Tag Archives: Mazda CX-5

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line

VW’s handsome compact crossover an efficient high-value drive …

Volkswagen was once the automotive love child of my Boomer generation, but time changes things and VW has become one of the back markers in the U.S. auto market, although not worldwide.

Lately it has turned much of its attention to electric vehicles, the ID.4 crossover/SUV tested last December is a prime example. These are well thought out and executed vehicles, yet VW has not abandoned gas-only powered models just yet, in fact it revamped its popular compact crossover, the Tiguan for 2022.

What Tiguan has going for it is efficiency, handsome looks and handling that puts many other crossovers and small SUVs to shame. That, is a key feature that remains from the second gen 2018 Tiguan that I reviewed, and thank goodness.

Some crossovers still make do with lazy steering, but that’s not in VW’s DNA. This tester being the top-level SEL R-Line model with standard AWD (4 Motion VW calls it) was a blast to drive and I ran it around a variety of winding roads where it excelled.

Tires have grown from 18 to 20-inchers, these being Pirellis and they eagerly grip the road and combined with the AWD the light and nimble Tiguan feels downright sporty and stuck to the pavement.

Plenty of power here too with the returning 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 generating 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. There is a slight hesitation when the aluminum-clad accelerator pedal is tromped, but after that little hiccup Tiguan jumps to highway speeds with ease.

Ride is mostly well controlled with an independent suspension at all corners, but it can get a bit choppy on particularly uneven Midwest secondary roads and city streets. Thankfully the cockpit is well insulated so not much road noise is transmitted to the interior, making it feel more refined than a few competitors.

VW also delivers a variety of drive modes to make Tiguan more useful in snow and muck. There are Snow, Off-Road Automatic and Off-Road Custom settings along with the more standard Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom modes all engaged via a dial and button combo on the console. The key to more fun motion is Sport because it pumps up the engine performance and shifts from the 8-speed Tiptronic automatic to give Tiguan a more aggressive launch.

The Off-Road modes can help when winter arrives or if pulling a light boat trailer or camper into a state park camp site or along a dirt road. Tiguan will pull up to 1,500 pounds.

New this year are outward tweaks including LED headlights and taillights along with a more refined nose that makes Tiguan appear tailored and svelte as opposed to the popular Thor-inspired musclebound look many crossovers and SUVs favor.

Inside VW added digital gauges in this refresh and the dash and screens are well laid out and easy to use, even while driving. Not all crossovers can make that claim.

The 10-inch touchscreen for info and radio is just the right size and two inches larger than in lower trim levels. Sadly the infotainment screen takes quite a while to engage when the vehicle is first started.

Below that screen are touchpad type climate controls where a driver slides a finger along the controls to raise or lower temperatures or fan speeds. I’m not a huge fan, but it worked fine, although not sure how great it would work in winter when a driver is wearing gloves.

Miraculously VW also sees fit to equip the SEL R-Line with heated and cooled front seats, a win for budget-minded crossover buyers in the northern climes where both can be needed within a week’s changeable weather.

A flat-bottom wheel is welcome in the new Tiguan.

Other interior pluses include a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, a wireless charger under the center stack and a big sunroof with shade.

Seats? Well, that’s a derriere downside as these are quite hard, front and rear so that after about an hour’s drive your bum will start to ache, unless your tushie is more padded than mine. A younger, and fit, passenger agreed that these were among the hardest seats she had ridden in.

The driver’s seat is powered though, including a power lumbar to help provide lower back comfort and the second row seats are quite roomy, allowing for taller passengers to easily fit. Likewise the storage room behind row two seats is generous and there’s a power hatch in back for easy access. Rear seats fold down nearly flat and while there were manual release levers in the cargo area I could not get them to unlatch the rear seat backs.

Despite that flat-bottom wheel I also found tight knee space under the steering column so exiting the Tiguan required some care to not bang a knee. This is primarily a problem for shorter drivers as they, like me, will have the seat a little further forward for comfortable pedal pushing.

