Like last year, this will be a gathering of friends at the DC Auto Show. You don’t have to be an automotive enthusiast, and there will be no set program, just come meet new people, or friends of long standing, and enjoy all the 2018 Washington Auto Show has to offer.
We will have a private room, and plenty of friends to talk with about cars and all else. Thanks to Cadillac and Mazda for supporting our event, we will have snacks and iced tea, but more importantly, we want to get you out and enjoy the show, see the displays and experience all that the show has to offer.
After the show is over, Toyota and Lexus will be hosting an afterparty for those attending the event. So you will not want to miss that and drink a toast to the New Year thanks to our friends at Toyota and Lexus.
Why are we holding this event, so that LGBTQ friends and family know that the auto manufacturers and dealers in the Washington area appreciate our business and want us as customers.
When and Where?
Date, Thursday evening February 2nd, at the Washington Convention Center (Room to be announced ) from 5 pm to 9 pm (when the show closes) then we will transfer the party over to a nearby location for a little more celebrating.
While there is no fee to attend the LGBTQ Family night at the Washington Auto Show, we ask you to register for the event. Register Here:
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.
Docile, Domesticated, Dependable, Durable, and Now for 2018, Dynamite!
What would improve, the ever-popular Camry? Currently, the most American made vehicle on sale in the USA. An every day plain-jane sedan that has sold over ten-million vehicles since it was introduced in 1983. Styling! Toyota has made the 2018 edition sportier. Actually, it is all-new for 2018, from the ground up. Let’s take a look!
This new model will not alienate previous owners who have been devoted to Toyota’s four-Door Sedan for years. Buyers of sports sedans will now be taking a second look at this model as a viable competitor in the market place. Toyota’s reputation for reliability, safety and more are now embraced in this new model.
Designed from the ground up, the dull staid image has been left in the dust! With an all-new platform and powertrain, still that dependable, long lasting, and safe Camry. Now, some might even say it has become sexy. Where the 2018 Camry grabs attention is in the flowing lines. Inspired by the design of a catamaran, known for skimming across the water’s surface with strong bold outriggers, and a very light and airy body. Now you will be able to tell the difference from the SE and LE models by defined front-end styling cues.
The Camry’s sweeping lines flow from outside into the passenger cabin. A wraparound cockpit for the driver and front passenger bring controls within easy reach of the driver, and with the upper trim level offers a head’s up display (which wearing polarized sunglasses is a tad hard to see) keeping the driver’s eyes on the road. The front passenger will feel snug in the wraparound interior design. Visually it may be a bit confining, though there is plenty of space.
For rear passengers, no gymnastics are needed to get into the rear seats, as in some sports sedans. The rear bench seat fits two comfortably and 3 snugly. While the trunk is spacious, it’s rectangular trunk lid opening may take some negotiating with bulky items. Even the Camry Logo has been redesigned – individual letters stamped across the center of the trunk lid.
Engineering – TNGA Platform
Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is a re-engineering of the whole vehicle, not just one part. Resulting in a new and improved driving dynamics for the 2018 Camry. Which was very apparent behind the wheel. This chassis has 3-times more welds giving it a stiffer more in control feel. A double wishbone rear suspension still provides a comfortable ride. While wider and with a lower center of gravity, the Camry has tighter handling due to this new platform as the weight is evenly distributed over the four tires. This results in better overall performance. “The new Camry is an extremely balanced machine with much more excitement.”
Three Power Trains
Three new drivetrains, a 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder gasoline engine, and a new second-generation hybrid powerplant mated to a new Eight-Speed automatic transmission are what drive the 2018 Camry.
While the 2.5 4-cylinder is fine, we found the 3.5 six provides a better powerband for our driving style. At the time we drove the new Camry the hybrid was not in the press fleet. With MPG numbers reported to be over 50 mpg this will be the one to test drive. The car handles like it on rails, having the hybrid system repositioned in the engine bay and battery moved out of the trunk and under the car will definitely provide a more evenly balanced feel of driving.
The Direct Shift 8 Speed Transmission offers plenty of gears to operate in at all speeds and load parameters, we found it to be smooth and best of all, a gear shift lever positioned where one would expect it, in the center of the console. Some classic styling touches just seem right.
Safety TSSP – is a suite of safety sysems including pre-collision system and if the vehicle is equipped with an electric parking brake can take the car down to zero. Combine that with the other dynamic safety systems (Saftey systems are standard in all models of Camry models for 2018.) And like the 2017 model, no doubt the all new Camry will also have a Five Star Overall Saftey Rating.
