Rolling in Luxury, Style and Utility – 2019 RAM 1500 Pickup Truck

2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Longhorn
2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Longhorn

With a choice of Full-size Pickups on the market today, all providing plenty of utility, they are a far cry from the job-site work vehicles they originally intended for.  Once, a basic hood, cab and cargo box configuration, today’s pickups are well styled and luxuriously appointed, fuel efficient and filled with technology. Some even have become high-horsepower sport trucks.

 

What makes the 2019 RAM 1500 stand out is the level of luxury, technology, and styling.  RAM’s long history for hard working rugged pickups under the Dodge and Power Wagon name, the brand is known more for its brawn than beauty. A quarter of a century ago, when RAM was just a model designation within the Dodge lineup, they did something no other pick up had done. They made the exterior more muscular in appearance with a big-rig front hood and fender style.  For 2019, RAM has again stepped ahead, producing a pickup that is stylishly well appointed, inside and out, even in its lowest work truck trim.

 

Models

2019 RAM 1500 Rebel
2019 RAM 1500 Rebel

No matter what model: Tradesman; Big Horn; Long Horn, Laramie; Rebel; Laramie Long Horn; or Limited, each has added touches of luxury and technology. The iconic RAM articulated fenders are now smoothed and more rectangular as the brand defines what a pick up can be. Add to that a well-appointed interior, large 12-inch infotainment touch screen, and plenty of storage, a hallmark of its FCA heritage. The rotary dial gear shifter, pushbutton start is just some that you notice right away. The design of the interior with comfortable seats will reward you for short or long trips.

QuadCab or Crew Cab

2019 RAM Rear Quad Cab SeatWhile the original single cab pickup is still available in the Tradesman, a work truck model with just a front seat. Most buyers are using pickups like a family car and want more car-like amenities. And why not? Full-size car comfort and seating for five, a cargo bed for carrying cargo and towing capacity makes the pickup quite versitle. While both have full-size rear seats, the Crew Cab has a shorter cab with smaller rear doors. While the Quad Cab offers four full-size doors that open into an enormous amount of interior space.

 

Powertrain Choices

2019 RAM InteriorThe gasoline powerplants have been given plenty of refinements, including gains in fuel economy as well as power. Technology like eTorque, a mild hybrid system, in the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and optional in the HEMI® V-8. The eTorque combines a belt driven motor generator with a 48-volt battery pack enabling quick and seamless start/stop function and short duration torque addition to the crankshaft in certain driving conditions. An advanced cylinder cutoff system on the 5.7-liter HEMI keeps fuel consumption down while still providing the power of a V-8 when needed. At this writing a diesel option has not been announced.

New generations of the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission provide improved efficiency. Frame-mounted active vibration dampers and active noise cancellation provide a quieter cabin making engine vibrations practically nonexistent.

You still have the option of 2-wheel drive (rear drive wheels) and 4-wheel drive.

 

Technology

2019 Ram 1500 8" Center Display
2019 Ram 1500 8″ Center Display

RAM uses advanced technology throughout the vehicle with more powerful engine control computers and mechanicals. What drivers and passengers interact with is what will sell this vehicle.

RAM 1500’s HUGE 12” tablet like center display is an option, though the smaller 8.4-inch and 5-inch displays are nothing to dismiss. The Uconnect® System provides a direct link between handheld devices and the truck. So be it just the entertainment controls, or expanded navigation and data, you are connected to the world around you.

2019 Ram 1500 rear power outlets
2019 Ram 1500 rear power outlets

Ram understands that in today’s connected world everyone brings a device with them, and sometimes more.  The need to recharge has not been ignored. Four advanced USB ports (regular and micro USB, two up front and two in the rear,) as well as 12v outlet and a inverter to power 110v outlet inside and there is an option for it in the rear RamBox®.

 

Build

20180517_144017

With fuel economy always importnat, building lighter vehicles has led some manufacturers to focus on lightweight materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, and plastic. RAM, on the other hand, has taken to using 98 percent high-strength steel which improves durability and helps with weight reduction.

 

Cargo

2019 Ram 1500 – RamBox
2019 Ram 1500 – RamBox

The RAM will move most anything you ask it to. Payload means not only hauling but towing. RAM’s maximum payload has increased to 2,300 pounds, and maximum trailer tow to 12,750 pounds. The pickup bed in the Ram 1500 has a maximum cargo bed volume of 61.5 cubic feet, with dimensions perfectly sized to hold 4×8 sheets of plywood, even with the RamBox® option.