Outside the test crossover was a beautiful Atlantic Blue Metallic, a dark sparkling blue, while the interior was gray perforated leather for the seats, while lower trim levels offer cloth or a fake leather seats. The dash was black on top but the lower 2/3 was gray to match the seating. Same with the doors and trim, but a black and gray stripped insert that sort of looked like wood is used as door and dash trim.

This SEL model also packs a fine 480-watt Fender audio system.

VW includes a good selection of safety equipment including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane assist (mild corrections) and smart cruise control among others.

Gas mileage is good for a compact crossover with an EPA rating of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. I beat that with mostly highway driving that netted 30.8 mpg.

Pricing is a happy surprise too as the base front-drive Tiguan S with the smaller info screen and cloth interior lists at $27,785, including delivery.

There’s also an SE at $31,415, this trim adding the power hatch, dual-zone climate controls, fake leather seats, wireless charging, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping and smart cruise control, making it a preferred choice while still economical.

The SE R-Line Black model jumps up to $34,245 but adds the panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, 15-color ambient lighting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Adding AWD to any model except the tested SEL costs $1,500.

The tested SEL R-Line lists at $37,790 with delivery and this one added no options. The highest trim level includes a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, road sign recognition system, automatic high beams and a self-parking system, plus the items mentioned earlier.

Note too that the front-drive models come standard with a third row seat, but experience shows this is quite tight so only useful for small children and for short duration rides. No third row is available in the AWD models such as the tester.

Tiguan is certainly a high-value compact crossover that competes well with the market leaders such as Toyota’s RAV-4 and Honda’s CR-V. For ride and handling the other good choices are Mazda’s CX-5 and Subaru’s Forester, although they offer a bit less cargo room. The new Mazda CX-50, which is 5 inches longer than the CX-5, should be considered if increased interior space is vital.

FAST STATS: 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line

Hits: Handsome styling, nimble handling, good power and AWD. Large easy to use screen, digital climate controls, heated/cooled front seats, various drive modes, big sunroof w/shade, wireless charger, power hatch.

Misses: Hard seats,tight knee space to steering column for short drivers, info screen slow to start, some acceleration hesitation and choppy ride on uneven roads.

Made in: Puebla, Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 184 horsepower/221 torque

Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic w/Sport

Weight: 3,856 lbs.

Length: 186.1 in.

Wheelbase: 109.9 in.

Cargo: 37.6-73.4 cu.ft.

Tow: 1,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/28

MPG:  30.8 (tested)

Base Price: $37,790 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $37,122

Major Options: None

Test vehicle: $37,790

Sources: Volkswagen, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 GMC Terrain 4AT AWD

GMC’s restyled Terrain a worthy SUV to fit a family budget …

I’d be lying if I said my expectations were high when the bright Cayenne Red GMC Terrain AT4 was deposited in the family driveway.

This is a compact entry-level SUV from GM’s truck brand that starts just under $30 grand, a value leader, and the word among auto writers is that it’s down on power. Soooo …

Yet one person’s lack of power is another’s value statement. Nothing wrong with that.

I’m even a bit upset with myself because three years ago I’d tested Terrain’s kissin’ cousin, the Chevy Equinox, and liked it just fine, although the Chevy had a more powerful engine.

Consider this though.

Terrain comes in four trims, starting with the rear-drive SLE at that impressive $29,095 starting price (AWD adds $1,600), but the SLT is next up the line and probably the best value as it adds heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and power rear hatch, all for $33,045.

The tested AT4 is new for 2022 and is intended for buyers interested in light off-roading capability and appearances. Dressed in the spiffy bright metallic red paint job ($695 extra) and with black accents, grille and lower-body cladding the Terrain looked like a serious off-roader. In fact, I got more comments and passersby looks in this than some luxury sport sedans I’ve driven. That may say more about the market for SUVs than just styling though.

The AT4 adds Goodyear Sport Terrain tires, traction selection with an off-road mode, hill-descent control, a steel skid plate under the nose and embroidered AT4 headrests. List price is just $35,145 and AWD is standard.

