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Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

Audi’s Q7 ute lives up to its hype …2017 Audi Q7

I’d read some early reviews of the Audi Q7 full-size sport-utility and thought them suspiciously glowing, like a parent telling how great their kid’s violin concert had been.

Well, count me among the converted.

Big sport-utes are generally luxurious land barges that’ll pull a load and haul a load of people. Audi’s new 2017 Q7 will do all that, but in addition to power it delivers ride and handling.

The back story is that Audi didn’t make a 2016 model, skipping that model year because it intended this model to be an early 2017 release. It was planning a big upgrade, as in the use of a lot more aluminum in the body and overall structure, cutting 474 lbs. from the 2015 model. Audi also upgraded to a 5-link suspension front and rear and managed to lower the truck’s center of gravity by 1.7 inches. No small feat.

audi Q7bAll of that adds up to a more manageable ute, one that rides and handles much better than its predecessor.

Power still comes from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that creates a solid 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sufficient to pull 7,700 lbs. of trailer too.

The V6 is linked to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and delivers enough power to the Quattro 4-wheel-drive system that in the Dynamic drive mode the Q7 actually feels quick. There are four other Drive Select modes, Winter, Automatic, Comfort and Individual. Each can impact the steering effort, acceleration and ride, but Dynamic is the most fun. Continue reading Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro

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2015 Ford Edge Titanium AWD

Ford Edge Titanium a top-flight crossoveredge

Ford’s Edge is a good looking crossover that puts Ford’s boxy Flex to shame in handling and looks , but won’t haul as many people. Edge is a top-flight mid-size crossover with a comfortable ride, good power and an excellent interior for five adults.

My test unit was the almost top-level Titanium model with all-wheel-drive, so started at $38,490, including delivery. Only the Edge Sport is more upscale, starting at $40,990 and packs a turbocharged V6.

I found the metallic gray (magnetic) test Edge’s turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4 to be sufficient. It delivers a healthy 245 horsepower and boasts a 270 torque rating. So it’ll get up and go. Besides you’re not gonna take a crossover to Union Grove’s dragstrip anyway.

Ford’s EcoBoost engine works well with the standard 6-speed automatic, runs smooth and quiet and when you tromp the accelerator to get on the highway it’ll jump up to 70 mph quickly. Edge also gets away from stoplights well in town, not feeling as heavy as it’s nearly 4,100 lbs.

edge2But the ride is what the family will like. Edge’s suspension is tuned to control rough Midwest roads and coddle passengers without making them feel they are floating along on a pillow. There’s little jostling and even railroad tracks don’t disturb the ride. Continue reading 2015 Ford Edge Titanium AWD

2015 Chrysler 300S AWD

Chrysler nails full-size luxury with 300S AWDchrysler1

Remember full-size cars that were comfortable for five adults? Probably not, unless you’re of a certain age.

A few remain, the distinctive and elegant Chrysler 300 being one of the better efforts. First, it looks great with a big grille and chiseled lines that have only been somewhat softened around the nose for 2015 along with LED taillights added.

There are a variety of 300 models, but one feature, AWD, separates the big Chrysler from most other full-size cars. The bright metallic red test car was the sporty S version with AWD and a strong 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing. The V6 creates 300 horsepower and 264 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Acceleration is quick and responsive. Getting up to highway cruising speed is a breeze and the 8-speed automatic shifts easily and uses the engine’s power well. Sport Mode is standard on the S and it allows you to adjust the transmission, throttle and steering at the press of a button. Sport mode on means heavier steering feel, longer shift points and more responsive throttle. Those with a racier driving attitude will appreciate the change, others can pass on the S and go with a lesser 300 model.

chrysler3Handling is decent, a little body lean in hard cornering and the rear-drive (normally) car pushes some in corners too, but then you probably won’t be driving it that hard most of the time. Continue reading 2015 Chrysler 300S AWD

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS AWD

Santa Fe grows into large crossover with third row seat

Korean automaker Hyundai’s market share is growing in the U.S. market and its vehicles are getting larger too. It appears Hyundai has adopted the age-old American car strategy of not only expanding its offerings, but its vehicles’ dimensions.santa1

Case in point, the new Santa Fe, what used to be a modest mid-size sport-utility truck, is now a large crossover. It’s heavy, 4,098 lbs. It’s long 193.1 inches. It has a large 3.3-liter V6 engine, and its gas mileage is mediocre at 18 mpg city and 24 highway.

I drove the GLS AWD model, meaning it has all-wheel-drive, which naturally adds some weight and cuts its gas mileage. But AWD does give Santa Fe some of its old sport-ute functionality. Outwardly the Santa Fe looks like most other large crossovers, not much to distinguish it. In fact, it looks more like a minivan now, but with outward opening rear doors instead of sliding van doors.

The crossover’s size means it now has room for a third row seat, which is split, and will fold flat in back to boost cargo capacity that otherwise is moderate. My test unit, a Night Sky Pearl (metallic blue/gray), had no power hatch, which seemed a bit odd at the asking price of $35,180. A power hatch is optional though. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS AWD

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350

GLK350 laddles on the luxury

Small luxury utes are nearly as plentiful as entry-level small utes, and sometimes I wonder what you get for that extra $15 grand. But a week in the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 reminded me what it is, luxury looks, feel and ride.GLK1

A bunch of the little luxury utes handle pretty well and a few even look luxurious, but the GLK350 is a heck of a nice blend, and with a base price of $37,090 it’s one of the least expensive vehicles from the famous German automaker. This one added a variety of niceties, so it hit $46,930 before an $875 destination charge.

But the truth of the matter is that even at its base the Benz is luxury oriented and performance is the same, no matter how many extras you add.

Standard is a peppy 3.5-liter DI V6 that creates 302 horsepower so this ute will get up and go from a stop. But in a Mercedes you don’t want to be tossed into the back seat with muscle car power. So there’s a highly refined 7-speed automatic transmission that slips through the gears with velvety smoothness. You barely notice a gear shift. Continue reading 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Sporty, useful, practical, some hatchbacks have it all

Hatchbacks are fantastic and Hyundai’s latest entry the Elantra GT proves the point.2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Sporty, useful, practical and bordering on fun to drive a hatchback often gives you more for your money than any other car design on the market. Think of crossovers as hatchbacks on steroids and you get the picture for useful and practical, but without the sporty. Continue reading 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

2012 Hyundai Azera

Azera is aces in luxury, quiet, comfort

 If you are among the folks who thought Hyundai would never make it in the U.S. car market, well, get over it.

I’ve driven quite a few Hyundai models of late and the new Azera is the finest yet. This is a large front-drive sedan to challenge Toyota’s Avalon and entry-level sedans from Lexus, Infiniti, Acura and the like.

Granted the Azera looks much like a Lexus and, similar to that make, it tends more toward luxury than sport. The emphasis here is on smooth, starting with its gentle curving roofline and profile to the car’s stylish soothing leather interior. Continue reading 2012 Hyundai Azera