Tag Archives: BMW

2020 Mazda3 AWD Premium

Stylish Mazda3 AWD, a car for drivers who love to drive …

Some people still enjoy driving a car, its feel, its handling, its sharp engagement of power, yet their bank accounts don’t allow for a BMW.

What to do?

Mazda has an answer, its Mazda3 in either sedan or hatchback mode. Both are driving dandies. This week’s drive was aboard a dark metallic gray ($300 extra) Mazda3 Premium sedan, its top of the line trim. Making it even better, this one added all-wheel-drive, something only Subaru’s Impreza offers in this price range and market segment. This car was made for Wisconsin.

First, the Mazda3 is a sharp looking compact sedan with a handsomely styled nose and a fabulous looking, and quiet, interior that speaks of luxury, not economy. And, if you want sporty handling to pair up with sporty looks, this is one of the few primo choices that regular folks can afford.

Mazda starts by making its formerly optional 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4 engine standard across the Mazda3 lineup (sedan and hatch). It is both fuel efficient and peppy, generating 186 horsepower with a torque rating to match. Not only that, it drinks regular unleaded and expels minimal emissions. The engine is no rocket, but when you engage the electronic Sport drive mode via the console toggle, it leaps to action, zipping the Mazda3 to highway speeds with vigor.

In Normal mode the sedan hesitates a bit upon acceleration, but still has good power, just seems less energetic. Gas mileage doesn’t suffer. I managed 28.0 mile per gallon in about a 50/50 mix of city and highway while the EPA rates this at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, again on regular gas.

Much of that you can attribute to Mazda using a fine 6-speed automatic transmission to engage the power. No CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) here. Sometimes those can be a bit lackadaisical as they aim to save fuel instead of instilling excitement. Note though that the automatic is all that’s available in the sedan and just one Mazda3 model, the Premium trim hatchback, offers a manual.

So while the Mazda3 will scoot pretty well, it’s more sports car peppy than muscle car macho. What it does well is create a joyful, fun feel for the road due to its fine handling. The Mazda3 turns into sharp corners with authority and purpose. There’s good feedback to the wheel that is appropriately firm, but not heavy. That translates to an entertaining, athletic drive.

Ride continues to improve from generation to generation in the Mazda3 and this longer 107.3-inch wheelbase helps create a well-controlled ride. However, Mazda returned to a torsion bar rear suspension (think previous-gen Mustang), away from a multi-link. I’ve enjoyed driving many a car with torsion-bar suspension, but this feels just a bit choppy on our distressed Midwest roads. Ride is never uncomfortable, but you’ll definitely know when you square up on a pothole.

Remember too this model added all-wheel-drive, so traction is improved in wet, sloppy weather, a norm much of the year for Wisconsin drivers.

Cream and black leather interior makes this a stylish entry-level sport sedan that many folks can afford.

As much fun as the Mazda3 is to drive, you’ll feel like you’ve slipped into at least an entry-level luxury sports sedan inside the Premium edition.

This sparkly gray tester featured a cream and black leather interior. The dash, doors and seats are all coated in leather, the seats being perforated (yes, and heated). The appearance is stylish and eye-catching. Trim is thin chrome on the dash and doors with satin chrome trim on the black leather wheel’s hub. The console’s face is black gloss with more black leather trim along its sides.

There’s a fine Bose sound system here and its chrome speaker covers on the doors add a bit of a jeweled looked to the interior. Fit, finish and quality inside look much improved from earlier models and the cockpit is much quieter too.

I like Mazda’s dash layout as it’s clean and easy to understand, and the infotainment screen is a sizeable 8.8 inches, plus is nicely tucked into the dash top’s center. That’s a styling improvement from earlier models.

Sadly (and I know I’ve said this before), Mazda doesn’t use a touchscreen, instead sticking with a big knob on the console to control the infotainment system. This is similar to the likes of BMW and Audi, not a good thing. This system isn’t intuitive. Just changing the channel is tough, and forget about setting or deleting favorites. Radios need to be simple enough to tune with a button punch while driving.

That somewhat spoils this otherwise fine interior for me.

Otherwise, the Premium model is a winner, coming with a full list of safety features, such as blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and assist, smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, adaptive front lighting and driver attention monitor. The latter is touchy, occasionally setting off a series of beeps and flashing a steering wheel image on the center instrument panel screen.

Nicely designed doors and release lever, plus the radio’s speaker cover looks sharp.

I also found the lane control to be overly strong, really turning the wheel hard away from a centerline to the point of being insistent. Sometimes, it must be noted, there is something that you’re avoiding on the road and you need to quickly adjust the wheel yourself to avoid that pothole, hubcap, mystery item, etc.

Overhead there also is a panoramic sunroof, and the car includes heated seats, a power driver’s seat with two memory settings, visors with extenders, paddle shifters behind the wheel, push-button start and a head-up display. Dual climate control also comes on the Premium model.

Seating is comfortable in front with mild contouring, and note that the heated seats get really warm, so the lowest setting is most used after a couple minutes of bun warming.

Legroom is particularly cramped in back, especially when a taller passenger or driver is up front, necessitating the front seat be pushed well back. Think of this as a back seat for kids primarily.

The rear seats split and fold flat to boost cargo room, which is a reasonable 13.2 cubic feet before seats are lowered. Releases in the trunk allow a driver to put the seats down without opening a rear door too.

Also, it should be noted the sedan is about eight inches longer than the hatchback to create expanded rear seat and cargo room.

There are a couple other concerns though. First, the Mazda3 automatically applies the park brake every time the car is turned off, or put into Park. That might make sense if this had a manual transmission, but it does not. This means the driver must press a brake release button every time the car is started, just to get it rolling. Can’t say how many times I put the car in Reverse only to have it strain against the parking brake as I tried to back from a parking space. It’s a small thing, but annoying daily.

Second, the A-pillars are rather large, somewhat blocking front side views at intersections, and while I was happy to have a wireless charging station ($275 extra), this one is in the storage box/armrest between the front seats. So to access it you must raise the armrest, which is awkward it you need to access the phone while driving. It’s also easy to forget the phone in the box.

Enough whining, the happy news beyond how this drives, is pricing. This upscale Premium version with AWD started at $28,820, including delivery. AWD is about $1,400 extra on a Mazda3 sedan. With just a few minor options the test car ended up at $30,645, a bargain at today’s prices.

Yet a base model with 16-inch wheels and tires, cloth interior, etc. starts at $22,420 for the sedan and $24,520 for the hatchback, considered a premium model of sorts. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard on all Mazda3s.

Good looking taillights give the car a more upscale look.

Select and Preferred trim levels come with 18-inch wheels and tires and leatherette interiors plus dual-zone climate controls. Preferred adds the power driver’s seat and memory features, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, heated seats and XM radio.

Premium gives you the bigger alloy wheels, adaptive lighting, fancy leather interior materials, the head-up display, sunroof and paddle shifters.

Even at the top-end of its trims the Mazda3 is a delight to drive, offering better styling inside and out than many of its competitors.

FAST STATS: 2020 Mazda3 AWD Premium

Hits: Sharp looker and sporty handling, peppy acceleration in Sport mode, controlled ride, plus AWD and good gas mileage. Quiet, luxury interior at value pricing, heated seats, large screen, panoramic sunroof, wireless charger and full complement of safety equipment.

Misses: Park brake sets automatically every time the ignition is turned off and is annoying to disengage each time you start the car, awkward rotary knob to adjust infotainment screen, large A-pillar restricts view, wireless charger location not convenient.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G I4, 186 horsepower

Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/manual mode

Weight: 3,248 lbs.

Length: 183.5 in.

Wheelbase: 107.3 in.

Cargo: 13.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/33

MPG: 28.0 (tested)

Base Price: $28,820 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $27,624

Major Options:

Cargo mat, $100

Illuminated door sill trim, $425

Machine gray paint, $300

Frameless auto-dim mirror, $275

Navigation SD card, $450

Wireless charging pad, $275

Test vehicle: $30,645

Sources: Mazda, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

 

 

2020 Range Rover Evoque SE AWD

New Evoque fails $64,000 question …

Range Rover’s new Evoque stirs a $64,000 question: Do you expect your new vehicle’s climate control system and heated/cooled seats to work every time you start the vehicle?

Apparently the answer is, No! Continue reading 2020 Range Rover Evoque SE AWD

2018 Audi A5 Sportback quattro

Sporty Audi A5 Sportback looks slick, fast …2018 Audi A5 Sportback

Fastbacks look, well, fast. Audi has decided its sportbacks will look slick too and that’s what Audi calls its new A5 hatchback. This is a sedan with a hatch that in profile is reminiscent of Audi’s spectacular A7, a good thing indeed.

