Category Archives: Automobile

Red, Yellow, Green – What does your car see when it encounters a traffic light? Audi Connect knows ahead of time!

Want To Hear More about Audi’s V2I Tech Watch our YouTube Video

The Audi Q5 at CVS in Washington DC, with an Acura RDX

Audi of America sent us a 2018 Audi Q5 with the built-in Audi Connect Green Light Optimization Speed Advisory (GLOSA) to test out their Audi Prime Traffic Light System. This is a vehicle that is equipped with an infrastructure (V2I) communication system. A technology, where the car communicates back and forth with its surroundings. Which means the car talks to things like traffic signals and soon other aspects of the built environment to know what to expect as it drives through.

This system is then able to alert the driver on what to expect, be it an oncoming red or green light. For those of us who drive in an urban environment, that can be a lot better than having to watch to see if the pedestrian walk countdown light is about to flash the yellow hand, indicated that the light will be changing soon.   Am I at 20 seconds or 3 seconds until the light changes?

While it all seems pretty complicated, the basic premise is that the vehicle communicates through the cellular data network, the same one your mobile device uses to connect to the internet, and you use to update your status on social media, stream music, and make reservations via apps.  Audi vehicles (if equipped and turned on in an area that is enabled) then get real-time data about the traffic light ahead.

 

How will this help drivers

Audi Q5 Dash Board displaying Traffic SignsFirst of all, this is not a system that controls the vehicle or the traffic light. There is nothing to switch on to make the lights ahead of you green, nor does the traffic light turning red stop your vehicle automatically.

This informs the driver by way of an alert light on the dash or the heads-up display of what to expect. Being knowledgeable of what to expect as you come upon an intersection, makes you a better driver. Will the light turn red just as you get there?   Drivers have long had to rely on watching the pedestrian walk countdown as well as the traffic light. Am I at 20 seconds or 3 seconds until the light changes?

The GLOSA will provide a recommended speed to minimize stopping at red lights, helping the driver by eliminating the speed up | Slow down cycle that is often experienced on signal controlled streets.

GLOSA is part of an overall U.S.expansion of Traffic Light Information (TLI) technology. Available on Audi vehicles equipped with Audi Connect Prime Feature (on select 2017, 2018 and newer models.) Available in thirteen US cities, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia, Denver, Colorado, White Plains, NY,  Gainesville, Florida,  Orlando, Florida.

Audi Connect is more than just using a Smart Phone

2018 Audi Q 5 DashboardWhile the smartphone is one component that is the center of most automotive tech these days. While the debate over which operating system will the car connect to, Android or Apple is no longer much of a debate.  And many manufacturers have apps that connect you through your phone or AI devices like Alexa or Google Home to your car.  Audi has the myAudi app which provides access to the vehicle and an array of features from finding the car, to keyless locking and unlocking of the car.

Today having directions at your command, making reservations, or controlling your home’s lighting, heating and more in preparation for your arrival is all about being better connected.

 

Where Audi Excels

Audi Connect Subscription ExpiredUsing Google Earth ™ seeing your route in 3D has been a staple in Audi’s tech toolbox for years. With the myAudi Navigation route guidance which starts from when you first leave and continues with you upon starting y our vehicle and til you end and exit your vehicle. Guiding you all the way to the final steps of your destination.  Natural voice recognition, using your normal speaking voice, Audi’s system recognizes what you are talking about, and assists you. Audi connect ® CARE A suite of assistance and security services that includes SOS calls11, Online Roadside Assistance2, Stolen Vehicle Locater12and Audi Service Request13. Available without a subscription for a limited time.10

 

 

WIFI connection is key to being connected

Audi at the 2019 Washington Auto Show

Be it the myAudi App, Audi connect CARE, in-vehicle 4GLTE® and upcoming 5G connectivity through the cellular data system provides the ability to support wifi-enabled devices as well as the cars internal devices.

 

New vehicles equipped with Audi connect®

2018 Audi Q5 in Rock Creek Park with DafodilsThe following vehicles come with Audi Connect service, with a complimentary six-month free trial period. After that, they require a prepaid subscription. Plans start at $199 for a basic one and go up from there depending on services included.

2019 – A6 | A7 | A8 |Q8

2018 – A5 | Q 5

2017 – Q7 | A4 Allroad  | A3

2015 to 2018 A3 Sportback e-tron

 

What’s Next?

Aud Etron with Electrify America ChargerAudi will continue to be a leading innovator when it comes to in-vehicle technology. With the soon to be on the market etron all-electric Audi expect expanded services and technologies like the integrated toll module (ITM) a transponder built into the vehicles rearview mirror, eliminating windscreen clutter, and the need to manage multiple toll accounts. This system will operate on select toll roads in the U.S. and Canada.  While toll transponders have been available for a generation, they have been addon boxes affixed to the car. Audi will integrate this digital tool with the V2I technology allowing the vehicle to communicate and interact with the toll authority.

