What is New at Ford Motor Company?

March 15 – Dearborn, MI, U.S.A Ford Motor Company held a Ford Uncovered event today to bring the media up to speed with the upcoming vehicles, systems, and process that the Blue Oval Brand is bringing to market over the next few years.

Ford’s products will be some of America’s freshest lineup by 2020, replacing more than 75 percent of its current portfolio and adding four new trucks and SUVs.

Ford is investing in new propulsion systems and delivering full connectivity to pave the way for over-the-air updates and the Transportation Mobility Cloud. Including an all-in push on hybrid-electrics and battery electric vehicles with rollout starting in 2020, and performance utility as well as six BEVs by 2022.


Ford Bronco coming soon
Ford Bronco coming soon

And YES, There is a Bronco!  We have been hearing about it for well over a year now. And Yes it is going to be in dealer showrooms.

Bronco Instagram


BEV and Next-Gen Hybrids

New Ford Explorer ST
New Ford Explorer ST

Battery electric vehicles: Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) represent more than a different
powertrain – they represent a lifestyle change for consumers, especially for those who have never driven an electric vehicle

Next-Gen Hybrid Electrics: Part of Ford’s new strategy includes going all-in on hybrids to bring more capability to customers of our most popular and high-volume vehicles like F-150, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and Bronco – and serve as a hedge for customers against higher gas prices.

Pickup Trucks

Current Ford F-Series Truck
Current Ford F-Series Truck

Ford’s truck business will continue growing as the company adds new models and powertrains with an eye toward continued growth in high-end trims. Some highlights include:

  • 2018: New 3.0-liter Power Stroke® diesel engine for F-150, an updated version of the popular F-150 Raptor
  • 2019: Ranger returns to the midsize truck segment; new F-Series Super Duty debuts
  • 2020: New F-150 debuts with new hybrid powertrain featuring a mobile generator



Ford Co-Pilot360TM, a package that includes standard automatic emergency
braking, blind spot warning, and other driver assist features.


Ford also shared that new manufacturing tools and technologies. With the increased use of augmented and virtual reality helping reduce Ford’s plant changeover time by an estimated 25 percent. Simulating various production processes and assembly line configurations in the virtual world help to identify potentially hazardous maneuvers and fine-tune workflows before construction even begins, saving an estimated 20 percent of tooling cost on each vehicle program. The company also is increasing its use of collaborative robots that can perform jobs quickly and repetitively, helping reduce the risk of injury to employees, freeing them up for more high-value jobs.


Content from this was taken from the Ford Uncovered Press Release




We are looking forward to the World Car Awards

With the New York International Auto Show on the horizon, one of my personal favorite events each year is the World Car Award. This year held on March 28th.

2018 will be the 14th year for the annual awards and the for the fifth consecutive year based on Prime Research’s 2017 media report. The World Car Awards were inaugurated in 2003 and launched in 2004.

2018 marks the 12th year of World Car’s partnership with NYIAS, and the fifth consecutive year that the World Car Awards have retained their ranking as the No.1 automotive awards program in the world in terms of media reach. While the awards and ceremony are a recognition of automotive excellence is on an international scale and intended to complement and not compete with other national and regional Car of the Year celebrations.

The awards are administered by a not-for-profit association, under the guidance of a Steering Committee of pre-eminent automotive journalists from Asia, Europe, and North America. Peter Lyon (chair – Japan), Jens Meiners (vice-chair – Germany), Mike Rutherford (vice-chair – UK), Tim Stevens (director – USA), Siddarth Patankar (director – India) and Gerry Malloy (director – Canada and president, WCOTY Association).


Automobiles Nominated for the
World Car Awards

2018 World Car of the Year:

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– Mazda CX-5
– Range Rover Velar
– Volvo XC60

2018 World Urban Car:

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 – Ford Fiesta
– Suzuki Swift
– Volkswagen Polo

2018 World Luxury Car:

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– Audi A8
– Porsche Cayenne
– Porsche Panamera

2018 World Performance Car:

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– Honda Civic Type R
– Lexus LC 500

2018 World Green Car:

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– BMW 530e iPerformance
– Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
– Nissan LEAF

2018 World Car Design of the Year:

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– Lexus LC 500
– Range Rover Velar
– Volvo XC60

The Road to the World Car began in Frankfurt on September 19, 2017, and was followed by the first-ever Tokyo Test Drive conducted at the BMW Tokyo Bay facility in October giving jurors yet another opportunity to evaluate contenders that might not be available in their home markets. Then, the fourth annual “L.A. Test Drives” took place across a six-day period in November with a record number of 35 jurors participating. At the Geneva show in March, they close in on the end of the Road to World Car journey which will end on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, when World Car opens the New York International Auto Show and also declares all winners in all categories.

New York International Auto Show

Owned and operated by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the New York Auto Show is an awesome combination of new ideas, technological innovation, exceptional concept cars and nearly 1,000 of the latest new cars and trucks.  Over one million visitors are expected to visit the show this year to see what is truly possible from the automotive industry.


Information for this post is from the World Car Awards Press Release. Photos are from the various automotive media sites. Collated and edited by William West Hopper.

The Audi Q3 – Surprise it is an Alamo Rental

The Audi Q3 is the smallest of the Audi SUV lineup.
The Audi Q3 is the smallest of the Audi SUV lineup.

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a long winter weekend with friends in New England’s epicenter of Sailing, Newport Rhode Island. Since we were where hanging out at the elite New York Yacht Club, it seems right to book a luxury car through Priceline’s AutoSlash, which Alamo stated would be a Cadillac or similar.


Alamo Rental Car Logo

After a grand welcomed to the top level of PVD Airport’s rental car garage, though by an Alamo competitor, we walked the few steps to the Alamo area and were once again welcomed with the offer of an Audi sedan or SUV as our luxury car.



The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.
The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.

The choice was the SUV, which turned out to be a Q3. While I have driven both the Q7 and Q5 variants, I have not been in a Q3. Alamo escorted us to the vehicle with a personal walk around offering to help with our luggage. Was this because we were renting a luxury car? Turns out, this is how Alamo is treating every customer who rents from them. Upon our return, again, we received a personalized, by name, welcome and “How was the Q3 for you?”  To add to this excellent level of service, an Alamo employee drove us, in our car, directly to the airport terminal. No need to unload and navigate the long walk with our luggage.  Big Kudos to Alamo Rental car for that kind of personalized service.


Now about the Audi Q3

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The Audi brand name alone is what must classify this as a luxury vehicle for Alamo. As the Q3 rented from them was an un-optioned base model, even with the S-Line nomenclature that appears on it. The $2100 navigation function was not included, which left the center screen a selection of menu options. Having just the Audi logo would have been better than the un-informative sub-menus that were displayed.


The Q3 is the smallest of Audi’s SUV line up, Q5 and Q7 being the larger kin, has a sticker price according to Audi’s website of $32,900 plus $975 destination, taxes registration, and title. Upgrades available are the $2900 Premium Plus package and the $2900 quattro® all-wheel drive that Audi is so well known for.


Audi Q3 sported an S line emblem on both the front fender and rear door threshold.
Audi Q3 sported an S line emblem on both the front fender and rear door threshold.

This rental did not have the paint upgrade ($575 for a standard color, up to $3900 for an exclusive Audi Paint color. Nor the $1000 Audi Sport Package, which includes Audi Drive Select, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, or 19 inch 5-double spoke offroad design wheels with 255/40 all-season tires. No sport seats, either!  Both optional packages require the $1350 Convenience Package, which includes the Audi Advanced Key (front doors and tailgate.) Auto-dimming interior mirror with compass. And a power tailgate and decorative aluminum satellite design inlay on the interior. All those options would have made the Q3 even better than it already is.


Q3's rear seat while comfortable was a tad tight to get in and out of.
Q3’s rear seat while comfortable was a tad tight to get in and out of.

While the Q3 is comfortable, it is small. Easier to get in and out of due to the SUV’s height, though rear passenger egress was tight as was rear storage. The standard Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights were nice to cut through the February fog and rain.  While it seems the now standard on most vehicles, a rear-view camera and acoustic parking system did help in backing in and out of tight parking spots.


The Q3 was equipped with a 16-valve Double Overhead Cam turbo-charged fuel injected 2.0 TSFI Engine. This cast-iron engine block with an aluminum head four-cylinder (1,984 cc displacement, 82.5cc bore, and 92.8 stroke) produces 200 horsepower @5100 to 6000 rpms, and 207 lb.-ft torque at 1700-5000 rpm. Mated to a six-speed Tiptronic® automatic transmission. The Q3 has a 0 to 60 mph speed in 8.2 seconds. Which was a bit anemic for Rhode Island’s fast moving I-95 traffic.


Fuel Economy for our short under 100-mile drive, a mix of highway and in-town driving, was unimpressive at 18.63 mpg on premium 91 Octane gasoline. But for a 2-wheel drive and the short driving we did, not amazing. Averaging -20   City 20 Highway 28 estimated with a 16.9 Gallon Tank I did expect better for this small car.


Audi Q3 hatchback design allows for cargo area access.
Audi Q3 hatchback design allows for cargo area access.

