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  • 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 »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8 SEL Premium

    Midsize sedan adds active safety and infotainment

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Passat

    2017 Volkswagen Passat

    If you’re looking for a German sport sedan but don’t have a German sport sedan budget, consider the 2017 Volkswagen Passat, priced from $22,440: stylish and solidly built with a full roster of active safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist. Power comes from a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers wanted more power can opt for the 280-horsepower V-6.

    The Passat is front-wheel drive, but it’s extremely well balanced front-to-back. Drivers needn’t worry about a floating rear end.

    The test car is the 1.8T SEL model priced from $30,995. The upscale grade comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED automatic headlamps, power folding heated side mirrors, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, leather upholstery, a 6.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth interface and satellite radio.

    VW Car-Net is standard on the SEL, adding smart phone apps, navigation and emergency roadside assistance. Final MSRP including the $820 destination charge is $31,815. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Kia Niro Touring

    New hybrid crossover melds versatility and value

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Kia Niro

    2017 Kia Niro

    To compare the new Kia Niro gasoline/electric hybrid to the Toyota Prius is apples and oranges. In terms of fuel economy, the Prius beats the Niro hands down. But buyers wanting a more conventional crossover with the versatility for active lifestyles and excellent gas mileage will find a lot to love in the Niro.

    Kia continues to offer exceptional value throughout the product lineup, including convenience features such as Harman Kardon audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth interface, leather seating and keyless start in a vehicle priced below $30,000. Pricing for the base model starts at the $22,890 while the upscale Touring model tested starts at $29,650. Pricing excludes an $895 delivery charge.

    Available active safety features include autonomous braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control lane departure warning. Final MSRP on the Touring model, including the aforementioned-safety features is $32,840. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    Rogue’s new sibling is a city-friendly compact crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

    The all-new Nissan Rogue Sport is a smaller, lighter version of Nissan’s popular compact crossover, competing against the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. Because the Sport is twelve inches shorter and has a lower roofline than its big brother, it loses some cargo space, rear leg and head room. Bottom line: growing families should think Rogue while singles or childless couples go with Rogue Sport.

    Since Nissan was one of the first players in the subcompact segment with the turbocharged Juke, some might wonder why the automaker is bringing out a second entry. According-to Nissan spokespersons, the Sport’s more conservative styling and lifestyle-friendly features such as the divide-n-hide rear cargo system should give the baby Rogue a bigger net to cast in the pond.

    Power for the Rogue Sport comes from a two-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 141-horsepower with 147 pound-feet of peak torque and continuously variable automatic transmission. Pricing for the base front-wheel drive model starts at $21, 420 excluding delivery while the upscale all-wheel drive SL starts at $27,420. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen CC Sport

    Entry luxury sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen CC

    2017 Volkswagen CC

    While most people don’t think of Volkswagen as a luxury brand, the automaker does produce some luxury vehicles: the sporty CC coupe-sedan among them. The CC is an older platform as Volkswagen vehicles go, but still worth a careful look for its timeless styling and appealing road manners.

    With its long nose and bullet-shaped passenger cabin, the CC is a sport sedan in the true European tradition, priced below products from many of its competitors. Pricing for the Sport model tested starts at $34,475 excluding the $865 destination charge.

    Power comes from a turbocharged two-liter engine rated at 200-horsepower and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. All grades including the base Sport come loaded with comfort and convenience features including keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats, leatherette seating, six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth interface and bi-xenon headlamps. Final MSRP is $35,340. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Prius Prime Advanced

    Plug-in hybrid gets more range and better handling

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    The Prime is the plug-in version of Toyota’s popular gasoline-electric hybrid lift-back. Unlike the first Prius plug-in, the second-generation car gets its own name and some unique styling, most noticeably the same dual wave window as Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell car.

    The Prime boasts some engineering advances over the model it replaces: better EV range at higher speeds, more active safety features, enhanced infotainment and better ride and handling. The newest Prius platform features a double wishbone rear suspension replacing the torsion beam on earlier models. Since the suspension supports the battery pack, the new arrangement eliminates the clunking sound that occurred when the prior model rode over bumps.

    There is also a night-and-day difference in on-center steering response, something the engineers are justifiably proud of. Drivers can make quick lane changes and emergency evasive maneuvers with much more confidence.

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    2017 Toyota Prius Prime

    Pricing for the upscale Advanced model starts at $33,100 excluding the $865 destination charge. Among the comfort and convenience features are an 11.6-inch high-definition center stack screen, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlamps, heated power outside mirrors, JBL premium audio system with navigation and Toyota Entune, heads-up display, SofTex heated front seats, split-folding rear seat, push-button start, Qi wireless charging, and a Smart-Flow climate control system with electronic air conditioning compressor. The electronic compressor is important, because it continues to run when the gasoline engine turns off at idle.

    Options on the test car include illuminated door sills, a tabled holder, 15-inch alloy wheels and wheel locks, paint protection film and a glass breakage sensor, bringing the final MSRP to $36,081. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport

    Right-size crossover for active urbanites

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus NX

    2017 Lexus NX

    The compact NX is the smallest of Lexus’ crossover vehicles, positioned below the midsize RX. Buyers can choose between the 200t, powered by a two-liter turbocharged engine or 300h gasoline/electric hybrid. A F-Sport package available on the 200t adds a unique grille and exterior badging, 18-inch wheels and unique interior trim. Base price is $37,185.

    Options on the test car include the F-Sport package, heated front seats, LED headlamps, navigation, 10-speaker premium sound system, power liftgate, power sunroof, mudguards and cargo mat, bringing the final MSRP to $45,718. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI

    Sporty compact sedan adds spice to the daily commute

    By Nina Russin

    Volkswagen Jetta GLI

    Volkswagen Jetta GLI

    The GLI is the premium sport grade for Volkswagen’s Jetta compact sedan. Priced from $27,895, it comes loaded with safety and convenience features including a rearview camera with park distance control, blind spot monitoring, keyless start, Bluetooth interface, Fender premium audio system, satellite radio and cruise control.

    Eighteen-inch alloy rims are an upgrade from 16-inch wheels on the base model. Automatic headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensing wipers and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof make the GLI an appealing yet affordable package. Final MSRP is $28,715. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    Midsize sport-utility vehicle with room for seven

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    Volkswagen’s newest family member, the Atlas, is a midsize SUV based on the automaker’s MQB platform first introduced in the current-generation Golf. Volkswagen is building the Atlas along with the Passat at its newly expanded Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant.

    Like the Golf and Passat, the Atlas is a front-wheel drive vehicle, and as with the new Golf Alltrack wagon, is available with all-wheel drive. Although the Atlas competes in the same segment as the Volkswagen Touareg, the vehicles are quite different.

    The premium Touareg is available only as an all-wheel drive vehicle, and with two rows of seating as opposed to three for the new Atlas. While the Touareg can tow more- up to 7,716 pounds as opposed to 5,000 for the Atlas equipped with the V-6 engine, the Atlas holds more on the inside: something that should appeal to growing families with active lifestyles.

    It’s also more affordable. The front-wheel drive four-cylinder model that arrives in dealerships later this year starts at $30,500, while the V-6 front-wheel drive base model starts at $31,900. Buyers can add all-wheel drive for $33,700 excluding destination and handling. Read the rest of this entry »