Calloway Cars gave us a chance to try out their latest Aero edition of the C7 Chevrolet Corvette Areowagen, which opened our eyes to this all-American automotive customizer.
It is interesting to hear the history as well as the intense involvement that Calloway has with this vehicle and other General Motors products like the Tahoe, Suburban, Escalade, and Yukon, not to mention the Camaro and Sierra/Silverado pickups. While the firm was founded on a simple modification for BMW race cars.
Callaway started customizing vehicles the way many do, with passion and need for faster cars. Reeves Callaway, who with a passion and talent for auto racing, being voted the best of the new crop of SCCA drivers in the early 1970’s, turned the garage of his Connecticut home into a shop constructing a turbocharger system for his own racecar. A Car and Driver article propelled him to be sought after by professional and amateur racers alike, from which a business was created that has grown and continues today.
Callaway’s products have since become a General Motors factory installed options, as well as a whole line of customized cars that are sold, and warranted by GM as original equipment. Being one of the only automotive aftermarket suppliers that provide products that can be ordered directly on the sales floor of a dealership that qualifies for both a factory and a Callaway warranty.
The Callaway Corvette
Take a factory C7 (or many of the models prior to that) and make it faster, and more aerodynamic and you have the Aero C7, with the supercharger, intercooler engine management systems as well as other upgrades including intake and exhaust.
Our drive experience was tame, being on suburban roads. The Vette purred like a kitten and growled when asked. While the car could be mistaken for a standard off the dealer lot model. Driving it you knew the power and performance were but the touch of an accelerator pedal away.
Inside only some simple badging distinguished it as a Callaway product. Outside the rear hatch had been converted into almost a wagon or Sportback.
The A5 Coupe that Audi of America provided for us to attend the Hero Fund America Road Rally in update New York was an easy and fun car to drive, and one we would not mind as part of our daily fleet. Well balanced with tight comfortable handling was one reason. Easy on the budget and on the eyes, this car is just fun in every way possible. Seriously! I can see why so many young professionals become Audi customers.
Audi, which has long been the luxury brand for the people’s car brand Volkswagen. Though when you look at the history of Audi, it is often as much a contender in high-speed road rallies with their competent all-wheel drive and fuel-efficient engines, tight handling chassis, as it is as a luxury car.
Light and nimble in handling was what I first experienced behind the wheel, it was not long before I realized I was going way over the speed limit, the A5 is effortlessly FAST!
Where to start on the technology on this vehicle? It is more than just the dashboard. While having detailed GPS is considered standard in upmarket vehicles, Audi’s just is so much more vivid and attractive. The incredible detail in the display of the Google Earth-based navigation system immediately grabs your attention. Similar to the difference between early black and white TV and today’s 4-K video from what other onboard automotive GPS systems display. Does it provide more information, probably not, but visually it is more pleasing. And it does not stop there, the dash of the A3 was as well detailed as any high-performance jet plane just more luxurious.
Following in the other high-line German vehicles Audi has a handwriting pad area as well as a “knob” to command the center console screen. While the writing feature is not easy, as my handwriting is terrible – anyone who has signed a screen for a credit card knows how hard it is to make handwriting legible. In this day of voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the spoken words are about as good, I suppose after training the AI within the vehicle you might have more success than I did
Sculpted Exterior Design
Subdued and classic, while Audi has never been known for flourishes, the smooth and clean sculpted lines of this A5 Coupe are elegant and graceful, while not all that eye-catching with added extras. And that is not a bad thing, as the lines are purposeful and elegant defining a very well proportioned body.
Ride and Handling
We took the 2018 Audi A5 Quattro Coupe on a 900-mile drive from Washington DC to Sharon Springs NY and back through back roads, highways as well as city streets, and even unpaved country lanes. Every mile was a delight as the A5 was nimble and fun to drive. The ride, while this is a sports coupe, it was still comfortable, with even on the washboard lanes of the New York Throughway. Road-hugging as the four drive wheels gripped the pavement. The all-wheel drive was nimble with a tight turning radius making the A5 feel smaller than it actually is.
Inside well laid out instruments, comfortable seats with thigh extenders in a spacious cabin for the driver and front passenger as well as trunk. Though not for those who would have to squeeze into the rear seat. While this is a roomy coupe, the rear seating would be tough for anyone larger than a child.
As one would expect in a car at this level it had an exceptional Bang & Olufsen sound system. Even with a CD player hidden in the glovebox, the audio system provided all the modern amenities with satellite radio as well as Bluetooth and USB inputs from a smartphone brought into the vehicle.
The A5 ran a powerful 2.0 liter 252 hp i4engine and 7-speed Quattro all-wheel drive and provided 33 mpg average over the thousand mile trip.
With all the love here the only thing we found annoying was that with the start/stop engine cutoff, that happens at stop lights, the power steering would become stiff until the engine restarted. And with all the other great things this A5 Coupe had to offer, that was something we could overlook.
We loved our week in the Audi A5 Coupe. It was fun to drive, stylish, and comfortable. With plenty of power, we found ourselves zipping along more often than not. Even in the slowest of traffic, the Audi A5 was a delight to be driving. This is a car that would be a first pick for a car to drive every day.
Little cars are back in a big way, be it because people do not want to spend a lot, or they do not need much more than fun transportation. The New Nissan Kicks is now on sale and steps in a field of outdated competitors with a lot of safety, looks, and room for the price.
Nissan is known for Sport Utility Vehicles and Crossovers from the larger than life Armada, family hauler, Pathfinder, classic Cross over’s Rogue, Murano and Rogue Sport. Now a little brother has joined the lineup for 2018, the new Nissan Kicks. It is new, and not a replacement for the recently departed Nissan Juke, which is still available in other world markets.
What is new with the Kicks?
Smart styling and expressive design, with colors that POP out in a quick little four-door hatchback. We love it that automakers are bringing back COLOUR as a major part of the styling of their vehicles. The Kicks has bright, expressive color choices, blacked out pillars and the option of five different two-tone contrasting roof color choices, which brings this small crossover to life. Add Nissan’s Color Studio options which bring about even more excitement to the exterior. Built on the Versa Note platform, with the signature V-Motion Grill, boomerang lights, and floating roof, this may be a little car on the outside, but on the inside, it is very spacious, even in the back seats with front passengers, and has an amazing amount of cargo room.
Standard on all trim levels of Nissan Kicks is Automatic Emergency Braking, which you will not find on other small CUV competitors even as an option. Available as an option Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Alert, and Intelligent All-Around View® Monitor, a 360-degree camera option. All safety items you can afford are worth the investment.
Kicks is a front-engine, front wheel drive platform with Nissan’s 1.6- Liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing. Producing 128 horsepower @5800 RPM, 115 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 RPM connected to Nissan’s Xtronic transmission®, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) provides Kicks with class-leading fuel mileage with 31 city, 36 highway, and 33 combined.
Independent strut front, multi-link independent rear suspension, both with twin tube shocks and a stabilizer bar provide Kicks a solid ride for a short wheelbase vehicle. All Kicks come with ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and brake assist.
What Drivers and Passengers Will Appreciate & May Not
No question the Kick’s easily accessible and visible 7” touchscreen to control the audio. Large symbols make It is easy to read. Some of the drop-down menus can be confusing and hard to find again. To prevent finger smudges a screen protector on the glass, as you can apply to a tablet would be a helpful addition. (This should not be hard to find an item in a local electronics store, custom cutting, installing, and fitting it is the hardest part.)
Standard Bluetooth streaming audio with available Apple Car Play and Android Auto is almost a necessity today in any vehicle. Only the front USB port (there are three easily accessible USB ports in the Kicks,) direct wires into that desirable technology.
Bose® Personal Plus Audio System with 360 degrees of immersible sound, available on SR Premium Package. (While it was good, only the driver’s headrest has the built-in speakers. You may want to explore the Rockford Fosgate® Audio System for $595 as an option.) I was not enamored with the Personal Plus’s sound quality, for a Bose system, while it is pretty darn good, I expected it to be a bit better. I did not get to experience the Rockford Fosgate®; the large rear cargo area-mounted sub-woofer is where the optional $195 Cargo Load Floor may interfere with it.
While the standard seating upholstery has a diamond pattern stitched in, the more upscale Perma-Tex™ seats have little decoration. To many, the diamond stitching can be perceived as a higher level of trim.
The expansive back seat and cargo area is a big plus in a small car; I would want to add $200 interior accent lighting, or the $555 interior electronics package, as it is hard to see the interior door handles and lock and window switches at night with a black interior.
While the driver’s seat has a fold-down center armrest, the right front passenger seat does not, nor do we see a spot for an optional one to be attached to the seat back.
Closed compartments are not a Kicks thing, there is a glovebox, but the openings on the doors and trays on the center console are open, while you can get $45 optional rubber mats for those.
No spare tire, while there is a well under the cargo, it is filled with a Styrofoam block that holds the jack and inflator kit. Weight reduction and quality of the modern Firestone Tires are no doubt a consideration in not providing a spare.
