Tag Archives: GT

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

2021 Kia K5 EX

New Kia K5 a sedan with looks, performance, value …

I’m not sure what else a buyer could want from a stylish family sedan beyond what Kia’s K5 offers, unless they wanted to pay much more.

I know, I know, mention value in a car review and the reader yawns and wants to click on an extended warranty ad. Stop right there. Don’t do it!

Kia’s K5 replaces its attractive Optima sedan and is a sedan par excellence, in appearance, performance and price.

First, give it a serious look. Continue reading 2021 Kia K5 EX

2018 Lexus LC 500h

Beauty goes to the bone with Lexus LC 500h …lex2a

Beauty should be more than skin deep when a car crosses the $100 grand threshold and beauty goes clear to the bone with the Lexus LC 500h. This is the hybrid version of the luxury car maker’s grand tourer (GT).

I’d tested the V8 powered 2+2 screamer during the summer and was wowed by its looks, power, handling and interior design and comfort. All the good stuff remains. In fact, not much is different in this hybrid version, save the hybrid system itself and the fact it’s mated to a 3.5-liter V6. Continue reading 2018 Lexus LC 500h

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC

Outlander a star in Mitsubishi’s quiet lineup …2018 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi is the quiet company in the U.S. auto market; we hardly hear a peep out of the Japanese vehicle maker. Its lineup is compact and advertising minimal.

But the star of its lineup for several years has been the Outlander, a competent crossover with available AWD and a standard third row seat. That’s certainly something to tout to families looking for inexpensive wheels and the ability to carry 7 passengers. Continue reading 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC

2017.5 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Mazda6 GT stylish and loaded with goodies … 2017.5 Mazda6

While theaters are bulging with “Star Wars,” auto dealer showrooms are embroiled in car wars as top-selling mid-size sedans butt heads with their latest models. Continue reading 2017.5 Mazda6 Grand Touring

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWD

Outlander Sport still under the radar … 2018 Mitsubishi Outback Sport

            Mitsubishi continues to fly under the radar among the Japanese car makers in the U.S., with just a few models and those don’t change often.

But the Outlander Sport has been one of its success stories, as it spun off from the larger Outlander SUV a few years back. This is a small ute, or crossover, about a foot shorter in length than Outlander.

It’s handsome, easy to maneuver in a parking lot and an automotive bargain. But it’s no benchmark to be sure.

The body is tidy and looks a bit sportier than many mainline small utes. I tested a pretty metallic red almost top-level SEL with AWD. The later is a bit of a misnomer in that you must engage the 4-wheel-drive system while cars and wagons such as Subarus are AWD all the time. Still, that’s easy because there’s a big button on the console. Press it once and you go from 2WD to 4WD.2018 Mitsubishi Outback Sport

Price though is what sets it apart. You can easily pay $30-35 grand for a decent AWD crossover or small ute, but the SEL model starts at $26,835, including delivery. Even with its pricey Touring Package, a $2,000 option, the test vehicle checked in at just $29,110. That’s a certifiable bargain.

That AWD works fine once engaged, and the Outlander Sport SEL now comes with a bit horsier 2.4-liter I4 engine. This one has 168 horsepower compared with 148 in earlier models and lower cost trim levels. Continue reading 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWD

Die-cast: Autoart’s Aston Martin Vanquish

Aston Martin Vanquish = automotive art …Autoart Aston Martin Vanquish

Some cars are rolling art right from the get go. Such is Aston Martin’s Vanquish, which was introduced in 2013 to coincide with the British luxury car maker’s 100th anniversary.

As with all Astons, the goal was to combine beauty and performance on four wheels.

Likewise Autoart has recreated that beauty in 1/18 scale with its composite-bodied Vanquish, in sparkling black for the review model. Other colors are available, but bathed in black this baby looks long, lean, and sexy, just like the real beast.

The History

Vanquish, like most high-priced luxury makes, was aimed at the uncompromising buyer. But not the one who demands only luxury, or beauty.Autoart Aston Martin Vanquish

Vanquish, as its name suggests, wants to smite its automotive foes that are competing for the high-end coin of the realm.