Available RamBox® cargo management system, is a no-brainer, using the wasted space on the flanks of the cargo bed with two lockable (available with remote access via the key fob) storage bins. Use them as a cooler, they have drains. Use them for storing tools, they can be lit with optional LED lighting and have a 115-volt power outlet (for plugging in chargers and more.)

 

Pricing

2019 RAM 1500 KeyStarting at $31,695 a new 2019 RAM 1500 can easily top out pushing seventy grand. The good thing is that you can pick and choose trim levels and options. With a number of factory incentives and deals from buying services, you may have access to.

While RAM dealers are giving tremendous savings on the outgoing 2018 RAM models, the 2019 Ram is well worth serious consideration due to the amount of engineering that has gone into improving it over the previous generation.

 

 

Words and images by William West Hopper

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The Hamsters were Running with the Ducks – A thousand miles in a Kia Soul Turbo

2017 Kia Soul in Wild OrangeThis past month we had a thousand-mile journey and the team at Kia offered us a Wild Orange 2017 Soul Turbo for the trek. Thinking about great fuel economy and rising gasoline prices, it was a natural yes. Second thoughts were a light little breadbox rolling on the crazy interstates, this might not be the best idea.

 

 

 

Kia Soul Rear SeatTurns out that the Soul Turbo was a great road trip car, very capable on the highway, nimble in traffic and on the back roads, good on fuel, with plenty of space for luggage and people. As the trip turned out, it was mostly driving during inclement weather, rain, and fog. And the Kia Soul handled it, all in stride. The hampsters and the ducks got friendly on this trip.

 

History of the Kia Soul

Rolling bread boxes with the first generation XB from Scion and the 2017 Kia Soul.
Rolling bread boxes with the first generation XB from Scion and the 2017 Kia Soul.

The Kia Soul appeared on the market a decade ago, when small all activity vehicles were the rage. Spending time with the car, you can see how the Soul’s concept vehicle was inspired by a wild boar wearing a backpack. The New York Times reported, “the boar’s attitude of strength and capability was the image.” Today the Soul is the only rolling breadbox left as mundane crossovers have taken over the market share.

Kia Soul Rear Entry
Getting in and out of the Kia Soul was easy with plenty of room.

The Soul, designed to appeal to hip urban youth has also found a niche with the gray hairs who want a vehicle with easy entry and not a high price. Looking for something to carry the dogs, gifts for the grandchildren, and all that goes with life after kids have fled the nest. During our time with the Soul we had to agree as it had space for our stuff, and still room for people and a comfortable ride.

 

Kia Soul Saftey

While we did not test all of the Soul’s safety features, we did experience the anti-lock brakes on a wet interstate. They engaged, our heart skipped a beat, and we stopped safely.

Kia Soul Dash
Kia Soul Turbo steering wheel has color-coordinated stitching and easy access controls.

In 2009 the Kia Soul quickly earned a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. With the dual front advanced and side curtain airbags, as well as the electronic stability control and vehicle stability management systems, this feels like a safe small car.  That safety rating places Kia Soul among the safest B-segment family cars in the world.

 

 

Marketing Strategy – Hamsters Drive the Soul

Kia Soul HamsterWe identify with the chubby Hamsters and are thrilled to see them every chance we get. After the Soul’s release, Kia USA launched commercials in a campaign titled “A new way to roll” featuring city streets with animated hamsters on stationary hamster wheels. The commercials have attracted popularity on video-sharing sites and were awarded “Automotive Ad of the Year” at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards. he most recent commercial was for the Turbo model, featuring the Motörhead song “Ace of Spades“.

Our Experience

Having always liked the out of the box, boxiness of the Soul, it is great to see that it is easily customizable with options and Kia offers the Soul in bright colors which have appealed to folks in this white, silver, and black painted automotive world we live in.

Kia Soul Steering WheelThis Wild Orange Soul was also economical averaging around 30 mpg on the trip. Holding the road in the inclement weather and was easy to slip in and out of traffic with plenty of power from the 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder gasoline engine.

Interior space is well laid out, not expansive, but we did slip in a six-foot-long piece of art on canvas then later loaded it with supplies for our felines. The Soul did well even with the added weight in the rear.

Room to carry in the Kia Soul
Room to carry in the Kia Soul

A long drive was made comfortable by the firm and well-fitting leather and cloth seats. Easy access to the controls and view of the dash and displays made driving the Soul a fun experience. While it tended to be a bit choppy at lower speeds due to the 7-speed dual clutch transmission, which from what I understand is actively shifting gears. But at higher than in-town traffic speeds that did not pose an issue. And was actually quite smooth and somewhat quiet.