I found the handling of the Q3 was a little numb, which surprised me for an Audi with front MacPherson struts and four-link rear suspension. Unlike the Q5 which is more nimble. The fully galvanized steel unibody with an aluminum hood and tailgate gave the Q3 a feel solid. Running on 235/50R18 all-season tires mounted on 7-inch wide wheels gave it a solid grip on the wet roadways. Steering is tight, and I did not notice the power dropping off with electromechanical power steering when the engine shuts off at stop lights. Braking was fine with the 12.3” front ventilated discs and solid 11.1” rear disc brakes.


Interior Accoutrements

Leather seating surfaces were nice, though without reading the website, I might have thought they were faux leather.  The 60/40 split folding rear seat made the useable but tight cargo area better (16.7/50.3cu ft, cu ft, rear seatbacks up/folded down.)


Audi's Q3 cockpit is well appointed and comfortable to be the driver in.
Audi’s Q3 cockpit is well appointed and comfortable to be the driver in.

Even in the dreary weather, it was nice to have the panoramic sunroof over both the front and rear seats. The three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with tilt and telescope manual adjustment was comfortable to hold onto as was the leather-wrapped shift knob.  I always like ambient LED interior lighting, and today you need the power outlets.


I missed pushbutton start on the Q3, for an upscale car having to get the switchblade key out and put back every time seemed so old-fashioned. While our trip did not encounter freezing temperatures having the heated windshield washer nozzles is a great help.

The Q3 came with a spare tire, which is rare in small SUV's.
The Q3 came with a spare tire, which is rare in small SUV’s.

The Audi Concert Single CD player Radio with MP3 capability was confusing to operate, especially while driving. Having the BLUETOOTH® and voice control system did make it easier.


While this Audi made for a great rental vehicle, stylish and well sized, with decent handling. If I were to choose one as a daily driver, having more optional equipment would make me happier. Though after driving the Q5 and the SQ5, I would upgrade to one of them, preferably the SQ5.


he Dashboard controls and switches on the Audi Q3 are easy to understand and navigate.
The Dashboard controls and switches on the Audi Q3 are easy to understand and navigate.

This Q3 is made at Audi’s production facility in Spain and has a 4-year/50K Mile Audi New Vehicle Warranty and comes with 12-month / 10K mile no charge first scheduled maintenance.

Check out the Audi Website for more info on the Q3 as well as their other SUV’s. Audi dealers are plentiful and very customer focused like Alamo was to us when I rented this car.


Queer4Cars is always big on getting deals when we go shopping, for anything. Check with organizations you belong to for their buying service options, from your insurance company or financial institution to the warehouse clubs. When local auto shows happen, always stop by the booth of the brands you are interested in and request them to send you more information. Many times you will get a monetary incentive opportunity to buy a vehicle because of this.


Photos and words by William West Hopper.


You are invited to the LGBTQ Family Night at the Washington Auto Show on Feb 1, 2018.

2017-Washington-Auto-Show-Saturday-54Join us at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Thursday evening February First, 2018 for an evening of auto show fun with friends at the LGBTQ Family Night at the Washington Auto Show.



Cadillac, Lexus, Mazda, and Toyota are; and we hope you will as well. These automotive companies are some of our 2018 sponsors along with The Washington Auto Show itself.


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Like last year, this will be a gathering of friends at the DC Auto Show. You don’t have to be an automotive enthusiast, and there will be no set program, just come meet new people, or friends of long standing, and enjoy all the 2018 Washington Auto Show has to offer.

Cadillac XT5
Cadillac XT5

We will have a private room, and plenty of friends to talk with about cars and all else. Thanks to Cadillac and Mazda for supporting our event, we will have snacks and iced tea, but more importantly, we want to get you out and enjoy the show, see the displays and experience all that the show has to offer.


Toyota HSR Left SideAfter Party

After the show is over, Toyota and Lexus will be hosting an afterparty for those attending the event. So you will not want to miss that and drink a toast to the New Year thanks to our friends at Toyota and Lexus.


MX5 Santa

Why are we holding this event, so that LGBTQ friends and family know that the auto manufacturers and dealers in the Washington area appreciate our business and want us as customers.


When and Where?

Date, Thursday evening February 2nd, at the Washington Convention Center (Room to be announced ) from 5 pm to 9 pm (when the show closes) then we will transfer the party over to a nearby location for a little more celebrating.

While there is no fee to attend the LGBTQ Family night at the Washington Auto Show, we ask you to register for the event.
Register Here:

Yes, the event is free, though you will have to purchase tickets to get into the show.  You can get tickets directly from the show here. Or if you want discounted tickets through Groupon, you can click here. Or if you are not on Facebook, send us an email to let us know you are coming and if you are bringing a friend or family along with you.