Luxury lovers can upgrade to the Denali trim, always the peak of GMC’s trims, and still pay just $37,700. But Denali adds a color HUD, premium suspension, luxury leather interior and trim, cooled front seats and heated back seats, plus wireless charging along with Pro Safety Plus, which adds more safety gear.

So, for families in search of an SUV that fits a normal budget, Terrain certainly should be on the shopping list.

Watch Mark’s video review: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 – YouTube

Yet here’s what sold me right away, the ride.

GMC has figured out that American roads are abysmal and instead of stiffening the ride for performance, softened and tuned it for comfort. Bravo! So, bounding over crater-like pot holes, frost-heaved pavement, half-filled blacktop cracks and way too expansive expansion joints, Terrain remains calm and collected. Passengers barely notice the carnage beneath the Goodyear R17 tires. By the way, replacing these over time will be a lot cheaper than getting new 20-inchers, or larger.

That ride is worth the price of admission, but the steering is light too, as is the vehicle. It’s easy to park, and while steering feel is somewhat vague, Terrain is simple to keep in its lane. In tight turns there’s a little body roll, or lean, but hey, I’m not buying a Lamborghini for the family. I want them to be comfy.

Power is mild, but not horrible, because the 9-speed automatic works well with this small 1.5-liter turbo I4. Shifts are smooth and the 170 horsepower is used well, plus the torque at 203 pound-feet, helps Terrain pull away from stoplights reasonably well.

And … the AT4 comes with AWD, so in rain, snow or other slop you’ll have improved traction. Plus this trim offers three terrain settings with 2WD being the default that will save on fuel and is what you’ll need until that rain or snow hits. Then you press down and turn a knob on the console for AWD, and if you’ve ventured off road there’s a setting for that too. Simple and effective unless you plan to do serious rock crawling.

That front steel skid plate also will protect the undercarriage if there happen to be a few rocks and sticks on your path.

Outside, the body has been given more definition and its looks muscled up. The black trim helps set that off and the lights, front and rear, are sharply styled, reflecting a more upscale look.

Inside, Terrain is simple, yet attractive and roomy. Seats feature a perforated dark gray leather top with cloth sides. Contrasting stitching is a golden brown that also is featured on the dash and leather steering wheel.

There also are small bits of imitation carbon fiber for door trim and a teeny bit on the passenger’s side dash. The plastic console is a matte gray as is the steering wheel hub, both welcome because they do not reflect the sun, ever.

Seats though are the standout here, being well formed to give good hip and lower back support, yet just the right firmness so a long drive won’t burn up your bottom. Rear seats are roomy, as are the fronts, so four adults easily fit and five will too, if the person sandwiched in back isn’t an NFL tackle.

Rear seats split and fold flat and there’s some storage beneath the cargo floor for carrying stuff. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the hatch is powered.

Optional equipment here was mostly value priced and likely wanted and/or needed by most buyers.

For instance, the Pro Safety Plus package that is standard on Denali runs just $645 here and includes lane-change alert, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control and a safety alert seat. That’s pretty nice as it slightly vibrates the driver’s tooshie if there’s something in your blind spot or in your path as you back up.

The dual-pane sunroof and power shade are a bit much at $1,495, but certainly brightens the interior.

A $1,180 infotainment package adds a premium Bose stereo with seven speakers, navigation system with voice recognition, an 8-inch color info screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay hookups.

A tech package also adds HD surround vision, front and rear park assist and a HUD for $850.

The test Terrain was to have heated front seats, but that chip is in short supply, so it wasn’t included, but could be added by a dealer once the chip is available. For now, GMC gives a $50 credit, but the buttons are built in to the console already.

Sharp-looking headlights here!

All told, with options, this Terrain hit $39,960, well below the average new vehicle price.

There are a few things I’d change inside though, starting with widening the inner portion of the console by about a half inch so a cell phone could lay flat, plus add wireless charging. A bit wider would be even better as folks with taller cell phones could then lay theirs flat too.

