Upon arrival, approximately 50 different vehicles were grouped by manufacturer. Prior to arrival, I surveyed the list of cars and formulated a plan that would maximize my time to test drive as many vehicles as I could by 1530.
The first vehicle driven was Acura’s NSX. Luckily, my teammate had secured a reservation to be the first test driver of this $190K Supercar. By far the most anticipated drive of the day and the NSX did not disappoint. The sheer power of the car and its ability to stick to the road like glue was absolutely amazing, producing goosebumps on my arms and chills down my spine. The fit and finish were very luxurious. The seats and steering wheel felt as if they were designed specifically for me. The exterior was a statement of beauty with artfully designed curves and creases precisely where they needed to be placed as if Michelangelo himself designed the shell. Everywhere you drove, heads turned to look and listen.
The rest of the day was spent testing vehicles ranging from compact sedans to full-size trucks. A notable appearance was the GMC Sierra Denali 1500. As luxurious and useful as a truck could be, it fell short when compared to similar trucks in its class due to the lack of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The “revolutionary” new tailgate was cumbersome to use after spending ten minutes trying to figure it out.
Another vehicle that got my attention was the Acura TLX A-Spec with SH-AWD. This upscale sport sedan had never even registered on my radar as a vehicle that would impress me. Boy, was I ever wrong, as soon as I stepped into the vehicle, the interior design was subtle yet sporty and luxurious all at the same time. Every button and switch was placed exactly where it needed to be. The operating system was incredibly easy to figure out. The sound system was incredible when compared to other
higher-end luxury vehicles. The mix of leather and suede on the heated and cooled seats, perfectly proportioned. Outside, the pearl coat of burgundy paint complemented the aggressive exterior styling cues perfectly. To finish off, the exterior was a gorgeous set of black rims. I kept finding myself wandering back to the TLX throughout the day, admiring it. At a price of just around $44K for a fully optioned top of the line, model forced me to see how affordable and attainable the Acura really is. I found myself smiling not only while behind the wheel, and even now, each time I think of it.
The final vehicle that commanded my attention was the Genesis G90. A worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series. Sliding into the rear seat is like entering a private jet. The G90 is a vehicle to be driven around in, not just drive. Rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system. With heated and cooled rear seats, the only thing missing was a massage function. The rear passenger seat had a single button that would turn the seat into a fully functioning lounger, sliding the front seat all the way forward and down towards the dash to allow the rear occupant to stretch out. Feeling as if you were enveloped in an incredibly soft sofa and could easily take a nap.
The G90 driver experience was just as luxurious, minus the rear passenger lounge seat. With a quick and responsive engine propelling the car forward from a dead stop to 60mph with barely an effort, and with minimal noise. Genesis provides a multitude of driving assistance options, and they are phenomenal. The lane keep assist and nearly autonomous driving assistant made driving even on twisty mountain roads a breeze.
At the cost of almost $20,000 to $30,000 below what one would pay for a comparable S Class or 7 Series. The only reason I can think of why wouldn’t you want a G90 before one of its competitors would be the brand badge bragging rights. Perhaps it was wise of Genesis to distance their flagship vehicle from the Hyundai line, creating a new image to compete with Mercedes and BMW.
Reflecting on a day driving more than 25 vehicles, this was my first automotive journalist rally, and for me, it was a resounding success.
Words by Corporal Matthew Rihl,
Photos by William West Hopper
Corporal Matthew Rihl has served the public for 15-years with a local county police department in Virginia. In addition, he is also a Field Training Officer and a member of the Honor Guard. Officer Matt is a vital member of the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund, which its sole purpose is to honor surviving partners and family members of LGBT police, fire, EMS and the military who have been killed in the line of duty during a special ceremony during National Police Memorial Week every year in Washington, DC.
Spring Brake is put on by the International Motor Press Association for professional automotive journalist members, offering them the chance to experience many different vehicles in one day. Membership and an entry fee are required to participate. Neither Matthew nor William were compensated for their time or reviews of any automobiles.
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 whinny 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
Words and Photos by William West Hopper Photos of the Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Tuscon were from their respective automotive media sites.
With Father’s Day coming up there is nothing like talking about something that guys appreciate, a good pickup truck. Attending a recent Automotive Media multi-line drive event, it was the full-sized pickups that got my attention. Diesel powered full-size pickups from GM and RAM as well as a gas powered Ford F-150 in studly Raptor trim, each was very different to drive, and for a different lifestyle.
GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD with the Dura Max Diesel.