For information on what will be happening at the 2018 Washington DC Auto Show, check out their daily schedule of events.

The Lexus LC500h is a Supercar that is Eco Friendly and available to the Masses*.

The Lexus LC500h
Lexus LC500 Coupe
*If the Masses have a hundred grand to spend.

Don’t tell anyone that the LC500h saves trees and drops panties at the same time!




Chef Matt in the Navigators Seat of the Lexus LC500h
Chef Matt in the Navigators Seat of the Lexus LC500h

Lexus provided us a pre-production 2018 LC500h for a weekend in early September to attend the Radnor Concours d’Elegance and drive in their fundraising road rally for Thorncroft Equestrian Center. A drive that took us on 90 miles of bucolic Chester County roads, not only a picturesque Pennsylvania countryside, it was an opportunity to test out this “High-Performance Lexus.” Myself and co-driver Chef Matt enjoyed every moment behind the wheel.

Lexus LC500H Hybrid badge.Surprises were many, mostly the attention this coupe got where ever we went, especially women. Women coohed over it, and when offered an opportunity to get the driver’s seat they practically leaped at the chance to get in and caress the soft interior surfaces. Never have I driven a car that so enthralled women of all ages. I kept kidding my co-driver, a single guy, that this was his big chance! We would catch glimpses of people photographing the car where ever we went. Yes, a Lexus can bring that much attention.


Stock photo of the Lexus LC500H from the Lexus media site.
Stock photo of the Lexus LC500H from the Lexus media site.

The attention started when my original co-driver found out a wedding conflicted with the rally and he could not join me. I posted a stock photo of the Lexus LC500h on my Facebook Page, asking if any of my friends were interested in spending the day driving around Philadelphia’s fox hunting country. One buddy responded, “If that is the car, count me in, I want to go.”  Though his idea of a Rally was speeding across back roads at breakneck speed, like, so many internet videos show.  I assured him it would be a relaxing and fun ride in the countryside, and We would get a meal out of the deal. “Any meal I don’t have to cook is one I will enjoy.” The classic line of anyone who spends their days in a kitchen for a living.



The two of us met up with about 125 other participants at the Radnor Hunt Club. A wide range of cars from classic Rolls, compete with the mustard to old farts in Aston Martins (who kept getting in our way but won the Rally.)  Even another Lexus, and a bright RED Infiniti G series, whose owners we became friends with during the weekend.


The Lexus LC500H an Aston Martin and Infiniti all lined up and ready for the Radnor Concours Road Rally.
The Lexus LC500H an Aston Martin and Infiniti all lined up and ready for the Radnor Concours Road Rally.

It did not take long before we quickly found that our car was both adored and somewhat sneered at. “That is some High-Performance Lexus,” said one upper-crust passer-by. A hybrid called High Performance, well shows what great styling can do! Chef Matt also quickly found out that the LC was a chick magnet. Watching an introvert struggling to talk to pretty girls was painful, and sometimes more so when you could see the ladies were more interested in the beautiful road machine he was driving, than the man with incredible culinary talents.

First of all  How it Looks.

Lexus 500H Rear view, lots of shapely lines.
Lexus 500H Rear view, lots of shapely lines.

This two-door coupe has muscular lines from the front fenders to the rear haunches. It seems like an oxymoron to hear the word muscle when the car has hybrid badging.

While guys, from tatted and bearded Harley riders to conservative mainline types gave it thumbs up, and as we found out, it really seduced the ladies. And once inside they really connected to the Alcantara suede door panels and heated and cooled leather seats. Lexus has always known that marketing to the fairer sex is a smart business decision, and this car will have a lot of women becoming owners of their vehicles.


The very clean dash on the Lexus LC500H
The very clean dash on the Lexus LC500H

OK, this is a two-seat coupe, and yes it has four seats. And in those seats, you felt in control of the vehicle as a driver and enveloped as a front seat passenger.  Do not expect people to sit in the rear seats, as no adult of any proportion is going to fit back there, or even contort themselves to get into and out of the rear seats. But that is entirely OK! The front seats contoured the body like an elegant glove, holding you in comfort as well as style.


The LC500's Trunk is not especially big in the first place, and the hybrids battery takes up additional room.
The LC500’s Trunk is not especially big in the first place, and the hybrid’s battery takes up additional room.

Luggage, who needs a lot of baggage? The boot is limited to a couple of overnighters and a suit bag. No golf club bags, and honestly I had to lay a half gallon of scotch down on its side because it was too tall.

