Tag Archives: Sport

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-5 remains a sporty crossover … 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

As the world turns toward an all crossover and SUV automotive market it’s encouraging that the likes of Mazda continues to try and design sharp-looking vehicles that drive more like sports cars than trucks.

This week’s fun four-wheeler is the midsize CX-5 crossover in top-level Grand Touring 4×4 trim and bathed oh so beautifully in Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. That’ll cost you $595 extra, but it’ll also turn heads. Continue reading 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2018 BMW M550i xDrive

BMW’s M550i a hot, but sophisticated, rocket! … 2018 BMW 550i xDrive

BMW 5 Series sedans still rock.

I know I about drooled myself silly praising the BMW 530e xDrive I tested about six weeks ago. I lauded it as epitomizing BMW’s motto of The Ultimate Driving Machine, and I still believe that. But …

Along comes its sister sport sedan, the M550i xDrive, and well, my lather has returned. That’s because in place of the silky smooth plug-in hybrid system of the 530e, with its 248-horse twin-turbo I4 and electric hybrid system, the 550 drops in a throbbing V8. Yes, this one has a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that creates — hold on — 456 horsepower. Continue reading 2018 BMW M550i xDrive

2017 Kia Niro Touring

Kia’s new hybrid will knock your socks off …2017 Kia Niro

            Roughly once a year a test car knocks my socks off, trips my trigger, simply surprises the heck out of me and this week’s Kia Niro Touring has me amazed.

Looking at it you’ll say that’s no car, that’s a crossover vehicle. And that’s what Kia wants you to say. The styling is typical Kia wonderful with good looking nose, tail and beautifully proportioned profile. It has a taller stance like a crossover, but (and this is one of at least two surprises) it is front-wheel drive, and as of now AWD is not an option.

Second surprise, from a driving standpoint, this little beauty is a hybrid.

That’s right, it has an electric motor to go along with its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas-powered engine to create what sounds like a modest 139 horsepower. Don’t let that number fool you.2017 Kia Niro

Sure, left in Normal drive mode the acceleration here is (yawn), shall we say, modest. But simply by sliding the 6-speed Sportronic gear lever to the left into Sport mode the Niro jumps to life. Acceleration is quick and quiet as the electric motor propels this honey to normal city cruising speed.

I found myself leaving the shifter in normal mode, which is the most economical way to go, and then slipping it into Sport at stoplights. Fun, and zippy! Continue reading 2017 Kia Niro Touring

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE

Toyota Corolla still running strong 50 years on …2017 Toyota Corolla

Like Energizer’s bunny, Toyota’s Corolla just keeps on running through the generations and has succeeded like no other car model. It’s now 50-year run has resulted in more than 40 million Corollas being sold, most of any model.

That’s more than the VW Beetle, the other long-term, low-cost people’s car. Corolla really owns that title now. Everyone has either owned one, or had a kid that owned one, or an aunt, uncle, step-child or, well, a family member that has owned one.

Full disclosure, our family bought a new Corolla in 1983 when we had a 2-year-old and a second child on the way. It was reliable (we wisely decided against a Chrysler K car and Renault Alliance), economical, came with a stick-shift to help us save fuel and had a big enough trunk to hold a highchair and loads of diapers for trips to the grandparents.

Today’s new Corolla furthers that high value statement while remaining highly reliable and actually a bit more stylish than in years past. Toyota has put some effort into styling the last few years and so the 2017 Corolla is more than just an econobox. It looks good and drives well while remaining affordable and economical to run.2017 Toyota Corolla

Let’s start with price. That’s what most of us think of as relating to value.

A base Corolla L starts at $19,365 and the tested top-level XSE lists at $22,680, plus $865 delivery. A few other brands have similarly priced models that drive a bit sportier, but Corolla comes with most everything a buyer would want, plus is laden with the latest safety equipment. Continue reading 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. 4×4

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee touts power, toughness and luxury …2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

What could be more patriotic than a Jeep? And the brand, now part of Fiat-Chrysler, is celebrating 75 years of Jeepdom, although the test model wasn’t specially adorned.

This was a dark metallic gray Grand Cherokee Limited with 4-wheel-drive, starting at a relatively sane $39,895 and ending up at a luxurious $47,930 after adding one hefty $4,200 option package and three others that were more fiscally conservative.

Jeep lovers love the fact that many models can be taken for serious off-roading. While Wranglers are the primary off-roaders, Jeep is happy to tell you that Grand Cherokees can be too.

The Limited could as it came with a 4-wheel-drive system with five traction settings, sand, snow, mud, rocks and automatic. Guess which one gets used the most?2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

This is all handled by a neat dial on the console so it’s easy to dial up the traction your Jeep currently needs. In automatic it was fine on damp Wisconsin roads.

There’s plenty of power too. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and a healthy 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The Grand Cherokee will move and a Sport button will amp up the power by holding lower gears longer while also firming the steering effort considerably. Entering a highway the Sport setting is the way to go.

As with many cars now, the Jeep has an automatic stop/start feature that turns the engine off at stoplights and other times where it otherwise might idle. This saves a bit of gas, but this one is particularly rough. However, you can turn the feature off for smoother operation. Speaking of which, the 8-speed automatic tranny standard on the Grand Cherokee is exactly that, smooth. Continue reading 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. 4×4

2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 hybrid = good mpg, sporty handling2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Funny, but I enjoyed driving the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid more than its gas-powered model that I had earlier this year.

This one seemed sportier, and that’s a contradiction to all things hybrid. Power seems a bit better, and is with a combined 194 horsepower for the hybrid vs. 176 for the gas-powered model. But handling seemed much more precise and sporty too.

RAV4 is a small ute/crossover and easy to park and steer. The wheel feels moderately light and the hybrid turns into corners well and is responsive. Wheel play is minor.

And while compared to the standard model it has more ponies to power it with the electric hybrid system working well via an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), it’s not exactly quick. There’s still the electric whine when you let off the brake and a slow chug up to 15-20 mph. The harder you press the accelerator the crossover will respond though and get up to highway speeds fairly effortlessly. The down side is an engine that feels and sounds as if it’s working pretty hard.

2016 Toyota RAV4 HybridLike so many vehicles, there are drive mode selection buttons, here on the bottom of the center stack somewhat hidden behind the console-mounted gear shift knob. You can go Eco to save fuel or Sport for a bit more juice to the wheels. The bump up in power is minor, but every little bit helps sometimes. Continue reading 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Hybrid

2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo

Kia Optima, a better mid-size sedan …  kia2

When I last tested a Kia Optima I thought it among the best mid-size sedans I’d driven, plus it got 39.5 miles per gallon. Wow! But that was a hybrid model.

Well, the refreshed 2016 Optima is even more impressive. My one major hesitation with the previous model, a passenger’s seat that sat low in the car and was not adjustable, has been fixed. And the tested LX Turbo model got 37 mpg with its 1.6-liter I4 turbo. Sweet! Continue reading 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo