Category Archives: CSUV

Tough and Solid as a Subaru – Just a Geeky Middle Kid – The Crosstrek

Check out our YouTube Video of this Subaru Crosstrek.

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV at the Washington DC Auto ShowSubaru has a long history of being a go-anywhere, tough roadworthy car brand. From the early days as DL and GL and before, well maybe not as far back as the tiny 360.  Today, Subaru has any number of choices from sleek sports cars to full-size SUV’s, a Sedan and a choice of  Station Wagons.  All with symmetrical all-wheel drive, which along with their boxer engine are Subaru staples.

 

Subaru CrossTrek PHEV Plugin Hybrid
Subaru CrossTrek PHEV Plugin Hybrid

Then there is that middle child, the Crosstrek. An SUV is a smaller size with plenty of what most people want in an all capable vehicle, large enough on the inside for most uses, in a small footprint.   And this middle kid can get even geekier in the Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) which we had the opportunity to experience for a week driving around for a weekend on the streets of Washington DC.

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Plugged IN

While the PHEV Crosstrek is more hybrid than EV (Electric Vehicle,) it still provides an intro to the EV lifestyle. Without the range anxiety that a full Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) may give you.  In my use, it provided 15 miles all-electric on a 110v overnight battery charge from my garage outlet.  After the battery was depleted it seamlessly transitioned into gasoline-powered hybrid mode.  What I liked most is that you had your choice of EV or hybrid mode at the push of a button.  Allowing it to be operated in all EV mode or go hybrid, with the gasoline engine engaged. Personally, I like to save the EV driving for someplace special such as in a park or other peaceful place.

Subaru is known for UTILITY

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Battery under the rear cargo floor
Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Battery under the rear cargo floor

And the Crosstrek is utilitarian, while still being well turned out, tech-forward, and comfortable. Don’t expect plush in any Subaru. Though the Crosstrek has a lot of nice touches like the use of quality materials and the overall interior design. And being a PHEV, there are lots of iridescent blue highlights on the inside, letting you know this is not just any powertrain you are piloting.

Subaru CrossTrek Interior
Subaru CrossTrek Interior with blue accents and stylish seating.

Anything with four-doors and a hatch is all about utility. The Crosstrek carries the battery under the rear cargo area, elevates the hatch floor about four inches from where it would be in a non-PHEV version.  The downside here is that the second-row seatbacks are at a lower point than the hatch floor. Not one long uniform cargo floor when the 2nd-row seats are folded down. The battery takes up space, so if you had a tall box, you could

Subaru Crosstrek loaded with pet supplies
Subaru Crosstrek loaded with pet supplies

have some problem fitting it in the cargo area.  For our use, the higher floor did not impede loading the cargo area. Though we can see it could be taking up valuable space when you really needed those extra inches.  With doors that swing open wide access for loading items through the rear doors is easy.

 

 

 

Driveability

Subaru Crosstrek with items in the cargo area
Subaru Crosstrek with items in the cargo area the rear seats fold down lower than the cargo floor.

When colleagues drove this car, they complained about the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), it did not bother me in the least bit. While in the old days a CVT may have been an issue, being whiny and not very responsive, today Subaru has made it pretty seamless in operation. The Crosstrek had plenty of power in both PHEV and hybrid mode, enough power to propel it down the road and up hills.

Subaru Crosstrek rear seat
Subaru Crosstrek rear seat

Driver and passenger room are plentiful. In our tester, the seats are leather-trimmed in contemporary design and exciting hues. The use of leather may not be what a buyer of a “green vehicle” would choose. Though for pet owners, as Subaru owners tend to be, it tends to be the right choice as other seat coverings can get damaged with claws and nails, as well as troublesome to clean.

Subaru Crosstrek Cockpit
Subaru Crosstrek Cockpit

Crostrek’s interior design is functional and well-tailored. Buttons are where they need to be, and the three screens, the center, the top center, and dash provide plenty of information. The top center screen offers a visual of the hybrid functionality and is an extension of the actual dash screen. While the other screens provide the necessary information that you expect from them.

 

What’s Not To Love

Subaru Crosstrek PlugIn Port
Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In Port

Subaru has a marketing campaign based on Love, so finding things that go against that is not too easy. First of all, the Crosstrek is not plush, while not spartan, it is all Subaru, simple, and to the point. The Crosstrek at times rides like a truck and in our unit, with 9K miles on the odometer, it was a bit noisy, though we expect that noise is a part of the Crosstreck’s character. And yes, the hybrid engine function sometimes sounds like a wood chipper hard at

Subaru Crosstrek dash switches
Subaru Crosstrek dash switches

work.  If you are expecting a more turned out experience the Outback or Legacy or even Forester might be a better choice. Though those models do not come in a battery-powered version. Though we expect they will in the future, as everyone really likes the higher fuel mileage hybrids offer.  Like any Subie, you will get the same experience if you are seated in the front or the rear. This brand creates a complete cabin experience, and not just a nice space up front for the driver, forgetting anyone else is going to ride in the vehicle.

 

Is this EV Drive A FAD?

Subaru Crosstreck PHEV Plugged in at home to a 110v outlet
Subaru Crosstreck PHEV Plugged in at home to a 110v outlet

While the Crosstrek is the only hybrid or EV variant available in the US from Subaru, we doubt that it will be the only one for very long.  EV powertrains are quickly evolving, and the Crosstrek PHEV is an excellent step in the direction.  Especially for those who want to tread lightly on our planet and not burn gasoline to do so. Electric Vehicles can be earth-friendly when not using fossil fuels to produce electrons.  With the ever-growing wind and solar power, it can be a great option for charging. We agree that battery production is hardly earth-friendly.

Subaru Crosstrek Pluged In at a public charger
Subaru Crosstrek Plugged In at a public charger

If you rely on EV Charging stations alone, and not have the hybrid backup, there is that concern of range anxiety. Worrying about where will the next plugin will be, and will it be operational. With the hybrid, you can pretty much find a gasoline station throughout the land.  Having the best of both worlds does give EV ownership a better feel.

 

Why you should buy a Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV engine
Subaru Crosstrek PHEV engine

EV side, this is a significant step for those looking to upgrade from a smaller hybrid econobox. As this is asymmetrical (which is Subaru’s term) all-wheel drive. If you are looking for a vehicle that is surefooted, rugged, and spacious, this is a good option.

Subaru owners love their cars and return to buy them time and time again.  After passing down their high mileage cars to a friend or family members, or doing a properly reviewed adoption to someone who is also a fan of the brand.  That kind of long-term owner commitment is something that means something.  Ask any Subaru owner, and they will tell you how they will always own a Subaru.

Subaru Crosstrek Engine Oil Filter
Subaru Crosstrek has a gasoline engine which means an oil filter

If you want more room but less attention to detail on the interior check out our review of the Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander.

We thank Subaru and NAV’s for the opportunity to spend a week in this vehicle. Neither provided any compensation other than the loan of the vehicle and the first tank of fuel.

 

Words an images by William West Hopper (unless otherwise noted)

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

Wiliam West Hopper is a life-long automotive enthusiast who thinks of cars as both an extensions of one’s personality as well as a utilitarian device.  Mr. Hopper has served as local, regional and national leader of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America, and currently serves as President of the Washington Automotive Press Association, a professional automotive media organization based in Washington DC. Mr. Hopper also writes on travel as well as interior design. And is known for an eye for a great consignment or thrift shop, thus authoring a no out of print guide to Washington DC area second-hand stores.

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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

 

2018_Toyota_Highlander_SE
2018_Toyota_Highlander_SE

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.

 

 

Audi leads the pack with fun to drive Compact SUV’s

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.

Audi of America hosted a number of regional automotive journalists at their headquarters in Herndon Virginia where we heard from their President Scott Keogh about the current market and Audi’s focus on technologically forward vehicles. While EV’s were not in the mix, CSUV’s and Sportbacks were, as they are the current trend in the market.

Mr. Scott Keogh presented the market performance of the the Audi Brand in 2017.
Mr. Scott Keogh presented the market performance of the Audi Brand in 2017.

Mr. Keogh spoke of how well the Q line of vehicles is doing all across the USA, from Boston to Dallas, from DC to San Francisco. Relating that the owner demographic is one of the youngest in the industry. And that is directly related to not only the vehicles providing up-to-date technology such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto as much as for the well designed and efficient vehicles, as well as the Audi dealer network that supports the Audi brand.

The Audi SQ5 provides comfort for the driver and passengers.
The Audi SQ5 provides comfort for the driver and passengers.

We have always liked the styling of Audi’s even back in the day when the brand was barely on the US roads. While today ‘s Audi’s are great looking, what impressed us is the driver and passenger comfort, due to the thought behind the ergonomics of the interior. The dash layout and control placement, the comfort of the seats, and not just the high-end S-line seats, the base Q5 seats were just as comfortable.

Audi has one of the most visually attractive dash screens providing vivid graphics.
Audi has one of the most visually attractive dash screens providing vivid graphics.

 

Driveability of the Audi vehicles was excellent in both the turbocharged 4-cylinder and the 6-cylinder powered models. Handling was tight, accurate and with excellent ride comfort in both the CSUV and A5 Sportback models. While a CSUV is not a sports car, these Audi’s provide a sporty experience behind the wheel with plenty of luxury. The only down side was that the S-Line exhaust was a bit noisy, especially for a long drive. Though a throaty exhaust seems to be what buyers of the up market performance trim vehicles are expecting.

Our overall experience with the A5 Sportback and both the SQ5 and the Q5 Compact Sport Utility Vehicles was excellent. A year ago Queer4Cars spent time in the full-size Audi Q7 and our opinion of the brand has only increased after spending time in these additional models.

Speaking of Audi experiences, we will be driving an Audi A5 on a week-long test drive in September driving from Washington DC to Cooperstown NY, on to the 911 Memorial in Manhattan, and back to DC.  Stay tuned for that update.

Until Then, Enjoy the Adventure!

 

Words by William West Hopper, images courtesy of Audi Newsroom and William West Hopper.