Powertrain & Driveability

While you can get this model in a V8. The one we enjoyed was a 3.5-litre V6 with multistage hybrid technology attached. This power plant may not be what you think of when you think of when you think of the other products in Toyota’s family of hybrids. Lexus was one of the first to put the hybrid engine in a vehicle other than a four-door sedan, with the RX. Now it makes perfect sense to put it in this luxury sports coupe. We experienced plenty of power, and excellent fuel mileage to boot.

With this LC500H you have all the options to make whatever noise you want, or NOT! A hybrid powerplant makes that sound, which you sometimes hear in this vehicle in eco and comfort mode (I call it chewing up logs with a dull blade.) Put the LC500h in one of the two sports mode and step on it, and it takes off like a bat out of Gehenna. Or just put it in EV mode and quietly move it out of the driveway. As sometimes you want to make an elegant exit without anyone hearing the exhaust growl of a performance car.

Lexus LC500H Center Console includes an integrated assistance handle for the passenger.
Lexus LC500H Center Console includes an integrated assistance handle for the passenger.

Fuel Mileage, this is a Hybrid, set it in eco mode and get top fuel mileage, like in the mid-30’s. Set it in Sport Plus and it is all power, and still, you will not be draining the tank!  All the while looking amazing and returning fuel consumption numbers that were impressive.

The classic Hold on for your life handles in this car, aka the O’Crap Handles are there for the front seat passenger.who is hardly forgotten. And since Lexus takes performance and handling seriously, the driver has control of the comfortable steering wheel and the shift paddles and fed constant updates from a well-balanced display screen as well as aided by the touchpad controlled display topping the center stack.


Speaking of screens:


We could have watched the transition on the dash display time and time again, as the image moved aside bringing more information forward. While the center display controls everything from HVAC to Audio to monitoring the performance of the Hybrid system. And when you want it to display a more extensive map, or set up the seats for heating and cooling, it is a touch of the screen away. We experienced a few lapses in the GPS display on our suburban Philadelphia adventure, with sometimes not displaying the roads we were on, this we chalked up to the car being a pre-production model. While it could have been operator error, and probably was, it would be nice for it to pop back after some time and tell you, hey, I have stopped working at your request.

Chef Matt and the Lexus LC500H
Chef Matt and the Lexus LC500H

Think Sports Car for those who want a supercar, but may not want to spend the several hundred grand. While this puppy tops out at that $100K mark it is still well priced when you consider what you are buying. A lot of technology in a very, very attractive package. One of the most beautiful Lexus body styles we have ever seen. While you may look at competing brands, this one has a vast dealer network as well as a strong history of brand dependability that comes with it.

Author William West Hopper with the 2018 Lexus LC500H.
Author William West Hopper with the 2018 Lexus LC500H.

Words and photos by William West Hopper.

We were given the use of the Lexus LC500H for a week to use at the Radnor Concours. No other compensation was provided, and all event, travel, and other fees were paid out of our own pocket.
For more information or to test drive for yourself the Lexus LC500H or any of their other vehicles, please visit your local Lexus dealership.

American Sweethearts the SUV & CUV

American family favorites, Crossovers and SUV’s dominate the market due to their versatility. So understandably there are plenty of them at all price points, a mix of high and middle-end models. I have taken these out over the past few months for quick around the block drives as well as extended time periods. Here are my thoughts on them. Some, not all we have done full reviews on which are featured elsewhere on the site.

Fiat 500X – Cuteness seems to be a staple with the Fiat brand. Though with the whinnyFiat 500X engine and a transmission hunting for the right gear provide a less than enjoyable drive experience. I took this funky Italian breadbox up the mountain roads of New York State in May. Pluses are plenty of space and a very attractive interior design. Lots of trim levels and features are available. Discounts are plentiful at year end. Minus are: A clunky exterior, a noisy drivetrain, and a transmission always hunting for the right gear. Prices start at $19,995 and with generous year-end allowances you can put a lot of cute Italian into a small payment for a Fiat.


Nissan RogueNissan Rogue – An overall everyday crossover, easy to get in and out of, with plenty of cargo space. I kept expecting more from the Rogue considering the amount of hype this vehicle has gotten from Nissan’s  PR department to the auto media. Including being heavily featured in recent Star Wars movie promotions and #RogueTrip events. Pluses are a well-made dependable vehicle. Minus are that the Rogue is not so memorable in the overall scheme of things.  Starting at $24,680 and going up depending on trim levels and options. My heart does not go pitter-patter over this model as it does with Nissan’s other products. Though I may need a #RogueTrip to experience this vehicle in more depth.




