Tag Archives: Lexus

2022 Cars of the Year

Savage names his top vehicles, the annual Zoomie Awards …

Zoomie art by Stuart Carlson

Last year’s Zoomies were all about monster speed and power, this year’s are all about hybrids, high value and family fare. That’s OK though, because that’s where most of us live.

While I was testing new Corvettes, Challengers, BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus LC 500s, and Dodge Durango SRTs in 2020, the minivans, hybrid crossovers and family sedans dominated 2021’s drives. And you know what? Nearly all were excellent, making some of my Zoomie choices as hard as picking your favorite child

So what’s a Zoomie?

It’s my annual choice of the top vehicle among the 50 or so I’ve tested in the past year. But there’s more than one great vehicle every 12 months, so I call out the best in various categories, from basic wheels to luxury rides. The purpose of Zoomie, since 1990, has been to select a vehicle for the masses, but one with styling flair, something that’s fun to drive, yet also delivers value. Zoomie is an everyperson’s car of the year, but with pizazz.

Zoomie always appears just as the Milwaukee Auto Show is about to roll into the Wisconsin Center downtown. This year the show runs from Feb. 26 to March 6, and not surprisingly is sponsored by area auto dealers.

This year I’ve divided the Zoomies into several categories, and as always, the best Zoomie wraps up the report. Let’s start with the now under-appreciated cars. With fewer manufacturers even making cars, this would seem to be a neglected market. But it’s not, some brands are still making great looking and driving cars, in all price ranges.

Best Cars:

Kia’s sexy K5 offers fastback styling and one of the sharpest grille-light combos around!

Entry-level: Kia K5 – The Optima was a fine family sedan and the newly restyled and renamed K5 is a sporty fastback with a refined ride coupled with good power and handling, but as with most Kia and Hyundai models, packed with content that normally costs extra on other makes. The turbo I4 kicks out 180 horses and gas mileage is decent too at 27 mpg city and 37 highway. I got 28.5. But starting at basically $29,000 the K5 makes a family look ritzier while delivering comfort and safety. Let’s address the elephant in the room here too as Kia and Hyundai models have been major targets of car thieves. Both assure that new models, all with push-button start, are much less likely to be stolen, so I feel confident touting the new models.

If you need to spend even less, the Hyundai Kona and Elantra are other strong bets for high value and good looks.

Sleeker Honda Accord now offers an excellent hybrid system for efficiency and value.

Hybrid: Honda Accord Hybrid – This was one of the easiest picks as the new Accord’s styling has been vastly improved so it looks sleeker and the hybrid system is as smooth and seamless as any on the market. The Accord satisfies with a quiet, comfy interior, easy-to-use controls, light and breezy handling, 212 hp from its Atkinson-cycle I4 and hybrid electric motors, and a superb ride. It’s rated 44 mpg city and 41 mpg highway. I got 31.3 mpg. And all this in a family-sized sedan that lists at $37,590.

Go ahead, try and tell me this isn’t one sharp-looking luxury sedan!

Luxury: Genesis G80 – Genesis is still newish to the market as Hyundai’s luxury brand, but the G80 looks like Bentley could have designed it with exquisite exterior proportions. Handling is effortless, power 300 horses strong from a turbo I4 and ride every bit a luxury ride. Interior styling is clean and simple with a giant info screen and content is generous from heated seats to solid safety equipment. Price as tested was $49,125. That’s way below similar sized European makes this well equipped.

Honorable mention to Volkswagen’s Arteon sedan, another fastback model with elegant styling. VW isn’t often considered a luxury brand, but Arteon could pass for entry-level lux!

Best Convertibles:

Oh yeah! MINIs are always fun, but going topless makes them even more liberating!

Entry-level: MINI Cooper S – I said in my review that driving a MINI is more fun than anything else you can do with your clothes on, and I stand by that. This new version has a drop-top that can be powered back to resemble a sunroof, or lowered entirely. On the test car that roof was a subtle darkened matte black Union Jack, and the paint job a not so subtle Zesty Yellow (lime greenish) that made it the focus of other drivers’ attention. Still, its 6-speed manual with a twin-turbo I4 that creates 189 horses and a 207 torque rating make it a hoot and a half to drive. The automatic is fine too. MINI is nimble and sporty with killer looks and a $33,000 base price.

A jewel of a car, now with a soft drop top and a sporty red interior, BMW’s M440i rocks!