Then there’s the biggest faux pas, the automatic shift buttons on the lower center stack. They are odd and confusing as they are laid out horizontally, AND are a mix of push and pull toggles. Weirdest design I’ve seen, but you must push Park and Neutral, while you must pull a toggle to engage Reverse and Drive. Not cool!

Gas consumption was cool though, or at least darn good for an AWD compact SUV. I got 26.4 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the Terrain at 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway on regular fuel. The RWD model gets up to 30 mpg.

Terrain should be on any value-oriented family’s shopping list, especially if you need or want an SUV that’s roomy and delivers a superior ride.

Others to consider include Mazda’s CX-5 and new CX-50, along with the VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford’s Escape, and Subaru’s Outback, to name a few.

Even the taillights are handsomely styled on GMC’s entry-level SUV.

FAST STATS: 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 AWD

Hits: Muscular looks, great ride, decent acceleration, AWD, and three terrain settings. Dual-pane sunroof, power hatch, Bose stereo, comfy seats, roomy interior, skid plate, and good standard safety features.

Misses: No wireless charger or heated front seats, console cubie too narrow for Android phone to lay flat, confusing horizontal push/pull shift toggles.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 1.5-liter turbo I4, 170 hp/203 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 3,659 lbs.

Wheelbase: 107.3 in.

Length: 182.3 in.

Cargo: 63.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/28

MPG: 26.4 (tested)

Base Price: $35,145 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $33.631

Major Options:

Infotainment pkg. II (Bose premium audio w/7 speakers & amp, 8-inch HD color touchscreen w/Nav & voice recognition, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), $1,180

GMC Pro Safety Plus pkg. (lane change alert w/side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, safety alert seat, adaptive cruise control), $645

Skyscape sunroof w/power shade, $1,495

Tech pkg. (HD surround vision, front and rear park assist, HUD), $850

Cayenne Red paint, $645

Heated front seat credit, -$50

Test vehicle: $39, 960

Sources: GMC, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport

Restyled NX puts emphasis on tech and sassy performance …

            Small, sassy and techy, that’s Lexus restyled NX 350, a compact crossover aimed directly at the better-off retiree or suburban family with no more than two kids.

            I suppose I think of NX being aimed at newly retired Boomers because of its luxury price tag that can hit $60,000. Seems a family with two pre-teens might not be able to swing that kinda car loan.

            But in any case, Lexus has massaged the NX’s styling, quieted it’s interior further, added a more solid driving feel and now offers four powertrains to fit various wallets and energy-consciousness levels.

Oh, and let’s get this up front, that darned Lexus touchpad on the console to control the infotainment screen is GONE. Praise be!

First the basics starting with trims and powertrains. NX is available in 12, that’s right, a dozen trim levels. The base NX 250 with a 203-horse 2.5-liter I4 is the only one without AWD standard, but it’s an option.

Starting with the NX 350h and 350 (no h), AWD is standard. The 350h is a hybrid coupling two electric motors with the 2.5-liter I4 to create 239 horsepower, adding a bit more oomph while improving gas mileage. This is the same system found in sister brand Toyota’s RAV4, and which has drawn raves from me and other auto pilots.

The NX 350 (stay with me here) touts a 2.4-liter turbo I4 that jumps power up to 275 horses and a torque rating of 317 lb.-ft. Turbos always cram more torque into a powerplant so it’ll accelerate quicker and that’s what the tested NX 350 F Sport that I tested was packing. Power off the line is considerable and gives the NX a sportier feel than one might expect from a Lexus. And while the cabin is relatively quiet, there is some engine chatter when tromping the accelerator.

More on performance in a second, but lastly there’s a plug-in hybrid model too, the NX 450h that creates 302 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 6 seconds flat. That’s hustling for a crossover.

Its plug-in charge reportedly lasts about 36 miles and this upper-end model starts at $57,800 with delivery, and the F Sport model pushing that even higher. Note though that there’s a $7,500 tax credit on the plug-ins.

