Category Archives: SUV

Tried and True and American Built – The 2020 Kia Telluride

A Queer4Cars Video Coming Soon

2016 Kia Telluride Revel at NAIAS
2016 Kia Telluride Revel at NAIAS – Photo Kia Media

When Kia announced a new larger SUV at the North American Auto Show in 2016, They let the world know that they are not following the pack on the SUV mountain, instead, carving their own trail when it comes to vehicles that families will love.  Showing that indeed, customers want a family-friendly car that is more like a car, just with style and space. Something different but familiar.

Thus, Kia introduced and let it be known that the Telluride would be built right here in the USA in West Point, Georgia.

2020 Kia Telluride SV AWDWe took the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD out for a week, finding that this is anything but a rehashed SUV family van makeover.  A very refined well-sized AWD that provides a lot of the technology and safety features buyers want in a timely classic package with touches of luxury.


2020 Telluride 2nd Row Seating
Image by Kia Media

Consumers want space for people and cargo, Telluride has that! Consumers want a surefooted ride that is comfortable and easy to drive, Telluride has that! And while consumers know they need all the latest safety features, it is hard to get them to pay to order then as options. Kia just includes them in the reasonably priced option packages that buyers will order.


2020 Telluride Left Front Light
Image by Kia Media

Kia has always been a price-focused high-value content provider and has interpreted the 3-row Telluride in a multitude of ways starting with the LX at $31,690 and going up to the $41,490 with the S and EX models priced in between.  Our top of the line SX stickered at $46,680 with freight was impressive for an under $50K car that had a lot of things on it that you only find on higher-priced vehicles.

While you can get it in a basic economical front-wheel drive package, the Telluride comes with plenty of standard features.

  • UVO link
  • 8-inch Touch-Screen Display
  • Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear (BCA-R) 
  • Driver Attention Warning (DAW)
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance (FCA), w/ Pedestrian Detection
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  • Lane Following Assist (LFA)
  • Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)
  • Parking Distance Warning – Reverse (PDW-R)
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
  • Rear View Monitor w/ Dynamic Parking Guidance
  • Rear Occupant Alert (ROA)
  • Safe Exit Assist (SEA)
  • Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop and Go (SCC)

What Kia is doing, is interpreting what today’s buyer wants in an all-wheel-drive seven-passenger (8 is available) plus cargo-hauling capacity vehicle, well outfitted and nicely appointed at an affordable price.

Left Rear 2020 Kia TellurideThis 2020 model year vehicle is already out on dealer showroom floors, and it is quite impressive. While it may not stunning in overall looks with its somewhat mundane breadbox shape, and some classic Kia styling cues, where it shines is where all Kia vehicles do, in the details. Those are the little ones that most manufacturers either do hurriedly or charge extra for or forgot about altogether.

Ones that stood out for us were:

  • Upon engine shut down, the driver seat retracts allowing for more room to exit, a boon to many who have mobility issues, or for expectant Moms who need that extra room to maneuver.
  • A safety visual, center video on the dashboard, of what is in the blind spot you have your turn signal activated for. While this imagery may be information overload on the highway, on a suburban street, the kid on the bike could be right there.
  • In our three-row seat model, the fact that the 2nd row was two captains chairs instead of a spit bench, with the option of moving to the third row through the middle or folding up one of the seats was a nice touch, because how many times do you use your car as a bus?


Who is going to buy this 48K wagon?

20190828_180330Pretty much anyone who needs a versatile and dependable vehicle. Families, seniors, people who want a vehicle that handles and rides like a car but has the capabilities of an SUV without the perceived size. Or that person who is driving for a shared-ride service that wants to offer their passengers plenty of space and the opportunity to bring luggage or other items as well.

20190828_184247Families will like it with the USB power ports in the front seatbacks so kids can power their own devices in the 2nd row, as well as additional power ports in the 3rd row. We were surprised and pleased that the Telluride did not have built-in screens for the 2nd row, as those can become quickly outdated and add not only to price, but maintenance, especially as remotes and headphones get lost in the busy family life shuffle.  The Telluride had HVAC 20190828_184212controls for the rear passenger. On upper-trim models, those 2nd-row sears can be optioned for heated and ventilated seats. Something that all passengers in those rear seats will appreciate. The rear passenger compartment is as well detailed as the front, with nice door panel and seat materials, but most importantly plenty of legroom.


Cargo Capacity

2020 Kia Telluride cargo area 2nd row split down loaded with ladders and tool bag.Let’s face it from the dawn of the station wagon era to that of the minivan and SUV, people are buying these vehicles for more than just to bring additional passengers with them, they want to carry stuff. Be it a shopping trip to the mall or big box store, the family dog, or luggage for a trip. Behind the 3rd row seats is actually useable space. And with power, 2nd-row seat releases from the cargo area for putting those seats down is easy when there is a need for a more extended cargo area.


Telluride Powertrain

20190828_183934Telluride runs a naturally aspirated Korean made 3.8L 6-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine with an American made 8-speed automatic transmission with a real center console shift lever that offers a manual mode. The test model we had included the active on-demand all-wheel-drive, other models AWD is an option.  This non-turbo model provided an average of 21 miles per gallon with 19 city and 24 highway on regular fuel. We found it to have enough power for urban and highway driving and found it to be responsive and well balanced.


Telluride Pros & Cons

20190828_184433Attention to detail for me is the biggest pro on the Telluride, those little added things that you can tell someone thought about things beyond just a design nicety.  Real control buttons on the center console that are bigger to control features, not only touchscreen points. A sizeable wide center infotainment screen that is not overpowering providing all the information one might need. Regular readers know I am not a fan of those screens, this one was perfectly functional and nicely designed.

20190826_100646Safety is a BIG Pro on the Telluride; the sightlines are excellent and the added feature of the side camera becoming active when the turn signal is on so the driver can see what is down at the curb level and above in their blind spot.  A bright easy to read heads up display that you can see even while wearing progressive sunglasses helps keep the driver’s attention to what is on the road, not what is on a screen. All the assists, from cross traffic to the adaptive cruise control, the Telluride knows what is going on and lets the driver know. And not with an annoying haptic vibration, but with one that is gentle and not distracting.



Intuitive technology, Kia may not always use the most recent generation tech in their vehicles, it is the best of the current generation. Kia does keep it simple and useful without a lot of fuss to figure out how to use it.


Cons are very few on the Telluride, in my 20190828_184507opinion. Some of what makes it a pro makes it a disadvantage, only because it takes some getting used to how Kia interprets things; like the retracting driver’s seat, which I understood its use, but it took me a while to disable it.  Fuel economy of lower 20’s is not impressive. Kia vehicles are adequately powered, are not known for high fuel efficiency. Overall exterior design is somewhat understated, but also timeless. If you are looking for a flashy car, this is not it, at least not in the dark moss green with black wheels that were on our test model.



2020 Kia Telluride SX Left FrontThis is an excellent car for anyone who needs a vehicle to haul both people and items. Someone who needs space and wants a comfortable car-like driving experience with the security of all-wheel drive.  I would indeed buy this vehicle and will suggest others to do as well. Especially since Kia offers a ten year/100K mile limited power train warranty, a 5 year/60K mile limited basic warranty and five years 60K mile roadside assistance.



Word and images (unless otherwise noted) by William West Hopper

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


Mr. Hopper is a lifelong auto enthusiast. He is a current member and serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association – WAPA and is a member of The International Automotive Press Association – IMPA.

All opinions are his own.