Luxury: BMW M440i – Looking for the Rolex watch of cars? This sleek 4 Series convertible is a jewel of a car, fast, frisky, fun. But isn’t that what you expect from a luxury convertible that starts about $65 grand? BMW returned to a canvass top that gives the car a sportier, leaner look and it’ll even drop as you drive, up to 31 mph. Clever! The 3.0-liter twin turbo I6 cranks 382 horsepower and 364 in torque, plus a mild hybrid system helps its gas mileage (26.2 tested), incredible for a car that will hit 150 mph and whose handling, ride and braking are all aces. I’m stoked!

Best Crossovers/SUVs:

The perfect-sized Bronco Sport handles so well you’ll forget it’s a crossover.

Entry-level: Ford Bronco Sport – This is the first of many Fords in the 2022 list, and bravo for bringing back the Bronco name and some of its original styling to give off-roaders another strong choice. Watch out Jeep! This Badlands 4×4 model is perfectly sized for city driving and parking, exhibits excellent handling and enough power (250 horses) to be fun on highway or slopping in a mud bog. Riding on Escape’s platform you’d never know it to drive it as it feels so nimble. Plus pricing is milder than I’d expected, starting around $28,000 and topping around $38,000. The boxy styling reflects Land Rover and old-time Bronco and now seems fresh and exciting, again. Welcome back Bronco!

It’s only an honorable mention, but the CX-30 Turbo is a gem, and already won a 2021 Zoomie, before it had its hot rod turbo 2.5-liter engine!

Honorable mention goes to Mazda’s fabulous CX-30 Turbo. Regular readers may recall the CX-30 was last year’s Zoomie of the Year as it offers precise handling, good ride and solid power, plus AWD and fantastic looks (love it’s beaked nose), especially in red. But NOW it adds a 2.5-liter turbo to belt out 250 horses, making it a near perfect sporty crossover at an affordable price.

Hybrids:

Handsome and high-value the Kia Sorento screams BUY ME to families.

Entry-level: Kia Sorento – I had to split this category because the hybrid market is exploding for crossovers and SUVs and the Sorento is the cream of the current crop for affordable family crossovers. Its gas-only model is fine, but the hybrid wowed me. Get this, at $34,000 the hybrid manages nearly 10 mpg better (37.6 tested mpg) than the gas-only version, and of course the styling remains the same, along with a fine interior with stellar dash layout. Acceleration is even better in the hybrid and cornering seems improved too.

Luxury crossover buyers should keep an eye out for the Volvo XC60 hybrid. Gorgeous!

Luxury: Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 – This is where much of the auto world’s design and marketing efforts are aimed, the regular hybrid and plug-in hybrid luxury crossover market. Volvo took the styling lead a couple years back with XC60, now it adds a hybrid system to the torquey 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged I4 to slap out a crazy 400 horsepower. Wow, this sharp looker and handler will haul arsel. And starting at $62 grand, this isn’t even a high-end luxury crossover.

Need 3 rows of seating, great power and good looks? Acura’s MDX answers the bell!

Luxury: Acura MDX – This popular 3-row SUV grew a bit, getting longer, lower and wider, but adding an aluminum hood and front fenders to save weight and was restyled to look even more elegant. The result is a fine, yet not too large, luxury SUV with a touch of sportiness (remember the S in SUV stands for Sport). So with a 290-horse V6 and SH-AWD (that’s Acura nomenclature for Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive) the MDX can go about anywhere a luxury SUV needs to, and at speed with precise handling. Nice! Inside is super quiet with open-pore wood trim and all the amenities expected at $61 grand and change. Even your pal Alexa comes with.

Chrysler’s Pacifica is handsome, a plug-in hybrid and offers AWD, win, win, win!

Best Minivan: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid – Chrysler has become one of the quiet Stellantis brands. That’s the former Fiat-Chrysler company that makes Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, Fiat and Alfa-Romeo for the North American market. But when you think of the former Chrysler Corp. its minivans should be top-of-mind as they invented the modern minivan 35+ years ago. Pacifica is a smoothly styled van that continues to lead with innovations, including offering AWD and a hybrid version. Not all vans offer both. The plug-in hybrid system gives roughly 30+ miles of electric-only power and regenerative braking helps extend that in city driving. Acceleration is quick (260 hp), safety features are bountiful, comfort is uncompromised and pricing is competitive, if not a bit lower than most competitors.