If you’ve stuck with me through all that, you deserve to hear more about the tested 350 F Sport.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Lexus NX350 F Sport – YouTube

It’s perky with quick giddyup due to that turbo, and the steering is fairly quick too, so an aggressive driver can push it into turns for a sport-oriented drive. The F Sport Handling feature on this model tunes the suspension for a sportier feel with front and rear shock performance dampers and adaptive variable suspension.

Tied to that are five drive modes from Eco to Sport+ which is the high-performance setting. That makes for a stiffer ride and handling, plus more aggressive acceleration via the 8-speed automatic.

Ride is well controlled in any case, but remains on the firmer side. Braking also is massive considering the vehicle’s size and weight. Lexus uses 12.9-inch vented discs up front and 12.5-inch vented rear discs. Stopping comes quickly.

A reminder that AWD is standard.

Outside, the NX 350 reminds me of the Mazda CX-5 and CX-30 crossovers with sizeable grilles and a beaklike nose where the hood extends out a tad over the grille. I like the look, although some folks consider the Lexus grille a bit much. I defend it as so many other makes have followed suit of late, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. The crossover’s tail is distinctive too with a light bar across the hatch.

Inside, the Redline (bright red) test NX featured stunning red and black perforated leather seats along with red leather on the doors and console. The dash top is black and there’s gloss black trim by the giant 14-inch screen and edges of the console.

That monster screen is certainly easy to see and without that annoying touch pad that adorned past Lexus consoles it’s a vast improvement, because it’s a touchscreen, and also can be controlled via the Intelligent Assistant. No, that’s not a family member that rides along, but the AI voice recognition system that responds to “Hey Lexus.” A warning here, you WILL say Alexa to it at least a couple times.

The touchscreen is not hard to use, but I’d like to see some real knobs and buttons, especially dedicated Home, Radio and Map buttons to get you quickly where you want to go. I say this, knowing my voice can tell the computer, but old habits die hard. Still, kudos to Lexus for finally replacing the touch pad.

Rest of the dash is fine and easy to see, plus there are good sightlines to the side as the NX allows some space between the side mirrors and A-pillars to improve visibility.

Seating is sport-oriented too with fabulous lower back and kidney support as the seats wrap around and caress the back and sides. Power seats of course, along with heated front seats (cooled is optional). A Cold Package ($250) adds a heated steering wheel along with heated wipers and deicer system plus a PTC heater for quicker heating.

There’s also an F Sport Luxury package for $2,200 that upgrades to that 14-inch screen for one that’s just short of 10 inches. The package also delivers that Hey Lexus system, ambient lighting, the cooled front seats, a special nav system and park assist, along with a power hatch activated by swinging your foot beneath the rear bumper.

Lexus goes with a big touchscreen, eliminating its annoying console touchpad.

Sunroof fans will love the panoramic moonroof that covers front and back seats. It costs $1,600 extra. A fine Mark Levinson premium audio system with 17 speakers (8.5 for each ear) is $1,020 extra too.

Four more options on the test NX pushed it from a $47,725 starting price (with delivery) to $55,325, which seems high for this size vehicle. But be assured NX is a high-tech tour de force.

For safety there’s the usual systems like rear cross-traffic, a 360-camera, blind-spot warning and lane departure. Lexus also adds road sign assist, smart cruise, intelligent high-beams, and curve speed management.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as is a safety connect system to call for help and Wi-Fi connect too.

The steering column is a power tilt/telescope model but it’s disappointing that Lexus still doesn’t add a flat-bottom steering wheel to its F Sport models. That makes no sense.

There is, however, a wireless charging system and push-button door releases. Those seem gimmicky, although they worked fine. For safety’s sake you also can pull them back like a normal lever to release the door. The push-button system seems like technology solving a non-existent problem.