 

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The Italians are Coming – And so are the Americans, the Germans, the Brits, all to Virginia this Fall for the 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA

Watch our YouTube Video on the 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA.

Emanuele Manzitti of the Italian Embassy, Franco Gussalli Beretta, 1000 Miglia President , Francesca Parolin, 1000 Miglia General Manager, and Mark Gessler at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC.

The presentation of the second American edition of the 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA was held this morning (April 26, 2019) at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC. Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio, together with Mille Miglia President Franco Gussalli Beretta, announced: “We started a journey. Today we consolidate this tradition that is part of the sporting and cultural fabric of Italy that for centuries has made beauty, style, creativity and passion for life one of its characteristic traits. I am sure that the 2019 edition will be as successful as the 2018 edition and will contribute to consolidating a prestigious image of our country in the USA”.

 

Goals of the 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA

20190426_121217The aim of the 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA is to involve the participants in a compelling sporting experience in the “Spirit of 1000 Miglia,” This the 2nd American event is reserved for 40 historic cars that meet the eligibility requirements for 1000 Miglia and a limited number of Supercars. Newbies to the race will be offered the opportunity of real “Warm Up” dedicated to those who, not knowing much about 1000 Miglia, will have an overview of the rules and activities that characterize the participation in the most beautiful race in the world. During the four day event, the participating cars will travel 800 miles through some of the most evocative and iconic areas of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to then reach the heart of Washington DC. Ending on Italian soil with the award ceremony hosted at the Ambassador’s residence Villa Firenze in Rock Creek Park.

 

Why is the Mille Miglia Coming to the USA?

Blue 1968 Ferrari GTC and Red Alfa Romero on display at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC.
Blue 1968 Ferrari GTC and Red Alfa Romero on display at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC.

The event is managed by the Italian Government and is designed to show off the best of the Italian culture to the world through this iconic road rally. While historic rallying cars are just one part of the event, engaging in the historic culture of Italy is the main reason.  Bringing it to America, as well as other countries gives others a chance to enjoy the excitement and charm of the Mille Miglia.

 

MM Alfa“The international development of our brand – declared Franco Gussalli Beretta, President of 1000 Miglia Srl – must involve the United States, one of the first and most important countries in the world for the presence of cars of great historical value and it is a great honor, for 1000 Miglia and me, to be here alongside Ambassador Varricchio confirming the inseparable bond between 1000 Miglia and Italy and to present the second edition of 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA. We look forward to involving the participating crews, the fans, and enthusiasts in a week of training and getting to know all the rules, the particulars and the emotions that they can experience when they participate in 1000 Miglia that takes place every year in Italy in May. Finally, I would like to thank Chopard and Alfa Romeo, who has been by our side for many years and who have chosen to support us in this project as well.”

 

Plans for the 2019 Virginia Event

1000 Miglia Warm Up USA 2019 Virginia Route Map
1000 Miglia Warm Up USA proposed 2019 Virginia Route Map

Car and driver teams will be invited to apply, and entries will be submitted for review through the summer. In early September an announcement will be made as to the 40 historic cars and handful of supercars accepted.  The group will gather at the Salamander Resort in the Virginia Horse Country’s quaint village of Middleburg VA. From there they will spend four days broken into a day of training and three days of rallying to points as far north as Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural gem in Western Pennsylvania and to the south to Monticello in Charlottesville VA. Trekking over picturesque back roads and the historic Skyline Drive. Ending their rally in Washington DC.

For detailed information on the 1000 Miglia Warm Up USA click here.

WWH and MM photographing historic cars at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC like the blue 1968 Ferrari GTC
WWH and MM photographing historic cars at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC
Word by William West Hopper | Images by Marco Marinucci, 1000 Miglia

Big Bold, And Omnipresent – the Ford Expedition – It is as Big as it Sells

2018 Ford Expedition Ruby Red Metallic head on shotRecently the opportunity came about to take Ford’s big selling Full-Size SUV on a trip to the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis Indiana. A 1200-mile round trip, which was a perfect chance to get the feel of this large station wagon of an SUV. Built like a linebacker and dressed in a tuxedo, this highway cruiser, and a suburban hauler, while big, has all the comfort, safety and features you want for a $72K price

 

2018 Ford Expedition Dash GaugesOur 2018 model year ride was decked out in Premium Trim, Part of Ford’s east coast press fleet it came to us with 24K miles already on the odometer. If you follow my columns, you know I like to get cars with miles racked up, this gives you a clear view of how they hold up. Press vehicles take a lot of abuse, maybe more so than rental cars, just that the fleet companies are paid to detail them better, than a quick wash and vacuum before it is rolled out to the next customer at the airport.  This Expedition had held up well, which shows that it is well made with quality materials and workmanship.

 

First Impressions

right rear of the 2018 ford expeditionThe Explorer is tall, and with the automatically appearing (and retracting) side steps, you can easily climb aboard this massive beast. Once inside you really feel connected behind the wheel of this truck, to the controls, gauges, and switchgear. Everything is well placed and being the size it is, is in easy reach while driving.  Visibility is excellent, you have a good view of the road, in all directions all around you.  While this is an over-sized vehicle, it feels more maneuverable than you might first think.

Cockpit of the Ford ExpeditionInterior space is well detailed and thought out. The driver’s seat is heated, cooled and offered both a bottom and back massage feature, useful on a long haul trip. Passengers also benefit from attention to their needs, no wonder families choose this vehicle. Front, rear, even third-row seats provide more than just a place to sit. Power outlets, HVAC vents and controls, and areas to hold small items are located throughout the cabin.

Bells and Whistles

The Red forward collision warning lightWhen I first got aboard I noticed a red light on top of the dash over the gauge cluster, wondering what it was, it proved itself when a vehicle stopped short in front of me. That bar glowed brightly and started the brake pedal action, much better than my own reaction time, by the time I got my foot on the brake the vehicle was already hard at work slowing down. That red bar gave me notice and proved to be effective, a couple of times during the trip.  The Pilot 360 safety system that Ford provides in its vehicles is useful and more important than ever in today’ sever increasing traffic.

Ford Expedition USB outlets in rear seatsBeyond the smartphone interface and satellite radio options, the vehicle was equipped with a CD Player, hard as that is to believe, such old tech, but listening to books on CD (or as we used to say on tape) was a great use of this (Name of Sound System) in this vehicle. Also USB connections to devices for streaming and connecting to apps, which in today’s world this has become the norm on almost every car.

 

Driving Dynamics

twenty two inch tires on the Ford ExpeditionNo large vehicle is going to handle like a sports sedan, this rolls like a pickup truck, just with more interior room. At times it can be a bit disconnected due to the electrically assisted steering that helps keep it safely in its lane. The ride is quite comfortable, to the point of luxurious. One of the benefits of having 22-inch tires on pothole-filled rough roads.

The all-wheel-drive provided a feeling of being well connected to the road. Never did this vehicle feel that it was not sure-footed even on wet slushy roads. Steering was typical for this size Ford vehicle be it a pickup or SUV, the safety sentries every once in a while made a small tug or steering correction.

 

Fuel Economy

Ford Expedition 3.5 ecoboost 6-cyl engine
Ford Expedition 3.5 EcoBoost 6-cyl engine

While it was not dismal, it was what you would expect from a vehicle of this size and stature, we eeked out almost 19 mpg on this trip on the 3.6 EcoBoost v-6 engine, which for a large 5600- pound piece of metal was pretty good.

Ford Expedition USB outlets in rear seats
USB outlets are abundant throughout the Expedition

Speaking of metal, weight savings is critical in the Expedition, and thus many parts of this vehicle are made from Aluminium, not steel. While you may not notice the difference, you will hear it when there is a strong rainstorm, and raindrops are hitting the roof, it sounds very different than it would in a vehicle with a steel roof.  And with that will come additional expense to do metal body repair, as finding a shop with technicians trained in working aluminum is not as common as steel craftsman/women.

 

Ford Expedition with 2nd & 3rd-row seats folded down.
Ford Expedition with 2nd & 3rd-row seats folded down.

Cargo and Passenger space are plentiful, spacious and comfortable, all three rows of seating provide space to spread out, and even allow for the gear that is brought along on any trip, be it a big box store run, or a cross country trip with luggage.

 

Ford Expedition third row seating
Third-row seating in the Expedition is ample.

Overall, I have to say I was quite impressed with the Expedition, how it drove, how it rode, and how it handled. If you are towing a trailer, or just need a large family hauler, this is a vehicle to consider. After driving the Expedition, you can understand the reason that Ford has increased the production of this vehicle at its Kentucky plant, and why

 

Ford Expedition 2nd row hvac controls and power

customers are buying it. Ford had made this vehicle modern, tech-savvy and safe. Keeping the model fresh with more than just a restyle, putting into it what buyers today want from a full-size SUV.  Want bigger, Yep, Ford can handle that with an extended length version, the Expedition Max, for even a larger vehicle.

While you will not be able to find a lot of discounts on a vehicle that is in demand, by visiting your local auto show, or doing some competitive research with Costco, your credit union or buying service, no doubt you can get a great deal on a new Explorer, or even consider a pre-owned one, as we can tell you they hold up quite well.

 

20190310_182801
Words and images by William West Hopper
The 2018 Ford Explorer Platinum Trim Edition was provided to us for a week of unlimited driving by Ford Motor Company, without any compensation. This review is my own personal opinion from real-time experience behind the wheel.

 

Suzuki’s Mini-Ute Sweeps the World Urban Car Awards In New York City

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel for a video walk around of the Suzuki Jimny and personal interview at the New York International Auto Show 

 

The Suzuki Jimny takes the Gold at the World Car of the Year Awards for World Urban Car 2019
The Suzuki Jimny takes the Gold at the World Car of the Year Awards for World Urban Car 2019

New York’s International Auto Show is the place many fancy cars and trucks are debuted and shown. Though only a few take the title of a World Car Award winner.

World Urban Car of the Year 2019

Marty Haynes and Suzuki Exec accept World Urban Car for the Jimny
Marty Haynes and Suzuki Exec accept World Urban Car for the Jimny

This year the World Urban Car of the Year Award went to the Suzuki Jimny, one of the two categories in which it was nominated. Here a half-century old 4×4 body-on-frame model, mini-ute brought home an award even when the competition was a lot swankier and modern.

World Urban Car today would have to be attractive, ultra-capable, well-sized and rugged. You can see how the Suzuki took the Gold!  Jimny’s street-cred comes with a strong cute factor, that it can be driven on paved roads or those torn up for construction, and you can park it anywhere.

 

 

Jimny Design Features

The modern Suzuki Jimny dash features 7.0 touch screen analog gauges and a manual transmission
The modern Suzuki Jimny dash features 7.0 touch screen analog gauges and a manual transmission

We were impressed with the modern interior of the this the fourth Jimny. While simple with analog gauges and a five-speed manual and manual engaged 4H and 4L four-wheel drive, it also has a 7.0-inch touchscreen with, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite navigation, cruise control. Forward and rear facing cameras and many modern amenities. The multi-point injected 1.5L gasoline engine, matched to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic makes it a fuel-efficient runabout.

 

Suzuki Jimny features a full rear door with fold down rear seats for more cargo space.
Suzuki Jimny features a full rear door with fold down rear seats for more cargo space.

Seating for four with fold down rear seats expands the small cargo space, giving space for passengers and cargo. On the outside, the classic boxy styling and hardcore four-wheel drive credentials give it the go anywhere in any weather appeal. Add retro projector LED headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels, and rear privacy glass, and you have a vehicle that works in any environment.

 

Suzuki Jimny 1.5 liter engine
Suzuki Jimny features a 1.5-liter gasoline engine

Jimny remains a proper body-on-frame with a three-link rigid axle suspension system and part-time four-wheel drive system with manually-engaged 4H and 4L low-range gearing. A brake limited-slip differential function replaces a locking differential redirecting torque to where the traction is if wheels were to spin. Suzuki has a hill-descent control and a hill-hold system for the manual versions.

 

Availability

The 2019 Suzuki Jimny is priced from a reasonable $23,990, add $2000 for the automatic. But Sadly it is not available in the USA.

2019 World Urban Car Award Winner the Suzuki Jimny
2019 World Urban Car Award Winner the Suzuki Jimny

 

Suzuki Jimny’s Tech specs

  • Engine: 1.5 petrol 75kW/130Nm
  • Transmissions: 5MT or 4AT
  • Fuel economy: 6.4-6.9L/100km
  • Fuel tank: 40L
  • Length: 3645mm
  • Width: 1645mm
  • Height: 1725mm
  • Wheelbase: 2250mm
  • Curb weight: 1075-1090kg
  • Ground clearance: 210mm
  • Approach angle: 37 degrees
  • Departure angle: 49 degrees
  • Break over angle: 28 degrees
  • Construction: Body-on-ladder-frame
  • 4WD system: Part-time with 4H/4L
  • Brakes: Disc front, drum rear

 

William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
Words and Images by William West Hopper

 

 

The 2020 Ford Escape Fourth Generation, Now More Tech-Savvy Than Ever Before

Check out our Exclusive Preview of the 2020 Ford Escape on YouTube

2020 Ford Escape HybridAt the turn of the century, the Ford Motor Company saw the opportunity to build a small SUV that was full of modern tech at an affordable price. That four-door Escape has become Ford’s 2nd biggest selling vehicle. And now in its fourth generation for 2020 it is sleeker and more elegant, loaded with technology for safety and more, while still accommodating four full-sized adults in comfort and carrying their luggage too.

 

While the all-new Ford Escape has a more aerodynamic look, it is also built of stronger and lighter weight high strength materials which makes it more efficient. Where the big story is, the technology that comes standard on all trim levels. And tech that is not just the fact that you can connect your Android or Apple device to the car, it is all about safety, efficiency and more.