Honorable mention is warranted because Kia’s Carnival debuted this past year and is a sharply styled minivan with metallic bling inside and out, plus features galore, and still in the $45,000 to $50,000 range. But so far it has no AWD or hybrid models, which may be a short-term concern. Still, it’s a delight to see and drive. It was also recently named the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) family vehicle of the year, so Midwest journalists agree, it’s a winner.

Not only is the Ford F-150 a best-seller, it also has a hybrid model with impressive MPG!

Best Pickup: Ford F-150 SuperCrew Hybrid – Ford continues to lead the pickup segment and in fact is adding an electric version, the Lightning. But the hybrid I tested was as perfect a pickup as is out there right now. It’s huge, tall, strong and efficient, plus offers a power generator in the bed that will power your house for hours, make that days, in an emergency. But all of the standard F-150’s strong points are here, plus the hybrid system that boosts gas mileage to a respectable 24/24 mpg rating. I got 20.5 mpg. That’s with the 3.5-liter V6 hybrid system that adds $3,300 to the price of a $52,000 SuperCrew Lariat model. Big pickups are not inexpensive!

This electric crossover features Mustang styling cues and stole its name from the muscle car, but it’s still a crossover. HOWEVER, it is very Quick!

Best Electric: Ford Mustang Mach-E – Ford opted to name its first mid-size electric crossover the Mustang Mach-E because it knew that Mustang name would bring it more attention than virtually any other Ford-owned name. They were right, and its styling, with some Mustang cues and logos, make it one of the better looking electric crossovers. Driving performance is strong too, its 88 kWh extended range battery and electric motors combining for 346 hp and a 260-mile range for the tested AWD version. 0 to 60 mph happens in 4.8 seconds, so it’s quick, like a gas-powered Mustang. While inside the dash looks decided modern (think Tesla as a target) with a massive 15.5-inch vertical info screen.

An honorable mention to VW’s ID.4, which falls a bit short on styling compared with the Mach-E, but also is available with AWD and a 250-260-mile range on a full charge. It’s comfy and well thought out, but has some quirks that kept it from the top spot here.

Now THIS is a Mustang! Mach I is a rocket whose power could make a macho man blush!

Most Fun: Ford Mustang Mach I – I know this seems like a Ford lovefest as we approach the top Zoomie award, but I’m a car guy and I love excellent power and handling so I had to include the venerable V8 gas-powered fastback Mustang Mach I. This is a no-apologies muscle car that looks fast, sounds fast and IS fast. It has a race-engineered GT350’s subframe and suspension, 6-piston Brembo disc brakes, re-tuned super precise power steering and a switch to engage or flip off the traction control. There’s Track and Sport+ drive modes in case you want to race the thing, and you likely will Want to. There’s also a TREMEC 6-speed manual standard to engage the 5.0-liter V8 that pumps 480 horsepower. Price is about $52 grand and, well, outside of some Hellcats and SRTs from Dodge, nothing much else touches this. A fantasy car for us aging, but still sporty, Boomers!

A quick honorable mention goes to the Dodge Durango Hellcat because it rips like it’s a dragster. Can you believe a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds in a mid-size SUV? Believe it, but that’s what a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 with 710 horses will do for ya. A year earlier I drove the SRT version and was wowed by it, yet this ups the wow factor considerably.

Santa Cruz is stylish, offers great power, ride and handling, plus has a useful bed. Wow!

ZOOMIE: Vehicle of the year: Hyundai Santa Cruz – And now for something completely different.

Kudos to Hyundai for finally pushing the car world back into the compact pickup world that had been so successful with the likes of Ford Rangers, Chevy S10s, Datsun (later Nissan), Toyota, and Mazda pickups in the 1970s through the 1990s.

Hyundai calls Santa Cruz an SAV, Sport Adventure Vehicle, which is just so much marketing talk, but the point is this isn’t Just a pickup.

No, Hyundai has re-invented this market with a slick, stylish, California-chic pickup that doesn’t even ride on a truck chassis. Santa Cruz (perfectly named to ooze California-chic) rides on Hyundai’s Tucson crossover platform so it behaves like a crossover, not a bumpy bouncy body-on-frame truck. Ride is stellar and with its full cab it’s basically a crossover with a pickup bed, meaning the family fits just fine, but if one needs to haul bushes, dirt, or even dirt bikes it’s easy and cleaner than slopping said goods inside a crossover’s hatch.

That tonneau cover is strong enough you could stand on it!

