Hybrids, RWD and new architecture, all of this is a big part of Ford Motor Company’s SUV plan, and what we heard from Ford’s Craig Patterson, SUV Marketing Manager at a recent breakfast meeting held at Ford’s Washington DC office overlooking Pennsylvania Ave.
While we knew much of this information, we got some more tidbits about what else the Blue Oval has in store for the coming years. And it is not just the Ranger T-6 platform-based Bronco; Ford has several things in the pipeline for the USA, as well as the rest of the world.
Ford has let us know that they will not be selling sedans here in the USA, focusing on SUVs and pickup trucks. And while that may be true for the US Market, Ford is truly an international operation supplying products globally. And they will continue to actively build and sell sedans elsewhere in the world.
What’s Coming Now?
Ford is enjoying record sales of their SUV’s over the last few years and is bringing out the All-New Explorer and Escape for the 2020 model year. We have driven both of these volume leaders and can easily understand their appeal to consumers.
What the consumers are going to appreciate, though they may not realize the new technology built into all of Ford’s products. Hybrids with their smaller and lighter batteries are big news, as they are not going to affect the passenger or cargo space, and with a lighter weight, this is a significant impact any hybrid vehicle.
Explorer, the original Family Adventure Vehicle, is and has been built at the 95-year-old Chicago assembly plant the one that was completely retooled in 31 days this year to build the new Explorer. The construction process used barges on the Chicago River to deliver building materials and store what was going to be reused as the road network through the city to the plant could not support enough truck traffic to manage the construction
Questions about the reasoning behind the All-New Explorer going back to rear wheel drive were answered with some simple facts. Second generation (2011 to 2019) model Explorer was built on a front wheel drive platform to help with fuel economy. In direct response to the high 2008/2009 fuel prices. This new 2020 my rear wheel drive platform allows for an easy bolt-on of the hybrid system, as well as to be able to use the 10-speed transmission with SelectShift® capability to attain better fuel economy numbers.
The all-new 2020 Escape along with it’s hybrid and plugin hybrid (PHEV) versions, will come to dealers this Fall. Trim levels come with S- the base, SE SEL, and Titanium, if you want a Hybrid powertrain, it is only available in SE Sport and Titanium trim level.
Edge ST a performance-based crossover SUV is being released now. While Edge is not that new, being refreshed in 2019, the performance ST package is what is new to that model.
While EcoSport, the lowest priced and smallest in Ford’s SUV line up, appears to be just a placeholder for a low-cost entry-level SUV. Not very highly regarded by the automotive press, and a vehicle we plan on driving very soon.
What we heard that impressed us
Every vehicle Ford builds now has a built-in modem to let it communicate. Like your smartphone, AI Speaker like Alexa and Google, Ford vehicles will soon be communicating with you, the infrastructure, and the other cars around it. And this is one of the reasons that there is now a big push across the board for the next generation of cellular data communication.
What is right around the corner?
Bronco, yes, Bronco, it is coming sooner rather than later here in the USA, and what is being hinted at is that there will be a smaller, sportier, more car-like, having the sportiness of a Mustang and the usability of an SUV version following closely on the Bronco’s heels is in the offing. We at breakfast, named it the Buckaroo, following closely on the Bronco’s heels.
We will see if this is the battery electric SUV that has been hinted about, though when we bring it up with Ford team members, they seem to discount it — saying that when it comes to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), they are still in the early stages. When asked about the partnership with Rivian, that relationship has not been flushed out yet, while the investment has been made, not much has been done since that announcement.
Another topic they acknowledged, but with little information is about lower-priced vehicles; it seems the below $25K market is being missed by Ford.
No Compromise – Smart vehicles in a smart world – we expect that Ford will be leaders in whatever they do, though not outwardly well calculated. New Tech and new models will come to market when Dearborn decides to do it and not before.
Words and images by William West Hopper.
Mr. Hopper is a long-time automotive enthusiast and current President of the Washington Automotive Press Association. He is based in Washington DC and thrives with the help of good friends and colleagues.
At 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.
Escape 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.
Titanium 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.
Escape 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.
A 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
To 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.
Inside 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.
Changes 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.
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 once boxy Chrysler minivan (the company who originated this automotive segment three-plus decades ago,) is now producing a sleek passenger van that will change minds.
The 2018 Pacifica Hybrid in Limited Trim sure surprised us as we took out it on a recent thousand-plus-mile trip. What we found was an amazing road tripper. An excellent highway cruiser that is not intimidated by the semi-trucks, and had plenty of power to climb the twisty hills of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and to pass with ease.