Ford F150 Raptor, lots of bulges in all the right places
While each had pretty much the same footprint, dual cab, standard bed, it really is the options and the lux touches that make today’s trucks so mainstream. No longer are these just for the man who makes his living working with his hands who needs a truck as a tool for hauling. Today these trucks are ready for the loading dock or to the porte-cochere, hauling towing, or going out to show off.
While pickups were once only a tool for hauling and towing and wearing muddy boots and scruffy clothes is fine, now you might have to shower & shave when driving some of these trucks. Like the driver, these pickups also hang up the work gloves and clean up for date night.
Dodge RAM Big Horn Crew Cab 4X4 a hands down favorite of mine, because it is exactly what a pickup is supposed to be, a hard working truck. This one was well trimmed out for passenger comfort, and not overly dressed up. If you jumped in in mudy boots, dirty jeans and a perspiration soaked shirt, you will feel at home, and the power 40/20/40 leather sport bench seat will welcome those clean chinos and a sporty polo shirt for a non-work drive.
The RAM 2500 with the Crew Cab is truly a massive behemoth, With the extended cab and full size bed it is big and long making it not the most maneuverable in tight quarters. Powered by a 6.7-liter I6 Cummins® Turbo Diesel Engine with a 6-Speed Automatic and full 4-wheel drive. No question this truck will get the job done, just like a rugged working man would, with a price tag as tested of just under $66K.
The Big Horn Package is $1800 option combined with the $2795 Night Special Edition includes both functional and attractive accessories. 20 x 8 inch Black painted wheels replace the Big Horn’s Polished Aluminum Wheels, Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle, Fog Lamps, Remote Start power 10-waydriver seat and a lot more niceties that will quickly become necessities the more you use them.
Luxury Group added $1045 to the bottom line with added lights, some LED and a color 7-inch Multi-View Driver Info Display. The Off-Road Package brings forth a Transfer Case Skid Plate, Bilstein® shocks tow hooks, spray-in bed liner and hill decent control which proves this vehicle is already set up as a towing rig.
While work may be the focus, as brute power are this truck’s strength. But there are plenty of niceties that make it fine for going out on Saturday Night.
GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD Diesel, Full size and dressed up for both work and play. While not as flashy in sheet metal as the Ram or the Ford, it has well-tailored lines that hide the massive brute strength, like a guy in a well fitting suit. The Sierra’s muscles are all there under the nicely pressed shirt, with work gloves tucked neatly in the pants pocket. No need here to be a showoff!
The quite capable Sierra is the right mix of comfort and luxury as well. Ready when needed, to get down and dirty. At a price tag just shy of $70K no question it has a few more fancy touches, though you can take some of those off, why would you do that?
Powered by an HD Duramax 6.6-liter diesel providing the highest horsepower in the segment. The Sierra comes across as capable and well-mannered as they come. Loaded this one has everything from the leather seats and 8” color touch screen with IntelliLink. Onstar with built in Wifi to make the rolling field office fully functional. A wireless charging spot for the phone (not all devices are compatible) and built-in gooseneck hitch capability shows us that GM is thinking like the offshore competition. Twenty-inch wheels (pretty fancy ones) and a corner step rear bumper along with capless fuel filler are just some of the features that make the GMC stand out.
Ford F-150 Raptor – While the others developed their bulk from working hard, this dude is the really good looking guy in the tight muscle shirt that catches everyone’s eye on a Saturday Night out at the bar. The Raptor had all the right bulges, in all the right places, though when it came to laying pipe this is more of a show truck than a work truck.
Mostly because it was running the 3.5 Liter Ecoboost gasoline engine, and the others were running oil burners. This test vehicle was very pretty to look at and lots of fun to fondle, with all of its buttons and switches! Just not sure I how comfortable I would be putting this truck out in a muddy job site, the other trucks might call him a prissy-truck. While he has the muscle, he got it in the gym, not sweating it out on the job site.
The Raptor is very much the other side to pickup truck ownership that is not designed for work, it is designed as a show truck, one that you would not want to take out in the field and load it with scrap iron, but rather take it out of the garage for a Friday Night on the town or to the
Cruise-in. The Raptor is the perfect example of how the Pickup Truck has evolved in America, and how Americans are flocking to pickups not just for doing the tough jobs, but to be a part of an American lifestyle that drives pickups for shopping trips to the big box store. Hey, no matter what, the Raptor can park in my driveway anytime!
Three very different Pickups, for three very different lifestyles. All can haul and tow, all can carry passengers, all look good, it just depends on what you want out of your Pickup. Me, I like all three, and once you have owned a pickup, it is hard not to own one! Or at least crave owning one!
The new 2018 GMC Terrain defies the image of old line General Motors being a staid automaker. GMC is showing that it is all that is modern in the automotive industry, from powertrain to safety, from styling to the latest in-car technology.
Hearing from the GMC Terrain’s Chief Engineer
Recently we got to spend some time with GMC’s Chief Engineer, Global Compact SUV’s, Mark Cieslak in New York City over lunch, to hear more about the new GMC Terrain as well as the brand’s dedication to the future.
Clearly, the ’18 Terrain is a premium SUV that provides the performance one expects from GM’s premier SUV and truck brand. While the exterior of the Terrain is classic GMC with all the design cues of bright grill work and distinctive lighting, Cieslak shared that the engineers, stylists, and designers are paying attention to the smallest details of this vehicle. While you can identify a GMC from a distance, it is this attention that makes the vehicles even better close up.
GMC’s intelligent engineering provides better aerodynamics, fuel economy, powertrain performance, ride, handling, and maneuverability with the 2018 GMC Terrain. This vehicle is 400 pounds lighter, 34% stiffer, 10% improved turning radius, up to 3500 pounds towing capacity. You can get the Terrain configured with either Front Wheel Drive (FWD) or All Wheel Drive (AWD). Both have snow and trailer/tow settings, the AWD models are engineered to be able to engage just two wheel drive for better fuel economy, with AWD for off-road or when traction is most needed.
The 2018 GMC Terrain is all new from the Ground Up.
What is new for the ‘18 Terrain? Three engine choices, two gasoline, and one diesel powered. Yes, I said, C12H23, Diesel Power! Though GM’s luck with diesel passenger vehicles has been less than stellar in years past, it has had a strong reputation in the truck segment, with this power plant. Diesel power has dedicated fans, of which I am one! With the new Terrain’s whisper quiet 1.6 turbocharged 4-cyl diesel connected to a 6-speed automatic, there is no doubt this powerplant will develop a cult following with its 136 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The two gasoline engines: a 1.5 turbocharged 4-cyl with 170 hp 203 lb-ft of torque and a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbocharged with a 9-speed transmission with 252 hp 260lb-ft of torque, both provide users with both fuel economy as well as enough power to tow, the 2-ltr is rated to tow up to 3500 lbs.
Safety is as important as performance and fuel economy.
New safety technology has been built into a ‘18 GMC Terrain; Low-Speed front automatic braking; Lane keep assist; Forward Collision Alert with Following distance indicator; Lane change alert with side blind zone alert; Automatic Park Assist; Rear seat reminder; Teen Driver Control; and Tire Pressure Monitoring system. This in addition to the long list of standard safety features: Six standard airbags, Rollover sensing protection, Front passenger seat occupancy sensing, Three-point safety systems, Saftey Belt Retractor Pre-Tensioner, LATCH – Child Seat latching and Rear vision camera all standard. While available on all Terrain models the following come standard on Denali models: Surround Vision Camera; Safety Alert Seat Available; Rear Cross Traffic Alert Available; Rear park assist®.
Inside the 2018 GMC Terrain
Signature interior design with subtle interior design touches shows the Terrain’s premium vehicle status with timeless design, fine touch materials, and an advanced use of space in this mid-sized SUV segment. A new electronic precision shift technology features the transmission selector on the dash. This frees up the open flying buttress design center console uncluttered, with two side-by-side cupholders above and a storage area underneath.
Spacious Passenger Vehicle or Cavernous Cargo Hauler?
The Terrain can be configured as a spacious passenger vehicle or reconfigured to haul cargo. Fold-flat front passenger seat provides the driver a mobile office and easy access to power outlets in USB, 120v, and the conventional cigarette lighter aux outlet. Add to that GMC’s optional in-car hotspot internet, and you have a mobile office. Rear seat passenger comfort is not ignored, with best-in-class 2nd-row seating featuring a two-position seat with spacious leg room.
More than just the seating, the HVAC and improved airflow for rear passengers. Second-row passengers have access to their own USB power outlet, as well as an optional 120-volt outlet and heated rear seats are available on higher trim models.
Shrink wrapping the rear cargo area has provided more interior space. The two-tier cargo storage with underfloor cargo storage for added security. Atop of that, the rear cargo floor provides a flat, uninterrupted rear cargo floor when the rear seats are stowed.
Technology abounds within the 2018 GMC Terrain, with safety and convenience items, such as surround camera, side object detection. Infotainment features both Apple Car Play® and Android Auto® capability, Bluetooth® audio streaming, available navigation, and available OnStar® wi-fi hotspot accommodates seven mobile devices.
We are looking forward to driving and experiencing the new GMC’s in person, later this summer.
William West Hopper
Photos are from GMC’s online pressroom and the author.
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