Santa Cruz scores aces on power, ride and handling while also offering AWD if you need to tow a camper or small boat to the lake or a campsite. Two engine choices include a 190-horse 2.5-liter I4 and a turbo version with 281 horses for more serious fun. Prices range from a front-drive model with the base engine at $24,000 to the Limited with AWD and the turbo, pressing $40 grand. Still a bargain!

Not your Dad’s, or Grandpa’s pickup, it’s compact and efficient.

Color selection is fun and youthful, grayish green or blue-gray, for instance, while inside is a 10.25-inch info screen, simple dash layout and plenty of upscale content for the price, think heated and cooled seats, etc. And the bed, well, it has a cooler built-in for tailgating, steps designed into the corner of the bumpers for climbing aboard, a lockable tailgate, and with a retractable tonneau cover that is strong enough one could stand on it. Wow!

Certainly not everyone needs a mid-size or full-size pickup, and maybe more importantly, many of us can’t afford those $50-$70 grand monsters. If style, price and putting Fun into automotive Function are atop your shopping list, Santa Cruz is the compact pickup you’ve been looking for!

2022 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury AWD

No big fins, but Caddy recaptures luxury in an SUV …

Luxury, and the perception of luxury, dictate price in the auto world, always have.

But today the statistical differences between vehicles within a segment often are miniscule, a half inch here, five horsepower there. Exterior or interior styling, and the vehicle’s brand perception are the differentiators. The decision to buy often comes down to these.

Is Cadillac still America’s most luxurious brand, or do you prefer an Acura, Lexus or one of the European makes, for which you generally will pay a premium?

Cadillac certainly would argue that it’s the No. 1 luxury brand made in the U.S., although Tesla could argue that point as it’s now No. 3 overall behind BMW and Lexus. Yet if you think traditional American brands, well Cadillac is still light years ahead of Lincoln in sales.

SUVs of course are the growing segment and that’s where this week’s XT6 falls. It’s a handsome, elegant mid-size SUV, and bigger than Caddy’s XT5.

XT6 is based on the GMC Acadia platform and premiered in 2020. On looks, inside and out, the Cadillac is a winner. Performance and luxury feel also should put it on any luxury 3-row SUV buyer’s must-drive list. Both XT models are sharply styled, particularly those vertical running lights up front and (it’s amazing to say this) its understated Cadillac crest-shaped grille.

The test ute was a sophisticated Rosewood Metallic, a sparkly red-tinted copper color ($625 extra) that was blessedly not gray, silver, or white, as are nearly all other SUVs on the market. The interior also featured an equally stylish, tasteful two-tone tan and black cockpit with semi-aniline leather seats topped by Cadillac crests atop their back cushions. The dash was tan over black with a glossy fake wood trim, silver Bose door speaker covers, and chrome trim around the dash and doors’ wood.

Cadillac’s center info screen is an 8-incher, somewhat smaller than those in many of its competitors, but easy to see. My only serious interior complaint is the glossy nature of that wood trim which morphs into a glare monster on sunny days. Matte finishes rock, so tone it down!

Like the similar Acura MDX tested last year everything functionally is exactly what you’d expect, sufficient for a luxury vehicle, but not standoutish.

Power churns from a 3.6-liter V6 that is not turbocharged. It cranks 310 horsepower so is strong enough to pull 4,000 pounds of trailer and motorized boy toys. MDX, by the way, pulls 5,000 pounds.

Ride is well cushioned with MacPherson struts up front and a five-link independent rear suspension. Here’s where Cadillac excels compared with many competitors who feel even their mid- to full-size SUVs must be sporty, right down to a rump-thumping stiff ride. Instead, Cadillac smooths the ride, isolating the passengers from even serious bumps and thumps. Bravo!

Handling is respectable and steering feedback a bit better than I’d expect in this size SUV. The XT6 was simple to control on the freeway and an easy ute to park.

The tested Premium Luxury model (mid-level of three trims) also sported AWD, which is easily accessed via a large button on the console. That drive mode includes Sport, Touring and Off-Road. Traction was good in moderate snow and the Sport setting automatically put the vehicle in AWD to best hook up the power to the pavement.

I used Sport only when needing a quick burst of speed. It helped smooth the acceleration and add more low-end torque, so a driver may prefer to use it, but the ute defaults to Touring. In Touring and AWD there was a bit of acceleration lag, a bit odd because this is a naturally aspirated V6, not a turbo, where lags are more likely.

Some might say that’s a disadvantage in that gas mileage is rated 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Turbos usually achieve better. I got just 17.5 mpg, but admittedly we had a few sub-zero mornings during my test.