 

 

 

UVO, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Sirus XM and lots of USB ports

Modern cars seem to be short on USB ports to charge and connect phones and devices to the in-car technology. The Soul had two USB’s easily accessible and lit up at night, as well as an audio input jack and two 12-volt power outlets which seem to me to be so old school, back to when cars had cigarette lighters.

The Kia’s UVO eServices Infotainment System and associated smartphone app seemed to me to be more hype than help, while it is nice, I never found it very useful. Though a friend driving a Niro found it to be very interactive on that vehicle.

Not being a fan of Android Auto, as I feel it takes control of my phone, or maybe I am not an experienced enough user of it, this time it did not bother me as much as in other cars. On the other hand, it is nice to see that the car is equipped to handle whatever technology that is brought into it.

Kia Soul Backup displays on a 7-inch screen
Kia Soul Backup displays on a 7-inch screen

The 7″ touchscreen with rearview camera and the audio system worked great. The backup camera gave a clear large view of what was behind the vehicle even in bad weather. Sound quality out of the audio system was good, though not concert quality. This Soul was not equipped with navigation, though it would have been nice to turn off the display screen, as it had very little to display other than the Sattelite radio station information.

Dollars and Sense

20180514_130420The 2017 model we drove had a sticker price of $23,620 including freight, but not tax, tags, and dealer add-ons. Mileage was just under 30 mpg during a week of brisk highway driving, twisty side roads, and crowded city streets. Lower trim levels of the non-turbo Soul start at $16,200, though, with the extras that this model had, the price is reasonable. And with an auto club or buying service discounts, dealer incentives no doubt you can grab a great deal on a Kia. Like all Kia’s, this one carries one of the best warranties out there.

Driving Near and Far

Kia Soul has a distinctive and effective tail light cluster.
Kia Soul has a distinctive and effective tail light cluster.

The Soul Turbo was a great all-around car, small enough for parking in town, large enough to carry things and not be uncomfortable on the highway at speed with other traffic. The Soul Turbo had enough power to keep up with traffic and move out when needed. Interior space and comfort were plentiful and appointments while not luxurious, were modern and functional.

The Soul is a decade old design now, and with a refresh in the works, it will be interesting to see the next iteration. As with other Kia models, we have driven, we give this car a thumbs up.

William West Hopper with the Kia Soul Turbo

Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

 

Drive Cool Cars, Join an Exotic Car Club

While you are behind the wheel of your SUV, you look over and see someone driving a great car, and say to yourself, “One Day?” That day could today with a local club. You can make that exotic car dream drive a reality.

Drive Society has Exotic CarsYes, you could be behind the wheel of any number of supercars for about the yearly lease costs of a luxury car. Without all the hassle of insurance, maintenance, and trying to fit it into your garage. Someone could toss you the keys then you are behind the wheel for a day, a weekend, or more.  Better yet, when you tire of that ride, you can choose another one, and be off on another adventure.

Drive SocietyArlington VA startup Drive Society can make such a dream come true. Be it a two-seater Mercedes-Benz AMG GT or a practical though still exotic sedan, like the Tesla S. Maybe you have a hankering for a classic American Muscle car, how about driving a ’69 Camaro or maybe a Ferrari 458 Italia? These are just a few of the current stable in Drive Society’s nearby garage.

Drive Society has developed a membership club where you purchase points which allow you to use them towards a day or more of driving any one of their nine exotic cars. And as a Drive Society Member, you get to be part of the group decision-making process of what the next car the club buys next.

Membership

Drive Society's Ferrari 458 Italia
Drive Society’s Ferrari 458 Italia

You purchase a set number of points at levels from $2000 for 60 points, up to $12,000 for 400 points. Each car is valued in a specific number of points to rent for the day, from 6 to 35 points. You spend those points depending on the car you drive. (Note the Ferrari is available only to the upper levels of membership.) Yes, there are some minor restrictions: mileage is limited to 200 miles per day, except on the Ferrari which is 150, and no you cannot take these vehicles to a track day, as all cars are for street use only. So for two grand, you can drive a Porsche for ten days and 1200 miles, or the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT for 3 day and 600 miles. For the first year, if you do not use up all your points, you will incur a $50 per month membership fee.

Insurance for physical damage and supplemental liability is included, your own auto policy covers primary liability while you drive the cars. Garage expenses, Arlington County personal property tax, detailing and maintenance expenses are all covered in the membership. For an additional fee, you can have your car delivered and picked up at the local location of your choice.

