Upon arrival, approximately 50 different vehicles were grouped by manufacturer. Prior to arrival, I surveyed the list of cars and formulated a plan that would maximize my time to test drive as many vehicles as I could by 1530.
The first vehicle driven was Acura’s NSX. Luckily, my teammate had secured a reservation to be the first test driver of this $190K Supercar. By far the most anticipated drive of the day and the NSX did not disappoint. The sheer power of the car and its ability to stick to the road like glue was absolutely amazing, producing goosebumps on my arms and chills down my spine. The fit and finish were very luxurious. The seats and steering wheel felt as if they were designed specifically for me. The exterior was a statement of beauty with artfully designed curves and creases precisely where they needed to be placed as if Michelangelo himself designed the shell. Everywhere you drove, heads turned to look and listen.
The rest of the day was spent testing vehicles ranging from compact sedans to full-size trucks. A notable appearance was the GMC Sierra Denali 1500. As luxurious and useful as a truck could be, it fell short when compared to similar trucks in its class due to the lack of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. The “revolutionary” new tailgate was cumbersome to use after spending ten minutes trying to figure it out.
Another vehicle that got my attention was the Acura TLX A-Spec with SH-AWD. This upscale sport sedan had never even registered on my radar as a vehicle that would impress me. Boy, was I ever wrong, as soon as I stepped into the vehicle, the interior design was subtle yet sporty and luxurious all at the same time. Every button and switch was placed exactly where it needed to be. The operating system was incredibly easy to figure out. The sound system was incredible when compared to other
higher-end luxury vehicles. The mix of leather and suede on the heated and cooled seats, perfectly proportioned. Outside, the pearl coat of burgundy paint complemented the aggressive exterior styling cues perfectly. To finish off, the exterior was a gorgeous set of black rims. I kept finding myself wandering back to the TLX throughout the day, admiring it. At a price of just around $44K for a fully optioned top of the line, model forced me to see how affordable and attainable the Acura really is. I found myself smiling not only while behind the wheel, and even now, each time I think of it.
The final vehicle that commanded my attention was the Genesis G90. A worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series. Sliding into the rear seat is like entering a private jet. The G90 is a vehicle to be driven around in, not just drive. Rear seat controls provide access to the entire entertainment system, climate control, navigation, and audio system. With heated and cooled rear seats, the only thing missing was a massage function. The rear passenger seat had a single button that would turn the seat into a fully functioning lounger, sliding the front seat all the way forward and down towards the dash to allow the rear occupant to stretch out. Feeling as if you were enveloped in an incredibly soft sofa and could easily take a nap.
The G90 driver experience was just as luxurious, minus the rear passenger lounge seat. With a quick and responsive engine propelling the car forward from a dead stop to 60mph with barely an effort, and with minimal noise. Genesis provides a multitude of driving assistance options, and they are phenomenal. The lane keep assist and nearly autonomous driving assistant made driving even on twisty mountain roads a breeze.
At the cost of almost $20,000 to $30,000 below what one would pay for a comparable S Class or 7 Series. The only reason I can think of why wouldn’t you want a G90 before one of its competitors would be the brand badge bragging rights. Perhaps it was wise of Genesis to distance their flagship vehicle from the Hyundai line, creating a new image to compete with Mercedes and BMW.
Reflecting on a day driving more than 25 vehicles, this was my first automotive journalist rally, and for me, it was a resounding success.
Words by Corporal Matthew Rihl,
Photos by William West Hopper
Corporal Matthew Rihl has served the public for 15-years with a local county police department in Virginia. In addition, he is also a Field Training Officer and a member of the Honor Guard. Officer Matt is a vital member of the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund, which its sole purpose is to honor surviving partners and family members of LGBT police, fire, EMS and the military who have been killed in the line of duty during a special ceremony during National Police Memorial Week every year in Washington, DC.
Spring Brake is put on by the International Motor Press Association for professional automotive journalist members, offering them the chance to experience many different vehicles in one day. Membership and an entry fee are required to participate. Neither Matthew nor William were compensated for their time or reviews of any automobiles.
