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  • First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    EV boasts extended range, versatility and connectivity features

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

    Chevrolet has entered the EV world with both feet in, following up on the success of the second-generation Volt extended-range vehicle with the Bolt: a pure electric small crossover with 238-mile driving range according-to the manufacturer.

    The Bolt doesn’t have quite the interior space or driving range of the larger Volt since there is no gasoline engine in reserve, but its well-configured interior, enhanced connectivity and fun-to-drive character should hold lots of appeal for buyers who have been considering an electric car, but were deterred by pricier competitors, or vehicles with significantly less range.

    EVs by their nature are rocket ships off the line, since electric motors develop peak power at very low speeds. The Bolt has the distinction of offering the most powerful electric motor in the segment: 150kW, making the car capable of sub-seven second zero-to-sixty acceleration.

    Pricing for the base LT model starts at $37,495 before the federal rebate while the upscale Premier model starts at $41,780. The car becomes available in 48 states this August. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport

    Compact crossover is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

    By Nina Russin

    Infiniti QX30

    Infiniti QX30

    Infiniti is known for using racing technology in its passenger cars, giving those vehicles a level of performance that sets them apart from the pack. The QX30 compact crossover that competes against the Audi Q3 and Lexus NX is a case in point: a sports car in a five-door package.

    Available in front or all-wheel drive configurations, the “baby” QX is a surprisingly affordable luxury car, with the base model priced below $30,000. The front-wheel drive Sport variant tested starts at $38,500, powered by a 208-horsepower two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

    The Sport model rides on 19-inch alloy rims with summer run-flat performance tires. Cross-drilled front brake rotors enable the QX to stop as fast as it accelerates. Standard convenience features include leatherette upholstery, eight-way power driver’s seat with memory, a tilt-and-telescoping flat bottom steering wheel with Formula-style paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, sport suspension, 60/40, fold-flat rear seats, Bose audio system, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, satellite radio, around-view monitor with moving object detection and intelligent park assist.

    Options on the test car include Nappa leather seating and heated seats, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward emergency braking, high beam assist, LED headlamps with active front lighting, navigation, panoramic moonroof and illuminated kick plates. Final MSRP is $43,735. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Millennial tribute to a classic roadster

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Fiat’s new two-seat convertible is a tribute to its most enduring model: the 124 Spider that debuted at the 1966 Turin auto show, produced through the mid-1980s. While the newest Spider takes styling cues such as its long sculpted hood, hexagonal grille and horizontal tail lamps from the original, there are some important differences.

    The 2017 model is a global car: a joint effort between Fiat and Mazda, based on the MX-5 Miata platform. The Spider is slightly larger than the MX-5 and has a bit more room inside. It also has a different engine: Fiat’s 164-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder block. The MX-5 comes with a two-liter naturally aspirated engine rated at 155-horsepower. Despite being smaller, the Fiat engine also develops more torque: 184 pound-feet as opposed to the Miata engine’s 148.

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    A high-performance Abarth edition adds four more horsepower to the Fiat engine.

    Base price for the Classica model is $24,995 excluding the $995 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless start, Bluetooth-compatible radio, tilt steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lamps, power side mirrors and dual exhaust. Final MSRP is $25,990. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

    Redesigned compact crossover with enhanced performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mazda CX-5

    2017 Mazda CX-5

    Mazda’s redesigned compact crossover builds off the original formula as a practical, yet fun-to-drive vehicle with new performance, active safety and convenience features. The base front-wheel drive model starts at $24,045 excluding destination. Nothing in that price range can out-class it. The CX-5 is a fuel-efficient, peppy vehicle with exceptionally good ride and handling with an interior versatile enough to meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.

    The top-of-the-line Grand Touring all-wheel drive model starts at $30,695. Standard convenience features include keyless start, 19-inch alloy rims, heated side mirrors, LED headlamps, fog lamps and daytime running lamps, leather upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bose audio system, Bluetooth interface, heated front seats, navigation and more.

    Options on the test car add a cargo mat, special exterior color, cargo area cover, driver’s seat memory, six-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, heads-up display and windshield wiper deicers. Final MSRP is $34,085. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    Two-seat sports car gets dramatic new styling

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

    No vehicle in Mazda’s line-up embodies the brand’s mission of affordable performance more than the MX-5 ‘Miata.’ Designed by car enthusiasts for their kindred spirits, the MX-5 delivers spirited performance both on and off the track at a price that won’t break the bank.

    This year Mazda ups the ante with the RF retractable hardtop, building on the MX-5’s current styling for more dramatic presence on the road, plus the convenience of a top that deploys in thirteen seconds.

    Pricing for the upscale Grand Touring grade starts at $32,620 excluding the $835 destination charge. Standard convenience features include 17-inch alloy wheels with R-rated performance tires, LED exterior lighting, remote keyless entry and start, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth interface, Bose audio system with HD and satellite radio, navigation, leather upholstery and heated front seats. The metal flake red exterior is an option. Final MSRP is $33,885. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Chevrolet Trax Premier AWD

    Compact crossover gets exterior restyle

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chevrolet Trax

    2017 Chevrolet Trax

    The compact Trax is the smaller sibling to the Chevrolet Equinox. Available with front or all-wheel drive, 2017 models get an exterior refresh with a new grille, headlamps and tail lamps for the upscale Premier model that replaces the LTZ. The Premier model also comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels.