Toyota Highlander



When did this crossover become so large and in charge? What once was a mid-sized big SUV replacement seems to be growing. While right in the middle of Toyota’s extensive lineup of SUV’s and Crossovers it is a good option for those looking for a dependable, and long-lasting vehicle with plenty of options. Pricing starts at $31,030, incentives are not aggressive due to this being a top-selling model. I was not expecting a WOW, and the Highlander followed suit by not making me squeal for joy while behind the wheel. Though in the long run, the Highlander will be there, dependable and safe as any of Toyota’s vehicles.




GMC Acadia Denali


2017 GMC Acadia Denali
2017 GMC Acadia Denali

GMC is an upmarket luxury truck maker showing that GM is paying a bit more attention to the details. Bringing luxury and utility together in an elegant package. While not as finely outfitted as the Terrain (which was not available to drive, though I attended a presentation on it earlier this year, see another post.) The Acadia is available starting at $42,255 and the Denali (upscale) trim starts at $45,415. While this is not a sports car, nor is it a luxury boulevard cruiser, the Acadia provided a very comfortable drive experience, one that I would find enjoyable on a long road trip. It was a nice both inside and out with a lot of attention to detail, especially for the front seat passengers.




Hyundai Tuscon


2017 Hyundai Tucson
2017 Hyundai Tucson

Sorry to say, this is one that I took out of the parking lot and quickly brought back. A cheap fit and finish made it memorable, and not in a good way. Even in the next to the top of the line Night Edition drag, there were some basics that could be improved. I have been very impressed with what Hyundai and Kia have brought to market recently and comparing the Tuscon to other Hyundai models driven in the past year, this one was a disappointment. While the Tucson starts at $20,200, it could be so better from a company that offers America’s best automotive warranty and well-known customer service. Hyundai is pronounced like Sunday for those who wrestle with the pronunciation of the brand name.




Land Rover Discovery


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Well now we are talking, no longer the boxy wannabe of its forebears, the odd exterior design is not unpleasing to the eye, just reminded me of a bathtub, a luxury spa tub. The Disco, as it is known, would not take long to get used to. The interior was quite comfortable, though not as impressive as I would expect from this legendary British Empire Automotive brand. This is one we would like to spend more time with to get the full Rover experience. Starting at $52,090 it is right at a price point with some strong competitors offering top-notch larger size SUV’s. The Discovery and it’s twin the Discovery Sport are positioned just under the famed Range Rover. The brand is owned by Tata, a large multi-national, multi-product-service company based in India. Which may be why this vehicle and the Jaguar F-Pace seemed to be so closely related, almost cousins. (Jaguar is also owned by Tata.)


Diesel powered Jaguar F-Pace
Diesel-powered Jaguar F-Pace

Jaguar F-Pace  – Here is a sleek and sumptuous SUV that I was very excited to get to drive for a few days this Fall. While it was an enjoyable ride, it was not everything I had hoped it would be. The 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel-powered version provided excellent fuel economy power and responsiveness. Comfort was nice with heated and cooled seats and all that one would expect in a proper English road car. Some of the technology was substandard compared to the competition, such as a limited vision camera, the center console display and the tinting on the windows rendered my two separate electronic toll pass devices inoperable, which was a tad embarrassing, as I was driving a Tata executive from China to an automotive media event. With prices starting at $42,065 for the basic model, topping out at over $62K for The pinnacle of F-Pace luxury, the Portfolio Edition. With a great ride and wonderful styling and fuel economy in the upper 20’s on diesel fuel, it is not one we would ask to leave the stable. But maybe send back for some more training.



Kia Niro

Kia Niro Hybrid
Kia Niro Hybrid

Stepping into a Kia, the last thing you would expect is to fall in love with an economy car, a hybrid at that. That is what I did, within a few moments of driving this odd little crossover, I said to myself, I would buy this car. It was nimble, spacious and had plenty of technology aboard. A bit quirky and awkward at first, but it grows on you like a loveable, nerdy, best friend. I could easily see loading stuff in this car and be heading out on adventures. Prices start at $23,240 for the base model going up to $31,900 for the top-of-the-line Touring model. All feature a 1.6 L 4-cylinder and Full Parallel Hybrid System and provide anywhere from 40 to 52 miles per gallon. Even more of a reason to love this little Korean Crossover. Yet another vehicle from Korea that will give the Prius some challenges in the marketplace.