 

2020 Ford Escape HeadsUp DisplayEscape for 2020 comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360™ driver-assist technology; available features include a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster and makes available other driver-assist features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane-Centering. Available features like Active Park Assist 2.0 and Evasive Steering Assist, are just part of the driver-assist technologies. Active Park Assist 2.0 allows the driver to park in a parallel or perpendicular spot with the touch of a button, without having to work the steering wheel, gear shifter, gas pedal or brake pedal. Evasive Steering Assist detects a slower-moving or stationary vehicle ahead and provides steering support that can assist the driver to avoid a collision.

 

2020 Ford Escape Transmission SelectorTitanium models are available with an all-new heads-up display. This projects information onto the lower part of the windshield, giving drivers easy access to important information without taking their eyes off the road.

 

 

Escape will offer a selectable drive mode system standard across the lineup, Escape makes it easy for Escape owners to create the ride experience they desire – or the one that conditions demand. Modes are tailored for normal, eco, sport and slippery, plus snow and sand conditions.

 

PowerTrains – Now there are Four!  Including Two All-New Hybrids.

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid at Heinz House Greenfield Village MIEscape offers the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, available on Titanium, is projected to produce 250 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque using 93 octane fuel capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds.

And an all-new 1.5-liter EcoBoost, standard on S, SE, and SEL, is projected to produce 180 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque using 93 octane fuel. When properly configured, rated to tow 2,000 pounds. To help conserve fuel, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost debuts cylinder deactivation, which senses when one cylinder isn’t needed and shuts it down automatically. The system can activate or deactivate a cylinder in 14 milliseconds to maintain a smooth ride.

2020 Ford Escape with HitchA new Hybrid and PHEV Plugin with CVT. Both come with a towing capacity of 1500 lbs. And due to new smaller liquid cooled battery technology they do not affect passenger or cargo space like in past models.

An all-new 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid engine and electronic continuously variable transmission. The front-wheel-drive hybrid model is projected to produce a combined system horsepower of 198, and a top speed of 85 mph in electric-only mode. And has an  EPA-estimated range of more than 550 miles;

The plug-in hybrid variant, available on every trim level except S and SE Sport, projects a best-in-class EPA-estimated range of at least 30 miles in electric-only mode. Escape Plug-In Hybrid has a Level 1 / Level 2 AC charging port. Using a 110-volt Level 1 charge, the estimated time to fully charge the battery is 10 to 11 hours. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charge, charge time drops to roughly 3.5 hours.

 

New Styling Inside & Out

2020 Ford Escape Front Headlamps and GrillTo create a sportier look for the all-new Escape, designers turned to some of the most high-profile Ford sports cars. The shield-shaped trapezoidal grille is inspired by the sixth-generation Mustang, while the lower front end borrows from Ford GT.

The 2020 Escape is the most aerodynamic to date, with a sloped roofline, optimized liftgate spoiler and strake, and efficient underbody. Standing lower, wider and longer than the outgoing model. Shedding more than 200 pounds from the current model, due in part to the extensive use of high-strength, lightweight steel.

 

2020 Ford Escape has plenty of room for luggageInside you will find comfort has increased, especially in the rear with sliding and reclining seats, that even tall passengers will find enough room for their legs, improved headroom, shoulder room, and hip room. With the second-row seat in the full-forward position, the rear cargo area in gas engine-powered models extends nearly six inches to increase the cargo area to 37.5 cubic feet.

 

2020 Ford Excape CockpitChanges in the cockpit too, a center console dial controls the transmission. Drivers and passengers can keep compatible mobile devices charged with an available wireless charging pad in the front center console. Also available are type A and type C USB charging ports as well as three 12-volt charging sockets. An 8-inch touch screen – standard on SE models and above – shares information with the available 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster, which displays important vehicle information such as speedometer and fuel level. It uses 3D animated graphics to indicate the drive mode. Available SYNC® 3 is compatible with available features such as Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™, Ford+Alexa and Waze navigation. For music lovers, Escape offers an available 575-watt 10-speaker B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen.

 

And Yes, You Can Connect

 

FordPass Connect™ is a standard feature that provides 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 mobile devices with compatible wireless subscription service. FordPass Connect also gives drivers remote access to their Escape, allowing them to use their smartphone to lock, unlock, locate and start the vehicle, as well as monitor key vehicle diagnostics.

 

Made In America, Available Early Spring.

The all-new Escape, available in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium series trim levels, is built at Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. Vehicles are due to reach showrooms this fall. Plug-in hybrid units are due to arrive next spring.

Invited guests to the 2020 Ford Escape Launch
Words and Images by William West Hopper
Ford Motor Company provided a kind invitation to attend this exclusive preview event, flying me to Dearborn Michigan for the afternoon event.