Toyota Corolla for 2020 is the prime example that when you grow up and become an adult, it does not mean you have to be old and stodgy. Here the twelfth generation Corolla, now built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, brings together timeless interior and exterior styling with advanced safety systems that provide a secure and fun driving experience. Whether you are driving across town or across the country in the new 2020 Toyota Corolla, you will want to do it all over again.
What makes the 2020 Toyota Corolla different?
For 2020 the Corolla is built on Toyota’s TNGA platform gives an improved track and balance providing a better driving experience and a more comfortable ride with a multi-link suspension. TNGA has increased the body rigidity by 60% and lowered the center of gravity, reducing overall length and height. While Corolla’s width has increased, the wheelbase stayed the same. Overall the exterior is more dynamically styled with defined wheel arches and stronger body lines. A new three-dimensional trapezoidal grill is more Lexus than base Toyota. And Corolla’s interior is more spacious and comfortable with soft-touch materials in a cockpit-like environment. And with an exceptionally spacious trunk, you may not think you are in what was once considered a compact car.
All of Corolla’s trim levels get Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 as standard. That means improved pre-collision system with pedestrian detection even in low light situations, added day-time cyclist detection and enhanced speed reduction capability. Active Corning Assist fights understeer (the tendency to turn less sharply than is intended) improves grip while going around corners and is standard on all Corolla models. A full-speed range dynamic cruise control, lane departure with steering assist along with road sign assist means the car’s camera will recognize Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter, and Speed Limit signs displaying up to three of them on the dash.
Top of the line, the XLE (Luxury) and XSE (Sport) Corollas include the optional adaptive front lighting that provides a wider beam of light with headlights that swivel and auto level to better guide you in the dark. Automatic High Beams with available J LED headlights, 16” Alloy Wheels, 3-location smart key, moonroof give the Corolla touches that make it more desirable. The JBL Sound option with 9-speaker, 800 Watt 8-channel system provides premium concert hall quality on the XLE and XSE models.
Two multi-information displays for the dash, a 4.2 inch standard on the L, LE, and SW, and a larger 7 inch on the XLE and XSE, as well as new colors, Blueprint, and Celeste, join Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Super White, Black Sand Pearl, Barcelona Red Metallic, and Blue Crush Metallic bring more to the Corolla than we have seen before.
Inside you will find a roomy passenger cabin with plenty of soft-touch materials that will please drivers and passengers alike and a surprisingly large trunk. The 8-inch touchscreen center display provides control for the audio system with apple car play standard as well as connected to Amazon Alexa. USB outlets and in optional upgrade trim you can get a Qi wireless charging as well as JBL premium sound.
Even on the base L model with fabric 6-way adjustable driver’s and 4-way adjustable passenger seat, you still have a premium feel, more so when you upgrade to the LE, SE or above. Topping out with the XLE or XSE trim grades, the value added is well worth the small upcharge.
Three Power Plants
Corolla has plenty of power and performance with three power train choices; a 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a hybrid. Yes, you heard it correctly, Corolla now comes in 50-plus mpg hybrid. Toyota has put their proven Prius hybrid powertrain into the Corolla, this means you get Toyota’s well-known hybrid powertrain in the class-leading Corolla style. If you are not driving enough to warrant a 50-plus MPG hybrid, there is the base L, or a sporty SE or XSE, or luxury LE and XLE option. Corolla for 2020 is the most refined it has ever been and the safest ever with Toyotas standard Safety Sense the most advanced safety available on the market today.
Corolla has always done well in fuel consumption, and for 2020 fuel economy for the L & LE 30/38/33 SE-CVT, 31/40/34 SE-MT 29/36/42 LE Hybrid 53/52/52 XSE 31/38/34 XLE 29/37/32 on regular gasoline.
2020 Corolla Pricing
The 2020 Corolla has a base price of $19.500 for the L and topping out at $25,450 for the XSE. The LE Hybrid starts at $22,950. On non-hybrid models add $2k for the LE and $1500 for the SE. Audio options start at $815 and go up to $1715 for the JBL Premium system with wireless charging. Adaptative Headlights add $450, and if you want that special color, it will run another $395.