Your Guide to the GLE, GLS, GLC, GLB, GLA, and Gelandewagen Mercedes-Benz has the SUV for Every Occasion

What once was considered a truck, is now more luxurious and safer than could have been imagined.
With the American consumer purchasing more SUVs each year, Mercedes-Benz continues to lead the pack. Little did we know twenty years ago when the first ML rolled out of the new US factory in Alabama that SUVs were beginning a market battle with the minivan. Now in 2020, Mercedes-Benz offers more SUV models in all sizes than ever before. From the smallest-GLA up to the old-school and completely redesigned G-Wagen. These “utility” vehicles are laden with technology and even more luxury touches, meeting every need, except for the drop-top one.
SUVs with Expanded Safety Technologies
Mercedes-Benz pioneered the premium SUV segment in 1997 with the launch of the M-Class and continues to redefine the segment to this day. After driving all the different M-B SUV models, they are as different, and just as good, as that first generation W163. Now offering more comfort and safety – but what makes this upcoming crop stand out, even more, is the technology. Especially in the area of safety, which Mercedes-Benz has always pioneered – the high-tech features have become standard equipment in many vehicles.
It’s easy to forget how prevalent autonomous vehicle technology is in new vehicles. Growing in commonality are driver assistance systems (like M-B’s Intelligent Drive), active stop-and-go assist, active brake assist, cross-traffic detection, and even the new exit warning which alerts upon opening the car door (even when the car is turned off), if the passenger might encounter a motorcyclist, cyclist, or another vehicle. Some new 2020 Mercedes-Benz vehicles have the option to know what is coming up on the road ahead, by communicating with the other cars as well as the connected infrastructure. Digital interactions are providing up-to-date information and warnings of hazardous situations ahead and informing the driver visually and acoustically, letting them know more than mirrors and cameras could ever have.
While we are on the cusp of big changes in both propulsion and safety technology, it comes at an ever-growing price tag. Buyers are willing to pay for visually pleasing options; the harder sell is getting them to accept and purchase the unseen life-saving features. After driving a car with this new tech, once the car jerks to a stop to avoid a collision, the driver will be immediately reminded of the valuable technology investment.

You often see these with the Car2Go logos – Daimler’s shared-ride platform. Rent one using a smartphone app for a quick trip or a long weekend. The GLA is the Baby-Benz SUV – perfect for urban driving, A beefed-up hatchback that comes in either front-wheel drive, or all-wheel-drive, this mini-ute is great for the one or two-person family who needs the utility of an easy in-and-out vehicle with limited cargo space.
Seniors are finding it sized right with not too much new technology to learn. Of course, if you want to upgrade a GLA, there are plenty of safety and luxury options: active lane-keeping assist, distance pilot DISTRONIC®, a panorama roof, the Harman/Kardon LOGIC7® sound system, 12-color ambient lighting, and more. You can also include a few AMG tricks like the GLA 45’s night package; for a sportier ride, add the AMG ride control sport suspension with ‘RACE’ mode for a top speed of 167-mph.
The GLA is the gateway to luxury and sporty SUV and is due soon for a refresh. For 2020 there are no changes from the ’19 model. Pricing is from $33k to $51K.


The compact luxury SUV market is hot, and the all-new GLB offers aggressive proportions and a strong off-road character. Powered by an efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine and available variable torque distribution 4MATIC, the driver can use the “Dynamic Select” for a sportier all-wheel-drive configuration. It is the first compact SUV to include the versatility of an optional third row with two additional seats, giving the flexibility of room for up to seven passengers, something customers are seeking from all manufacturers.

GLB Dashboard

The GLB features advanced technology along with an extensive list of standard equipment. Being the newest SUV in the lineup, it features Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system, the latest driver assistance systems, and an impressive list of options like Burmester® surround sound, and 64-color ambient lighting, because of course, you want to look down and see your shoes lit up in various hues of pink.
The GLB is a lot of luxury and technology in a compact SUV; it will go on sale by the end of the year, prices have yet to be announced.

GLC SUV & Coupe
GLC has become Mercedes-Benz’s largest-selling SUV, originally introduced about a decade ago as the GLK, it is Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class of mid-sized SUV. Recently updated with a host of new technology and safety features, users can choose between a traditional breadbox exterior or a four-door-coupe. The German four-door coupe styling may be controversial, but the GLC has it in just the proportions and looks better than it did in the GLE Coupe.

GLC SUV _ Coupe

GLC 300 comes in rear-wheel drive or you can option it in all-wheel-drive 4MATIC. Both come with Mercedes-Benz’s next-generation 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo offering increased output (255 hp and 273 lb-ft) and lower fuel consumption, as well as reduced CO2 emissions. Its 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission provides a dynamic driving experience.
The new GLC has all the most recent technology available – MBUX, the combination of the standard touchscreen multimedia display, optional Augmented Video for Navigation, standard intelligent Voice Control available via the standard “Hey Mercedes” prompt, and yes, even the newest vehicle-to-X communication, presenting the driver with up-to-date information and warnings of what to expect on the road ahead. LED headlamps and a new 10.25″ Center Touchscreen are standard. Upgrade to the AMG GLC63 for more goodies like the growl of the AMG performance exhaust system, and control of the electronic limited-slip differential. Add-on options include the AMG aerodynamics package, new upholstery in magma grey/black with yellow accents, and AMG performance seat options. On the inside is a standard 12.3″ digital instrument cluster, 64-color ambient lighting, and AMG-illuminated door sills as well as a standard multimedia package. Pricing for 2019 runs from $42,500K to $80K with the Coupe running $47K to $84k (prices excl. $995 destination & delivery).

Once called the ML, this is the vehicle that put Mercedes-Benz US manufacturing on the map. Now, as the GLE, it continues to be a trendsetter, representing the level of design, comfort, and safety not found in other SUVs. The GLE steps up the game with more technology, like the EQ boost – taking hybrid and electric technology to a new level. GLE is larger and wider, with a longer wheelbase and wider track, running on 19″ to 22″ wheels. The list of standard equipment is impressive. The MBUX user interface includes voice control, navigation, 12.3″ digital display with touchscreen and matching instrument cluster, a center console touchpad, active parking assist, blind-spot assist, keyless-go with hands-free access, and LED headlamps.

Options are plentiful: AIR-BALANCE Package, Head-Up Display, 4-Zone Climate Control, 3rd Row Seat Package, an enlarged panoramic sliding sunroof, Wireless Charging, and MBUX augmented reality among other features. How about electrifying the drive train with E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL the world’s first 48-volt active suspension system?
New driver assistance systems further enhance the level of safety of the GLE. The interior is more spacious and comfortable, with an available third-row seat. The Infotainment system boasts larger screens, and along with “Hey Mercedes,” you can talk with your hands using the MBUX interior assist, which detects hand and arm movements to control functions. Not sure how one keeps hands on the wheel while doing so, but it’s now a thing! I was more impressed than expected when I took the GLE on mountain roads with its new 3.0L inline-6 turbo. Numerous packages added to the $61,550 base price of the GLE I drove, pushing it to $96,930 including destination and delivery.

GLS 2020

The All-New GLS for 2020
Once called the ML, this is the vehicle that put Mercedes-Benz US manufacturing on the map. Now, as the GLE, it continues to be a trendsetter, representing the level of design, comfort, and safety not found in other SUVs. The GLE steps up the game with more technology – like EQ boost – taking hybrid and electric technology to a new level. Built right here in the U.S.A., the S-Class of the SUV was known simply as the GL; it continues to be the largest and most luxurious of Mercedes-Benz’s SUVs.
GLS offers a choice of engines. A new in-line six-cylinder engine intelligently electrified with EQ Boost and Integrated Starter Generator allows for fuel savings that were previously only possible with high-voltage hybrid technology and producing 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, with a further 184 lb-ft of torque and 21 hp available via EQ Boost over short periods. Or bump it up to a 4.0-liter V8 Biturbo engine with EQ Boost for immediate, smooth power with high levels of efficiency. A redesigned interior includes the dual 12.3″ digital touchscreen display with the MBUX infotainment system.
GLS provides agile dynamics and extensive safety with comfort for up to seven passengers in three fully electrically adjustable rows. All passengers get generous amounts of space and outstanding comfort. The GLS can be ordered with executive seating package: a six-seat option with Captain’s chairs, and up to five zones of climate control. Its price starts at $75,200 and easily tips over the $100K mark with optional equipment.

