose, plus AWD, good power and easy handling. Pleasant highway cruiser with good MPG and a third row seat. Roomy interior, big info screen, 6 drive modes for off-roading, dual climate controls, heated front seats, supportive seats with quilted leather, wireless phone charger, power rear hatch plus good standard safety devices.

Misses: No sunroof, ride can seem stiff on bumpy side streets and console is wide.

Snazzy wheels here!

Made in: Okazaki, Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, 181 hp/181 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic w/Sport

Weight: 3,681 lbs.

Wheelbase: 106.5 in.

Length: 185.4 in.

Cargo: 33.5-63.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 24/30

MPG: 30.2 (tested)

Base Price: $34,940 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $34,502

Major Options:

Welcome package (carpeted floor mats, touch-up paint pen, console tray mat), $160

            Cargo cover, $195

Test vehicle: $35,295

Sources: Mitsubishi, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Larger platform, refined styling make HR-V a better family car choice …

Surprises can be pleasing or concerning, something to celebrate or something to require pulling the bedspread up over your noggin.

Honda’s new 2023 HR-V, its small SUV/crossover, is full of the former, yet seeing a starting price of $24,895 I had concerns. I anticipated a homely yet efficient box on wheels, as per the first gen model that debuted as a 2016 model, a real party animal if you’re a family of accountants.

But nooooo, the restyled, redesigned HR-V now rides on Honda’s larger Civic platform, not the former’s Fit chassis. It’s longer, lower and wider, all good things for performance, while remaining svelte at just over 3,200 pounds.

The styling leans toward sleek with a roofline that elegantly sweeps down in back and a new nose and tail that look as modern as any competitor. Additional sound deadening, an active noise cancellation system, and acoustic glass make it quieter inside too.

But the big deal is a multi-link rear suspension to replace the former torsion beam, improving ride quality to the point of HR-V not feeling so small. It corners with confidence and the steering is lively too.

Power also increases from 141 horses to 158 from the new 2.0-liter I4. No turbo here, but that would make it a blast. Still, at this weight and with this crossover’s handling ability the HR-V seems perky and peppy and downright fun to drive, much like Mazda’s CX-30, almost.

The automatic continuously variable transmission is super smooth too, giving the HR-V solid off-the-line performance, almost like a regular variable gear tranny.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Honda HR V AWD EX L review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Honda equips the crossover with three drive mode toggles too, Normal, Eco and Snow, the latter being something us northern states folks appreciate. No Sport mode here to pump up the power, but I didn’t miss it, much. Yet Honda does include as standard a hill descent button on the console in case you get off road and need to slowly creep down an incline while retaining good traction.

Make no mistake, this new HR-V has no business going off-roading, but the tested EX-L model included AWD that will help traction in winter slop. AWD costs $1,500 on all three trims.

Honda is also generous with safety equipment with the base LX model featuring forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control and automatic high beams. The tested EX-L adds low-speed braking control, parking sensors, driver attention monitor, and blind-spot warning too.

Slip inside the HR-V (still a less than inspired name) and the interior looks and feels roomy, but also more upscale than one might expect in this price range.

The Nordic Forest Metallic (a snazzy blue-gray that costs $395 extra) sported a black leather interior and black to gunmetal honeycomb dash trim that reflects that of the nose’s grille. This is real metal, if that matters to you, and adds a bit of youthfulness to a car aimed at – you guessed it – young buyers.

Incredibly the door panels, arm rests and any area where an elbow may touch are well padded to create a luxury feel. Remember the cheap hard plastic of previous value models? Not in this Honda.

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and the EX-L model upgrades the info screen from the standard 7-incher to a 9-inch touchscreen that’s simple to use and see. There also are dual climate control dials below the screen and a wireless phone charger tucked under the center stack.

Honda includes a power driver’s seat here and both front seats are heated and well contoured. Honda redesigned its seats for the HR-V to create more support and that’s obvious for the lower back and hips. Front and rear seats also are roomy so four adults could easily take a trip in this crossover.

Lots of cargo room behind the split folding rear seats too. Gone are the former folding “magic seats”, but these seats fold flat and create a cavernous cargo hold if the rear seats are lowered. One thing you don’t get is a power rear hatch, but then this is a high value model and really, it’s not difficult to close a small crossover’s rear hatch.

I like the traditional console-mounted stick shift too because it’s simple to grasp and does not require you look down at the console as so many of today’s buttons and rotary knobs do.

OMG, a shifter you can actually get ahold of!

Did I mention the small sunroof? No, but you get that standard on the EX-L, along with a 180-watt 8-speaker audio system.

And all this costs just $30,195, including delivery, for the AWD-equipped EX-L. The test car added only the handsome blue-gray paint scheme, so listed at $30,590. As mentioned earlier the base LX starts at $24,895 and a well-equipped Sport model starts at $26,895.

One downside, for now, there is no hybrid model. Yet for a gas-only crossover the HR-V is rated at a solid 25 mpg city and 30 highway. The front-drive models get just a bit better mileage and I managed 30.6 in about 70% highway driving with up to four folks aboard.

Seems hard to beat this feature-packed small crossover considering Honda’s fine reliability record. Other challengers in this market include the sporty Mazda CX-30 and Subaru CrossTrek that feature AWD standard. The Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos also are solid competitors.

Don’t let anyone tell you there are no good cars/crossovers for $30 grand or less!

FAST STATS: 2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Hits: Confident handling, peppy power, good ride and AWD. Fine MPG, roomy and quiet interior, small sunroof, and wireless phone charger, plus 9-inch info screen, dual climate controls, power driver’s seat, well contoured seats, heated front seats and normal stick shift. Full range of safety features standard along with hill descent control.

Misses: No Sport mode among toggle drive-mode selections, no power hatch.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter I4, 158 horsepower/138 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,219 lbs.

Length: 179.8 in.

Wheelbase: 104.5 in.

Cargo: 24-55.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/30

MPG: 30.6 (tested)

Base Price: $30,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Option: Nordic Forest paint, $395

Test vehicle: $30,590

Sources: Honda, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Honda