The 2020 Toyota Corolla – This is how Age and Beauty Work Together in Harmony.

Check out our Walk-Around Video of the new 2020 Toyota Corolla on location in Savannah GA

2020 Toyota Corolla comes in L, LE, SE, XLE and XSE Trim levels at the Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah GA.Toyota Corolla for 2020 is the prime example that when you grow up and become an adult, it does not mean you have to be old and stodgy.  Here the twelfth generation Corolla, now built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, brings together timeless interior and exterior styling with advanced safety systems that provide a secure and fun driving experience. Whether you are driving across town or across the country in the new 2020 Toyota Corolla, you will want to do it all over again.

 

What makes the 2020 Toyota Corolla different? 

Photo by Toyota of the TNGA Platform on the 2020Toyota Corolla
Photo by Toyota of the TNGA Platform on the 2020Toyota Corolla

For 2020 the Corolla is built on Toyota’s TNGA platform gives an improved track and balance providing a better driving experience and a more comfortable ride with a multi-link suspension. TNGA has increased the body rigidity by 60%  and lowered the center of gravity, reducing overall length and height. While Corolla’s width has increased, the wheelbase stayed the same. Overall the exterior is more dynamically styled with defined wheel arches and stronger body lines. A new three-dimensional trapezoidal grill is more Lexus than base Toyota.  And Corolla’s interior is more spacious and comfortable with soft-touch materials in a cockpit-like environment. And with an exceptionally spacious trunk, you may not think you are in what was once considered a compact car.

All of Corolla’s trim levels get Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 as standard. That means improved pre-collision system with pedestrian detection even in low light situations, added day-time cyclist detection and enhanced speed reduction capability. Active Corning Assist fights understeer (the tendency to turn less sharply than is intended) improves grip while going around corners and is standard on all Corolla models. A full-speed range dynamic cruise control, lane departure with steering assist along with road sign assist means the car’s camera will recognize Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter, and Speed Limit signs displaying up to three of them on the dash.

The 2020 Toyota Corolla is Amazon Enabled along with Apple Car Play.
The 2020 Toyota Corolla is Amazon Enabled along with Apple Car Play and a JBL Sound System option.

Top of the line, the XLE (Luxury) and XSE (Sport) Corollas include the optional adaptive front lighting that provides a wider beam of light with headlights that swivel and auto level to better guide you in the dark. Automatic High Beams with available J LED headlights, 16” Alloy Wheels, 3-location smart key, moonroof give the Corolla touches that make it more desirable. The JBL Sound option with 9-speaker, 800 Watt 8-channel system provides premium concert hall quality on the XLE and XSE models.

Two multi-information displays for the dash, a 4.2 inch standard on the L, LE, and SW, and a larger 7 inch on the XLE and XSE, as well as new colors, Blueprint, and Celeste, join Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Super White, Black Sand Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, and Blue Crush Metallic bring more to the Corolla than we have seen before.

 

Interior

The dash on a 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE
The dash on a 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

Inside you will find a roomy passenger cabin with plenty of soft-touch materials that will please drivers and passengers alike and a surprisingly large trunk. The 8-inch touchscreen center display provides control for the audio system with apple car play standard as well as connected to Amazon Alexa. USB outlets and in optional upgrade trim you can get a Qi wireless charging as well as JBL premium sound.

Even on the base L model with fabric 6-way adjustable driver’s and 4-way adjustable passenger seat, you still have a premium feel, more so when you upgrade to the LE, SE or above. Topping out with the XLE or XSE trim grades, the value added is well worth the small upcharge.

 

Three Power Plants

2020 Toyota Corolla offers a Hybrid variant
2020 Toyota Corolla offers a Hybrid variant based on the Toyota Prius.

Corolla has plenty of power and performance with three power train choices; a 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a hybrid. Yes, you heard it correctly, Corolla now comes in 50-plus mpg hybrid. Toyota has put their proven Prius hybrid powertrain into the Corolla, this means you get Toyota’s well-known hybrid powertrain in the class-leading Corolla style.  If you are not driving enough to warrant a 50-plus MPG hybrid, there is the base L, or a sporty SE or XSE, or luxury LE and XLE option. Corolla for 2020 is the most refined it has ever been and the safest ever with Toyotas standard Safety Sense the most advanced safety available on the market today.

Corolla has always done well in fuel consumption, and for 2020 fuel economy for the L & LE 30/38/33 SE-CVT, 31/40/34 SE-MT 29/36/42 LE Hybrid 53/52/52 XSE 31/38/34 XLE 29/37/32 on regular gasoline.

 

2020 Corolla Pricing

The 2020 Corolla has a base price of $19.500 for the L and topping out at $25,450 for the XSE. The LE Hybrid starts at $22,950. On non-hybrid models add $2k for the LE and $1500 for the SE.  Audio options start at $815 and go up to $1715 for the JBL Premium system with wireless charging. Adaptative Headlights add $450, and if you want that special color, it will run another $395.