One might also expect a hybrid model to be available with enhanced mileage figures, but so far Cadillac doesn’t offer a hybrid XT6. There is a 9-speed automatic tranny though and that, in theory, aids fuel economy. It certainly shifts smoothly.

Safety equipment is as expected, including automatic braking with pedestrian recognition, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot warning. But other items are optional, somewhat surprising at this price.

For instance it takes a $2,350 technology package to add a HUD (head-up display), park assist with automatic braking, HD surround view and recorder, plus rear pedestrian alert and a rear camera mirror (hot trend) with washer.

Another $1,300 driver assist package adds reverse automatic braking, enhanced automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, now becoming standard across the industry. The package also adds the super annoying automatic seatbelt tightening feature. This over-snugs the belt just as you put the car in Drive, then loosens it. Useless!

A cool night vision option is $2,000, but obviously not needed. I did find it entertaining as it lights up on the dash when it sees a person or animal way ahead of you at night. During these dark winter days that could be especially helpful.

Cadillac’s interior offers everything one would expect in a luxury SUV from all that leather on the seats, steering wheel and horn cap ($5,000 platinum package) to the suede headliner.

Standard are heated front seats, wireless phone charger, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, OnStar, remote start, tri-zone climate controls, power hatch, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof and rain-sensing wipers.

A $750 comfort and air quality package adds heated rear seats, cooled front seats and an air ionizer. One minor annoyance here, the touchpad used to activate front seat heat or cooling, along with climate directional controls. The pad’s surface flexes just enough that it doesn’t always engage the first time it’s pressed, especially if the user is wearing gloves. The nearby temperature toggles are fine though.

The CUE system (Cadillac User Experience) also is upgraded to include a 14-speaker Bose Performance audio system, for $1,000. I mostly hear no difference, other than wattage, from most such systems, but this one really separated instruments’ sound during songs so that they sounded as if they were coming from various areas of the car. That was cool!

Note too this was a 6-passenger model ($800 extra) with captain’s chairs in the second row. A second row bench is standard and would allow the XT6 to carry seven. Room is generous in the third row, as the second row seats will slide forward. But the floor is raised in row three so knees ride a little higher than in row two. All seats are comfy, both soft due to the leather surfaces, and well-formed for hip support support. Cadillac also provides power buttons inside the power hatch to lower the third row seats, and buttons inside the second row doors to lower third row headrests and seats.

Good room in the third-row seat and it’s easy to get back here, or fold seats down.

Naturally the interior is extremely quiet.

XT6 also excels at cargo space, if either the third row, or second and third are lowered. The space is massive. With the third row in place there’s just room for a row of grocery bags behind the seat.

Two more add-ons to mention, one for $800 upgrades the headlight system, including curb spotlights that shine to the side when the turn signals are activated, plus lighted door handles, which are classy.

Optional too is a retractable cargo cover that adds $150 to the bottom line. You’re kidding right?

Attractive styling and door trim in the XT6.

Speaking of which, the starting price for the Premium Luxury’s bottom line is $56,040, including delivery. That’s less than most of the European competitors, but more than the MDX. And with its long list of options the tester hit $70,965. My first house cost half that much.

An entry-level Luxury model with 2.0-liter turbo I4 with 237 horsepower starts at $49,740. Adding AWD pushes it up $2,000.

A top-level XT6 Sport, which comes with AWD, red Brembo brake calipers, a torque vectoring differential, adaptive suspension and quicker steering, lists at $59,415.

Competitors beyond those listed include the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 at the higher price end, although the Caddy offers a better warranty. Or consider the Genesis GV80, Volvo XC90 or Lincoln Aviator nearer to the Caddy’s price range.

So many choices!

FAST STATS: 2022 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury AWD

Hits: Handsome 3-row SUV, good power, well-cushioned ride and AWD. Quiet luxury interior, 4 drive modes, heated wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, wireless charger, HUD, comfy seats, oodles of storage (rear seats down).

Snazzy taillights and trim in back.

Misses: MediocreMPG and no hybrid available, dash’s fake wood extremely reflective, hesitant acceleration except in Sport mode, touch pad for seat heat and some climate controls flexes so doesn’t always engage first touch. 

Made in: Spring Hill, Tenn.

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 310 hp/271 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,700 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.7 in.

Length: 198.8 in.

Cargo: 12.6/43.1/78.7 cu.ft.