The Club

Drive Society DC's AMG GTDrive Society is a driver’s club, while it was developed for automotive enthusiasts, you don’t have to be a car geek to belong. Perfect for that Dad or Mom who wants to drive a cool car, but does not want to own one every day. Once you become a member, the minimum age to be a member is 28, you can rent a car and also have a say in the vehicles purchased and sold by Drive Society. Member’s business meetings and events are held regularly throughout the year and range from social happy hours (no driving) and trips to go-kart tracks to events designed for you to take out one of the cars, be it at a racetrack to watch a race or an auto festival.

The Cars

Drive Society has a collection of nine interesting cars. Porsche’s, Tesla’s, a BMW, a classic Chevy, even an AMG and a Ferarri. In talking to Alex Schaffer one of the founding partners he shared that these are not brand-new cars, due to the immediate depreciation costs that new cars (even exotic ones) experience once they roll off the dealer showroom floor. Some are limited production models that were hard to find at dealerships when they were new. Drive Society scours the country looking for great deals on great cars, buying at auction, from private owners and collectors. They bring them back to Arlington and register them in Virginia.

Foundering Partners

Alexander and Danielle Schaffer, a husband, and wife team with young children founded Drive Society after both working in federal contracting positions with Information Technology companies. Following Alex’s passion for Sports Car Club of America – SCCA racing, the two of them have developed Drive Society filling a niche of supporting a passion that people have for automobiles. Taking the car sharing, exotic car rental and fractional auto ownership business model to the next level. While car clubs are often formed with members who own individual cars, this provides members who may not have the opportunity to own dream cars to actually have use of cars they would never own outright. Sharing the expenses and responsibilities with other members, as well as the fun of driving them.

Katie's Cars and Coffee in Great Falls VA
Katie’s Cars and Coffee in Great Falls VA where you will often find Drive Society showing off their rides.

You can find more about Drive Society either in person at any one of the Washington DC area automotive gatherings or online at their website. If you are an automotive enthusiast or just interested in the concept, I would suggest talking to Danielle and Alex in person and seeing the cars that Drive Society manages yourself sometime soon. You can find them at local events like Katies Cars and Coffee, or Carsfera Auto Festival, and other events nearby.

Queer4Car's William West Hopper and Matt Rihl
Queer4Car’s William West Hopper and Matt Rihl

Words and Images by William West Hopper

Shh, Don’t Tell Anyone: 2018 Mazda 6 Becomes A-New

2018 Mazda 6 Signature 2.5 TurboFeelAlive being the mantra of the Mazda automotive company truly describes the emotions that will come over you when you drive the new 2018 Mazda 6 2.5. Be it the entry level with a manual transmission or the full-featured20180503_115128 signature with the Turbo SKYACTIV-G 2.5 L DOHC 4-Cylinder Engine.

 

Be Inspired. Be Extraordinary.

As you approach the 2018 Mazda6, it may not look that different than it has for the last four years. Look again, the flowing body lines may be the same, this is a very different mid-size sedan, and at a lower price than last year.

So how is that possible?

The Jacob Brown from Mazda North America OperationsWe asked Jacob Brown, Communications Manager for Mazda North America Operations just that question. “How can you build and sell the same car for less than last year’s model?”  Jacob’s response was interesting as he showed us the 2018 Mazda6 that includes thousands of dollars of more value than it did in 2017?”

Brown explained that Mazda works closely with suppliers, and jointly they develop advanced business practices of sharing resources, parts and common architecture across platforms to produce products at a better price.

 

What is New in the 2018 Mazda6?

Plenty of Headroom in the 2018 Mazda6 rear seat
Plenty of Headroom in the 2018 Mazda6 rear seat

Mazda provides a premium feel vehicle at a competitive price. And there is no better display of that than the 2018 Mazda6. Build quality, fit finish and drive experience are designed to be competitive with luxury brands at a lower price. The 2018 Mazda 6 sports more than 150 changes. Changes that have improved safety ride quality and overall experience. Two-millimeters thicker sheet metal along with thinner panel gaps and thicker rubber strips on doors help to make the car stronger and quieter. Along with an improved suspension and two refined powerplants are all part of the many changes you will find in the 2018 Mazda6.

 

Engine

Skyactiv Mazda6 2.5 Turbo EngineThe addition of a Turbo with the most torque in its class to an already powerful and efficient 4-cylinder engine is the big news in the upper trim level models. That does not ignore the base model whose naturally aspirated engine (non-turbo) has been improved with cylinder deactivation. Yes, you heard it, a four-cylinder engine that can run on just two cylinders. Thus, the Mazda6 offers the best in class EPA Fleet Fuel Economy with 23 city, 31 highway and 26 miles per gallon, combined for the 2.5T and 26 to 35 MPGs for the naturally aspirated engine (not official govt numbers.) Both engines will run on regular but running premium fuel especially at higher elevations will make a noticeable improvement in power.

 

Driver Experience

Mazda6The interior of the Mazda6 is different: Even before you ignite the engine, you will sense this mid-sized sedan is different from the others. The front seats fit! Designed for the American body type, understanding that as Mr. Brown said, “We have Love Handles.” Saying the seat design considers our wider frame. Upper trim levels of the Mazda6 now have heated and COOLED seats. While heated seats have been around for more than a generation; cooled seats are something you normally only find with expensive option packages of higher priced cars.  We found the Napa Leather driver’s seat to be extremely comfortable. While other manufacturers may ignore the rear seat passengers, Mazda has not! Even rear headroom and legroom are generous for a car of its size.

Mazda6 interior with Sen wood trimEvident in the Mazda6 in Signature Trim, we drove is the use of premium materials: Japanese Sen wood, (used to produce Japanese Wadaiko drums and quality furniture.) Elsewhere you find well-styled treatments; Ultrasuede on the dash gives a soft, elegant look and feel, and the aluminum trim on the interior door handles flow into the design giving the car a very up-market feel.

 

The technology in the 2018 Mazda6 is oriented to the driver.  The available Mazda Active Driving Display now projects onto the windshield in front of the driver, (in the past it was on an odd plastic outcropping.) The seven-inch digital gauge display for the driver and the eight-inch Mazda Connect™ Infotainment system.  New for 2018 is a 360 camera, full speed radar cruise control with stop & go. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are available and on early production models with the 7” screen can be retrofitted at the dealership.2018 Mazda6 Exterior

 

Outside the car: You will not see a lot of chrome or even trim-level defining badging on the Mazda6. There are subtle changes for 2018 such as standard LED head and tail lights and additional sound deadening within the fenders.

 

Suspension

2018 Mazda6 GrillOn our test drive, we were impressed with the ride. While part of the Skyactiv design philosophy is too lightweight the car, 2018 model is a heavier car than its predecessor.  Brown shared with us that Mazda cars are tuned to be driver friendly cars, designed for the real everyday road, not only for the racetrack. The weight is shifted forward onto the front tires resulting in a smoother ride that dampens bumps and transitions well over surfaces, and more accurate steering. And for a front-wheel-drive car with 310 lbs of torque we were very impressed that there was no torque steer (when the steering fights being controlled because the wheels are providing traction.)

 

Let’s talk Price

The 2018 Mazda6 has a $500 lower retail price than 2017: The Sport Model begins at $21,950 with a 6-Speed Manuel transportation and $23.000 with Automatic. Step up to a Touring model for $25,700, Grand Touring for $29.200; Grand Touring Reserve $31,270 and Signature $34,750.  Add-ons: i-ACTIVSENSE Package for the Sport, $625; Paint: Soul Red Crystal $595, Machine Gray Metallic $300, Snowflake White Pearl Mica $200. This does not include delivery charges, taxes or tags.

 

The Mazda6 is in Mazda dealerships now

Mazda aspires to offer a class above experience within their network of dealerships to match the premium upmarket products they build and sell.

 

There is No Mediocre with Mazda

20180503_114527Mazda is a small batch car maker that provides products at a mainstream price. Not a big manufacturer with just 1.6 million worldwide vehicles produced, of which about 290K are sold in the USA.

In today’s marketplace, it is refreshing to hear a car company being proud of their heritage. And as a Japanese company, Mazda is focused on the quality and craftsmanship they build into each one of their products. Mazda and its suppliers, based on the western side of Japan, not on the eastern industrial hub, where they never stop challenging themselves to do better.

Independently owned, Mazda recently purchased a small stake in Toyota, and Toyota invested in Mazda. Recently announcing a joint production venture here in the USA. Not unlike Mazda did with Ford in the 1980’s and other auto companies in the past.

Mazda employs about 750 in the USA with both a corporate office and a research and development studio in southern California.  The company has design centers in Irvine California, Frankfort Germany, Yokohama and Hiroshima Japan, it makes a majority of its cars in Japan.

 

Good is never good enough for Mazda.

Jacob Brown Communications Director Mazda AmericaWhen we asked Brown why they did not just wait and put all of this into a new model. He replied, “Mazda does not do model years when there is an improvement to be made they do not wait for a new model year or a refresh, it gets added to the car.” “When the Mazda engineers find a something meaningful to update on their vehicles, they do it.”  “Any technologies Mazda could put into the cars today, they put into the cars today.”