Corolla indeed is the bestselling nameplate of all time with 46 million global sales. Introduced in Japan in 1966 and coming to the USA in 1968. Corolla quickly became a strong seller both in the new and pre-owned market because of four things: Great price point, well-designed, dependable, and economical to own and operate. Which is why the Toyota Corolla has always been the vehicle of choice for many as their first new vehicle and known as a dependable vehicle for many thousands of miles. Toyota knows that and has worked hard to continue that tradition.
Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper
How does today’s refined Land Rover Discovery live up to the reputation of the great British trekker brand? One known for rugged adventure over all terrain in exotic places? The Land Rover brand has become synonymous with sophisticated luxury and has become an aspirational luxury car for many suburbanites, and it can tow and explore like the Royal leader it is.
The first thing that I heard as I got into the 2018 Land Rover Discovery parked on my suburban Washington DC Street, was how envious the local Moms will be as this is the SUV to aspire too. Moms are one tough demographic to make happy, so the Disco has a tough job on its hands. I asked a local Mom who owns one to go for a spin with me. The first question was: “What model is this?” My response was, “You drive one of these, and I hear this is the car that all the Mom’s in the ‘hood want.” “No, this one is much nicer than mine, Mine is very basic.” Indeed, they turned out to be very similar, just a year and a trim line apart.
A local Dad, the owner of a five-year-old Ford Explorer, commented on the similarities of touch feel and operation of this model to the upline classic American SUV. Finding out that much of the drive controls were similar showed me that though Ford’s ownership was a number of years past, the influence is still strong today, and in many ways timeless. Which is good for a brand that had the reputation of being in the shop more than it was on the road.
Driving the Discovery around town as well as taking it on an extended highway trip shows this is one comfortable cruiser, even for its large size. Did I mention that this test model was powered by a turbo diesel engine?
Diesel Driver Envy
Almost as soon as I pulled into a country fueling station, and the first thing I heard when I got out to pump, “Is that a diesel?” from a bearded, big pickup driving local. “That is the quietest diesel I have ever heard.” Which generated a long discussion of what diesels he had owned. “I used to have that,” he said proudly, though with a sense of sadness in his voice as a Ford Power Stroke® pulled in behind us, loudly clattering away. I shared with him that the Land Rover was at one time owned by Ford. That made him smile, as he jumped back into his mud covered burly pickup.
While here in the USA, diesel engines are thought to be for trucks and the oddball who wants one in a luxury car has only a few options. Land Rover has put this bad-boy of automotive engines to work in its line up including the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. The diesel-powered Discovery Td6 achieves 21 mpg city 26 highway with a combined 22.5 combined fuel economy for the powerful 254HP 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine. And this diesel is tow-ready with the Rover® Tow Package, 7,716 lbs maximum permissible towing capacity. class two hitch and all the connections
Pristine and Refined
No doubt Land Rovers have seen their share of muck boots, Wellies, and fine leather, as this is the brand of choice for the equestrian crowd. And with the towing capacity of this diesel-powered Landy, it could easily have been towing a horse trailer to field trails, fox hunts, and horse shows. Though back at the stable any number of farm pickups would be keeping the barn’s field operation in motion.
What we liked
What is not to like about the elegance of Land Rover’s line of vehicles? A British Icon that was granted a Royal Warrant in 1951 and has been providing rugged off-road capable vehicles since. Today the brand is part of Jaguar Land Rover with that added luxury, an air of elegance, on top of the proven Land Rover toughness, Rovers attract owners of an income level who are less concerned about the cost of ownership and more about the sense of luxurious style the brand offers.
Classic Landy’s as they are called from the original British Leyland era are quite collectible and still on the road due to their aluminum bodies and determined mechanics who keep them running. You even see models from the years they were thought to be mechanical nightmares because Land Rover owners love them so much, and do not want to part with one.
Overall Fit and Finish
We were quite impressed with this vehicle. The fit and finish, as well as the quality of materials, are top notch. While we heard from other auto journalists that the slab rear loins of the vehicle were a bit chunky, it did not appear out of proportion to our eye, considering that it covered a large well-appointed interior that had a very good use of space.