“That is one HOT Mini Van,” said no one ever. While minivans may not be what people aspire to drive, they do offer convenience and capacity. The Pacifica is a keeper.
Hybrid | PHEV Power
This vehicle can be used like the gasoline-powered vehicle many are used to, with the hybrid power stepping in to extend fuel economy. What surprised us was the PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) technology. Plug the Pacifica in, be it at a Type Two Electric Vehicle Charger for a 2.5-hour recharge or into your home’s 110v grounded outlet for a longer charge time, about 14 hours. And drive 30-plus miles on all electric, which should cover most routine errand runs, or a one-way trip to work.
The extra step of plugging in is not hard, it just takes some forethought, to find an available Electric Vehicle Charger when you park. And of course to remember to plug the car into that charger, or the outlet at home.
The Chrysler Pacifica is designed with a focus on passenger comfort. From the heated and cooled front seats to the various interior lighting options. And what made me happy was the number of power outlets, some connected to the UVO system and others not, for the devices and electrical items brought into the van that need power.
Room for seven in three rows of seats, does it get any better? Why yes it does, as there is still cargo space even with all three rows of seats in use. Yes, let’s say it again, cargo space and not just a little bit, plenty of it. So you can take that road trip with the family and stuff that comes along, A feat which is hard to do in the smaller 3-row passenger vehicles at the same price that on the market today.
Many vehicles come with 3 rows of seats, but few provide much if any room in the 2nd row, and the 3rd row. Or other creature comforts for those passengers. HVAC controls as well as plenty of USB plugins for those passengers. In the Limited Trim model, we had there was a two-screen rear seat entertainment option for the second-row passengers with separate HMDI and USB plugs, as well as wireless headphones, or a headphone jack and individual remote controls. Which means not everyone has to watch the same video or play the same game.
Legroom and Cargo Space
Legroom is plentiful with seat adjustability for the first and second-row seats. In the hybrid, the 2nd-row seats can be removed and lifted out and stored out of the vehicle. (The Pacifica Hybrid does not have 2nd-row Stow and Go, as the batteries are carried where the seats would fold into.) Don’t take that as a negative, there is plenty of storage throughout the van, including a large drawer in the base of the front center console for the 2nd-row passengers, lots of crannies for storage, and best of all behind the 3rd row seats which are stow and go, there is space to carry cargo.
Storage compartments are all over, even a place by both front seats to stow a wet umbrella, including a little tray molded into the door sill to collect the water dripping off of it.
Doors All Around
From the side sliding doors on both sides and rear hatch, as well as the front doors, you can load people and cargo in and out of the van easily and at a comfortable height. Have your hands full? that is OK, put a foot under the vehicle and that door will open automatically (you do need to have the key in your pocket and know in just the right place.)
An All Seeing Van
From inside you can pop down the little rear seat monitor mirror to see what is happening in the back to the exterior cameras the van has to see the traffic around you.
The Pacifica has the optional 360-Degree surround camera that has a large camera in the base of the grill, one at the top of the windshield, and one under each exterior side mirror, as well as at the rear of the van (the backup camera) these operate individually or as a combined unit to help see all that is around the van. While you can only access the imagery on the screen in a parked or under 5 mph mode, this system combined with an onboard radar is the eyes of the vehicle, assisting the driver.
Adaptive Cruise Control is one of the best options on any highway cruiser. The driver sets the cruise control and enables it to look ahead to recognize if the vehicles are slowing down or pulling into the lane in front of you. It then adjusts your speed appropriately. With Full Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus the van also pays attention when you may not be, slowing the van down and stopping if need be.
This in addition to ParkSense®, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and lane departure warning, when turned on, let you know what might be around you and warns you. It lets you know when you are drifting out of your lane, if there is another vehicle in your blind spot, or if you are simply backing up if another vehicle is going to be in your path. Very helpful and an added level of safety one needs in this distracted world.
Parking, No Problem
ParkSense® helps you see what you can not when you are parking, are you getting too close to something, it will let you know with an audible warning as well as a visual on the center screen from the camera view.
You may not like parking, so just hit the button and the Pacifica’s Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist will take over for you and park the vehicle. You do have to be in it and provide assistance, but the cameras see and measure the distance and make all the decisions and steering moves for you. While this is the one feature we did not take advantage of, it can be a big help in tight spots. You tell the Pacifica you want it to find a parking spot, by pushing a button, then tell it which side to look by putting the turn signal on for that side, and the car finds a spot and asks you make the gear changes, brake and accelerator activations, but it steers itself into a parking spot using the onboard cameras.
The Pacifica is beyond a daily grocery getter, beyond the family van. In a crowded passenger minivan market, there are options. If you want something fuel efficient, one that can run 30 miles on all electric, the Chrysler Pacifica is a great choice.
In either conventional or hybrid form this front-wheel-drive transversely mounted front engine van provides all of the passenger comfort and roadworthiness from a brand well known for luxury.
While the hybrid and PHEV technology is beyond amazing, and the usefulness of the space that the Pacifica offers makes it both a great long-distance runner and a city street cruiser.
That is just part of the story of the Chrysler Pacifica. The rest of the story is you, your family. Visit a dealer and take a test drive. Compare it to other vehicles, including SUV and CUV offerings. If you need a vehicle to haul passengers and their stuff in comfort, with great fuel economy, this is a very strong contender at an under $50K price point.
Words and Photos by William West Hopper.
FCA and Chrysler were kind enough to provide us the use of the Pacifica for a week. We were asked to review it and share our experiences on social media, we were not compensated for posting, other than the use of the vehicle. We paid for our own fuel, tolls and other travel expenses.
March 15 – Dearborn, MI, U.S.A Ford Motor Company held a Ford Uncoveredevent today to bring the media up to speed with the upcoming vehicles, systems, and process that the Blue Oval Brand is bringing to market over the next few years.
Ford’s products will be some of America’s freshest lineup by 2020, replacing more than 75 percent of its current portfolio and adding four new trucks and SUVs.
Ford is investing in new propulsion systems and delivering full connectivity to pave the way for over-the-air updates and the Transportation Mobility Cloud. Including an all-in push on hybrid-electrics and battery electric vehicles with rollout starting in 2020, and performance utility as well as six BEVs by 2022.
And YES, There is a Bronco! We have been hearing about it for well over a year now. And Yes it is going to be in dealer showrooms.
BEV and Next-Gen Hybrids
Battery electric vehicles: Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) represent more than a different
powertrain – they represent a lifestyle change for consumers, especially for those who have never driven an electric vehicle
Next-Gen Hybrid Electrics: Part of Ford’s new strategy includes going all-in on hybrids to bring more capability to customers of our most popular and high-volume vehicles like F-150, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and Bronco – and serve as a hedge for customers against higher gas prices.
Ford’s truck business will continue growing as the company adds new models and powertrains with an eye toward continued growth in high-end trims. Some highlights include:
2018: New 3.0-liter Power Stroke® diesel engine for F-150, an updated version of the popular F-150 Raptor
2019: Ranger returns to the midsize truck segment; new F-Series Super Duty debuts
2020: New F-150 debuts with new hybrid powertrain featuring a mobile generator
Ford Co-Pilot360TM, a package that includes standard automatic emergency
braking, blind spot warning, and other driver assist features.
Ford also shared that new manufacturing tools and technologies. With the increased use of augmented and virtual reality helping reduce Ford’s plant changeover time by an estimated 25 percent. Simulating various production processes and assembly line configurations in the virtual world help to identify potentially hazardous maneuvers and fine-tune workflows before construction even begins, saving an estimated 20 percent of tooling cost on each vehicle program. The company also is increasing its use of collaborative robots that can perform jobs quickly and repetitively, helping reduce the risk of injury to employees, freeing them up for more high-value jobs.
Content from this was taken from the Ford Uncovered Press Release
Don’t tell anyone that the LC500h saves trees and drops panties at the same time!
Lexus provided us a pre-production 2018 LC500h for a weekend in early September to attend the Radnor Concours d’Elegance and drive in their fundraising road rally for Thorncroft Equestrian Center. A drive that took us on 90 miles of bucolic Chester County roads, not only a picturesque Pennsylvania countryside, it was an opportunity to test out this “High-Performance Lexus.” Myself and co-driver Chef Matt enjoyed every moment behind the wheel.
Surprises were many, mostly the attention this coupe got where ever we went, especially women. Women coohed over it, and when offered an opportunity to get the driver’s seat they practically leaped at the chance to get in and caress the soft interior surfaces. Never have I driven a car that so enthralled women of all ages. I kept kidding my co-driver, a single guy, that this was his big chance! We would catch glimpses of people photographing the car where ever we went. Yes, a Lexus can bring that much attention.
The attention started when my original co-driver found out a wedding conflicted with the rally and he could not join me. I posted a stock photo of the Lexus LC500h on my Facebook Page, asking if any of my friends were interested in spending the day driving around Philadelphia’s fox hunting country. One buddy responded, “If that is the car, count me in, I want to go.” Though his idea of a Rally was speeding across back roads at breakneck speed, like, so many internet videos show. I assured him it would be a relaxing and fun ride in the countryside, and We would get a meal out of the deal. “Any meal I don’t have to cook is one I will enjoy.” The classic line of anyone who spends their days in a kitchen for a living.
The two of us met up with about 125 other participants at the Radnor Hunt Club. A wide range of cars from classic Rolls, compete with the mustard to old farts in Aston Martins (who kept getting in our way but won the Rally.) Even another Lexus, and a bright RED Infiniti G series, whose owners we became friends with during the weekend.
It did not take long before we quickly found that our car was both adored and somewhat sneered at. “That is some High-Performance Lexus,” said one upper-crust passer-by. A hybrid called High Performance, well shows what great styling can do! Chef Matt also quickly found out that the LC was a chick magnet. Watching an introvert struggling to talk to pretty girls was painful, and sometimes more so when you could see the ladies were more interested in the beautiful road machine he was driving, than the man with incredible culinary talents.
First of all How it Looks.
This two-door coupe has muscular lines from the front fenders to the rear haunches. It seems like an oxymoron to hear the word muscle when the car has hybrid badging.
While guys, from tatted and bearded Harley riders to conservative mainline types gave it thumbs up, and as we found out, it really seduced the ladies. And once inside they really connected to the Alcantara suede door panels and heated and cooled leather seats. Lexus has always known that marketing to the fairer sex is a smart business decision, and this car will have a lot of women becoming owners of their vehicles.
OK, this is a two-seat coupe, and yes it has four seats. And in those seats, you felt in control of the vehicle as a driver and enveloped as a front seat passenger. Do not expect people to sit in the rear seats, as no adult of any proportion is going to fit back there, or even contort themselves to get into and out of the rear seats. But that is entirely OK! The front seats contoured the body like an elegant glove, holding you in comfort as well as style.
Luggage, who needs a lot of baggage? The boot is limited to a couple of overnighters and a suit bag. No golf club bags, and honestly I had to lay a half gallon of scotch down on its side because it was too tall.
Powertrain & Driveability
While you can get this model in a V8. The one we enjoyed was a 3.5-litre V6 with multistage hybrid technology attached. This power plant may not be what you think of when you think of when you think of the other products in Toyota’s family of hybrids. Lexus was one of the first to put the hybrid engine in a vehicle other than a four-door sedan, with the RX. Now it makes perfect sense to put it in this luxury sports coupe. We experienced plenty of power, and excellent fuel mileage to boot.
With this LC500H you have all the options to make whatever noise you want, or NOT! A hybrid powerplant makes that sound, which you sometimes hear in this vehicle in eco and comfort mode (I call it chewing up logs with a dull blade.) Put the LC500h in one of the two sports mode and step on it, and it takes off like a bat out of Gehenna. Or just put it in EV mode and quietly move it out of the driveway. As sometimes you want to make an elegant exit without anyone hearing the exhaust growl of a performance car.
Fuel Mileage, this is a Hybrid, set it in eco mode and get top fuel mileage, like in the mid-30’s. Set it in Sport Plus and it is all power, and still, you will not be draining the tank! All the while looking amazing and returning fuel consumption numbers that were impressive.
The classic Hold on for your life handles in this car, aka the O’Crap Handles are there for the front seat passenger.who is hardly forgotten. And since Lexus takes performance and handling seriously, the driver has control of the comfortable steering wheel and the shift paddles and fed constant updates from a well-balanced display screen as well as aided by the touchpad controlled display topping the center stack.
Speaking of screens:
We could have watched the transition on the dash display time and time again, as the image moved aside bringing more information forward. While the center display controls everything from HVAC to Audio to monitoring the performance of the Hybrid system. And when you want it to display a more extensive map, or set up the seats for heating and cooling, it is a touch of the screen away. We experienced a few lapses in the GPS display on our suburban Philadelphia adventure, with sometimes not displaying the roads we were on, this we chalked up to the car being a pre-production model. While it could have been operator error, and probably was, it would be nice for it to pop back after some time and tell you, hey, I have stopped working at your request.
Think Sports Car for those who want a supercar, but may not want to spend the several hundred grand. While this puppy tops out at that $100K mark it is still well priced when you consider what you are buying. A lot of technology in a very, very attractive package. One of the most beautiful Lexus body styles we have ever seen. While you may look at competing brands, this one has a vast dealer network as well as a strong history of brand dependability that comes with it.
Words and photos by William West Hopper.
We were given the use of the Lexus LC500H for a week to use at the Radnor Concours. No other compensation was provided, and all event, travel, and other fees were paid out of our own pocket.
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.
More than a decade ago hybrid drivetrains were an automotive novelty since then they have become a staple in all market segments from economy cars to trucks. Their novelty became a necessity with rising gasoline prices and tax breaks, end the elimination of HOV, and toll road exemptions. Now, these vehicles have gone beyond the “look at me, I beat the commuter crowd system” status symbol, as almost every manufacturer has a hybrid version.
Electric Vehicles once an urban staple a century ago, are following suit. Today with more technology, range and initial out of pocket costs, they too are no longer just cult vehicles out of the financial grasp of the everyday driver, they are becoming common in driveways across the USA.
Hyundai has brought to market the efficient and fun to drive Ioniq, challenging Toyota’s Prius at all levels from the economy and ride to build quality and cost. Ioniq comes in three powertrains; hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric, all on the same hatchback platform that drivers find familiar.
What makes Ioniq different from the other hybrids on the market, beyond its economical operation? It is designed and built with less reliance on oil-based materials. With the use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive interior materials, door covers are made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone producing a softer, more natural feel. Headliner and carpet have been developed using sustainable sugar cane and paints with renewable ingredients extracted from soybean oil are used to achieve lustrous metallic colors on key components.
All the while advanced technology is as much a part of the Ioniq driving experience through enhanced state-of-the-art connectivity features like Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto® and Blue Link®, as well as wireless charging for smartphones. Ioniq also offers the very latest in advanced safety, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, for high levels of both active and passive vehicle safety. Even the HVAC runs efficiently to use as little energy to heat and cool the vehicles.
Not only can you choose the color, but also your choice of drivetrain. High mileage hybrid, high range electric for around town or a bit of both for trips further afield.
Prices run from $22,200 for the base blue to $27,500 for the top-line Limited. Hyundai’s proprietary hybrid specific drivetrain has been engineered for this vehicle and gets 55+ MPG. Hybrid system architecture with a Kapa 1.6 GDI 4-cylinder engine, 32KW Permanent Magnetic Electic motor, and six-speed hybrid dual clutch transmission. The front of the Ioniq Hybrid is characterized by the Bi-Xenon HID headlights surrounded by C-shaped LED positioning lamps. Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and vertical C-shaped LED daytime running lights further convey purity of design. The hybrid rolls on either 15 or 17-inch Eco-Spoke alloy wheels.
Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid (Available 4th quarter2017)
While pricing has not been announced, this is the combination of plug-in electric for urban use and true hybrid for long distance driving, this is labeled for 27 miles in full EV mode with gasoline mpg to be announced. In addition to general exterior design details, the Plug-in Hybrid also integrates a charging portal into the left front fender for the lithium-ion polymer battery. Specially-designed 16-inch alloy wheels further differentiate the Plug-in Hybrid model.
Pricing starts at $29,500 for the base and $32,500 for the limited, depending on the state, there may be tax incentives that lower that cost. Powered by an 88 kw permanent magnetic electric motor, a 28 kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery and a gear drive. And is labeled as 135 MPGe with real world expectations of going 124 miles on a full charge. The Electric model also features HID Xenon Headlamps with Dynamic Bending Light (DBL) and LED tail lamps with a unique pattern and identity for the rear view, as well as unique 16-inch eco-spoke alloy wheels.
An electric vehicle subscription program for the Los Angeles California residents called “Ioniq Unlimited+” offers a carefree means to drive with a fixed payment that includes unlimited mileage, electric charging reimbursement, scheduled maintenance and vehicle wear items.
Hyundai offers an industry-exclusive Lifetime Hybrid Battery Warranty with Hybrid Blue Drive Systems. All Hyundai vehicles sold in the U.S. are covered by the Hyundai Assurance program, which includes the 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable new vehicle limited warranty, Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and five years of complimentary Roadside Assistance. Hyundai Blue Link Connected Care provides owners of Hyundai models equipped with the Blue Link telematics system with proactive safety and car care services complimentary for one year with enrollment. These services include Automatic Collision Notification, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Vehicle Diagnostic Alert, Monthly Vehicle Health Report and in-vehicle service scheduling.