Tow: 4,000 lbs.

MPG: 18/25

MPG: 17.5 (tested)

Base Price: $56,040 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $53,440

Major Options:

Platinum package (semi-aniline leather seats, Modena leather-wrapped wheel, leather horn pad, suede headliner, premium floor mats, real-time damping suspension), $5,000

Technology package (HD surround vision, automatic parking assist w/braking, 8-inch color gauge cluster, HUD, rear pedestrian alert, surround vision recorder, rear camera mirror w/washer), $2,350

Night vision, $2,000

Driver assist package (auto seatbelt tightening, reverse automatic braking, enhanced automatic braking, adaptive cruise control), $1,300

Cadillac User Experience w/navigation, Bose Performance audio 14-speaker system, $1,000

6-passenger seating, $800

Premium headlamp system w/lighted door handles, $800

Comfort and air quality package (heated rear seats, air ionizer, cooled front seats), $750

Special paint, $625

Security cargo shade, $150

Test vehicle: $70,965

Sources: Cadillac, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Genesis G80 2.5T RWD

Entry-level luxury never looked this good ….

Genesis continues to impress, even if few car buyers yet know what it is.

Hyundai is still on an uphill climb. The South Korean automaker launched the Genesis luxury brand five years ago, much as Toyota launched Lexus, Honda launched Acura, and Nissan launched Infiniti, in the 1990s. These Japanese brands established a strong foothold in the U.S. market with their low-cost, high-reliability models, then moved upscale, where the profits are.

Hyundai is doing the same thing. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In fact, the tested Uyuni White G80 that I just tested is already the second iteration of its mid-level full-size luxury sedan. That’s how much effort Genesis is putting into getting its own foothold.

This G80 is another winner, and more affordable than most entry-level luxury cars. My tester was the G80 2.5T RWD model, the base (if one can use that word) model with a starting price of $48,725, including delivery. The sparkling white paint job cost $400 extra so this G80 ended up at $49,125. That undercuts the German luxury market by quite a bit, and the Japanese market by a bit too.

In short the G80 is beautiful, whisper quiet inside, features good power, handles effortlessly and touts a luxury ride that in olden days we called a boulevard ride, but without the floating feel of yesteryear.

How so? G80 rides on a lengthy 118.8-inch wheelbase to spread the bumps and its multi-link front and rear suspensions, with a self-leveling feature in back, creates that luxury ride. I can’t recall a sedan I’ve driven in the past year or so that rides any better. Maybe the G90, but that was five years ago.

See Mark’s video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpODcpkOz7c

Like most cars, and all luxury models, Genesis includes multiple drive modes engaged via a button on the console. So one can tool along in Eco to save fuel, Comfort for daily driving or Sport to up the kick you get when accelerating and to stiffen steering effort. Even then the steering wheel isn’t tiresomely heavy, but there’s certainly more low-end power.

That actually helps this 2.5T model because it has the entry-level 2.5-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 300 horsepower via 311 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s substantial, but not monster power. It’s quick and sounds horsey though. This G80 reportedly will do 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and darned near 100 on a highway entry ramp. Top speed is about 130 mph, if you need that for cruising your neighborhood.

Don’t worry though, there’s more power available in the 3.5T. That model packs a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 creating 375 horsepower and a torque rating of 391. Both models also are available with all-wheel-drive, which adds $3,150 to the price and may be a wise addition in Wisconsin. While on price, the base 3.5T starts at $60,145.

Handling is moderately light, easy and effortless, but the car corners well at speed. That Sport mode of course firms steering feel.

Braking is impressive too, with 13.6-inch vented front discs and 12.8-inch rear discs doing the job.

Shifts are handled via a mostly smooth 8-speed automatic that includes paddle shifters behind the wheel. Unless you’re a fanatic for such things you’ll likely never use those. I did notice there is some hesitation coming off a stop, but that’s less noticeable in Sport mode. Also, the Stop/Start feature aimed at saving gas is a little less refined here than in many luxury makes.

Outside, the G80 is gorgeous from its wide pentagonal grille to the dual thin-line headlights on either side. The layout seems to reflect the winged Genesis logo on the nose, which I’ll say, again, looks a lot like Bentley’s.

Those thin twin headlights are reflected in similar taillight styling giving the car incredible stylistic balance. That’s aided by silky smooth shoulder lines that blend well nose to tail and a somewhat fastback roofline. Think Audi A7. Finally G80 uses a couple strakes for styling behind the front wheel wells. Those strakes include lights in the lower portions of each to give the sedan a unique nighttime appearance.