We liked the design of both the exterior and interior and especially the feel of the dash material. And impressed with the thought that went into the storage areas and power outlets throughout the vehicle. Heated and cooled seats are available in the front, middle and the third row. Up front, seats with a massage function and 16-way adjustment are also available. Since this is a family vehicle, a total of four ISOFIX mounting points make it possible to fit child safety seats in the rearmost row. And for those who do not require the added versatility of folding third-row seats, Discovery comes standard in a five-seat, 2-row configuration.
With three rows of seats, the second row slides forward and backward allowing access to the Discovery’s distinctive high roof and trademark stadium seating in the third row. This allows for even for 74.8” tall passengers to sit comfortably with visibility as well as leg and shoulder room.
Driveability of the vehicle
While this vehicle is roomy on the inside and large on the outside, 195.7 in. long, 87.4 in. wide (mirrors out) and 72.7 in. tall. The Discovery rides capably on large 21-inch tires. We found driveability and highway handling excellent, tracking well and holding the road, and very maneuverable with a tight 40.4-foot turning radius. Visibility is very good on the vehicle in tight spaces or out on the open road, with plenty of glass space, and the added modern safety feature of cameras and sensors.
A taut suspension is quite comfortable even on rough roads, and the Four-Corner Air Suspension adjustable advanced integral-link rear suspension system suspension makes it easy to get in and out of and provides adjustable ride height for on and off-road conditions.
Air suspension is designed to improve on-road ride quality and greater capability when off-roading. The automatic system is able to vary between two ride heights of +1.57 in. and +2.95 in. At speeds below 31mph the +2.95 in. the setting is available; for faster speeds on rutted dirt roads, between 31- 50mph the vehicle will operate at +1.57 in. A new Speed Lowering function cuts drag and enhanced fuel economy by automatically reducing the ride height at cruising speeds above 65mph. Other functions include enhanced tuning to prevent the suspension from lowering in deep wading conditions, as well as preventing belly-out situations where the center of the vehicle rests on the ground.
Permanent four-wheel drive with standard locking center differential and Terrain Response™, optional locking rear differential provided traction no matter the weather or terrain.
Front seats were extremely comfortable, while the 2nd and 3rd were hard and plank-like. The third row is not easy to crawl into, though with its raised stadium style seating once back there you have a commanding view of the cabin, being higher, over the rear axle than the 2nd or 1st row. This is the reason for the trademark Land Rover stepped up Roofline, giving 3rd-row passengers headroom. Both rear seating rows had access to power and to HVAC controls, as well as plenty of storage, and heated seats. Nice Touch!
What we found odd and irritating
The unintuitive controls, and very in-depth on-screen menus. This is not a vehicle that you want to try and figure out what the different controls do while driving, as they can distracting as they are long and involved. The start-stop button is large, just that it is hidden behind the right side of the steering wheel, and a smaller button that opens a cubby button behind the center dash is visible, we found ourselves opening that cubby when thinking it was the start-stop button.
The unpredictability of turning the engine off after putting the vehicle into park, sometimes, it would just decide on its owns to shut the engine off beyond just pushing the ignition start-stop button, and do it without rhyme or reason. Maybe it was because we had done something else that told the vehicle to shut down, never quite figured that out. Speaking of random, recognition of the key fob was intermittent. Sometimes the key would be behind a phone in a pocket, and by pulling would be enough for the car to recognize it. It could have needed a new fob battery.
Land Rover Dealers have been focused on the brand through thick and thin, and through a number of corporate owners. Now Land Rover/Range Rover is owned by Tata along with Jaguar, a very focused group who are making the brand better with each vehicle they produce.
Let us not forget the Royal Land Rover
launched in 1948 and simply called Land Rover, the design for the original vehicle was started in 1947 by Maurice Wilks with early choices limited to various shades of light green colour as dictated by supplies of military surplus aircraft cockpit paint. Land Rover was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI. Since then you often see the brand being used by Royalty the world over.
The essence of the brand, you have to like what you drive, and driving a Land Rover has some cache to it, a brand that has contoured and explored the world. We found ourselves at home in the 2018 Land Rover Discovery. For $68K, you get a powerful and attractive vehicle that has a timeless design, and with the diesel powerplant, a great tow vehicle. Take it to the stable, off road, the concert hall, or to the school carpool line, sign us up, we will be glad to drive this one again.
Words and Images(except where noted) by William West Hopper.
Land Rover USA provided us the opportunity to test drive this vehicle for a week-long evaluation to produce this report. We were not compensated for this article.
A family trip jet-setted us to HOT-Atlanta for a weekend with the kids, grandkids (other people’s not ours,) and extended members of the family. We needed basic cheap transportation for the four-day weekend trip to get us from the ATL metroplex out to the ‘burbs, and something to get us around what seems to be endless strip malls and traffic-packed interstates. Did I say we did not want to pay a lot for a rental car?
Booking a mid-size car through Priceline’s Autoslash we ended up with a Kia Forte from Avis. The Forte was a simple high-milage rental car in Rent-Me-White. I like to review cars with a few miles on them, as they represent what the car will be like in the hands of a consumer well after it rolls off the showroom floor. The only cars that have a rougher life than a rental car are the cars that have been used by members of the media.
Just the day before this rental, I had been in Kia’s performance sedan the Stinger. Yes, the two cars are different but in many ways quite similar. Kia builds a well-made vehicle no matter if it is their top of the line, middle of the road, family van, or the most basic of transportation. The Forte is that middle of the road vehicle, and it performed well for our southern family weekend.
The Kia Forte
This small four-door sedan is easy to get in and out of, has plenty of trunk space and gets very decent fuel economy. Plus it is easy to drive. The downside was that it sounded tinny when you closed the door and that the center dash display screen was small and did not give a clear view of the backup camera when in reverse.
The small exterior size gave it great maneuverability, especially in Atlanta’s never-ending traffic. While the 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve I-4, Atkinson Cycle engine was adequate, putting out 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm mated to an Electronically Controlled 6-Speed Automatic Transmission w/ Sportmatic® front wheel drive provided, it was not a gas guzzler providing just under 30 mpg in normal driving.
The large interior size was comfortable for 2 adults and our luggage. While we did not use the back seat for passengers, things got tossed in there, and if need be there was adequate space for a short trip guest.
Four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch wheels, and projector beam headlamps all provided for a good command of the road. While the base Forte is not loaded, it has plenty of standard features like heated rear mirrors, that make driving safer and more comfortable.
Actually, the only real low for me was the small size of the center console screen where the backup camera display showed. Other low though at this price point it is negated as it was an entry-level vehicle, is the sound when the door closed and that if you needed power you had to plan on flooring it at the right time knowing the powertrains limitations.
While the interior is basic, the tough fabric was easy to clean and appeared durable. Interior plastics were pleasant to the touch, knobs and controls were well placed and felt as if they would not break off when you used them repeatedly. The rear seating area is complete with a fold-down center armrest with cupholders. The trunk space was easy to get items in and out of and had plenty of space.
For a clean looking, well-designed four-door sedan at an entry of sub $17K price point this vehicle had all the safety features and driveability one could ask for. With Kia’s Ten Year, 100K Mile Warranty this purchase is a no-brainer for basic reliable transportation.
We vote UP on this Rental Rodeo Ride as a contender.
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a long winter weekend with friends in New England’s epicenter of Sailing, Newport Rhode Island. Since we were where hanging out at the elite New York Yacht Club, it seems right to book a luxury car through Priceline’s AutoSlash, which Alamo stated would be a Cadillac or similar.
After a grand welcomed to the top level of PVD Airport’s rental car garage, though by an Alamo competitor, we walked the few steps to the Alamo area and were once again welcomed with the offer of an Audi sedan or SUV as our luxury car.
The choice was the SUV, which turned out to be a Q3. While I have driven both the Q7 and Q5 variants, I have not been in a Q3. Alamo escorted us to the vehicle with a personal walk around offering to help with our luggage. Was this because we were renting a luxury car? Turns out, this is how Alamo is treating every customer who rents from them. Upon our return, again, we received a personalized, by name, welcome and “How was the Q3 for you?” To add to this excellent level of service, an Alamo employee drove us, in our car, directly to the airport terminal. No need to unload and navigate the long walk with our luggage. Big Kudos to Alamo Rental car for that kind of personalized service.
Now about the Audi Q3
The Audi brand name alone is what must classify this as a luxury vehicle for Alamo. As the Q3 rented from them was an un-optioned base model, even with the S-Line nomenclature that appears on it. The $2100 navigation function was not included, which left the center screen a selection of menu options. Having just the Audi logo would have been better than the un-informative sub-menus that were displayed.
The Q3 is the smallest of Audi’s SUV line up, Q5 and Q7 being the larger kin, has a sticker price according to Audi’s website of $32,900 plus $975 destination, taxes registration, and title. Upgrades available are the $2900 Premium Plus package and the $2900 quattro® all-wheel drive that Audi is so well known for.
This rental did not have the paint upgrade ($575 for a standard color, up to $3900 for an exclusive Audi Paint color. Nor the $1000 Audi Sport Package, which includes Audi Drive Select, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, or 19 inch 5-double spoke offroad design wheels with 255/40 all-season tires. No sport seats, either! Both optional packages require the $1350 Convenience Package, which includes the Audi Advanced Key (front doors and tailgate.) Auto-dimming interior mirror with compass. And a power tailgate and decorative aluminum satellite design inlay on the interior. All those options would have made the Q3 even better than it already is.
While the Q3 is comfortable, it is small. Easier to get in and out of due to the SUV’s height, though rear passenger egress was tight as was rear storage. The standard Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights were nice to cut through the February fog and rain. While it seems the now standard on most vehicles, a rear-view camera and acoustic parking system did help in backing in and out of tight parking spots.
The Q3 was equipped with a 16-valve Double Overhead Cam turbo-charged fuel injected 2.0 TSFI Engine. This cast-iron engine block with an aluminum head four-cylinder (1,984 cc displacement, 82.5cc bore, and 92.8 stroke) produces 200 horsepower @5100 to 6000 rpms, and 207 lb.-ft torque at 1700-5000 rpm. Mated to a six-speed Tiptronic® automatic transmission. The Q3 has a 0 to 60 mph speed in 8.2 seconds. Which was a bit anemic for Rhode Island’s fast moving I-95 traffic.
Fuel Economy for our short under 100-mile drive, a mix of highway and in-town driving, was unimpressive at 18.63 mpg on premium 91 Octane gasoline. But for a 2-wheel drive and the short driving we did, not amazing. Averaging -20 City 20 Highway 28 estimated with a 16.9 Gallon Tank I did expect better for this small car.
I found the handling of the Q3 was a little numb, which surprised me for an Audi with front MacPherson struts and four-link rear suspension. Unlike the Q5 which is more nimble. The fully galvanized steel unibody with an aluminum hood and tailgate gave the Q3 a feel solid. Running on 235/50R18 all-season tires mounted on 7-inch wide wheels gave it a solid grip on the wet roadways. Steering is tight, and I did not notice the power dropping off with electromechanical power steering when the engine shuts off at stop lights. Braking was fine with the 12.3” front ventilated discs and solid 11.1” rear disc brakes.
Leather seating surfaces were nice, though without reading the website, I might have thought they were faux leather. The 60/40 split folding rear seat made the useable but tight cargo area better (16.7/50.3cu ft, cu ft, rear seatbacks up/folded down.)
Even in the dreary weather, it was nice to have the panoramic sunroof over both the front and rear seats. The three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with tilt and telescope manual adjustment was comfortable to hold onto as was the leather-wrapped shift knob. I always like ambient LED interior lighting, and today you need the power outlets.
I missed pushbutton start on the Q3, for an upscale car having to get the switchblade key out and put back every time seemed so old-fashioned. While our trip did not encounter freezing temperatures having the heated windshield washer nozzles is a great help.
The Audi Concert Single CD player Radio with MP3 capability was confusing to operate, especially while driving. Having the BLUETOOTH® and voice control system did make it easier.
While this Audi made for a great rental vehicle, stylish and well sized, with decent handling. If I were to choose one as a daily driver, having more optional equipment would make me happier. Though after driving the Q5 and the SQ5, I would upgrade to one of them, preferably the SQ5.
This Q3 is made at Audi’s production facility in Spain and has a 4-year/50K Mile Audi New Vehicle Warranty and comes with 12-month / 10K mile no charge first scheduled maintenance.
Queer4Cars is always big on getting deals when we go shopping, for anything. Check with organizations you belong to for their buying service options, from your insurance company or financial institution to the warehouse clubs. When local auto shows happen, always stop by the booth of the brands you are interested in and request them to send you more information. Many times you will get a monetary incentive opportunity to buy a vehicle because of this.
American drivers like spacious SUV’s to carry passengers and cargo. And with Minivans losing ground to the SUV with 3-row seating, we think that VW has a hit here with the new 2018 Atlas.
The Atlas is larger than their previous offering, though not a humungous sized SUV. On the inside, you will think it is, space is everywhere, from the rear seating to the cargo area, even the center console storage is large. What makes this SUV different than others may not be the looks, we think it looks like then other boxy SUV’s on the market. The difference is that it is pure VW, clean and functional, with all the safety and tech, and none of the fluff.
Built in VW’s state of the art Chattanooga Tennessee production facility this is not a luxury cruiser. Instead, it is what VW is known for, solid practical, well-designed automobiles. When we say not a luxury vehicle, don’t worry, it still has all the touches that will not have you think you are riding in a simple tin can. Ride comfort and handling are very good. The VR6 model we drove had plenty of power for what most families will put this car through.
Exterior Design is clean and unadorned, while a traditional an almost dull rectangular box, the lines, and proportions are very visually pleasing. Rolling on 18” wheels, this is not a flashy “Look at ME” ride. But the wow factor is how well thought out it is to carry passengers and or cargo.
Interior Design is clean and modern, not frilly, but well finished and comfortable with good ergonomics for both the driver and all 3 rows of passengers. What will sell this vehicle is the passenger comfort in the second-row and the easily accessible cargo space. Rear seats easily fold forward for access to the 3rd row or fold down for cargo hauling. With both the 2nd and 3rd row folded down, there is more than enough hauling space for the trips to the warehouse store.
Slipping into the driver’s seat is easy, no stepping up contorting to get in, or slithering down. Everything is within reach and where you would expect it to be, and what you expect it to be. Switches and controls are within reach, easy to find, and use. A gear shift (eight-speed automatic only) in the center console, and stalk for the windshield wipers, no confusing what these controls do. Two screens, one for entertainment in the center that also provides in-depth vehicle information, and another one dead center between the speedometer and tachometer providing a variety of information as well as the GPS display. Seats have plenty of support and controls exactly where you would think they would be, at the side of the seat. The center console is a bit busy with the info screen, HVAC controls, and then gear shift and mode selectors as well as an electric parking brake and other switches, but that did not bother us. Visibility is good with the rear mirrors properly adjusted and using the assistance options.
The Atlas is either FWD or AWD powered by a 2-liter turbocharged or a direct injection 3.6 VR6 engine with five distinct trim levels. Base price starting at $30,500 for the turbo four, $31,900 for the FWD VR6, and $33,700 for the AWD VR6. Options can raise the sticker to around $50K. VW has included a 6 year, 72K mile bumper to bumper warranty on the 2018 Atlas, the best SUV warranty in America, and it is transferrable.
If you are looking for a modern family sized vehicle, this is one worth checking out.
Volvo is one of those brands that in the past has been an anti-status symbol for an anti-consumerism movement. Those educated, environmentally aware people who were green, long before being “granola” such was considered in vogue. Volvo, with its very strong Scandinavian heritage, has been a symbol of safety, a producer of staid though somewhat dull vehicles, this is about to change. Yes the God of the Saftey is about to become a sex symbol.