Rear seats will fold flat manually to extend the cargo area, but that space is pretty generous as is, plus there’s hidden storage under the rear floor. Reportedly the hybrid versions have the same cargo space, meaning batteries don’t cut into the cargo area.

Gas mileage is OK. I got 22.2 mpg in about 70% highway driving and the EPA rates this at 22 mpg city and 28 highway. The real hurt is that premium fuel is recommended. Ouch!

But again, this is a small luxury crossover, so you’re expecting some premium costs. Note though that with some option restraint an NX 350 or 350h can be had for $41,700 to $45 grand or so. That’s the entry-level luxury range now.

FAST STATS: 2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport

Hits: Distinctive styling, good power, nice handling, controlled ride and AWD. Stellar interior design, big touchscreen, massive sunroof, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated/cooled seats, super contoured seats, 5 drive modes, wireless charger, good sight lines.

Misses: Needs flat-bottom steering wheel, more knobs to simplify using touchscreen, and push-button door releases feel gimmicky. Also needs premium fuel, ouch! 

Made in: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan

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

Transmission: 8-speed automatic, AWD

Weight: 4,035 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.9 in.

Length: 183.5 in.

Cargo: 22.7 – 46.9 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/28

MPG: 22.2 (tested)

Base Price: $47,725 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $44,695

Major Options:

Cold package (heated steering wheel, heated wiper/window deicer, PTC heater), $250

Triple beam headlamps w/washers, cornering lamps, $850

F Sport Luxury (14-inch touchscreen, Drive Connect w/Cloud navigation, Intelligent Assistant (Hey, Lexus), destination assist, ambient lighting, power rear hatch w/kick sensor, cooled front seats, intelligent park assist), $2,200

Mark Levinson premium audio w/17 speakers, $1,020

Panoramic moonroof, $1,600

Panoramic view monitor, lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert, $1,070

Towing package, $160

Smart phone convenience package, $450

Test vehicle: $55,325

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4GT AWC

New Outlander Sport a simple, effective, high-value crossover …

            Mitsubishi’s new Outlander Sport crossover is simple, yet effective.

By that I mean it’s nothing fancy, but it’s a solid family hauler with four-wheel-drive, enough safety equipment to satisfy most folks and a sporty new nose to refresh its looks so it doesn’t look like the styling fairy has passed it by. Continue reading 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4GT AWC

2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD

Practical RAV4 muscles up its exterior …2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

There’s no denying that Toyota has done well with its RAV4, one of the first small SUV/crossovers on the market, and it continues to be among the most popular in its segment.

For 2019 Toyota restyles the RAV4 to give it a more chiseled nose that easily calls to mind Jeep styling, plus is a throwback to its own boxy FJ Cruisers of years past. From the outside the new RAV looks fabulous, exuding more personality than ever before.

The RAV is practical too in that it historically holds its value and lasts an eternity. Continue reading 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD

2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Lexus NX proves looks still matter …Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Looks matter in much of life, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. But good looks are so rare in small crossovers and sport-utes that when one has them, it deserves more than a passing glance.

Lexus’ NX is a looker. I’ve said it before, as I’ve tested this vehicle a couple times, and I’ll keep saying it until some other car company out-designs the NX. Its taillights look three dimensional even from a distance and the front lights are big checkmarks laid sideways. Its interior is angular and attractive too, the test unit featuring dark red leather seats with black trim — this is not your German cousin’s luxury crossover!

My test vehicle was the NX 200t F Sport with all-wheel-drive and decked out in a bright sparkling white paint job. Finally, a car that isn’t gray! The white accentuated its spiffy styling, and as in past drives, outside of a stiff ride and horribly clunky radio/navigation tuning system, the NX is a delight.