The optional $211.29 rear cargo cover and $195 cargo load floor are handy but seem easily damaged or could end up as part of the stash of junk in the garage. Though turning over the cargo load floor it looked useful to hold shopping bags in place, but not if you had the sub-woofer in the back.
The Nissan Kicks is made in Mexico and the basic model, the S starts at $17,990, $19,690 for the SV, $20,290 for the SR (more of a sports package), and $21,290 for the SR with a premium package that includes the Bose® Personal Plus 8-Speaker sound system, Perma-Tex™ appointed seats, heated front seats, and a security system. A $975 destination charge, taxes and tags. Minus any incentives, you may be offered from the dealer or through an organization you belong to such as AAA, Costco, USAA, or a buying service. The SR Premium model I found most desirable with optional rear sonar, and interior ambient lighting came to $23,720. Build a Nissan Kicks for yourself.
Kicks are all about fun; this little four-door is a great get up and go vehicle. While its trendy styling may be more youth-oriented, Fun Grannies and Grandpop will be attracted to this easy to drive, economical, roomy, small crossover. We found it light and easy to drive, with plenty of power and pickup, tight turning radius and great visibility. The Kicks is a very light vehicle at 2672 lbs curb weight, while it handled well on a hot breezeless summer’s day, I would want to try it on the interstate during a Spring wind.
If you are like many, you never want to spend too much money. Alternatively, if you don’t have much dough to spend in the first place, keeping the purchase price to a minimum is a major factor in the buying process. With car purchases being a big chunk of change. What do you do, when you want a nice car but don’t want to spend a fortune?
You think “Previously Owned Automobile,” a nice way of saying “Used Car.” Even then it is going to set you back around twenty G’s. With the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta at under $19K, you can think new as an alternative. With Jetta’s starting price of an S model at $18, 545 (add on the $450 driver assistance package, because it could save your life.)
However, is an under $19K car worth buying?
With the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, you get more car for the money than if you bought the same 2018 model. VW has re-engineered the seventh generation Jetta under the MQB Platform making this sedan even better value than ever before.
The VW Jetta was born 40 years ago as the next step up from the Golf (Rabbit as it was known in the USA.) That Golf/Rabbit replaced the much-beloved Beatle in the mid-1970’s. In that time Jetta has become one of the most successful sedans with worldwide sales of more than 17.5 million, 3.2 million sold in the USA alone.
Base Model Jetta
How good is the lowest priced 2019 Jetta S? We loved the fact that you could get it in a 6-speed manual. Maybe it was because of the oddity of a manual transmission, but more as we drove it and its more upscale brothers. VW interpreted their lowest trim level of the Jetta in much the same way they started out as a car company, which is how it came to the US in the 1950’s. VW provided a basic, well-engineered car, that was a bit out of the ordinary. While today the Jetta may no longer be out of the ordinary, as VW now conforms to the pack with design and fluid-cooled engines.
The S gives you much of what the more expensive Jetta trim levels have to offer, without the cost. While it does skimp on a few things, they are not all that impossible. Cloth Seats, a single USB and the 6.5-inch center screen are noticeable but not a hard stop. For example, there is a real key, while it is a modern switchblade key, not some radio-wave thing that you never know what to do with once inside the car. The other models have remote keys with push-button start. Eco-driving mode, because when you are cheap from the get-go, you want to run with it. Other features that score one in the wallet like 16” alloy wheels and tires. Real 16” alloy wheels, not steel wheels with plastic hubcaps, so it does not look less expensive.
You Get A Lot In The S
You get what the other trim levels have on the Jetta: More headroom, knee room, and shoulder room than the previous generation. Trunk space is 14.1 cubic feet, and split-folding rear seats (60/40) are standard. Jetta for 2019 has a 1.4 Turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine with 147hp, 184 ft-lbs of torque, which runs on regular 87 octane gasoline, this is the same engine for all trim levels. Standard LED lights all around multi-function wheel, car-Net-App-Connect (that connects to Apple Carplay and Android Auto). Moreover, safety features like automatic post-collision braking. Add to that VW’s People First Warranty, a best-in-class 6-year/72,000-mile with bumper-to-bumper coverage (See VW for limited warranty details), that can be transferred to subsequent owners. Not much is optional on the base S Trim Level: Start/Stop which is a fuel saver and an 8-speed automatic with Tiptronic and sport mode.
Take an S trim level 2019 Volkswagen Jetta for a drive, if, for nothing more than the manual transmission, you will be surprised with what $18,995 (plus a low $850 delivery fee, then local taxes and tags) buys.
Words by William West Hopper
Photos from VW Media & William West Hopper
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