 

2020 Toyota Corolla XLE in Savannah GA
2020 Toyota Corolla XLE in Savannah GA

Corolla indeed is the bestselling nameplate of all time with 46 million global sales. Introduced in Japan in 1966 and coming to the USA in 1968. Corolla quickly became a strong seller both in the new and pre-owned market because of four things: Great price point, well-designed, dependable, and economical to own and operate. Which is why the Toyota Corolla has always been the vehicle of choice for many as their first new vehicle and known as a dependable vehicle for many thousands of miles.  Toyota knows that and has worked hard to continue that tradition.

William West Hopper at the 50th Anniversary of the Toyota Corolla
William West Hopper at the 50th Anniversary of the Toyota Corolla

Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper

Fiat 500 Lounge – Winner, Winner, Spaghetti Dinner

 2018 Fiat 500 “Cinquecento” Lounge

– The perfect city runabout with a turbo

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel Video on the Cinquecento

2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo HatchbackFCA offered us a week of Italian car time, sending the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge, or to be proper in Italian, Cinquecento.

72 Fiat 850 Spider in Yellow courtesy of Hemmings Motor News
72 Fiat 850 Spider courtesy of Hemmings Motor News

This brought back lots of memories of a college-era yellow 1972 Fiat850 Spider. While today’s modern 4-seat two-door hatchback was not a drop top like that classic spider, it did have a retractable glass roof. More important it had a lot more of pick up and go and provided similar fuel economy in the upper 30’s miles per gallon on premium fuel. (Editor’s note: the ’72 got 42 mpg on premium fuel, 9-gallon fuel tank, out of a very tiny less than a 1-liter engine, and the convertible top leaked when it rained, but it was a really cute car.)

 

Fiat 500 Lounge Ivory Seat OptionThis 500 was dressed in Oliva Green Pearl paint with an Avorio or ivory white seats and matching interior that stood out quite well in contrast. At first, there were some feelings of reluctance to like the 500, but as the week went by and the more we drove it, the more we came to like its quirkiness, and how spunky it was. Going downtown on a busy Saturday proved its worth, as the smallness of the Fiat meant no problem parking in a spot that other cars could not have slipped into. Win ONE for the Fiat.

 

Floor It Again Tony

Fiat 500 Turbo 1.4 liter engineThe turbo powered 1.4 inline 4-cylinder multiport fuel injected engine connected to the six-speed automatic transmission (a $995 option, yes, a manual is available,) produced plenty of power for this little runabout for city driving. And while it does not sound noisy on the outside when parked, there seems to be plenty of exhaust noise on the inside, this may be to make you think it is a powerful, sporty European car. While we did not take it out on the highway, there is no doubt this engine would work hard to keep up at top highway speeds.

At city speeds from 0 to 40, we found it had plenty of power and then we became used to the sporty exhaust noise. Fuel economy was in the mid to upper 30’s for us buzzing around town. Win TWO for the Fiat.

 

Cuteness Overload

1960's Fiat 500 Cute Little Car
1960’s Fiat 500 photo courtsey of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While the design is hardly flashy it is quite reminiscent of that from the 1960s zipping about European cities with movie stars driving them. You must admit clunky can be cute, and the 500 can be customized to make it even more adorable. When they first came out there was even a Gucci designer edition. We found that mature women swooned over this little car.   Win Two and a half for the Fiat.

 

Interior

Fiat 500 Lounge InteriorWe found the interior to be functional and attractive, using the exterior body color as a splash across the dash in a plastic insert that gives the interior an eye-attracting splash of color. And it does take your eye away from the hard plastics that make up the rest of the interior, which is normal on cars in this price range.  Button placement on the mid and upper center of the dash, are large and easy to engage, as well as know what they are doing.  This is a major WIN for the Fiat.

Fiat 500 Front SeatsSeats are comfortable though not easily adjustable, the front seat back adjustment lever is on the inside, which took some searching for and the front and rear adjustment is in the front and once released is very quick to move, so don’t do it as you accelerate, which we did, finding ourselves at the back of the track very quickly.  Rear seats are not just a covered foam board like in other much higher priced vehicles. Right and left rear seatbacks to fold Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Seat Entrydown individually so you can get someone in the back and carry longer items as well. Don’t expect a lot of leg room, but you would not with a car this small anyway, the good news is there is some leg room, and getting in and out will not turn the rear seat passenger into a pretzel, but if you practice yoga, you will find it easier get in and out of the back of a Fiat 500.

Fiat 500 Lounge Rear Hatchback with seat folded down

Cargo area is big enough to carry groceries or other items, surprising for such a small car. You actually have a space to put things even if you have four people riding in the car, which is helpful as everyone carries stuff with them.

 

Fiat 500 has USB Power and other outletsFiat 500 Lounge USB Power in glove boxPower plugs are a must these days and the 500 had three if you include what at one time was a cigarette lighter. Two USB ports, one tied to the Uconnect Audio system in the center console, and one in the glove box that only provides power. A simple audio jack is also undercover in the center console. These three all are vertical, so something could fall into them and cause issues, which is why they have cover doors over them. Like most cars today you have to add a $30 smokers’ package, which is an insert into a cup holder for an ashtray and a cigarette lighter to go in the leftmost power outlet, to accommodate smokers. We thought all Italians smoked.

 

On-Board Technology

Fiat 500 Lounge Tech Screen BeatsAudio SiriusXM RadioAt this price point, tech is often very low. Though Fiat does give you some trendy pop brand options like TomTom for GPS and Beats audio, and of course Sirius XM Satellite radio. The Uconnect in the Fiat is very basic, we never did connect our Samsung phone to it, as it kept not recognizing the Bluetooth signal. The $595 Fiat 500 TomTom GPS

TomTom GPS is very simple with grainy imagery and clunky operation. The $695 premium Beats audio did not stand out as we thought it might.  This is a loss for the Fiat.

 

What’s not to like

While it is a short list, and the pros are more than the cons, there are some things that we found bothersome about the 500.

Fiat 500 Sunshade and visorThe seating position never quite gives a comfortable driving position for your legs. If you put the seat back to stretch out, the steering wheel was too far away, up close, your legs were uncomfortably bent. So this would not be a good long-distance driving comfort.  The sunroof’s interior sunshade is an open weave screen fabric letting in the bright sunshine even while closed. And the sun visors are tiny, because the front window is small, and do not extend when you move them over to the side covering less than half of the door’s window. And we never did find the door electric lock/unlock button, to unlock the doors you will have to open the door from inside handle. Price is a con, as it is high compared to other automobiles on the market today.  More loss than a win, so be it.

 

What is to love

Fiat 500 Gage ClusterAt first the cuteness of the size of the 500, easily slips into a small parking spot. The rear camera gave a great view of where the bumper was in relation to the car behind and the curb as well. And if you have the wipers on, the rear wiper will activate as well, helping you see.  Visibility was very good for this car, plenty of glass to be able to see out and very little obstructions. Fun to drive in town, we found it zippy and energetic. WIN for the Fiat

 

Fit and Finish

Fiat 500 Fit and FinishFor a small inexpensive car (though the price may not reflect that) that has the carried the Fix It Again Tony line since the brand started, fit and finish is very good both inside and out. And at this price point no one expects premium materials on the inside, nor do you get them, but the design is good for what is in your main line of vision. Exterior parts are well put together and the doors and hatch feel and sound solid.

 

Price

Fiat 500 StickerWhile four models of the 500 are available, Base Pop starting at $16,495, 1957 Retro Edition, $19,745, Lounge (what we drove) $19745, and the awe-inspiring Abarth, $20,495. All of these come in your choice of a hatchback or Cabrio, which is more a canvas sunroof. Our hatchback came with the $795 power glass sunroof.

The Cinquecento that we were loaned by FCA priced out at $24,815 which included the $250 Ivory seats, $995 automatic transmission, $795 power sunroof, $595 Tom Tom Navigation, $695 Premium Beats Audio System and the $445 16-inch bright aluminum wheels, with a $1295 destination charge.

At the time of writing there was a $1250 cash incentive on the Fiat 500. Even with that, it is pricy for this segment of car.  With just about the same amount being a destination charge, larger vehicles have smaller numbers on that line. No doubt you are paying for the brand names of the audio and navigation systems.  Our take on this is to dicker on the price, one and two-year-old models are going for $17K at the big lot used car centers.                                                                      This is a loss for the Fiat

 

Overall

Fiat 500 Turbo Sliding Glass SunroofWhile this would not be a car that we would seek out for ourselves and our lifestyle. It is a fun little city car that is filled with cuteness overload. While it is pricy for the segment, it would be a great car if you needed something for around town driving and short commutes. Fuel economy is not amazing, especially using premium fuel. It does have a four-star government safety rating, though reliability has not been stellar. The 500 does come with a 4-year 50,000-mile warranty. If this is a car you want, and plenty of people do, then get the best price you can, and have some fun.  We recommend the glass sunroof option, and if you like a manual transmission, that is standard.  – Ciao Bambino

 

Word and images (except where noted) by William West Hopper.

FCA, Fiat USA and Motus1 provided us with the use of the 2018 Fiat 500 Lounge Turbo for a week, no other compensation or payment was given to us to review this vehicle.