Cadillac XT5
Cadillac XT5

Cadillac XT5 – For me, it is hard to see Cadillac as a crossover, or even as an SUV. In my mind, Cadillac is a luxury car that says you have made it in the game of life. I have fond memories of the powder blue Eldorado Convertable (with a white top) that I drove to my Junior and Senior Prom in High School (it matched my Tux, hey it was the mid-1970’s and I still have the clip-on bow tie and button on ruffles for the shirt! And even the tux jacket somewhere.) The XT5’s interior rear-view mirror (the same on all Cadillac models) is a bit unnerving as it is a live video feed out the back, which for some reason played havoc with my sense of equilibrium, and eventually, I did find a way to switch it off. As a Crossover, it was a nice, but not as roomy or easy to get in an out of as I would like. And as a Cadillac, it was quite plain. I just would like it to be more elegant, more luxurious, more everything that a Cadillac is. Which also means different from the other GM products on the market, which the XT5 really is not. Prices start at $39,395 and with a number of add-ons it could be a contender. I especially like all of the safety features that Cadillac is offering on its current line of vehicles.




Jeep Compass


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When you think America, the original SUV is just one name JEEP. While it may not be what we see on today’s roads, it was the World War II Jeep that the soliders brought home with them. Realizing that this rugged little four-wheel drive workhorse that took them all across the world’s battlefields. Now it has now become a staple in US driveways. No longer simple or even little, the Jeep has many iterations and is as capable as ever. The 2018 Jeep Compas is as close to the original as you might want to get, just now with a battalion of safety and technology features, not to mention and comfort that was unknown when it became a civilian product.  The Compass may not have much more room, but four guys in this Jeep can be an interesting experience. We all found the engine noise annoying, especially on long drives. The Compass is a great size for urban runs. Prices start at $20,995 and discounts can be had depending on the dealer or buying service you are using.


Alfa Romeo Stelvio


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A much-anticipated SUV that feels direct from the Italian Alps is this upscale
ride from the legendary automaker, Alfa Romero. With prices starting at $41,995 the Stelvio will be one that will sell quickly, even adding lots of options. This is one great looking SUV, sales will happen due to the Stelvio’s exceptional style, if for no other reason. Size is not enormous, but the driving experience is all European. Fit and finish need some work, though as with an Italian lover, you get the good with a few rough edges. We have not spent enough time in this vehicle as we would like, and hope to do so in the coming year.


Volkswagen Atlas


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We reviewed this full-sized 3-row American style SUV from the company that built the People’s Car earlier this year. The Atlas will fit the needs of many Americans due to the amount of interior space it offers. The Atlas is not going to win beauty pageants, it is a rolling bread box with very square angles. Made in Tennesee, it looks like a Ford Explorer just with a little some German styling cues. This is not the SUV for you If you are looking to make a statement about what you drive. Starting at just over $30K, this one will be a dutiful and dependable workhorse, as VW’s are well known for.



I was able to drive these vehicles due to membership in several professional automotive media organizations or by invitation of the manufacturer. I received no compensation or incentives for driving and reviewing the vehicles mentioned, other than the loan of the vehicles for up to seven days.

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

Words and Photos by William West Hopper
Photos of the Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Tuscon were from their respective automotive media sites.



The Toyota Camry, All New for 2018

Docile, Domesticated, Dependable, Durable, and Now for 2018, Dynamite!

What would improve, the ever-popular Camry? Currently, the most American made vehicle on sale in the USA. An every day plain-jane sedan that has sold over ten-million vehicles since it was introduced in 1983.  Styling!  Toyota has made the 2018 edition sportier. Actually, it is all-new for 2018, from the ground up.  Let’s take a look!

The hand painted roof is only available on Camry's upper X trim models, notice the lower stance and swooping lines.
The hand painted roof is only available on Camry’s upper X trim models, notice the lower stance and swooping lines.

This new model will not alienate previous owners who have been devoted to Toyota’s four-Door Sedan for years. Buyers of sports sedans will now be taking a second look at this model as a viable competitor in the market place. Toyota’s reputation for reliability, safety and more are now embraced in this new model.


Designed from the ground up, the dull staid image has been left in the dust! With an all-new platform and powertrain, still that dependable, long lasting, and safe Camry. Now, some might even say it has become sexy. Where the 2018 Camry grabs attention is in the flowing lines. Inspired by the design of a catamaran, known for skimming across the water’s surface with strong bold outriggers, and a very light and airy body. Now you will be able to tell the difference from the SE and LE models by defined front-end styling cues.

2018 Camry interior is very cockpit inspired. Focused on the driver.
2018 Camry interior is very cockpit inspired. Focused on the driver.

The Camry’s sweeping lines flow from outside into the passenger cabin.  A wraparound cockpit for the driver and front passenger bring controls within easy reach of the driver, and with the upper trim level offers a head’s up display (which wearing polarized sunglasses is a tad hard to see) keeping the driver’s eyes on the road. The front passenger will feel snug in the wraparound interior design. Visually it may be a bit confining, though there is plenty of space.