    Inside drivers will find a new gauge cluster and reconfigured cockpit. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard- part of Chevrolet MyLink infotainment. All 2017 models get keyless entry and start.

    Power for the Trax comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 138-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. Zero-to-sixty for the all-wheel drive model tested is 10.08 seconds.

    Base price for the Premier AWD test car is $27,600 excluding the $895 delivery charge. Standard convenience features include a six-way power driver’s seat, storage area under the front passenger seat, air conditioning, heated seats, automatic headlamps, Bose audio system with XM radio, OnStar with automatic crash response, 4GLTE WiFi hotspot and Bluetooth interface. An active safety option package adds forward collision warning and lane departure alert. Final MSRP is $28,790. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus RX 450h AWD F Sport

    Hybrid SUV gets enhanced active safety features

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus 450h

    2017 Lexus 450h

    The 450h is the hybrid sibling to Lexus’ RX 350 midsize sport-utility vehicle. Although engineers employ electric motors to enhance fuel economy, they also boost power, giving the RX the performance of a V-8.

    A 3.5-liter V-6 engine works in concert with two electric motors- one on each axle- delivering exceptional acceleration off the line as well as 30 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy. The F-Sport edition tested adds a sport-tuned suspension, special exterior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels and unique interior.

    Base price for the RX 450h F Sport AWD is $56,495 excluding the $975 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic view monitor, touch-free rear door, triple-beam LED headlamps, Mark Levinson audio and navigation system, cargo net and carpeted cargo mat. Final MSRP is $61,804. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Ford Escape FWD

    Compact crossover features enhanced safety, better MPG

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Ford Escape

    2017 Ford Escape

    The Escape was one of the first compact crossovers when it hit the US market in 2001, and remains a staple of the segment. For 2017, Ford has refreshed the Escape with new active safety features and improved fuel economy with automatic shut-off at idle.

    Pricing for the front-wheel drive SE grade starts at $25,100 excluding the $895 destination charge. Options on the test car include a technology packages that includes the newest version of Sync, reverse sensing, roof rack side rails and Sync Connect; a two-liter EcoBoost engine; power liftgate; voice-activated touchscreen navigation system; 18-inch alloy rims, and a comfort package including heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and power side mirrors with blind spot monitoring. Final MSRP is $33,660. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Genesis G90 3.3T Premium Sedan

    High-luxury affordably priced

    By Nina Russin

    Genesis G90

    Genesis G90

    These days, it’s hard to find a high-luxury sedan priced below six figures. The notable exception is the Genesis G90 priced from $68,100 for the rear-wheel drive version equipped with a 3.3-liter turbocharged engine. If sub-70K doesn’t sound like a bargain, consider the competition. The Audi A8 starts at $82,500, BMW 7-Series at $81,500 and Mercedes-Benz S550 at $96,600.

    The 3.3-liter V-6 engine is a fine piece of work, developing 365 peak horsepower and 376 pound-feet of peak torque as low as 1300 rpm. It’s a rocket off the line and easily wins the race to the front of the highway entrance ramp. An eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode enables drivers to downshift hard for more aggressive performance.

    Buyers will appreciate a haggle-free dealership experience since the sedan comes fully loaded with safety and convenience features, including keyless entry and start, 19-inch alloy wheels, 22-way power driver’s seat, 16-way power front passenger seat, heated front and rear leather seats, navigation, wireless Qi charging, power sunroof, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, power trunk, three-zone automatic climate control and more. The price out the door is base MSRP plus a $950 destination charge. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T Quattro

    Redesigned small luxury sedan raises the bar

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Audi A4

    2017 Audi A4

    The Audi A4 is a bread-and-butter car that’s anything but bread and butter. Completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, the automaker has raised the bar in every respect, from exterior styling to power, torsional rigidity and steering response.

    Both front and all-wheel drive variants share a turbocharged two-liter direct injection engine rated at 252-horsepower, mated to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The dual-clutch gearbox replaces a continuously variable automatic transmission on the outgoing model, giving the driver crisper, more linear shifting. The turbocharged block develops peak torque- 273 pound-feet- as low as 1600 rpm for robust acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is about six seconds.

    The newest version of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system features a self-locking center differential to keep the wheels tracking straight on wet roads as well as torque vectoring for more confident cornering. Engineers reduced unsprung weight in the four-wheel independent suspension with aluminum control arms. Since aluminum is rigid in addition to being light, the new suspension has also improved steering response.

    2017 Audi A4

    2017 Audi A4

    Revisions to the car’s exterior are subtle but effective: a new hood, more aggressive wheel arches and redesigned grille. The design is timeless and elegant, yet as contemporary as anything else on the market.

    Base price for the Quattro model tested is $39,400 excluding the $950 destination charge. Options include dark blue metallic exterior paint, a premium package adding 18-inch rims, aluminum exterior trim, Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system, heated eight-way power front seats, LED headlamps and interior lighting, navigation and Audi Connect, a safety package including adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and traffic sign recognition and adaptive suspension. Final MSRP is $52,325. Read the rest of this entry »