Instead, the company has built on its strong heritage of safety, adding luxury to safety as a selling point instead of raw performance, which has been how automakers have sold cars for years. Resulting in a surge in the popularity of their vehicles, with reported brand sales ever since. With that, we got the chance to get behind the wheel of several of Volvo models, including the XC90 T6 AWD Inscription for a week. And we were duly impressed with the vehicle being safe and luxurious instead of spartan.
Still, a quite sensible vehicle that any self-respecting anti-consumer, “Volvonist” would feel comfortable in, though maybe feel a twinge of guilt for liking the heated steering wheel, and massaging seats with cushioned leg extensions. Though the XC90 is large, it does not feel that way from behind the wheel. While the 20 to 25 mpg on premium fuel may not be impressive in other vehicles, for this full-size SUV, it is not bad!
When it comes to engine size, the Europeans are challenging our American idea that a big car means a big engine, and a big engine means plenty of power. Volvo has not sacrificed power on the XC90, and others that use this same powerplant. Volvo has attached both a turbocharger and a supercharger to their 2.0 Liter inline 4-cylinder premium gasoline fueled engine, coupling that to a capable All-Wheel Drive system through a flawless 8-speed Geartronic™ Automatic Transmission, we found the XC90 had more than enough get up and go, even for those drivers who are used to 8-cylinders in an SUV. The XC90 averaged 21 mpg during normal driving, and we would expect higher with more highway time. The only complaint was the noise of the engine, similar to that of kitchen hand beaters being run at high speed, which reinforced the fact that there was a small engine under the hood.
Inside the XC90 behold plenty of luxury touches, from the leather seats to the nicely trimmed linear walnut inlaid dash and console, highlighted by aluminum trim with ambient light throughout the cabin.
The large center display screen is one of the best out there, easy to see and use, especially while driving. It presents a wealth of information from entertainment options to the vehicle’s mechanical information, you can even pull up the owners manual if desired.
Seats are where the Scandanivan automakers have always done a great job. Making them comfortable and for long periods of time, and the seats on this XC90, front and back continue this tradition.
The built-in child’s seat in the center of the rear bench is a simple and very family friendly feature, as is the optional 3rd-row seating, which while not the most spacious, still offers comfort for smaller passengers. Though the Volvo purists may find the ventilated massaging seats a bit of a reach. Though many find a heated seat and steering wheel most welcome on those frosty days, no matter if you are in Sweeden or in the state of Maryland.
The dashboard keeps you informed, and the graphical heads up display provide excellent information to the driver, as well as it is easy to see, which is rare if you wear sunglasses with progressive lens. While most of the vehicle information shows up on the center display, basics like Pilot Assist with adaptive Cruise Control, a semi-autonomous driving feature that we found useful in city traffic.
Volvo has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to safety, and the XC90’s has it in its DNA. Today, safety is more than seatbelts, whiplash protection, and airbags, much more. With Lane-keep and departure warning, low-speed pedestrian, cyclist, and large animal detection, Run-off-Road Mitigation, and detection as well as collision detection systems, provide a strong sense of safety. Active bending headlights that follow the movement of the front wheels, and light where you are going, not just straight ahead of the vehicle is very reassuring especially in low light situations.
All of this safety and luxury comes at a price. The sticker on our XC90 T6 AWD Inscription test vehicle, with delivery, was $72,805, we also got behind the wheel of a T8 E-AWD Excellence with a $105,895 sticker earlier this year, and were quite impressed with both vehicles. While the plug-in hybrid provided better fuel economy, it also had some opulence items such as crystal gear shift knob by Onefors®and matching crystal glasses in the rear center console, that were way beyond the ideals of any anti-consumer who would have bought a Volvo in the past.
After a week of driving this XC90, we were sad to see it leave, and would consider it. Check out any current discounts that Volvo may be offering, along with any buying services your credit union, membership club or association membership benefits may provide.
Words and Images by William West Hopper
This 2017 Volvo XC90 T6AWD Inscription was provided for one week, at no cost to Queer4Cars. It was supplied solely for the purpose of producing a product review. All words and images belong to Qeer4Cars and are our personal impression of the vehicle. This review is not an advertisement.
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