Category Archives: Mid-Sized Car

What’s New @ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the event

FCA holds an annual event at their Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan for journalists to give them a taste of what the brand has coming to dealer showrooms as well as a taste of future products with upcoming launch dates.


What’s New

Most of the FCA line is well established, and new often means tweaks to horsepower, Jeep Gladiator Rubiconwhich often translates into dollars, as horsepower sells well.  Ram Trucks have been refreshed over the last two model years, and their products are doing well, challenging their competitors in the market. Jeep continues to power sales and profits for FCA. And with the recent Gladiator launch, Jeep’s mid-sized pickup truck benefits from having Ram in the family.

FCA Vehicles line upFiat, Alfa, Chrysler have been lagging in new products, with Voyager, a lower cost 2020 Charger Scat Packnameplate variant of Pacifica, a being the most recent. Maserati was not on the field for this event, but the muscle power leader, Dodge, and SRT put out for display a meaty wide-bodied Charger with some muscle-bound Hellcat power and ScatPac V-8 Hemi.

The Dodge Boys from the NYIAS Demon Launch 2016

Leave it to the Dodge Boys to show that the love for American Motor Muscle is still alive at FCA with both Challenger and Charger, vehicles that you can raise a family in and be the fastest down the drag strip at the same time. Even if the sheet metal is basically the same for most of the recent decade, both of these machines continue to pump iron.Charger SRT HellCat





20190627_093346We gladly reconnected to the Jeep Brand, one that has a long history with this writer. Taking to the off-road trails with Brandon Girmus in a stock Gladiator.  Having the pickup’s marketing manager show off his baby from the navigator’s seat was a lot of fun, as he knows which buttons and switches to apply, and when to use them. Plus, we got to talk about the completion of his recent history project an early Military Jeep, and his desire for a Forward Control. No doubt we will see him working on one of those soon.


Work and Play, It Is What You Haul

Ram Truck Towing Case EquipmentOne of the benefits of having muscle power and the might of the FCA brand is that Dodge Durango towing a Challenger ScatPacktowing thing becomes easy. Be it with a Ram Heavy Duty Truck pulling a massive piece of construction equipment, a Dodge Durango pulling a swift race-ready Challenger, or a Jeep Gladiator pulling a really nice boat. Was also a highlight.  One might think the experience is pretty much the same no matter the tow vehicle, Not so at all, each provided very different experience to the driver. And yes, pulling with a Cummins Diesel, Rocks.


Flashing Lights and Sirens, It’s the Cops

Dodge Durango PursuitTaking to the test track, we got the behind the wheel of two of Dodge’s police pursuit vehicles. The Charger and the Durango. And we see why so many departments put these into their fleets. Fast and furious and dedicated to the job, FCA Dodge Charger Pursuitmakes sure they offer what Officers of the Law need when it comes to their rolling office and detention facility. Police vehicles are very focused on the job at hand, without any fluff.


Road Course

Abarth Steering WheelAbarth, taking to the track in a six-speed 124 Spider with the top down made you want to spend more time, topless in Pure Michigan style.  Throaty and growly, agile and comfortable, this little 2-seater was more fun around the test track that should be allowed by law. Fiat 124 Spider with Jeep


While our opinion is that FCA has an aging fleet of vehicles, they still produce ones that have a lot of value and merit in the marketplace. FCA’s has some very dedicated employees who love what they do, and it shows when they talk about the products. Kudos to FCA that they instill that kind of pride in their employees, as it is not easy to earn, especially in today’s world.

Words and Images by William West Hopper

William West Hopper shown with a Jeep

Mr. Hopper currently serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association and has been reporting and working in the automotive industry throughout his career, starting in heavy trucking, then managing a Telco Fleet, and now reporting on the latest news from the automotive industry.

FCA invited Mr. Hopper to attend 2019 What’s New event providing transportation, food, and lodging.  This is not compensation for reporting about the brand or the event. His opinions expressed here are his own.



Shh, Don’t Tell Anyone: 2018 Mazda 6 Becomes A-New

2018 Mazda 6 Signature 2.5 TurboFeelAlive being the mantra of the Mazda automotive company truly describes the emotions that will come over you when you drive the new 2018 Mazda 6 2.5. Be it the entry level with a manual transmission or the full-featured20180503_115128 signature with the Turbo SKYACTIV-G 2.5 L DOHC 4-Cylinder Engine.


Be Inspired. Be Extraordinary.

As you approach the 2018 Mazda6, it may not look that different than it has for the last four years. Look again, the flowing body lines may be the same, this is a very different mid-size sedan, and at a lower price than last year.

So how is that possible?

The Jacob Brown from Mazda North America OperationsWe asked Jacob Brown, Communications Manager for Mazda North America Operations just that question. “How can you build and sell the same car for less than last year’s model?”  Jacob’s response was interesting as he showed us the 2018 Mazda6 that includes thousands of dollars of more value than it did in 2017?”

Brown explained that Mazda works closely with suppliers, and jointly they develop advanced business practices of sharing resources, parts and common architecture across platforms to produce products at a better price.


What is New in the 2018 Mazda6?

Plenty of Headroom in the 2018 Mazda6 rear seat
Plenty of Headroom in the 2018 Mazda6 rear seat

Mazda provides a premium feel vehicle at a competitive price. And there is no better display of that than the 2018 Mazda6. Build quality, fit finish and drive experience are designed to be competitive with luxury brands at a lower price. The 2018 Mazda 6 sports more than 150 changes. Changes that have improved safety ride quality and overall experience. Two-millimeters thicker sheet metal along with thinner panel gaps and thicker rubber strips on doors help to make the car stronger and quieter. Along with an improved suspension and two refined powerplants are all part of the many changes you will find in the 2018 Mazda6.



Skyactiv Mazda6 2.5 Turbo EngineThe addition of a Turbo with the most torque in its class to an already powerful and efficient 4-cylinder engine is the big news in the upper trim level models. That does not ignore the base model whose naturally aspirated engine (non-turbo) has been improved with cylinder deactivation. Yes, you heard it, a four-cylinder engine that can run on just two cylinders. Thus, the Mazda6 offers the best in class EPA Fleet Fuel Economy with 23 city, 31 highway and 26 miles per gallon, combined for the 2.5T and 26 to 35 MPGs for the naturally aspirated engine (not official govt numbers.) Both engines will run on regular but running premium fuel especially at higher elevations will make a noticeable improvement in power.


Driver Experience

Mazda6The interior of the Mazda6 is different: Even before you ignite the engine, you will sense this mid-sized sedan is different from the others. The front seats fit! Designed for the American body type, understanding that as Mr. Brown said, “We have Love Handles.” Saying the seat design considers our wider frame. Upper trim levels of the Mazda6 now have heated and COOLED seats. While heated seats have been around for more than a generation; cooled seats are something you normally only find with expensive option packages of higher priced cars.  We found the Napa Leather driver’s seat to be extremely comfortable. While other manufacturers may ignore the rear seat passengers, Mazda has not! Even rear headroom and legroom are generous for a car of its size.

Mazda6 interior with Sen wood trimEvident in the Mazda6 in Signature Trim, we drove is the use of premium materials: Japanese Sen wood, (used to produce Japanese Wadaiko drums and quality furniture.) Elsewhere you find well-styled treatments; Ultrasuede on the dash gives a soft, elegant look and feel, and the aluminum trim on the interior door handles flow into the design giving the car a very up-market feel.


The technology in the 2018 Mazda6 is oriented to the driver.  The available Mazda Active Driving Display now projects onto the windshield in front of the driver, (in the past it was on an odd plastic outcropping.) The seven-inch digital gauge display for the driver and the eight-inch Mazda Connect™ Infotainment system.  New for 2018 is a 360 camera, full speed radar cruise control with stop & go. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are available and on early production models with the 7” screen can be retrofitted at the dealership.2018 Mazda6 Exterior


Outside the car: You will not see a lot of chrome or even trim-level defining badging on the Mazda6. There are subtle changes for 2018 such as standard LED head and tail lights and additional sound deadening within the fenders.



2018 Mazda6 GrillOn our test drive, we were impressed with the ride. While part of the Skyactiv design philosophy is too lightweight the car, 2018 model is a heavier car than its predecessor.  Brown shared with us that Mazda cars are tuned to be driver friendly cars, designed for the real everyday road, not only for the racetrack. The weight is shifted forward onto the front tires resulting in a smoother ride that dampens bumps and transitions well over surfaces, and more accurate steering. And for a front-wheel-drive car with 310 lbs of torque we were very impressed that there was no torque steer (when the steering fights being controlled because the wheels are providing traction.)


Let’s talk Price

The 2018 Mazda6 has a $500 lower retail price than 2017: The Sport Model begins at $21,950 with a 6-Speed Manuel transportation and $23.000 with Automatic. Step up to a Touring model for $25,700, Grand Touring for $29.200; Grand Touring Reserve $31,270 and Signature $34,750.  Add-ons: i-ACTIVSENSE Package for the Sport, $625; Paint: Soul Red Crystal $595, Machine Gray Metallic $300, Snowflake White Pearl Mica $200. This does not include delivery charges, taxes or tags.


The Mazda6 is in Mazda dealerships now

Mazda aspires to offer a class above experience within their network of dealerships to match the premium upmarket products they build and sell.


There is No Mediocre with Mazda

20180503_114527Mazda is a small batch car maker that provides products at a mainstream price. Not a big manufacturer with just 1.6 million worldwide vehicles produced, of which about 290K are sold in the USA.

In today’s marketplace, it is refreshing to hear a car company being proud of their heritage. And as a Japanese company, Mazda is focused on the quality and craftsmanship they build into each one of their products. Mazda and its suppliers, based on the western side of Japan, not on the eastern industrial hub, where they never stop challenging themselves to do better.

Independently owned, Mazda recently purchased a small stake in Toyota, and Toyota invested in Mazda. Recently announcing a joint production venture here in the USA. Not unlike Mazda did with Ford in the 1980’s and other auto companies in the past.

Mazda employs about 750 in the USA with both a corporate office and a research and development studio in southern California.  The company has design centers in Irvine California, Frankfort Germany, Yokohama and Hiroshima Japan, it makes a majority of its cars in Japan.


Good is never good enough for Mazda.

Jacob Brown Communications Director Mazda AmericaWhen we asked Brown why they did not just wait and put all of this into a new model. He replied, “Mazda does not do model years when there is an improvement to be made they do not wait for a new model year or a refresh, it gets added to the car.” “When the Mazda engineers find a something meaningful to update on their vehicles, they do it.”  “Any technologies Mazda could put into the cars today, they put into the cars today.”

When we asked Brown what specifically on the 2018 Mazda6 is directly from the American design studio, he shared that the Initial Shinari Concept in 2010 comes from the American Team. Then they work in partnership with the engineers in Japan to bring the Mazda6 to market.


What to look for next?

Skyactiv-X engines in 2019 – Mazda just won an Edison award for the new spark-controlled compression ignition for gasoline internal combustion engines. Using a spark plug as a control mechanism, it is able to finely balance ignition timing and air-to-fuel ration, maximizing fuel efficiency resulting in stronger torque with higher-revving drivability and lower CO2 emissions. Thus, quicker acceleration without impacting fuel efficiency.


Words and images by William West Hopper

The Humble Four-Door Sedan, the Nissan Sentra

Nissan Sentra SV a frugal and dependable car
Nissan Sentra SV from Avis Car Rental

While brand new cars are exciting, it is only that once. We want a car to be able to wow us after the passage of time and thousands of miles of driving. That is where our 2016 Nissan Sentra SV from Avis Car Rental comes in. On a recent January road trip from Washington DC to Detroit MI, this mid-level car average everyday 11-month old car intrigued me, as to how good it was after 22K hard-driven rental miles. And I was more impressed with it at the end of the 1200 mile trip than when we started


The Nissan Sentra SV provided great average fuel economy.The first thing that you notice is that the Sentra’s 1.8 liter 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine Front wheel drive with Xtronic CVT® (Continuously Variable Transmission) is just as peppy as you will need. Fuel mileage averaged 28 mpg, this car shows you get better economy at slower speeds. I saw 25 mpg in fuel consumption when average speed was higher v/s 30 mpg at a slower pace.


Nissan Sentra's dash is clear and easy to reach and understand.
Nissan Sentra’s dash is clear and easy to reach and understand.

Ride comfort was fine, handling was not like a sports car, but it is not one either!  Cabin noise was acceptable without squeaks or rattles no matter driving the interstates or streets of downtown Detroit. Modern touches were there, push button start, keyless entry, a rear camera, and Bluetooth connectivity that in the past would have been expensive add-ons for any car, and unavailable in a lower priced mid-line model such as the SV.


Nissan's NissanConnect Bluetooth systems connects the apps in your phone to the car's entertainment system.
Nissan’s NissanConnect Bluetooth systems connects the apps in your phone to the car’s entertainment system.

The Nissan Connect program that connected a phone to the audio system through Bluetooth was available on the Sentra. While a USB plug connected to an older iPad, never seemed to connect to the device. Even an old school single disk CD player was part of the built in entertainment with a decent sized 5-inch screen.




The Nissan Sentra had plenty of trunk space for all the gear you may want to haul.
The Nissan Sentra had plenty of trunk space for all the gear you may want to haul.

Overall Impression: While this is a basic 4-door sedan, it was powerful and efficient, as well as comfortable for a long drive.  Technology may not have been over the top, with the basics of what you need, and nothing more. Interior space was plenty as was trunk space. Complaints, for the purchase price of this vehicle it would be a great buy providing the technology and safety that one needs.



This vehicle was rented by me and not provided as a press vehicle, and this review is my personal opinion of the Nissan Sentra SV.

William West Hopper bundled up for a winter road trip in the Nissan Sentra SV.
William West Hopper bundled up for a winter road trip in the Nissan Sentra SV.

Hyundai Elantra, Eco, Limited, & Sport


Queer4Cars had a chance to drive the Eco and Limited, and a walk-around of the new Sport model being released this fall to the USA Market.

Hyundai Elantra, a four-door, mid-sized car with plenty of power as well as saftey and technology features.


Our initial impression was very good. While it is a small car, the Elantra has plenty of passenger and cargo space, even with passengers in the car, no one will feel cramped. A large easy to access trunk is spacious enough for whatever you may want to carry with you. Drivability in both the 2.0 liter and the Eco’s 1.8 L was great for a small engine car carrying four people, and the ride quite comfortable. We found the Eco to be quite peppy due to the turbo, though it had a bouncier ride, with just the driver in the car. All models had a nice tight turning radius and solid transmission shift, and an even power band.



While we did not get to drive the Elantra Sport, we were impressed with its design, and sportier appointments, the availability of a 6-Speed manual transmission and the growl of the exhaust. Though it will feature a slightly smaller 1.7 Liter turbo charged engine, the model will have plenty to offer for a more exciting drive experience.

The Elantra Sport features a 1.7 turbo-charged engine.

Hyundai’s build quality was very good for a $17K to $27K car, with enough standard features that the Elantra does not feel stripped down. Plenty of optional well-priced safety and technology packages are available, from Android Auto and Apple Car Play, to smart cruise control and lane keep assist.

The Elantra’s driver comfort was good, though we felt more comfortable in the passenger seat, as the driver’s seat was harder on the bum and back. The driver’s position had access to everything that they need, including steering wheel mounted controls for cruise and radio.

Huyndai Elantra Sport, features touches like a flat bottom steering wheel and red stitching.

Hyundai has long featured a 100K mile / Ten Year Warranty on its vehicles, to assure consumers that these are not cheap or poorly made cars. Hyundai’s cost of ownership has proven to be low, with Kelly Blue Book ranking it No. 1 among mainstream brands for new cars for the initial five-year ownership period.

What we liked: The interior and exterior design, clean and modern. Drivability, especially the tight turning radius and peppy pickup. Passenger and trunk space was plentiful, and the optional technology and safety features cover most people’s wants and needs in an automobile.

The Elantra’s trunk is big enough for an adult male to get inside, with room to spare. (Alvin Jones of Planet Vehicle shown in the trunk)  of the Hyundai Elantra Limited.

What we did not like: The driver’s seat did not feel as comfortable as the passenger seat, and the model with leather seats (which we initially thought were naugahyde.) The leather seat coverings could be a more sustainable if not better looking. The Eco’s cloth seats were basic and nondescript, as we did not expect anything more in an economy car.

After driving the Hyundai Elantra, Eco and Limited, we would recommend this vehicle, if you are looking for a quality built, value priced car, that is good looking, and comfortable to drive, with all the current up-to-date technology, this meets that criteria.

Looking for the best deal, as we always suggest, using your membership in AAA, a credit union, a wholesale club like Costco, or other membership organization to get the best price possible on this or any other automobile that you purchase. Do your homework on both ends of the purchase, the car you want to buy, and how you will buy it. If you are financing the purchase, get pre-approved and have the paperwork ready before you go to the dealership. Being a wise consumer and being prepared, is the best way to save money.

 Photos and article by – William West Hopper