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2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited

Hyundai hybrid is low cost from the get-go …

Hybrids in general, and plug-in hybrids in particular, are becoming the way to go for families looking for the best fuel economy, or socially conscious buyers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fortunately the hybrid market just keeps expanding while becoming more affordable. Continue reading 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited

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2015 Infiniti QX70 3.7 AWD

QX70 a stylish performance ute with a stiff rideinfin nose

Porsche, Audi and others blend performance sedan and sport-utility truck, but few deliver as stylish a blend as Infiniti with its QX70.

This isn’t exactly new. The sporty QX with its bulging fenders and long muscular sports car-style hood was formerly known as the FX37 and been around a few years. The former moniker was tied to this sport-oriented ute’s engine size, a 3.7-liter V6 that cranks a healthy 325 horses. But no matter its name, the QX70 is a beast.

But that can cut both ways. The V6 delivers strong power to all four wheels in the test model. Lower the hammer and you’ll growl up to highway speeds in short order. Yet there is a lot of growl that’s both real power and an engine trying to haul a massively heavy feeling ute up to 65 mph. The QX weighs in at 4,321 lbs., but feels much heavier.

My drive was the pearl white version.
My drive was the pearl white version.

It’s beastly too in its ride. The sport-tuned suspension delivers an incredibly stiff ride that borders on severe at times, especially surprising with the ute’s 113.6-inch wheelbase. The ride’s stiffness seems to contribute to the QX rocking side to side on our uneven roads and when pulling over parking lot entries. Several passengers were shocked at the ride. It’s not what the average luxury ute buyer who appreciates a soft, smooth, controlled ride would expect and frankly, at the test truck’s final price of $59,535 I was surprised there was no electronic way to soften the ride.

Yet the QX70s performance bent pays off in other ways. Handling along with crisp shifts from its 7-speed automatic are strong points. Continue reading 2015 Infiniti QX70 3.7 AWD

2015 Lexus LS460 AWD

Cozy, sublime Lexus LS460 coddles its passengerslexus 1

Lexus has created the sedan we’d all like at some point in our lives, the time of life I’ve always referred to as the Buick stage of life.

No offense to Buick, as it and Cadillac and many others have delightful sedans with comfortable rides and interiors. But alas, they are not a Lexus LS460. The LS has been the Lexus flagship of luxury and understated comfort for years and the latest iteration is as, well, cozy and sublime as any car you’ll drive.

Its dimensions and leather-laden interior are such that they coddle you, wrap you in a cocoon of comfort.

The basics here, and really there is nothing basic here, are this. The LS is long and solid, riding on a 116.9-inch wheelbase and the tested AWD model weighing 4,651 lbs. That along with major sound-deadening material under the dash, hood and doors ensures, along with a well-tuned suspension, that your ride is smooth and well insulated. Bumps? Forget about it!

Lexus LS2Lexus uses its hush quiet 4.6-liter V8 with dual fuel injection, 32 valves and electronically controlled intake valve timing to propel this massive, yet comforting vehicle. Power is good, as you’d expect, with 360 horsepower that climbs to 385 in the rear-drive model. But this is not a super thruster that rockets you to 60 mph. It’s a strong unit that gently guides you to highway speeds via a silky 8-speed automatic.

Drive Select Mode is standard, as it should be at the $75,465 starting price for this AWD model. That allows you to dial back the car’s steering, suspension and engine performance to Eco mode if you’re on a relaxed trip where all that engine power isn’t required. Normal mode is perfectly fine for most occasions and a driver gets that by pressing the DSM knob down on the console. A Sport mode firms things just a tad and gives the car a bit more juice by holding the lower gears longer. I used it in town a few times when a quick lane change was in order. Even in Sport, the car doesn’t feel aggressive. Continue reading 2015 Lexus LS460 AWD

2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

Simplicity, reliability, economy = Corolla

toyo1Our family owned a Toyota Corolla in the 1980s and it’s on that generation of Corolla’s reputation that Toyota has built its automotive empire.

Simplicity, reliability and economy were the building blocks and the revamped 2014 Corolla appears to continue that corporate line of thinking. There are no surprises here, except maybe that the compact sedan’s interior has been improved in look and feel, and its exterior rounded a bit more and given a sportier nose.

Beyond that, if you own the last generation Corolla you’ll feel the new one is much the same in ride and performance. It is a tad surprising that the ride did not improve more as the 2014 model’s wheelbase grows nearly 4 inches to 106.3 inches. That’s where most cars and crossovers begin to exhibit a more refined ride. This still feels like a small car.

Ironically too, this is about the size that Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and Mazda 6 sedans were, just a few years back. All the compacts are growing in every dimension attempting to keep up with the expanding size of U.S. drivers. s plan in Mississippi, but some models also will be shipped over the border from Canada. Reportedly no Corollas will be imported from Japan.

My test car was the sportier S model, in fact the S Premium with a starting price of $20,400. It was an attractive metallic blue, something Toyota calls Blue Crush Metallic, with black leather interior, which is standard on the S model.
A base Corolla L still starts at a more modest $17,610, including destination charges and comes with a four-speed automatic, pretty old school.toyo2

The S came with Toyota’s new CVT, a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters behind the wheel that allow you to shift through simulated gears, giving the car more oomph. It needed it, but only in standard ECO mode, which the car defaults to every time it’s started.

In ECO mode the 1.8-liter I4 with intelligent variable valve timing feels puny. It makes 132 horsepower, about the same as my 13-year-old Camry that is similar in size. Yet the torque feels much less aggressive as the CVT is programmed to slowly ramp the sedan up to speed, reducing gas consumption. Continue reading 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Veloster Turbo rocks the entry-level market

Hyundai wasn’t happy to leave well enough alone, so it went and added a turbo to its sporty coupe/hatch, the Veloster.

Hyundai Veloster TurboYes, you’ll still hear jokes about the name and its similarity to the famous dinos in “Jurassic Park,” but you won’t care. You’ll have a sporty car with reasonable oomph and a darned attractive entry price.

The Veloster Turbo starts at $21,950 and packs a twin-scroll turbo that takes the hatch up to 201 horses from the rather tame 138 hp the base model offers. It’s the same 1.6-liter direct-injected engine, but with the turbo it creates a lot more horses. Torque isn’t a neck strainer though.

The turbo spools up a little slower than some on pricier sports models, so there’s a bit of lag and it doesn’t punch you as you might expect. What you get is more gradual power, but power that nonetheless gives this Veloster better overall acceleration and top-end power than the base model. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo