2017 Genesis G80 5.0
New luxury brand launches with full-size sedan
By Nina Russin
Recently Hyundai launched a new luxury brand called Genesis. The automaker follows a tradition of upscale marques evolving from the mainstream that began three decades back with Acura, Lexus and Infiniti.
The G80 is one of two new Genesis vehicles, this one aimed at the heart of the luxury market. Competing against the Lexus GS, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series, the G80 offers buyers a powerful, more affordably priced alternative with high levels of standard safety and convenience features.
Genesis sells the G80, priced from $54,550 (excluding destination) fully loaded, so customers don’t have to wade through a laundry list of expensive option packages. The only options on the test car include a first aid kit, cargo tray and wheel locks, all of which add less than $200 to the final $55,700 MSRP. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Audi Q7
Full-size SUV ready for adventure
By Nina Russin
For those who have the means, there is no partner better suited for adventure on and off-road than Audi’s all-new full-size sport-utility vehicle, the Q7. Building on momentum created by the original model, the second-generation vehicle adds a seven-mode drive select system that enables drivers to adjust the car’s throttle, braking and suspension for on and off-road surfaces. Cars with the optional air suspension can also change ride height, up to about 2-1/2 inches for clearing obstacles on off-road trails.
Power comes from a 333-horsepower V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops peak torque, 325 pound-feet, as low as 2900 rpm for exceptional acceleration off the line. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction for sure-footedness on wet or snow-covered roads.
Base price is $54,800 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options on the test car include white metallic exterior finish, 20-inch rims with run-flat tires, Bose premium audio system, heads-up display, Audi Connect infotainment, navigation, smartphone interface, heated power side mirrors, LED interior lighting, adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, rear seat entertainment system and black headliner. Final MSRP is $72,875. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Ford Fusion Platinum AWD
Midsize passenger sedan raises the bar
By Nina Russin
It’s almost impossible for a midsize sedan to stand apart from the crowd, simply because the segment includes so many outstanding vehicles. But the Ford Fusion does, outperforming Asian competitors that have long dominated the group.
Priced from $38,620, the Platinum all-wheel drive grade should be considered an entry luxury car, and as such, comes equipped with premium amenities including leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, automatic dual-zone climate controls, Sony audio system with satellite radio, heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel. Final MSRP on the test car, including metallic white exterior, 19-inch rims and inflatable rear seatbelts is $40,280. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Infiniti QX60 AWD
Midsize crossover appeals to the driver in all of us
By Nina Russin
We all hate that point in life when we have to jump the shark, and be more pragmatic in our choice of vehicle.
The guys at Infiniti get this, and they’ve come up with a remarkably good solution: the midsize QX60 all-wheel drive crossover. For active families or couples who have a lot of gear to haul around, the QX fills all the squares. Seating for seven: check. Large configurable cargo area: check. All-wheel drive for off-road and four-season performance: check and check.
But here’s the best part: get behind the wheel and the QX60 is a hoot to drive, with a powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a really good continuously variable automatic transmission (seriously, really good), and traction to all four wheels.
The QX60 isn’t cheap, with pricing for the all-wheel drive test car starting at $44,400. There are three option packages on the test car, a technology package including active safety features such as blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, backup collision intervention and forward emergency braking; upgraded Bose audio system and a theater package that adds an around-view monitor, Bluetooth streaming audio, navigation, eight-inch touchscreen and automatic wipers.
Final MSRP is $58,845, putting the QX60 right in the middle of the luxury segment. In this writer’s opinion, it’s worth the money. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD
Three-row crossover for active families
By Nina Russin
The newest CX-9 is the second iteration of Mazda’s three-row crossover vehicle, available with either front or all-wheel drive: both powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. Mazda’s goal was to create an interior spacious enough for a growing family in a vehicle that’s also fun to drive.
This presented quite a challenge, since driver-focused cars are typically small, light vehicles that focus more on front-to-rear weight balance and power-to-weight ratios than how many soccer team members can fit in back.
Pricing for the all-wheel drive Signature grade tested begins at $44,015 excluding the $800 destination charge. Being the top of the line model, the Signature comes fully loaded with convenience features buyers in this segment demand including keyless entry and start, three-zone climate control, leather trim, power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, satellite radio and more.
It’s also heavy on active safety technology including blind spot monitoring, rearview camera with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and trailer stability assist. While Mazda, unlike its Japanese competitors, doesn’t have a luxury brand, the upscale CX-9 is for all intents and purposes a luxury car.
Final MSRP for the test car is $45,215. Read the rest of this entry »
2017 Acura ILX Tech Plus
Compact sport sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The ILX is Acura’s entry level sport sedan, appealing to young driving buyers who want luxury accouterments in an affordable package. Base price is $27,900: something of a bargain at a time when average transaction prices for new cars are close to $30,000.
The 2017 models are essentially carry-over from 2016 when the ILX received a major refresh that included new exterior styling and a more powerful engine, paired with an eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The current powerplant delivers 201 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, a fifty horsepower boost over the engine it replaces. The new transmission offers the precision of a manual gearbox thanks to friction couplings, plus excellent fuel economy: 29 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA.
Buyers can choose between three trim levels: Standard, Premium and the Tech Plus tested. Acura wisely includes the convenience features buyers are looking for in each trim level rather than expensive option packages. Base price for the Tech Plus is $32,990 excluding the $940 destination charge. Standard convenience features include navigation with a multi-view rear camera, premium audio system, leather upholstery, satellite radio, keyless entry and start, alloy wheels, power moonroof, Bluetooth interface and an eight-way power driver’s seat. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Ford Explorer 4WD Platinum
Iconic SUV gains power and versatility
By Nina Russin
This year Ford’s full-size sport-utility vehicle turns 25 years old: a landmark the OEM has celebrated by introducing a brand new model.
While the newest Explorer maintains some of the original formula as a full-size sport-utility vehicle with true off-road capability, it has changed significantly since the vehicle debuted for the ’91 model year. A more car-like ride, new V-6 engine and advanced active safety features appeal to the core audience of active families.
The test car is the upscale Platinum model priced from $52,970 excluding destination. Power comes from an EcoBoost twin turbocharged V-6 engine producing 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of maximum torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. While its 18 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy might not seem impressive by today’s standards, the fact that the engine produced three times the horsepower and a third more torque than the V-6 in the 1991 Explorer should raise some eyebrows.
The current vehicle is also significantly bigger, about 14 inches longer than the original model, adding important cargo and passenger space inside. With three rows of seating, the Explorer is an ideal choice for buyers who need room for the kid’s soccer and softball teams, or endurance athletes wanting a big enough vehicle to stash bicycles inside and take on weekend camping trips.
Options on the test car include special metal-coat exterior paint and second-row bucket seats, bringing the final MSRP to $55,355. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL
Open-air fun for four
By Nina Russin
Volkswagen is known as the most affordable of German performance brands. The R-Line version of its Beetle convertible brings this driver-focused approach to one of America’s favorite drop-tops.
The third-generation Beetle maintains the classic lines of the original car but with a more aerodynamic focus. The convertible’s folding soft top is actually lower when in place than the roofline of the hardtop car. A single button near the rearview mirror retracts the top and rolls down the windows in less than ten seconds and can operate at up to 30 miles-per-hour.
The R-Line SEL model tested gets the larger of two available engines: a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder block rated at 210 horsepower, mated to a six-speed direct shift automatic transmission.
Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Fender premium audio system, climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather seating, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface. Volkswagen has expanded its Car-Net infotainment system options, enabling owners to access Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as well as a variety of smartphone apps though the car’s head unit.
Base sticker for the upscale SEL is $36,050: final MSRP including destination is $36,870. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Lexus GS F
Performance model raises the bar for mid-size sport sedan
By Nina Russin
Think of the new Lexus GS F as a double rainbow, combining sumptuous styling and potent engineering of the all-new 2016 model with F Sport specific chassis components. What makes the GS F so appealing, aside from the above-listed attributes is its versatility. Although clearly engineered for driving at speed, Lexus’ rear-wheel drive sport sedan is equally at home commuting to and from work or taking the family out for a night on the town.
Standard equipment includes a 467-horsepower five-liter naturally-aspirated engine and eight speed direct shift transmission, 19-inch forged alloy wheels with staggered tires, Brembo brakes, double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension and torque vectoring differential.
Base MSRP is $84,440 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options on the test car include a Mark Levinson audio system and carpeted trunk mat, bringing the final MSRP to $86,875. Read the rest of this entry »
2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe
Luxury coupe gets more powerful V-6 engine
By Nina Russin
Since its debut five years ago, the sporty Cadillac ATS has captured the hearts of buyers loving the performance of the larger CTS, but preferring a more compact package. Available as a sedan or coupe with rear or all-wheel drive, the ATS is a serious competitor against the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
For 2016 Cadillac raises the bar with a new V-6 engine that is both more powerful and fuel efficient, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Cadillac was one of the pioneers of cylinder management systems in the 1980s. Although early versions weren’t known to be particularly reliable, the new ones are and operation is seamless to the driver.
Cylinder deactivation on the newest ATS stretches highway fuel economy to 30 miles-per-gallon. Automatic stop/start at idle enhances gas mileage around town.
The V-6 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, enabling drivers to make the most of the engine’s 333-horsepower.
Base price for the rear-wheel drive premium grade tested is $50,835. Options on the test car include an active safety package that adds adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, an electric parking brake and automatic safety belt tightening, power sunroof and metallic red exterior paint, bringing the final MSRP to $56,415. Read the rest of this entry »