When we asked Brown what specifically on the 2018 Mazda6 is directly from the American design studio, he shared that the Initial Shinari Concept in 2010 comes from the American Team. Then they work in partnership with the engineers in Japan to bring the Mazda6 to market.

 

What to look for next?

Skyactiv-X engines in 2019 – Mazda just won an Edison award for the new spark-controlled compression ignition for gasoline internal combustion engines. Using a spark plug as a control mechanism, it is able to finely balance ignition timing and air-to-fuel ration, maximizing fuel efficiency resulting in stronger torque with higher-revving drivability and lower CO2 emissions. Thus, quicker acceleration without impacting fuel efficiency.

 

Words and images by William West Hopper

Kia Rio 5-Door Hatchback EX Launch Edition – More for the Money Than You Might Expect

2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door HatchbackFor a small and inexpensive car, the 2018 Kia Rio has a lot of pluses and very few negatives. It is most refreshing to find a car so well equipped at this price point. It is what we are coming to expect from Kia, a car company that has built a reputation for dependable transportation with decent overall design and execution. Not to mention that Kia’s vehicles have an industry leading warranty that backs all of this up.

 

We took a 2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door Hatchback with its 1.6-liter GDI powerplant out to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with its twisty mountain roads, long flat interstates as well as the suburban grid of neighborhood streets. The Rio did well with two adults situations. Performing with adequate power, handling, and a ride that was not at all jarring, as one would think with a small car.

 

Look and Feel

2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door Hatchback RearThe exterior design of the Kia Rio is very unassuming, with clean lines and a well-proportioned body. There is nothing flashy or garish (Kia’s new performance sedan the Stinger, is a bit more abrupt in its design – as were some of the previous Kia models, one was almost a hodgepodge of design.) While some think the Rio’s exterior is run-of-the-mill, to me the Rio is aesthetically pleasing, both inside and out.

 

Interior of the 2018 Kia Rio EXThe interior has an efficient and clean layout. Guages centered behind the steering wheel, a 7″ screen center for audio and backup camera display, controls for the HVAC are large and within easy reach, a familiar gearshift in the console and a hand-operated emergency brake.  The switchgear clustered on the steering wheel and stalks may seem cluttered. On the other hand, you do not have to reach for anything, including cruise control.

Powertrain

1.6 Liter GDI Engine of the 2018 Kia RioThe 1591 cc 1.6-liter double overhead cam Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine may not seem to be much, but with its dual continuously variable valve timing it produces 130 horsepower at 6300 rpm. You are not going to win at the drag strip with this little front driver!  Mated to a 6-speed automatic with Sportmatic® it did produce the published 37 miles per gallon on the highway. The Sport Mode button is more than just for show, it did subtly downshift for more power.

 

Handling

This is not a sports hatch, nor does it pretend to be one. The handling was predictable and kept the four wheels on the road going around the interstate’s cloverleaf onramps as well as on the twisty back roads.  I did not feel any wheelspin or torque steer with heavy acceleration. There was not an annoying ride by being shaken or jostled riding over expansion joints or rough road surfaces. The suspension provided a solid and flat handling that give the Rio a secure feel.

 

Details Matter

Interior of the 2018 Kia Rio EXWhile indeed this EX is the top of the line model, it has some excellent items on the equipment list like fog lights Rear disc brakes Autonomous Emergency Braking4 Remote keyless entry Leather-wrapped steering wheel front and rear USB jacks, and Auto Light Control. The larger 7″ Touchscreen gives you a good view from the Rear Camera, and the UVO eServices Infotainment System connects to both Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Smartphone Integration. And yes you can subscribe to SIRIUSXM® as well as AM/FM and MP3 through the front USB outlet. Yes, the Rio we drove had was Bluetooth® enabled.

Single Rear USB Port in the 2018 Kia RioThe UVO system links with your compatible smartphone for a hands-free way to stream music. Through the UVO app you are able to check maintenance requirements with Vehicle Diagnostics, and for access to 911 Connect or Enhanced Roadside Assist — all with no subscription fees for 10 years.

The downloadable UVO eSERVICES APP takes advantage of additional features like Parking Minder and can access the GPS in a compatible smartphone and other apps. Not all apps work through the touch screen.

Other assets you will find included in the Rio EX include a multi-adjustable driver’s seat, ours had Red Leather accents. A 60/40 split folding rear seats that make the trunk even bigger, and still carry a rear passenger. Dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors. Remote keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering column leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, Steering wheel mounted controls (Bluetooth/Audio/Cruise,) gauge cluster w/ LCD display. Outside, fog lights multi-reflector headlights, and heated outside mirrors.

Saftey items that you don’t often find like autonomous emergency braking (AEB,) forward collision warning system (FCWS,) as well as front and side airbags.

Space both for passengers and cargo. This is a small car on the outside but did not feel so small on the inside. Neither of us was cramped sitting in the front seats, and the rear seats have adequate room, not spacious, both head and leg room. Cargo area expanded considerably with the rear seat partially or fully put down.

 

Bargain

The 7" Screen shows clearly what is behind the 2018 Kia RioAt the time of this writing (May 2018) the car had a sticker of just over $20K including an $895 delivery fee.  Kia is offering a $1000 discount the purchase price of the Rio or Zero Percent financing for 60 months with their finance company.

If you have participated in one of Kia’s customer experience events or signed up for information from the brand at a recent auto show, there may be additional discounts available to you. Always check your membership in the Warehouse Clubs, Automobile Associations, Insurance Company, Credit Union or professional association you may belong to see if they have a buying service or provide automotive discounts to their members.

 

Warranty

Kia has provided a 10 Year/100,000 Mile Limited Powertrain Warranty 5 Year/60,000 Mile Limited Basic Warranty 5 Year/60,000 Mile Roadside Assistance for a long time to demonstrate how good their vehicles are. This is one of the longest warranties on new cars sold in the marketplace.

 

Negatives

2018 Kia Rio EX Launch Edition HatchbackYes, we found a few things we did not like in our day driving and riding in the 2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door Hatchback Launch Edition. The very first audio experience you have with this car is the tinny sound when one opens the door from the door handle, while when you close the door, there is a solid thunk sound, which is good.  While passenger comfort in the right front seat was fine for an hour-long drive, once moving over to the left driver’s seat, I found that I did not get enough thigh support and was always moving to find a more comfortable driving position. The clutter of the switchgear on the steering wheel. I am not a big fan of Kia’s Muffin center steering wheel, and the switches seemed to dominate both the wheel and the right (windshield wiper control) and the left (turn-signal) stalk.  Though I know you would easily get used to them, and it is a plus not having to reach far to control just about everything on the vehicle.

 

Overall

We give the 2018 Kia Rio 5-door hatchback thumbs up for the value it provides. The only real drawback that I found was the tinny sound upon opening the doors, and it could use a little more thigh support for the driver seat.

 

Try one out for yourself

For more information download the 2018 Kia Rio Guidebook, or stop into a nearby Kia dealership for a test drive this model and others within the Kia lineup.

 

Words and images by William West Hopper

Awarding a Best of Show

2018 Ballyshaners Car ShowWith the car show season just about to tip off, we were invited to be “The Judge” for the Ballyshaners Old Town Alexandria St. Patricks Day Parade Car show in March.

Rollin in StyleOriginally scheduled the first weekend of the month, a storm blew into town. Thus it was postponed until the St. Paddy’s Day weekend. While the original show had quite a long list of interesting cars, getting them to make a reappearance was not so easy, so only a dozen or so showed up for the rescheduled judging.

 

Chevrolet Chevelle SSThe dozen that came out under a bright but chilly Sunday were mainly American Muscle droptops of the 1970’s, and a convertible is great for a parade because that way the celebrities can ride and wave from the deck lid of the back.

 

Hotrods, Boulevard Cruisers, and Rat rods

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Always fun to see what shows up at such a display, and there were a couple of what I consider rat rods, anomalies built on one chassis and powered by something from another brand.

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Dogs and Soldiers

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Part of a good car show is the people watching, and any good car show allows dogs, kids, and soldiers. While a car show is all about the cars, it attracts young and old. People remembering what was, and some learning what they may never have known before. Like the little girl who could not keep her hands off anything, and the car’s owner had to ask, nicely, not to touch.

Alexandria VA Honor Guard

And the Winner Is

1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442While none of the entrants were garage queens and none of these cars would have even been thought of for Pebble Beach.  I took a look at how each car was presented. While one was nothing more than a sales promotion, and a couple were cobbled together.

2018 Ballyshaners Car Show Winner

 

 

The 1970 Oldsmobile 442 was well turned out, nothing flashy, nothing more than what it would have been when it rolled the streets the first year with it’s top down and all of the classic American Iron Glory.

 

 

Words and photos by William West Hopper

Kia Stinger

Red Kia Stinger

The Kia Stinger has been the topic of many auto review writer’s posts over the last year. We all saw mock-ups of it well over a year ago, and now that it is on dealer’s showroom floors, we are just now getting the chance to drive it.