Camry Trim Levels
Making the trim levels distinguishable from each other was part of the redesign. Now there will be no mistaking the SE and L grade models. It is details like the quad tip exhaust, a dual exhaust with four tips and other details you will notice.
L Model – Will be the most base entry-level – very budget friendly.
LE Model – You will see a large chunk of Camry models outfitted in this high tech trim level.
XLE – The top of the line luxury model with all the technology that is available and special options will be available.
XLE V6 – Total luxury with the power of the V6 engine.
SE – Sport Trim – Toyota expects this to be a volume leader.
XSE – Full sport with full tech!
XSE V6 – Adding the V-6 powerplant to the top of the line sport model, even a hand painted black roof will be available in this trim.
Camry’s interior is driver-centric focused with the center console stack wrapping around the driver and the passenger. Controls turned toward the driver giving it a cockpit feel.
New Camry Colors
While we are used to seeing a lot of the basic colors, silver, white, black, there are three new colors coming to the 2018 Camry; Windshield Pearl, Brownstone, Galactic Aqua Mica.
A Two Tone Roof is now showing up in different manufacturers lines, as well as in the Toyota C-HR. Camry will offer the hand-painted black roof on three different colors of the XSE model completing the aggressive look in sports sedans along with black painted window trim and side mirrors. You can order the two-tone roof when you order your XSE in Blue Streak Mettalic, Celestiral Silver, and Wind Chill Pearl.
The redesigned 2018 Toyota is now available at dealers nationwide. This model is the most American Made vehicle sold in the USA today. Produced at the Georgetown Kentucky plant for the American market.
Words by William West Hopper
Photos by William West Hopper & Toyota Motor Company’s media site.
For more information on Toyota go to toyota.com
American drivers have taken heartily to the Toyota Prius since it was introduced as the first mass-market hybrid automobile, while automotive enthusiasts have continued to see it as a pariah.
What is it about this car that garners such strong emotions?
Is it the design? Now in a third design generation, this hybrid that started a revolution has developed a more futuristic look than the rather a dull looking small econobox that first showed up in 1997. Today it is a cross between an emoji and spaceship styling, almost a throwback to the 1950’s when cars had fins.
2000 Toyota Prius, the first generation of the hybrid vehicle.
Toyota’s 3rd generation Prius is so futuristic it has fins from the 1950’s when auto design was all about the future.
Since inception, this successful model line has morphed into a sedan, mini-SUV, even a smaller hyper-miler version and now a fanciful Prime model. First gens are still on the road today which shows that Toyota has earned its legendary reputation for longevity, reliability and road worthiness.
Is the emotional response to the Prius
because it is different on so many levels?
Nothing in the automotive world has moved the needle more than the hybrid combination of gasoline and electric to power a vehicle. And today some twenty years later hybrid technology is available on almost every mainstream brand. Increasing miles per gallon has staggered for years until Toyota brought this economy car to market. We were getting in the high 40’s as we drove the 2017 Toyota Prius Three for a week.
As American’s we love all the technology, so it can’t be that!
Technology is not just propelling the vehicle down the road, it is also benefiting the driver from the extensive operational data to little things like the Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charger in the center console. From the backup camera to the heads up display. Toyota’s Saftey Sense ™ Pre-Collision system w/ pedestrian detection, lane departure alert auto high beam adjustment and full-speed dynamic radar cruise control all in a car that stickers at $30,186 including delivery.
Being different is not a bad thing.
Interior has flowing lines, though the choice of contrasting colors and fabric on the seat may be a bit garish, the heads-up display and controls were easy to use.
The only thing I had some issue with was the gear selector, a lever that went over and up/down to select Drive or Reverse, then a separate button off the stalk for Park. Once placed in reverse it prompted an obnoxious beep, like that of a construction vehicle, but only on the inside. Understandable as quiet as the vehicle is when powered on, the driver may not know it is in reverse. If the occupants are being alerted, why not those outside the vehicle too?
So it is not a sporty performance car, it was never designed to be one.
So this is not a muscle car or even a sports car. And it is light enough to be buffeted by a windy March day. My take is that while it may not be a luxury or a sexy sports car, it does exactly what it is designed to do, which is move occupants and their gear economically and safely from place to place without any fanfare. So there is nothing to hate on there.
