Tag Archives: luxury

Audi leads the pack with fun to drive Compact SUV’s

The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.
The Audi SQ5 provides all the benefits of a small SUV with a lot of technology.

Audi of America hosted a number of regional automotive journalists at their headquarters in Herndon Virginia where we heard from their President Scott Keogh about the current market and Audi’s focus on technologically forward vehicles. While EV’s were not in the mix, CSUV’s and Sportbacks were, as they are the current trend in the market.

Mr. Scott Keogh presented the market performance of the the Audi Brand in 2017.
Mr. Scott Keogh presented the market performance of the Audi Brand in 2017.

Mr. Keogh spoke of how well the Q line of vehicles is doing all across the USA, from Boston to Dallas, from DC to San Francisco. Relating that the owner demographic is one of the youngest in the industry. And that is directly related to not only the vehicles providing up-to-date technology such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto as much as for the well designed and efficient vehicles, as well as the Audi dealer network that supports the Audi brand.

The Audi SQ5 provides comfort for the driver and passengers.
The Audi SQ5 provides comfort for the driver and passengers.

We have always liked the styling of Audi’s even back in the day when the brand was barely on the US roads. While today ‘s Audi’s are great looking, what impressed us is the driver and passenger comfort, due to the thought behind the ergonomics of the interior. The dash layout and control placement, the comfort of the seats, and not just the high-end S-line seats, the base Q5 seats were just as comfortable.

Audi has one of the most visually attractive dash screens providing vivid graphics.
Audi has one of the most visually attractive dash screens providing vivid graphics.

 

Driveability of the Audi vehicles was excellent in both the turbocharged 4-cylinder and the 6-cylinder powered models. Handling was tight, accurate and with excellent ride comfort in both the CSUV and A5 Sportback models. While a CSUV is not a sports car, these Audi’s provide a sporty experience behind the wheel with plenty of luxury. The only down side was that the S-Line exhaust was a bit noisy, especially for a long drive. Though a throaty exhaust seems to be what buyers of the up market performance trim vehicles are expecting.

Our overall experience with the A5 Sportback and both the SQ5 and the Q5 Compact Sport Utility Vehicles was excellent. A year ago Queer4Cars spent time in the full-size Audi Q7 and our opinion of the brand has only increased after spending time in these additional models.

Speaking of Audi experiences, we will be driving an Audi A5 on a week-long test drive in September driving from Washington DC to Cooperstown NY, on to the 911 Memorial in Manhattan, and back to DC.  Stay tuned for that update.

Until Then, Enjoy the Adventure!

 

Words by William West Hopper, images courtesy of Audi Newsroom and William West Hopper.

 

 

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GMC’s 2018 Terrain, Hearing from Mark Cieslak, GMC’s Chief Engineer, Global Compact SUV’s.

GMC Terrain for 2018 comes with three engine choices and several trim levels.
GMC Terrain for 2018 comes with three engine choices and several trim levels. Photo GMC.

The new 2018 GMC Terrain defies the image of old line General Motors being a staid automaker. GMC is showing that it is all that is modern in the automotive industry, from powertrain to safety, from styling to the latest in-car technology.

Hearing from the GMC Terrain’s Chief Engineer

March Cieslak GMC's Chief Engineer for the 2018 Terrain presents the vehicle to auto journalists in NYC.
Mark Cieslak GMC’s Chief Engineer for the 2018 Terrain presents the vehicle to auto journalists in NYC.

Recently we got to spend some time with GMC’s Chief Engineer, Global Compact SUV’s, Mark Cieslak in New York City over lunch, to hear more about the new GMC Terrain as well as the brand’s dedication to the future.

Clearly, the ’18 Terrain is a premium SUV that provides the performance one expects from GM’s premier SUV and truck brand. While the exterior of the Terrain is classic GMC with all the design cues of bright grill work and distinctive lighting, Cieslak shared that the engineers, stylists, and designers are paying attention to the smallest details of this vehicle. While you can identify a GMC from a distance, it is this attention that makes the vehicles even better close up.