Trim Levels of the Stinger vary widely, but the basics are all there, the sports sedan body styling, the transmission, tire sizes and more. What changes is the powertrain and how detailed the inside is, which may not be as easily noticed by everyone.

The Stinger Concept

West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger

Luxury Sports sedans have dominated the market for more than thirty years. People like cars that are both sporty looking, functional, and fun to drive. It is that driving experience that really defines them. Add on practicality, the touch, and feel of a more upscale branded vehicle, then put on a reasonable price tag and you have the Kia Stinger.

 

Design

Queer4Cars Kia StingerKia has given the Stinger muscle and graceful lines, though in our minds there are a few hiccups in the exterior design, those disappear once you get your hands on the vehicle. Outside the car has a wide stance and a low roofline giving it a fast look, even parked. Inside, both luxury and sports car touches give it a fun to be in the car feeling. So much so that you want to turn the key and hit the open road and drive it.

 

 

Amenities

Brembo Brakes on the Kia StingerThe Stinger is well equipped even in the most basic configuration. You get the look and feel of a more expensive car than it really is. Which is what Kia does so well. The driver centric cockpit complete with leather seats are upgradeable to Nappa Leather with heated and cooled seats. The Stinger provides a spacious interior with easy egress for passengers and driver. What one may not notice is the trunk is actually a hatchback, which adds to the functionality in many ways. Guages and controls that are within easy reach of the driver and switches that feel good to the touch. All of this provides for the perfect long distance road car or short hall daily driver.

Two Powertrain Choices

20180310_120224While the body style, eight-speed automatic gearbox, and rear-wheel drive stay the same no matter the model. You can choose between a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder and 3.3-liter 6-cyl engine and add all-wheel-drive.

2.0 Liter twin-scroll turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine puts out 255 horsepower, and provides 22 miles per gallon city, 29, highway and 25 combined.

3.3-liter twin-scroll turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine provides 365 horsepower, 19 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined. The addition of Brembo brakes does provide for additional stopping power, and those RED brake calipers do make a statement.

Many Model Options

Two models with the 2.0-liter engine: A base Stinger and the upgraded premium model. What you get in the Premium is a tad more technology in the way of a premium Harman Kardon audio with surround sound, voice command activation and a larger 7″ display screen as well as a power sunroof, and tilt & Telescopic steering wheel.

20171012_120526The optional list of safety items is long; from the Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic to Forward Collision Avoidance and Warning systems. Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, High Beam Assist and Rain-Sensing Wipers, as well as the Heated Steering wheel, are all extra charge options. Well worth the price even as an add-on, for both use and if you were to resell the Stinger at a later date.

Three models options come with the 3.3-liter engine. GT, GT1, & GT2, with each adding on standard features. At the GT2 level, there are only two real options; All-Wheel Drive and a Heated Steering wheel.

Kia Full LineupKia’s ten-year, 100K mile warranty is still one of the best in the industry, add to that the value that the Kia Stinger provides, at a price tag from $31,900 for the base 2.0 liter to $49,200 for the top of the line 3.0 liter powered GT2. With current incentives and added discounts, you can be driving one of these off the dealership lot at a tremendous price. While it is too early yet to determine resale values, once the car is out about a year, we should see how they price out on the second-hand market.

 

Our Overall Thoughts

Not quite Kia Stinger CompetitorsThis is a great value car, as it seems all Kia products are between all you get in the base model, the added options, the selling price and the vehicle warranty. It is hard to go wrong. Driving the vehicle was nice to experience in both the 2.0 liter four and the 3.3 six-cylinder versions. The weight and balance of the vehicle and the handling were all excellent. While this vehicle was being compared to, in the drive experience, we took to much higher market positioned vehicles. It really belongs dead in the center of the mass market: Alfa-Romero Gulia, BMW 4-series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the others that dominate today’s roads.

Kia Dealership WallDealership experience is going to be key for buyers of the Stinger, as most buyers of premium sports sedans are used to a very customer service oriented experience. In the few times, we have visited a Kia dealership, the overall feel has not been what one might expect from a car selling in this market segment.

 

Notes:

Kia Ride and DriveWe only got to drive the Stinger around a short autocross track at a recent Kia Experience Tour event. We hope to spend more time in one very soon.

We paid for our transportation to and from the event, and were given no compensation to produce this post, other than a swag box from, which had some great items in it.

Words and Pictures by William West Hopper

 

William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger

 

 

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