For rear passengers, no gymnastics are needed to get into the rear seats, as in some sports sedans. The rear bench seat fits two comfortably and 3 snugly. While the trunk is spacious, it’s rectangular trunk lid opening may take some negotiating with bulky items. Even the Camry Logo has been redesigned – individual letters stamped across the center of the trunk lid.

The rear of the 2018 Toyota Camry is different as well. Only the Logo remains the same.
The rear of the 2018 Toyota Camry is different as well. Only the Logo remains the same.

Engineering – TNGA Platform

Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is a re-engineering of the whole vehicle, not just one part. Resulting in a new and improved driving dynamics for the 2018 Camry. Which was very apparent behind the wheel. This chassis has 3-times more welds giving it a stiffer more in control feel. A double wishbone rear suspension still provides a comfortable ride. While wider and with a lower center of gravity, the Camry has tighter handling due to this new platform as the weight is evenly distributed over the four tires. This results in better overall performance. “The new Camry is an extremely balanced machine with much more excitement.”

Toyota New Global Architecture is what the 2018 Camry is all about.
Toyota New Global Architecture is what the 2018 Camry is all about.

Three Power Trains

Three new drivetrains, a 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder gasoline engine, and a new second-generation hybrid powerplant mated to a new Eight-Speed automatic transmission are what drive the 2018 Camry.

2018_Toyota_Camry_LE_Hybrid_03_291A080C9D9BCA2A2D7D8EE7A412740433B7FB8BWhile the 2.5 4-cylinder is fine, we found the 3.5 six provides a better powerband for our driving style. At the time we drove the new Camry the hybrid was not in the press fleet. With MPG numbers reported to be over 50 mpg this will be the one to test drive. The car handles like it on rails, having the hybrid system repositioned in the engine bay and battery moved out of the trunk and under the car will definitely provide a more evenly balanced feel of driving.


The Direct Shift 8 Speed Transmission offers plenty of gears to operate in at all speeds and load parameters, we found it to be smooth and best of all, a gear shift lever positioned where one would expect it, in the center of the console. Some classic styling touches just seem right.

Camry Safety

New light designs are just a part of the 2018 Camry. Lights were one of the first safety features on cars.Safety TSSP – is a suite of safety sysems including pre-collision system and if the vehicle is equipped with an electric parking brake can take the car down to zero. Combine that with the other dynamic safety systems (Saftey systems are standard in all models of Camry models for 2018.) And like the 2017 model, no doubt the all new Camry will also have a Five Star Overall Saftey Rating.


Camry Trim Levels

Making the trim levels distinguishable from each other was part of the redesign. Now there will be no mistaking the SE and L grade models.  It is details like the quad tip exhaust, a dual exhaust with four tips and other details you will notice.

  • L Model –  Will be the most base entry-level – very budget friendly.
  • LE Model – You will see a large chunk of Camry models outfitted in this high tech trim level.
  • XLE – The top of the line luxury model with all the technology that is available and special options will be available.
  • XLE V6 – Total luxury with the power of the V6 engine.
  • SE – Sport Trim – Toyota expects this to be a volume leader.
  • XSE – Full sport with full tech!
  • XSE V6 – Adding the V-6 powerplant to the top of the line sport model, even a hand painted black roof will be available in this trim.
Cockpit focused controls for the driver in the 2018 Toyota Camry.
Cockpit focused controls for the driver in the 2018 Toyota Camry.

Camry’s interior is driver-centric focused with the center console stack wrapping around the driver and the passenger. Controls turned toward the driver giving it a cockpit feel.


New Camry Colors

While we are used to seeing a lot of the basic colors, silver, white, black, there are three new colors coming to the 2018 Camry; Windshield Pearl, Brownstone, Galactic Aqua Mica.

A Two Tone Roof is now showing up in different manufacturers lines, as well as in the Toyota  C-HR.  Camry will offer the hand-painted black roof on three different colors of the XSE model completing the aggressive look in sports sedans along with black painted window trim and side mirrors. You can order the two-tone roof when you order your XSE in Blue Streak Mettalic, Celestiral Silver, and Wind Chill Pearl.The Camry has an all new center console.


The redesigned 2018 Toyota is now available at dealers nationwide. This model is the most American Made vehicle sold in the USA today. Produced at the Georgetown Kentucky plant for the American market.


Words by William West Hopper
Photos by William West Hopper & Toyota Motor Company’s media site.
For more information on Toyota go to toyota.com



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