 

GMC Intelligent Engineering is all inclusive of the brand, and from the wheels up.
GMC Intelligent Engineering is all inclusive of the brand, and from the wheels up.

GMC’s intelligent engineering provides better aerodynamics, fuel economy, powertrain performance, ride, handling, and maneuverability with the 2018 GMC Terrain. This vehicle is 400 pounds lighter, 34% stiffer, 10% improved turning radius, up to 3500 pounds towing capacity. You can get the Terrain configured with either Front Wheel Drive (FWD) or All Wheel Drive (AWD). Both have snow and trailer/tow settings, the AWD models are engineered to be able to engage just two wheel drive for better fuel economy, with AWD for off-road or when traction is most needed.

The 2018 GMC Terrain is all new from the Ground Up.

2018 GMC Terrain offers three turbo engine choices, including a whisper quiet diesel.
2018 GMC Terrain offers three turbo engine choices, including a whisper quiet diesel.

What is new for the ‘18 Terrain? Three engine choices, two gasoline, and one diesel powered. Yes, I said, C12H23, Diesel Power! Though GM’s luck with diesel passenger vehicles has been less than stellar in years past, it has had a strong reputation in the truck segment, with this power plant. Diesel power has dedicated fans, of which I am one! With the new Terrain’s whisper quiet 1.6 turbocharged 4-cyl diesel connected to a 6-speed automatic, there is no doubt this powerplant will develop a cult following with its 136 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The two gasoline engines: a 1.5 turbocharged 4-cyl with 170 hp 203 lb-ft of torque and a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbocharged with a 9-speed transmission with 252 hp 260lb-ft of torque, both provide users with both fuel economy as well as enough power to tow, the 2-ltr is rated to tow up to 3500 lbs.

Safety is as important as performance and fuel economy.

GMC Terrain offers many standard safety features including many new to the model for the 2018 model year.
GMC Terrain offers many standard safety features including many new to the model for the 2018 model year.

New safety technology has been built into a ‘18 GMC Terrain; Low-Speed front automatic braking; Lane keep assist; Forward Collision Alert with Following distance indicator; Lane change alert with side blind zone alert; Automatic Park Assist; Rear seat reminder; Teen Driver Control; and Tire Pressure Monitoring system. This in addition to the long list of standard safety features: Six standard airbags, Rollover sensing protection, Front passenger seat occupancy sensing, Three-point safety systems, Saftey Belt Retractor Pre-Tensioner, LATCH – Child Seat latching and Rear vision camera all standard. While available on all Terrain models the following come standard on Denali models: Surround Vision Camera; Safety Alert Seat Available; Rear Cross Traffic Alert Available; Rear park assist®.

 

Inside the 2018 GMC Terrain 

Premium feel and attention to detail were key in the engineering of the 2018 GMC Terrain.
Premium feel, and attention to detail is part of the engineering of the 2018 GMC Terrain. Photo GMC.

Signature interior design with subtle interior design touches shows the Terrain’s premium vehicle status with timeless design, fine touch materials, and an advanced use of space in this mid-sized SUV segment. A new electronic precision shift technology features the transmission selector on the dash. This frees up the open flying buttress design center console uncluttered, with two side-by-side cupholders above and a storage area underneath.

 

Spacious Passenger Vehicle or Cavernous Cargo Hauler? 

GMC has designed the interior of the 2018 Terrain to be very versatile with seats that fold down flat.
GMC has designed the interior of the 2018 Terrain to be very versatile with seats that fold down flat.

The Terrain can be configured as a spacious passenger vehicle or reconfigured to haul cargo. Fold-flat front passenger seat provides the driver a mobile office and easy access to power outlets in USB, 120v, and the conventional cigarette lighter aux outlet. Add to that GMC’s optional in-car hotspot internet, and you have a mobile office. Rear seat passenger comfort is not ignored, with best-in-class 2nd-row seating featuring a two-position seat with spacious leg room.