The 200t features a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with variable valve timing. It creates 235 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of power for a small crossover. The turbo does exhibit some lag under normal acceleration, but flip the dial on the console to the Sport setting and boom, the power is stronger and more instantaneous. I drove it in Sport most of the week, although it resets to the Normal setting every time the vehicle is turned off.Lexus NX 200t

Lexus’ NX 300h that I tested earlier had a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with hybrid system to create 194 horses, but it is down on torque and seemed lackadaisical on acceleration. Gas mileage was better in the hybrid, at 29.9 miles per gallon as opposed to 24.5 mpg this time. The EPA rates the 200t at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Your call, but I prefer the turbo’s power. Continue reading 2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

Larger Sportage maintains styling edge …2017 Kia Sportage

Kia has upgraded and enlarged its Sportage small sport-ute to keep it competitive with the likes of Subaru’s Forester, Honda’s CR-V, Ford’s Escape and Toyota’s RAV4.

This is an extremely competitive market with many good products, but Kia maintains its strong styling edge and then lengthens Sportage’s wheelbase from 103.9 inches to 105.1 to give it an even better ride than before. It’s right up there with the top small utes now for comfort.

I tested a beautiful “Burnished Copper” Sportage SX AWD, the top-level model. The color reminds me of my family’s handsome 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S that was decked out in “Aztec Gold.” Great to see some gold tones return to automotive color lineups.

2017 Kia SportageRide and power are Sportage’s strengths. While the longer wheelbase and re-tuned suspension give it a well-controlled ride with no harsh moments, the power is impressive. The SX model features a high-revving turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with an impressive 241 horsepower and 260 ft.-lbs. of torque. Same engine is used in Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport. Continue reading 2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD

2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion

Tiguan shows VW still struggling in U.S.

Ever since Volkswagen lost its way in the U.S. market, about the time it phased out the old Beetle, it has been struggling to regain its footing.

vw1Nowhere is that struggle more evident than its small sport-utility offering, the Tiguan. VW’s small ute was restyled and remade a year ago and certainly showed improvement. It feels lighter and more fun to drive. The steering is among the sportiest of all small utes. Plus it offers a 200-horse 2.0-liter, I4 with a turbo. That SHOULD make it rock.

But there were issues with the silver mid-line SE 4Motion that I tested.

Mainly its engine and 6-speed automatic DSG transmission with the clutchless manual Tiptronic system did not work smoothly. Certainly the engine has the ponies. Flatten the gas pedal and it’ll jump to highway speeds like a champ.

But most of us drive in that 30-45 mph range a lot as we trundle to and from work. In that bracket the transmission gets balky, especially from 35-40 mph. It feels as if it’s holding the engine back, the car hesitates and transmission noise increases. I found myself languishing as I pulled away from stoplights and getting frustrated as the ute bogged as I approached 40 mph on suburban 4-lane roads. Some shifts even felt a bit jerky at times.

Tiguan also requires premium fuel to boost that turbo, yet the ute gets modest gas mileage. I got just 22.1 mpg while the EPA rates this at 20 mpg city and 26 highway. Consider, for instance, its competitor, the Mazda CX-5 with its efficient SkyActiv engine that boasts 24 mpg city and 30 highway. I got 27.3 mpg in the Mazda. That’s a big difference. Continue reading 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion

2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-5 better than ever with more powerful enginemazda cx5

Give Mazda credit, once it decided to remake its small sport-utility for 2013, it didn’t rest on its laurels, although it could have for a couple years.

Nope, for 2014 it rolls out a new efficient, and more powerful 2.5-liter I4 using its Skyactiv technology that aims at fuel economy, plus performance.

So, while last year’s CX-5 mid-size sport-utility was a delight to drive, with upscale looks and feel, the 2014 ups the performance ante and still delivers excellent gas mileage for a ute with all-wheel-drive.

I tested the top-level Grand Touring model with AWD, so it tips the money scales at $28,870, but that’s still well below the average price of a new vehicle these days. With a fancy, and mostly unneeded, tech package it hit $31,890, right at the average cost of a new vehicle.

But here’s the deal, the new 2.5-liter engine with variable valve timing and Skyactiv technology manages an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, just one mpg lower than the 2.0-liter I4 that comes in entry-level models and that makes just 155 horses. The power difference is noticeable. Continue reading 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD