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
A road trip to Louisville with a couple buddies, and plenty of cargo, proved Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid to be a perfect transport choice.
Ours was a medium metallic brown, what Toyota calls Toasted Walnut Pearl. Probably should have been pecan since we were headed to the South. But, color aside, this fine family mover will carry eight folks and their stuff, or in our case, three and luggage, boxes, a monster camera bag, etc.
There was plenty to like and really nothing to irritate a crabby old guy and his friends.
Start with power. There’s a bunch. Toyota puts a new 3.5-liter V6 under the hood, mated with its reliable hybrid power system. Combined these get 306 horsepower and operation is silky smooth. Creeping through Chicago traffic on the return trip, at about 5-20 mph, the Highlander hummed along on electric power. Once I needed to accelerate somewhere near Gurnee, Ill., its electronically controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission) eased right into it and off we went at 70+ mph. In fact, cruising through Indiana the Highlander is so quiet and comfy that we had no difficulty commenting on how far we could see in any direction.
Ride is super. Highlander rides on a 109.8-inch wheelbase and the independent front McPherson struts and rear double wishbone suspension eat up highway imperfections. Few vehicles feel this smooth on rough Midwestern roads. Continue reading 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Ltd. Platinum
Lincoln’s new Continental, its first since 2002, has the type of curb appeal that will instantly allow it entry into the country club parking lot. It looks luxurious and that big chrome grille lets you know it’s a Continental.
For those interested in making a luxury statement, but really only hoping for that big mellow Continental ride, relax. The 2017 iteration delivers on the boulevard ride. Thankfully it’s simply pleasant, not floaty as in model years past.
Lincoln uses a long 117.9-inch wheelbase, multi-link suspension front and rear and continuously controlled damping to ensure a ride worthy of yourself and three or four of your country club friends. And yes, there’s plenty of room in the trunk for a couple golf bags.
So with distinguished looks and supple ride you may consider the Continental right on target for its audience. Except, like Cadillac, Lincoln is hoping to lure the 45-55-year old luxury sedan buyer, not senior citizens. For middle-aged luxury buyers power and handling also play a big role in brand selection.
Power is no problem here. The base Premium model features a 3.7-liter V6 making 305 horsepower, while the Select and Reserve models boast a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 that creates 365 horses and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. Turbos always deliver more oomph than naturally aspirated engines.
Ah, but the silver test car added (for $3,265) the upper crust 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that cranks an impressive 400 horsepower, with an equal torque rating. This turbo empowered beast is standard on the top level Black Label edition too. Continue reading 2017 Lincoln Continental AWD Reserve
If looks are important to you, styling that will get you noticed or at least be recognized as a non-generic luxury car, then Jaguar’s new entry-level luxury sedan, the XE, should have your name printed on its title.
The new small Jag has dashing looks that communicate immediately that it’s a Jaguar. Oh there’s the leaping animal’s silhouette on the trunk lid and steering wheel, but it’s the car’s lean looks, long hood and big chrome grille that tell folks this is a Jaguar.
That’s all well and good, plus Jaguar offers nearly as many model choices as do the domestic pickups. The XE comes in 19 models, all the way from a rear-drive 25T model to a 35T First Edition with all-wheel drive. The vast numbers come from all trim levels coming in either rear- or all-wheel-drive and offering three engine choices.
The base model in each trim, including Premium, Prestige and R-Sport, is the 25T with a 2.0-liter, I4 turbo generating 240 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque. A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel also is available. It cranks 180 horsepower but features a tremendous 318 torque rating. The tested supercharged 3.0-liter V6 delivers a healthy 340 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque.
Confused? Well, there also are a couple First Edition models, but we’ll let the dealers explain all that to you.
For now, let’s focus on the pretty white test car, the XE 35t Prestige. Its targets include the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes E Class, Audi A4 and possibly the Lexus IS. Each has their advantages, and the Jaguar’s is its looks. Continue reading 2017 Jaguar XE 35t Prestige
It may be a bit early in the calendar year to talk about hitting for the cycle, but the 2017 Volkswagen Passat does just that.
Rare is the mid-size car that delivers healthy power, refined handling and ride along with a quiet interior. Often a sedan with respectable power is noisy inside, or rides like a buckboard.
But the Passat is a pleasant blend that retains its sporty characteristics while delivering the “dreaded” practicality of room for five adults and their luggage, while also being a delight to drive and competitively priced. Its one drawback through the years (the car was redesigned for the 2016), has been reliability. The old model had issues. Time will tell if that monkey is off VW’s back for Passat, which is made in Tennessee.
From a driving standpoint I haven’t driven a more pleasurable mid-size car in ages. First, this pretty “Fortana Red” test car was the SEL Premium model with VW’s romping V6, a 3.6-liter number that creates a kickin’ 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a 6-speed automatic the power comes on in a hurry and gives the front-drive Passat major power.
Better yet, that power is smooth, not a burst as with the standard engine, a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 170 horses. You’ll drink more gas with the V6, 20/28 mpg vs. 23/34 mpg for the I4. But I still got 23 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned more toward city speeds. Continue reading 2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium
Here’s a simple truth. It’s fun to drive a car that’s fun to drive.
That may seem silly, but let’s break it down.
First, cars have taken a back seat to trucks for years now as first SUVs and then crossovers replaced the family sedan as the vehicle of choice.
Second, fun often means power and that ebbs and wanes in popularity based on the price of oil.
Third, fun also means responsive handling and that frequently is achieved by engineers designing an overly stiff car that tortures your tushie.
So finding a fun car to drive is a rarity, yet Audi has absolutely nailed it with its new A4 sedan. I drove a crisp bright Ibis white Premium model that, contrary to its name, is the base A4. Mine was loaded with Premium Plus and Technology packages though, so more likely reflects a mid-level A4 in performance and feel.
Audi’s A4 is speedy, fun and sophisticated. It’s a joy to drive and ride in and has everything a driver could want, although once loaded it becomes pricey, like a BMW. Continue reading 2017 Audi A4 Premium
Cadillac has mastered the styling, now it needs to work on the details.
The new Cadillac XT5 crossover continues Cadillac’s sharp chiseled styling with tall taillights and noteworthy nose and headlight stylings. Its interior is luxurious and attractive in a way most German makes have yet to figure out because of their love for black leather.
But the XT5’s seats are way too snug in the hip and the ride too firm for our crumbling Wisconsin roads that are cracked by time, winter and a lack of willingness to pay for improving them. Additionally its CUE audio screen is improved, but still not the easiest to master while driving.
Yet like other Cadillac’s and GM products, the XT5 delivers ample power with a new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 ft.-lbs. of torque, so it’ll scoot when required to. That happens best when in Sport mode which holds gears longer in the 8-speed automatic. In normal mode acceleration is moderate. Continue reading 2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium AWD