A chrome rocker panel trim line gracefully sweeps up through the rear wheel well to the car’s rear, making the car look as if it’s in motion while standing still. On the practical side, the A pillars have been thinned too. All combined, that’s a perfect 10 on my styling scorecard!

Inside, you’ll immediately know you’re in an upscale make as the styling is simple and elegant. Seats are tan leather and the dash and doors feature brown leather tops and creamy tan leather lower panels. Likewise the wheel is dark leather with a tan hub with satin chrome controls.

I like the slim, streamlined dash layout too and the black gloss on the center stack and console with satin chrome controls looks classy. However, the sun reflects off the console frequently and I was surprised there was no wireless phone charger here. Likewise the rotary gear shift lever is not the most intuitive design, but seems to be the way carmakers are going.

The clean design means it’s easy to figure out the buttons and controls and the 12.3-inch infotainment screen is eye-friendly and simple to use. There is a ring on the console that controls many of the functions, but unlike many such units it’s intuitive. Turn the outer ring and it easily scrolls through your radio’s favorite channels. Move your finger on the center portion of the disc and it allows selection of various functions on screen.

Seats feature a relatively flat bottom cushion that made my tailbone ache a bit after about an hour’s drive. Seat backs are well formed and comfortable and the leather is sufficiently soft for the price. Rear seats are roomy with a large fold-down armrest and trunk space is reasonable too.

G80 includes a power lumbar support for the driver and two seat memory settings on the door. Front seats also are heated, but not those in back. Plus there are no cooled seats or heated wheel here either.

You’ll need to move up to the Advance model for cooled seats, a panoramic sunroof (none here), three-zone climate controls, a power trunk, 19-inch wheels and a 21-speaker (I only have 2 ears) Lexicon stereo. The 2.5T Advance model lists at $53,325 and an even more luxurious Prestige model at $57,625.

The base tested model does come already equipped with a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, adjustable interior ambient lighting, puddle lights in the side mirrors that also power flat to the car when the ignition is off. Plus there are the usual safety electros, such as smart cruise, lane-departure and assist, blind-spot warning, and automatic braking. Nice too that the lane-departure warning system can be turned off with the push of a button to allow for easier city driving during construction season when a driver is often dodging cones and errant pavement lane markers.

Still not sure Genesis is luxurious enough for you, or has the cache of a European make. Well, on the practical side there’s an excellent warranty so your long-term investment may be much less too. First, there’s a limited 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Genesis also provides free 3-year or 36,000-mile maintenance, including oil changes.

Gas mileage is good on this 2.5T too. I got 24.9 mpg in a mix of city and highway and the EPA rates the G80 at 23 mpg city and 32 highway.

Any sedan that looks this gorgeous, yet is underpriced for its market, deserves a strong look and test drive if you’re a luxury car intender.

FAST STATS: 2021 Genesis G80 2.5T RWD

Hits: Beautiful exterior styling grille to tail, good power, effortless handling, luxury ride and AWD available. Clean stylish dash, 12.3-inch info screen, heated seats, multiple drive mode, solid safety systems, good stereo, ring on console selects radio stations, power tilt/telescope wheel. Impressive pricing.

Misses: No wireless charger, gloss and metal console trim too reflective, rotary shifter, no sunroof or cooled seats or heated steering wheel.

Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea

Engine: 2.5-liter turbo I4, 300 hp

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 4,143 lbs.

Wheelbase: 118.5 in.

Length: 196.7 in.

Cargo: 13.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 23/32

MPG: 24.9 (tested)

Base Price: $48,725 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $45,674

Major Options: Uyuni White paint, $400

Test vehicle: $49,125

Sources: Genesis, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2018 Chicago Auto Show: New vehicles big and small

It’s the largest show in North America

Mark and I love this show and have been making the trip down south from Milwaukee for a long time. Besides seeing the latest from the auto manufacturers, we spend time catching up with our fellow reporters. And we got some exercise walking two miles in the one million square foot exhibit area at McCormick Place. Continue reading 2018 Chicago Auto Show: New vehicles big and small

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 Chicago Auto Show

Cool new cars and fun stuff to do

Going to the Chicago Auto Show is one of our favorite trips of the year because we always have a great time. This year was no different. We captured some of it in the two videos below. If you’ve been thinking about going, and we recommend it, get a long little doggie, because it runs through February 20th.

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

2015 Kia K900

K900, like Equus, delivers quiet luxury, many features at lower priceK900A

Established luxury makes may want to check that rearview mirror as Kia and its cousin Hyundai are gaining on them, rapidly.

Case in point, the new Kia K900, the separated-at-birth twin to Hyundai’s luxurious Equus. Both the K900 and Equus are ladled with luxury features, look as luxurious as any full-size luxury sedans on the road, and are as quiet as Miller Park in October – quieter!

Sound deadening and a smooth-running 5.0-liter V8 create an interior that could pass for a sensory deprivation tank, if you close your eyes. You won’t want too though because the interior looks great too and cradles you in its soft leather trimmings.

Did I mention that you’ll pay on the order of $10 grand less than a “traditional” luxury make?

Consider the K900 starts at $59,500 and even at that price you get much of the luxury trimmings that came on the metallic gray test car, which added a $6,000 VIP package to push this to $66,400, including a $900 delivery fee. A Lexus, Audi, Mercedes-Benz or other full-size European luxury sedan will run you considerably more. But then their logos have been around longer.

k900bCertainly value is a big part of the Kia’s story, but while value talks, performance walks. That is, it puts you in the hunt for luxury sedan buyers’ stock option checks. Continue reading 2015 Kia K900

2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8

Genesis AWD a stylish luxury sedan bargain

I’m lucky, and I know it. I get to drive cars of all shapes and sizes and witness firsthand when a car company like Hyundai grows from an afterthought to a hard-charging mainstream competitor.IMG_0061

I present for your inspection today, its luxurious Genesis sedan. This is a 2015 model and comes with revamped looks a longer wheelbase than its predecessor and better overall feel. People ask me why they should buy a $52,450 Hyundai, which this was, and I can honestly say, because it’s a fine car and a bargain to boot.

Hyundai’s marketing strategy has seemed simple, once it got its quality house in order about 10 years ago. Hyundai creates a more stylish car in each segment than the current main competitors, gives it good power and a well-crafted interior and then adds more electronic features (some standard) than the competitors at a lower price.

Bingo on all fronts with the Genesis.

This is a full-size luxury car riding on a 118.5-inch wheelbase, up from 115 in earlier iterations, and 196.5-inches long. Styling is a little less conservative than a BMW or Lexus, with a bit of chrome bright work at the bottom of the rocker panel and around the windows. This one was a beautiful deep metallic red that glistened in our early fall sunshine.

IMG_0064Its interior was near perfect, with brown over tan dash and doors and perforated tan leather seats that were well formed for comfort front and rear. The dash was cleanly laid out with a matte real wood and aluminum trim across it and spreading beautifully to the doors. Gorgeous! The Genesis steering wheel is brown leather and the photo-etch look metallic trim on the console and lower center stack looks jewel-like. Continue reading 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8

2014 Lexus IS350 AWD

Who makes the best compact sport sedan? Well, BMW has owned that segment for years, but it would be hard to argue against Lexus now making the best looking sport sedan with its new IS series.lexus red

Lexus created the IS to be a BMW 3 Series (now renamed the 4 Series) fighter, but Lexus is better at creating a luxury feel than BMW. The difference is BMW always leans toward total performance and Lexus leans more toward luxury in any of its makes.

Ah, but the tested bright metallic red (Matador Red) IS350 AWD has plenty of power to go with its outward styling pizzazz. Lexus pops a 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing under its well sculpted hood and that throbbing engine pumps out 306 horsepower. Boom! It’ll kick you in the seat of the pants and with paddle shifters on the steering wheel you can control your own seat kicking!

There’s a seamless shifting 6-speed automatic that you can control manually with those paddle shifters, but a key here is the svelte nature of the IS350. The sport sedan weighs 3,737 lbs., but rides on a 110.2-inch wheelbase. So while it feels nimble, it’s long enough to provide a mostly fine, yet sporty ride.

lexus red3Sure, take it on our crumbling cement streets or over railroad tracks and that stiff sport suspension will give you a little shake. But that’s the nature of the beast. Lexus puts a double wishbone front suspension on the IS and a multi-link system in back.

Handling? Precise, is the key word, along with fluid. The car steers easily and smoothly, but you can snap off corners or apexes of turns crisply and the car stays completely flat as you power through a sharp turn. A BWM gives you that same handlingl, but usually with heavier steering feedback. Whichever you like is certainly a matter of personal preference. Continue reading 2014 Lexus IS350 AWD