As a guy born and bred from a time when muscle cars ruled the American road and someone who loves technology, I was excited to get the opportunity to spend some time in the Prius. It brought back the memories of the first “foreign car” my family owned, was a 1970 four-door Toyota Corona. At the time it was the latest and greatest, small classicly designed car that costs $1995.00. For its time, it had very modern amenities like bucket seats, automatic transmission, and what they marketed as very customer focused, a power outlet in the glove box for a 12 v trouble light as standard equipment. Today what car company would even want you to think you would ever need such a thing?
So maybe it is the attitude of the Prius driver, which I too had in making a right on red when a big SUV came flying up from behind honking its horn telling me to get out of the way. Yep, I was sipping fuel, and you were guzzling it
So here we are 47 years later with a Toyota that gets 52 mpg compared to the 20 mpg that the Corona managed. With an advanced technology package that makes that little trouble light plug seem archaic. Though even at the time Toyota was a brand thinking ahead at what you might need.
If you are looking for a modern, safe, high mileage sedan with good trunk space, then the Toyota Prius at the $30K sticker price is well worth consideration. – Though I still long for that Red 1970 Corona!
Toyota was nice enough to send over a 2017 Prius Three for us to spend a week driving and experiencing. With that, we were able to provide this review of the vehicle to you our readers. We appreciate their confidence in Queer4Cars and their support of LGBQ diversity. Toyota is a #NoHate company, which makes us feel good about their products and support of
We appreciate Toyota’s confidence in Queer4Cars and their support of LGBQ diversity. Toyota is a #NoHate company.
Historic photos by Toyota News US Pressroom Words & Photos by William West Hopper
This past April, Toyota invited a handful of Washington DC area automotive journalists to join them at Summit Point Raceway to see two original manufacturer built minivans, not customized racecars, compete in the One Lap America race series. Toyota USA’s Engineering and Marketing departments were campaigning a Sienna R-Tuned Concept and a Sienna SE+ during the week-long – multi-state racing event, that is One Lap America. Where they were raced all day, then driven hundreds of miles to the next track at night to get back on the track and race again the next day.
Toyota brought on Top Gear America’s, Rutledge Wood, a bearded hipster TV reality show host, as well as Grand-Am Rolex GT Champion race driver Craig Stanton, to pilot these vans, and a crew to support them as they raced the week away, with everyone working together like a seasoned race team.
Toyota’s purpose was both promotional, and an engineering one. Showing off that Toyota’s best-selling Sienna minivan could compete heartily with serious racecars, but also as an opportunity for the engineering team to tweak the van for better overall drivability in everyday situations and longevity.
A Toyota Sienna R-Tuned Concept vehicle, interior stripped out, caged with a custom suspension, and many modifications the Sienna SE+, tricked out with TRD Badging, on the shifter and oil cap, dark tinted lights and Pirelli P Zero tires, and the fluids replaced to better perform under racing conditions. Inside the SE+, sans roll cage, the seats were slipped in for passengers, or removed when out on the racetrack in competition. While both vans were labeled “Concept”, each appeared to be using off the shelf parts and products that any amateur racer could get.
During a break in the racing, a van load of the DMV Scribes drove the Sienna SE+ on Summit’s Main course. While none of us were as track savvy as the competitive team from Toyota, it was fun to get a minivan loaded with adults and seats on a race track, then see it stripped and back out racing minutes later in Wood’s capable hands.
Toyota and Racing: Toyota vehicles racing is nothing new, from enthusiast’s auto crossing Scion’s to Camry’s chasing round the NASCAR oval; Toyota Trucks going at it in the dessert in an off-road rally; Lexus IS F-Sport in a street race. Toyota has a racing brand, TRD, that you see proudly on street vehicles, pretty much everywhere you go. But the common family hauler, the Sienna minivan, that is not what is thought of when the topic of competitive racing is discussed.
This was one of those times where automakers wanting to appeal to that “younger Dad”, And make him think of motorsports and minivan in the same sentence. Instead of wrestling with the admission one has achieved stable adulthood and needs to transport their kids, friends of the kids, the dog, and a variety of belongings, around suburbia.
With this One Lap America experience, Toyota is not only showing that the family haulers can be the equivalent to racecars, as these two Sienna minivans indeed hauled it down the racetrack with the best of them, often competing with high-power performance monsters. In the end the team completed the week-long event in first place with 160 points, 65 more than its Acura MDX competitor, the other entrant in the Truck/SUV class.