Redesigned for its 40th anniversary year, the G is still big and boxy with distinctive door handles, round headlights (now LED), exposed door hinges, and a spare wheel on the rear door. But now it rides and handles more like a Mercedes-Benz than a military transport, all while still carrying the cache of what celebrities choose as a daily driver. The doors are very solid, with the characteristic closing sound, clear evidence of that hallmark “G” functionality. The G’s multi-contour seats feature massage
functions and are equipped with numerous seat conveniences: memory seating,

heating and cooling in the front and rear, and luxury head restraints in the front. The rear seats can be folded down to 60, 40 or 100 percent. And if you want to trick your G out, make it a 4X4 Squared with massive ground clearance and just about anything else you want to add, from design to a new G Manufaktur Program, which allows for more interior and exterior customization, and of course, all the AMG touches.
A run of the mill G550 features a 4.0L V8 bi-turbo engine, and the G 63 raises the bar with a handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo that sends the G up to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Pricing for the G550 starts at $124,500, with the AMG starting at $147,500. With the right options, the final price falls well into the $200K plus range.
By William West Hopper
Reprinted from the August  2019 Greater Washington Section Mercedes-Benz Club of America, Quarterly News Roundup.
Photos courtesy of MBUSA

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.





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.

Look Behind You! The Flashing Lights?

What Is An Officer of the Law Driving Today?

Queer4Cars 2020 Ford Explorer Utility Police Interceptor Model YouTube Video

Cop Cars

2020 Ford Police Interceptor Explorer Utility VehicleJust when you thought you had gotten used to spotting police cruiser headlights in your rearview mirror, Ford is changing the game again! With the introduction of the completely redesigned 2020, Ford Explorer comes the police equivalent: the Explorer Utility Interceptor. Ford is stepping away from selling sedans in the USA and focusing on SUV and trucks. With this comes the SUV for police duty, which many departments have already in their fleets.

What’s New

2020 Frod Police Interceptor UtilityFord has really upped their game when it comes to the new Interceptor. One of the most significant changes, besides the entire vehicle, is the shift from front wheel to rear-wheel biased all-wheel drive. Instead of being pulled around, you now are pushed town in the 2020 Explorer. The 2020 Ford Explorers Utility Interceptor comes standard with all-wheel drive and a whole host of other goodies that the general public does not get in a regular consumer edition Ford Explorer.

The new Interceptor now comes in 3 different engine versions. The first is a regular 3.3 liter naturally aspirated V6 engine. The next step up, and the one Ford really put their heads into is a 3.3-liter non-plug-in hybrid version. The third and final option is their 3.0 liter EcoBoost engine.

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid BatteryFord has put a lot of focus on the hybrid in a push to make not only Police Interceptors but all of its fleet Green.  The image of being more environmentally friendly is an essential part of today’s market. This new hybrid is run off a lithium-ion battery pack that is the size of a small suitcase and stored in the front half of the vehicle not reducing any interior storage space. This hybrid engine is a game changer and more so for police departments. The hybrid uses the battery pack to run the vehicle for 80% of the time. When the battery charge drops below 30%, the gas engine kicks in and takes about 2 minutes to recharge the battery to full capacity. This significantly reduces the amount of idle time for the gas engine. In turn, this reduced idle time substantially reduces the amount of fuel used and emissions from the vehicle.

Value Driven

Ford Interceptor Utility BenefitsWhat citizen wouldn’t like to see their local and state police departments saving money, thus freeing it up to focus more on training or more safety? Where hybrid vehicle technology will impact will be in municipalities fuel and vehicle maintenance budgets. While hybrids initial purchase cost is indeed higher, that can be made up in just fuel cost savings alone. Not to mention that hybrids can go longer between oil changes as the engines aren’t always running or as is often the case, idling, and between the brake pad and rotor changes due to the regenerative braking technology.

2020 Ford Interceptor Utility BenefitsThe 2020 Explorer Utility comes standard with Bluetooth® hands-free connectivity. Which is a good idea, as we know it is illegal in many states to use a handheld device while operating a motor vehicle. And no one wants Officers’ breaking the law by using their phones while driving.


Only On A Cop Car

Ford Explorer Utility Police Interceptor weleded Steel Crash FrameThe Interceptor Utility is fitted with a welded steel under-carriage device giving it a 75mph rear crash test rating.  Plus a stiffer suspension, larger heavy duty brakes, cooling system, and alternator that is needed to run the gamut of electronics police use in their vehicle.

Ford Factory Installed Police Perimeter Alert for Interceptor VehiclesFord has developed and offers on its Interceptor vehicles a factory-installed Police safety perimeter alarm that uses the blind spot monitoring system and a dashboard display to detect any threats moving towards or away from the rear of the vehicle.  Alerting the officer with an audible tone, rolling up the windows, locking the doors and activating the Ford Explorer Utility Police Interceptor Bullit Proof Door Padrearview camera. Ford also has ballistic panels as on option for inserts in the front doors to further protect officers from armed assailants.





2020 Ford Explorer Utility Police Interceptor VehicleAfter test driving each of the 2020 Ford Explorer Utility powertrains available on a police emergency vehicles operations course, it is abundantly clear these are the smart choice for police departments. Start looking in your rearview mirror for a new police Interceptor starting later this year. And remember to pull over when you see those flashing lights. While they are not after you, they may be on the way to assist someone that is important to you or someone else who is in need.


Words by Corporal Matthew Rihl,
Photos by William West Hopper
Officer Matt in the Cockpit of a Connie

Corporal Matthew Rihl is a Field Training Officer and member of the Honor Guard with a local Virginia police department.

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.


Fifty Leagues Above A Sea Of SUV’s

Lincoln’s Mid-Size SUV the Nautilus Black Label Edition for 2019

Click here for our Queer4Cars YouTube Video Lincoln Nautilus Review

Lincoln Motor Company provided us with a 2019 Black Label Nautilus in Burgundy Velvet Metallic for a trip to New York State and the opening of the new TWA Hotel at JFK airport. This mid-sized SUV featured Gala trim, with deep colors and rich textures, inspired by the high fashion of New York’s Metropolitan Gala. This Gala theme features elegant Carmine and Onyx leather deeply hued seats, complemented by the luster of Nouveau Armor aluminum accents.

This mid-sized SUV has a base price of $59,390 adding on $7245 in options came to a final sticker price of $67,630, including the $995 delivery charge.

The Lincoln Motor Company introduces the new Lincoln Nautilus, a midsize luxury SUV delivering a powerful turbocharged engine range and a suite of advanced technologies designed to give drivers greater confidence on the road.While the Nautilus is not a new design, it has been updated from the last iteration when it was called the MKX. It fits neatly in a very competitive market segment, and being a Lincoln, has a lot to offer buyers in standard features, both luxury and safety features.  Being a Lincoln Black Label Edition means that it is only available from select Lincoln dealers and carries a host of Black Label benefits.

Lincoln Nautilus red onyx leather seats

Our 2019 model came with the Onyx Venetian Leather interior, and we very much enjoyed the 22-way power driver seat a $1500 option,  standard heated and ventilated front seats, as it was May, we did not try the heated rear seats. With Inside Ambient lighting, a real treat at night, and Dual zone electronic climate control which made for a comfortable interior experience. The available concealed wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones eliminates the hassle of tangled cords is something that is becoming more common, and we like that, though our Samsung smartphone in an Otterbox case did get hot and stopped charging, out of the case it did much better.  Having the Panorama vista roof was almost as good as having a convertible.

Safety Lincoln’s Job One

The Nautilus has plenty of standard safety features as well as optional on the various trim levels of the Nautilus. While these are becoming more common today, they do enhance the overall driving experience, as not everyone on the road is paying attention to driving.

  • Blind spot detection
  • pedestrian detection
  • Auto Emergency Braking
  • Pre-collision Assist
  • Lincoln’s Copilot 360
  • Blind Spot Information System
  • Rearview Camera with a wash function
  • Auto High Beams
  • Pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection
  • Adaptative Cruise Control with Stop and Go Technology
  • Evasive Steering Assist

Nautilus’s Tech Package includes the 360-degree camera, and the active parking assist as well as front park aid sensors are $1720. Driver Assistance option for $1590, includes Lane Keeping system Active cruise control with traffic jam assist and adaptive steering.


Turbo Powered Engine

Powered by a 2.7 GTDI V6 engine (a $2070 option) and an 8-speed select shift automatic transmission that gave us the stated fuel economy of 21 overall 19 city and 26 highway.  Our experience was that it provided plenty of power delivered through the advanced technology of turbocharging, direct injection, and twin independent variable camshaft timing. All of which made our mix of urban and highway driving comfortable and worry-free.


Technology, More Important Than Ever

Today’s vehicles rely on a lot of technology, cameras, radar, and more to enhance the driver’s capability. Lincoln Co-Pilot360 is much like it sounds; you have a Co-Pilot with you watching your blind spots, alerting you to vehicles and pedestrians as well as things that the driver may miss.

2019 Lincoln Natiulus GrillPre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking is surprising that first time it engages when you are not aware it will. And thankfully it does, as it has a faster reaction time than you might have, helping to prevent an accident. Evasive steer assist is now available on the Nautilus, providing drivers with steering support to help avoid collisions that might happen as you come upon a slow-moving or stopped vehicle if it can’t be mitigated by braking alone.

We experimented with the optional lane-centering technology, which detects lane markings on the road to help keep the vehicle centered. Finding it as good as the road markings that it is monitoring, if the white line on the right follows over to a turn lane, the car can steer to the right when you want to stay in the travel lane.

Adaptive cruise control with stop and go allows drivers to set a desired speed and distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead and is a valuable item on today’s crowded highways.



Drivers Will Appreciate All The Nautilus Has To Offer.

The large center touch screen serves as a portal to standard SYNC® 3 with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, enabling management of audio, phone, and navigation. Steering wheel-mounted controls are also available for some functions helping keep eyes on the road.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus dashboard and center console

As the weather turns colder drivers will appreciate the heated side view mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer. When day turns into night having the full LED lighting and headlamps with adaptive LED, Lincoln signature lighting makes a difference.

Ford is making all of their new cars connected, and this Nautilus came with the standard embedded Lincoln Connect 4G modem with Wi-Fi hotspot capability. While we think of this as for our own personal use, it makes the vehicle prepared for the world of autonomous mobility allowing for the vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication. While self-driving cars are a way off, the technology that it brings to us today adds a layer of safety on today’s roadways.


2019 Lincoln Natiulus Window StickerThis vehicle comes with a solid 4-year 50K mile warranty and six-year 70K power train Warranty. Being a Black Label model, only sold by those Lincoln dealers that are qualified to offer Black Label models, the convenience of having the vehicle pick up when it needs service and having four years of premium maintenance included is just one more reason to purchase or lease a Lincoln.


Black Label from LincolnYou may not have considered a Lincoln as you search for upscale vehicles; this is an excellent time to think about one of America’s premier luxury brands.  Lincoln has quietly stepped ahead of its competitors, and as consumers experience the brand, they will be pleasantly surprised about what they get for their dollar.  Stop by a Lincoln dealer and look at what the brand has to offer.


Words and Images by William West Hopper

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

Mr. Hopper is a life-long automotive enthusiast who has lead enthusiast organizations like the Mercedes-Benz Club of America and the Segway Enthusiast Group of America. He currently serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association in Washington DC.  He can be reached on Twitter and Instagram.

The Lincoln Motor Company provided us this vehicle free of charge for a week, we were not compensated to review this vehicle. Our review is our own personal opinion and has not been influenced by anyone but our own experiences. 

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.


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

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


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


First Impressions

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

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

Bells and Whistles

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

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


Driving Dynamics

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

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


Fuel Economy

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Ford Expedition 2nd row hvac controls and power

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

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


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