A 2017 Vanquish lists at $287,650 for the coupe (like the review car) and $305,650 for the convertible.  Under its long carbon fiber hood is a throbbing V12 that makes 568 horsepower, the most of any power plant in Aston Martin’s history. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart’s Aston Martin Vanquish

2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Move over Camry, Accord, the new Mazda6 is a gemmazda6b

After all these years reviewing cars (30+) I find it hard to understand why Mazda doesn’t sell a lot more cars.

Its midsize Mazda6 is another gem that is sporty looking, handles well, provides a comfortable ride with good power and delivers extremely good fuel economy. Sounds like a lot of checkmarks in the average buyer’s “want” boxes.

Yet Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord, among others, outsell the Mazda6 regularly, and have for years. Could it just be buying habits that work against other sedans that easily challenge those top dogs? Could be. But if you’re looking for a midsize family car with more pizazz, then the Mazda6 should be dead center on your radar.

I drove a sharp looking Blue Reflex (light silvery blue) Grand Touring model. That’s top of the line, so it’s loaded with standard equipment, leather seats, etc., plus this one added the $2,180 GT technology package, a cargo mat and door sill trim plates to push a $30,195 base price up to $33,395, including an $820 delivery fee. That’s almost exactly the average selling price for a new vehicle these days.

mazda6cHere’s what you get and how it drives. Continue reading 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring

2015 Ford Mustang I4 Premium

New Mustang flat out gorgeous, ride improvesmustang left

Fifty years in and Mustang is still behaving like a teenager with his first set of wheels and looking as sexy as ever.

The previous sizzling Mustang design was so reminiscent of the 1960s icon that some felt Ford had taken a step back, just to glom on to sales from us Baby Boomers. So what? But the 2015 model keeps Mustang’s styling heritage, a long hood, fastback styling a pony on the grille and tri-bar taillights. Wisely it also kept Mustang’s long-popular profile.

But indeed Mustang looks leaner and sleeker now from the front, a bit more youthful with its smoother sides. In back I like the way its tri-bar lights lean forward, but its rump has been broadened visually with accentuated wheel flares, shades of J Lo! The bet is the overall effect will still appeal to Boomers, but will increasingly lure younger buyers. Works with the Kardashians!

mustang1Looks may go a long way to broaden interest in the Mustang. The car is gorgeous, but its refinement also makes it less rough around the edges and that will help too. The big upgrade starts with a fully independent rear suspension, something racers and enthusiasts have been calling for to replace its older live rear axle. While Ford had gone a long way to perfect the live-axle’s ride, this is better. Continue reading 2015 Ford Mustang I4 Premium

Die-cast: CMC Aston Martin DB4

CMC creates rare, beautiful Aston Martin DB4aston2

Rare counts for a lot in the real, that is 1:1, vintage car world, and it’s making its mark in the diecast car market too.

CMC, the premier high-end diecast car model maker has made a habit of creating beautiful 1:18 models of rare race cars and elegant 1930s automotive style icons. The cost is up there, but so is the detail. You almost expect these models to start and drive off your desk or display shelf.

So it’s not surprising that CMC has chosen the rare 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato as its latest artistic endeavor, and in sumptuous Aston Martin racing green. For the record, the rare Zagato, which is the lightened version meant for racing, consists of 1,825 parts of which 1,394 are metal.

The Historyaston

Only 19 Aston Zagato models were made over a 2 ½-year period from late 1960 into 1963. All were custom-made and designed by Gianni Zagato and featuring soft curves, which became popular in the 1960s on high-end cars like Astons, Jaguars and Ferraris.

At the time, Aston was trying to beat Ferrari’s 250 GT in sports car and endurance racing, so it made sense to go with a lightweight body made of thin aluminum plates and featuring minimal amenities in an effort to cut weight and increase performance. Riding on a short, 93-inch, wheelbase and weighing just 2,701 lbs., the DB4 was just 168 inches long. That’s about the same length as today’s Nissan Z350, but the Nissan is roughly 400 lbs. heavier. Continue reading Die-cast: CMC Aston Martin DB4