In addition to styling panache, the A5 Sportback delivers plenty of giddy-up and sport sedan handling, with a well-controlled, but sporty ride. Continue reading 2018 Audi A5 Sportback quattro

2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport

Stylish Lexus IS350 remains true to its calling …2017 Lexus IS350

 

When we are lucky, good things don’t change, much!

This week’s luxurious example is the Lexus IS350 F Sport, a certified BWM 3 Series fighter, and a near identical luxury sport sedan to one I drove two years ago, right down to the Atomic silver color.

Not much has changed, which is mostly good. If you were to look back at my previous review you’d see the same pluses and minuses, so the only downside is that the negatives have not been addressed. Still, they aren’t deal breakers.

2017 Lexus IS350Essentially the IS350 and BWM 325i are dimensional clones, just one reflecting the more luxurious leanings of its Japanese maker, while the German make stresses performance. Lexus began challenging the iconic BMW in 2005 as it tried to lure more young executives away from the German make with its new IS sedan.

The current model though draws a distinct line in the styling sands by delivering an edgy style that BWM would, apparently, never attempt. The Lexus boasts a big in-your-face grille and crisply creased body. As I said before the IS looks quick even as it lazes at the end of the driveway. Continue reading 2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport

Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

Genesis G80 Sport stirs comments, all good … 2018 Genesis G80 Sport

I’m used to getting questions about the test cars I drive, but few get as many comments as the Genesis G80 3.3T Sport I just drove.

Dressed in Caspian black, a deeply layered sparkling metallic black, the G80 oozes luxury and authority on the road. Old and young folks alike asked what it was, guessing everything from a new unmarked police car to a Bentley. What it is, is fantastic, and Bentley-like, but without the horrible price tag.

If you’re not a car geek you may be unfamiliar with Genesis, as were several of the questioners. It’s Hyundai’s new luxury brand. Think Toyota’s Lexus or Honda’s Acura.

Like those makes, it has invaded the luxury sedan market with a generously equipped model at a price that seriously undercuts the existing luxury brands. Its looks are a mix of BMW and Audi, and the badge on its nose and tail resembles the spread wings of a Bentley. Hyundai did its homework!

2018 Genesis G80 Sport
Hmmm, this sure looks like a Bentley logo to me!

I consider this the best looking luxury sedan today, with the exception of Audi’s sleek A7 fastback.

A little more history. For 2018 the G80 line adds a Sport model with a new engine, a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 that cranks an amazing 365 horsepower with a torque rating of 376 lb.-ft. Some offer more, some less, but even weighing in at a solid 4,519 lbs., this new G80 will move. Continue reading Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

Genesis has it all, but the panache and name …2017 Genesis G90

When Toyota launched Lexus in 1989, its first sedans impersonated Mercedes-Benz models, but cost a lot less. Now Hyundai has launched its impressive new Genesis luxury car lineup with two models and the top-level G90 looks like a Bentley. Even its logo resembles that of the British make.

Again the formula is to create a car that visually screams luxury while undercutting the original by thousands of dollars. To be sure the new G90 competes mostly with the large Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac sedans. But if you could convince your neighbors you were driving a Bentley, yet only spent $70 grand or so, well, you just might try.

That’s what Hyundai is betting on, just as Lexus did before it.2017 Genesis G90

Certainly the G90 is impressive and dressed in Caspian Black, a metallic black paint job, the tested rear-drive Ultimate model turned heads. People asked what it was. Genesis didn’t ring any bells.

But it may soon. Along with this 5.0-liter, 420-horse, V6-powered G90 Genesis offers the G80 with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that creates a substantial 365 horsepower. Both models are rear-wheel drive, but offer all-wheel-drive versions too. Continue reading 2017 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

2017 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

Volvo ‘s V60 Cross Country touts pizzazz, not smooth ride …2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Volvo’s V60 Cross Country wagon/crossover wisely borrows some styling pizzazz from the likes of Mazda, then goes about saturating the vehicle with its usual core competency, safety.

Pretty nice combo, but it ladles on enough luxury to push the V60 to luxury-level pricing, but without the ride to match.