Rear ventilation has been improved in the '18 GMC Terrain, along with plenty of power outlets for rear passengers.
Rear ventilation has been improved in the ’18 GMC Terrain, along with plenty of power outlets for rear passengers.

More than just the seating, the HVAC and improved airflow for rear passengers. Second-row passengers have access to their own USB power outlet, as well as an optional 120-volt outlet and heated rear seats are available on higher trim models.

Shrink wrapping the rear cargo area has provided more interior space. The two-tier cargo storage with underfloor cargo storage for added security. Atop of that, the rear cargo floor provides a flat, uninterrupted rear cargo floor when the rear seats are stowed.

 

Apple Carplay and Android Auto are integrated into the 2018 GMC Terrain's advanced entertainment system.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto are integrated into the 2018 GMC Terrain’s advanced entertainment system.

Technology abounds within the 2018 GMC Terrain, with safety and convenience items, such as surround camera, side object detection. Infotainment features both Apple Car Play® and Android Auto® capability, Bluetooth® audio streaming, available navigation, and available OnStar® wi-fi hotspot accommodates seven mobile devices.

 

 

We are looking forward to driving and experiencing the new GMC’s in person, later this summer.

William West Hopper


Photos are from GMC’s online pressroom and the author.

 

2017 Volvo XC 90. Safety is the new Big Sexy with this Norse God of Luxury.

Where Luxury Meets Saftey In Total Harmony

 

The Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription a full-size SUV with a lot of Safety and Luxury
The Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription a full-size SUV with a lot of Safety and Luxury.

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.

 

 

The Volvo XC90 is a Norse God when it comes to hauling people and cargo
The Volvo XC90 is a Norse God when it comes to hauling people and cargo.

 

This past winter’s North American Auto Show in Detroit, there was a lot of buzz about their XC90 model, to the point where as the Cars.com’s media party celebrated it with a Best Of Award. This Fall after attending the Automotive News Marketing Seminar, and hearing from Bodil Eriksson, Vice President, Product, Marketing and Communication for Volvo Car USA, who spoke about the expectations from many that Volvo would be extinct by the end of the 2000 recession.

 

 

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.

 

 

The Volvo XC90 Luxurious interior.
The Volvo XC90 Luxurious interior.

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!

 

 

Volvo XC90's 2.0 liter Turbocharged and Supercharged engine returns 20 plus mpg on preimium fuel
Volvo XC90’s  powerful 2.0 liter Turbocharged and Supercharged engine returns 20 plus mpg on premium fuel.

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.

 

 

Volvo XC 90 features Walnut wood inlay and Aluminum accents along with a Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound system.
Volvo XC 90 features Walnut wood inlay and Aluminum accents along with a Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound system.

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.

 

 

Volvo XC90 Center information Screen feeds the driver and passenger a wealth of information from maintenance to infotainment
Volvo XC90 Center information Screen feeds the driver and passenger a wealth of information from maintenance to infotainment.

 

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.

 

 

 

Volvo XC90 massaging leather seats are heated, ventilated, cooled with extendable thigh support. Comfortable for long or short trips.
Volvo XC90 massaging leather seats are heated, ventilated, cooled with extendable thigh support. Comfortable for long or short trips.

 

 

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.

 

 

Volvo XC 90 features a pop up child's seat in the center of the 2nd row
Volvo XC 90 features a pop-up child’s seat in the center of the 2nd row.

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.

 

 

 

Volvo XC90 Dash provides info like who is in safely in their seat, and who has a seat belt on
Volvo XC90 Dash provides info like who is in safely in their seat, and who has a seat belt on!

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 XC90 features Thor's Hammer LED DRL as well as Active Bending headlights
Volvo XC90 features Thor’s Hammer LED DRL as well as Active Bending headlights.

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.

 

Volvo XC90 Excellence is opulent with rear video screens and crystal glasses.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.

 

Volvo XC90 is everything a luxury full-size SUV needs to be, Safe, Fuel Efficient, and Fun to Drive
Volvo XC90 is everything a luxury full-size SUV needs to be, Safe, Fuel Efficient, and most importantly, Fun to Drive.

 

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.