You can look at the V60 competing on two ends of the wagon/crossover spectrum, starting with Subaru’s Outback, which is considerably less expensive, but has a nicer ride and at least as much off-road capability. Or you could look at the Volvo competing with the likes of BMW or Audi wagons and small crossovers, in which case the V60 is a bit less pricey at its base level, the T5 Drive E that starts just above $37,000.

The V60 Cross Country is fully a luxury crossover with the intent of being amenable to going off road. At 7.9 inches, its ground clearance is greater than the standard V60. The sharp looking metallic bronze test car though added a Platinum package, plus four others to go from a $41,700 base price to $50,130. I question how many buyers will be fording streams and straddling large boulders with such an investment.2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Certainly around town and on the highway the V60 Cross Country is a fun drive. Its peppy 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection I4 kicks out 240 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Tromp the gas pedal and hold on, this will rock. There is one caveat though, the V60 suffers from major turbo lag at slower speeds when you get on and off the gas pedal frequently. My advice, try to plan ahead if you’ll need a burst of speed. Continue reading 2017 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

2016 Lexus RC 200t

Lexus RC looks, drives like a sexy beast 2016 Lexus RC 200t

Not much in the car world is better than a sexy sports car, except maybe one that offers four engine choices and a wide span of prices so more folks can afford said sexy beast.

Lexus happily does just that with its RC sports coupe, which offers two versions of its 3.5-liter V6, plus a rockin’ 467-horsepower V8-powered F model for the serious racer wanna-bes or guys overcompensating for something.

The tested base RC 200t lists at $39,995 while the V8 version starts at about $64,000.

I tested the RC 350 more than a year ago and found it powerful, stylish, nimble and well, pretty much a hoot to drive. The 200t is less of the same.

Still stylish with its distinctive spindle grille and edgy overall looks, the RC 200t features a good looking interior too and all the handling and fun of the 350, but with less power and one major stumbling block, an annoying hesitation for that power to kick in when you first tromp the gas pedal.2016 Lexus RC 200t

Here’s the deal. Continue reading 2016 Lexus RC 200t

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD2016 Mazda CX-9

The luxury crossovers, the Mercedes, Lexus, BMWs may have a hard time convincing some of their buyers that Mazda’s new CX-9 isn’t a better value.

At $45,215 the Signature AWD model I tested is within an eyelash of offering the same goodies those luxury brands tout, while also offering more style. Oh, and that price, while not cheap, is far less than you’d pay for most luxury makes.

Meanwhile, the restyled Mazda CX-9 exceeds the overall driving experience of such mainline competitors as the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.

Here’s the deal, the Mazda uses its Skyactiv technology to create an efficient crossover, while also using enough sound deadening to make this the quietest large crossover I’ve driven. Add to that a big luxury style grille, pronounced nose and tapered roofline and even in profile the CX-9 looks like it’s moving. The look is distinctive, not cookie-cutter.mazda cx9b

The inside is as nice as any luxury vehicle, both in looks, feel and finish. In fact, this Signature model, the top-level CX-9 features real rosewood trim around the console and on door control pads along with brushed aluminum (not plastic) trim. Classy!

Without performance, all of that would mostly be for naught, but Mazda always puts performance atop its delivery list. Continue reading 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE

New Jetta reminds us of driving’s pure joy …2016 Volkswagen Jetta

Reminders are needed, from time to time, of the pure joy of driving, and Volkswagen’s Jetta is just the thing to pleasantly jog one’s memory.

The conservatively styled Jetta’s exterior has been slightly smoothed and refined for 2016, but its mechanical workings needed no tweaks. The Jetta feels much like the small nimble BMW’s of years past, before they became power hungry heavier brutes as they grew ever larger.

Jetta is a near perfect blend of compact family sedan and sports sedan and lucky for most of us, continues at a modest price compared to that of today’s SUV-laden market. But even at a slightly higher price tag the Jetta would be a bargain, if, and it’s a big if, today’s drivers knew what they were missing by driving crossovers and SUVs.2016 Volkswagen Jetta

In short, Jetta is quick with lively handling made all the more fun by VW’s fine 6-speed manual transmission. Call it sporty, call it a blast, but also call it practical because as a compact sedan it will easily seat four average sized adults and carry their luggage too with its generously sized trunk.

Another bonus, Jetta also delivers excellent fuel economy. I got 28.6 miles per gallon in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the car at 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Continue reading 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE