2018 NAIAS: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

January 15th, 2018 No comments

 

In its continued efforts to reinvent itself after diesel-gate, VW brings us a fully redesigned Jetta. Once simply a VW Golf with a tacked on trunk, the Jetta has continued to distance itself from its hatchback brother. The new Jetta looks significantly different than the outgoing car, adopting a 6-window greenhouse, wide grille, and clam-shell shaped hood faintly reminiscent of the original Beetle. While this is the 7th generation Jetta, the 6th generation that bowed for the 2011 model year was met with criticism that the VW-ness was gone. The interior was panned for being low grade without even the availability of genuine leather while the rear suspension lost its multi-link setup on the base car. This 7th generation appears to partly be a return to form, with a full array of eight interior colors and combinations, a personalized gauge cluster, and gimmicky ambient lighting. A manual transmission remains available, though only on the base trim level. The torsion beam rear suspension returns, however, after having been eliminated later in the 6th generation’s product cycle. Power is derived from a 1.4L turbo with an underwhelming 147 hp but respectable 184 lb.-ft. of torque. With the car being 1.3 inches longer than the outgoing model, we expect that powertrain to be very mild mannered. In a market obsessed with crossovers it will be interesting to see if this nearly mid-size sedan will help bolster VW’s sales.

2018 NAIAS: 2019 Hyundai Veloster

January 15th, 2018 No comments

 

The Hyundai Veloster has always stood out from the crowd, defying convention in the compact car market. In its first redesign the two-and-a-half door hatchback keeps what makes it unique. Powertrains range from a 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to a 6-speed manual or automatic, to a 1.6L turbo 4 cylinder mated to a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. No power output is reported for the 2.0L but the 1.6L turbo squeezes out just over 200 hp. With manual transmissions available on both engine options the Veloster continues to pursue the purist enthusiast. Hyundai’s big news is its “N” performance package. The Veloster N cranks the power up to 275 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque out of just two liters. The 6-speed manual in the N features an automatic rev-matching system and transfers power through an electronic limited-slip differential. Visually the N is differentiated by red rocker panel and front fascia trim. The interior of the N receives cloth sport seats and unique steering wheel. Expect to see the Veloster N in the fourth quarter of 2018.

2018 NAIAS: 2018 Ford EcoSport

January 15th, 2018 No comments

 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Ford’s smallest crossover is the Escape. The new for 2018 EcoSport sounds more like an engine option or trim package than a separate model. What should not be a suprise is that Ford has slipped this small crossover into it lineup. Intended to do battle with the likes of the Buick Encore, Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Toyota C-HR the EcoSport starts at an accessible $19,995. Base power comes from a 1.0L turbo engine that Ford seems reluctant to mention is a 3-cylinder or its power output. It is paired to a 6-speed automatic. Most buyers will likely step up to the 2.0L engine, which actually maintains the same 29 mpg highway EPA rating as the 1.0L but suffers with a city ration of 23 mpg vs. 27 mpg for the 1.0L. Power likely isn’t the main concern for an EcoSport buyer as a low monthly payment paired with crossover styling are the typical priorities. A swing out rear door is used in lieu of the conventional top opening hatch, a welcome feature for taller buyers. Offered in S, SE, Titanium, and SES trim, a full array of technology is available such as Ford’s SYNC and 8 inch touchscreen, cross traffic alert, and MyKey for teen restricted driving modes. Ford can’t afford to watch customers stray to other brands for the their compact crossover needs. Time will tell if the EcoSport catches on like the surprise success of the Buick Encore.

2018 NAIAS: 2019 Ford Ranger

January 15th, 2018 No comments

 

Ford has been without a compact truck since the long-running Ranger left the US market at the end of 2012. The little truck had been built on the same basic chassis since its 1983 model year introduction. Once a Ford best seller with more than 300,000 sales each year between 1998 and 2000, sales dwindled to less than 60k in 2010. Famously, the last Ranger off the assembly line was a fleet truck sold to Orkin exterminators. Ford hasn’t had much reason to reintroduce the beloved compact truck with the successful F-150 continuing to top the sales charts. With the Toyota Tacoma and GM Colorado/Canyon cousins earning healthy sales, Ford has decided to defend its pick-up truck turf with the 2019 Ranger. Fully updated for the needs of the current market, the Ranger offers s 2.3L EcoBoost 4 cylinder paired to a 10-speed automatic. The new Ranger is offered in SuperCrew quad cab configuration – something it never offered previously in the United States. A SuperCab (extended cab) will also be offered. There will be a myriad of trim offerings including XL, XL Chrome, STX, XLT, XLT Chrome, XLT Sport, Lariat, Lariat Chrome, and Lariat Sport. Pricing is unknown at this point, and there is no official announcement about a Raptor version, but we can say it is nice to see the Ranger nameplate offered to US buyers once again and bring on that mini Raptor!

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2018 NAIAS: 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

January 15th, 2018 No comments

 

As a last hurrah before the open-secret mid-engine C8 Corvette debuts, Chevy is treating enthusiasts of its two-seat sports car to its 755 horsepower ZR1. This 6.2L LT5 small block V8 is supercharged and churns out 716 lb.-ft. of torque. With a claimed top speed of 212 mph, this is the fastest production Corvette in history. Stopping power is provided by Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. An outrageous-looking wing is available with the ZTK Performance Package that is intended to provide down-force for optimal track times. Also part of the ZTK package are carbon fiber end caps on the front splitter, Michelin Sport Cup 2 summer tires and Magnetic Ride Control. Notably, this is the first time the ZR1 is available in a convertible bodystyle. Purists can rejoice that a 7-speed manual transmission is available alongside the eight-speed automatic. A Sebring Orange Design package includes orange brake calipers, rocker and splitter accent stripes, seat belts, interior stitching and bronze aluminum interior trim. Chevy announced a starting price of $119,995 so it looks like the ZR1 will continue the Corvette tradition of being a relative performance bargain.

2018 NAIAS: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado

January 15th, 2018 No comments

 

2019 is turning out to be the year of the truck. In addition to Ford reintroducing the beloved Ranger, both GM and FCA are debuting fully redesigned full size trucks for the same model year. This doesn’t happen often: 2004 saw the debut of the Nissan Titan with the Ford F-150 and prior to that 1967 Ford and GM had ground up redesigns of their trucks. Chevrolet teased us in December with a private reveal of its new TrailBoss trim level, but pulled the wraps off the rest of the eight (yes, eight!) trim levels at NAIAS. The pickup wars are strong, so Chevy introduces a power tailgate, inside bed storage compartments, wider bed, and storage bins in the rear seatback. The truck manages to shed about 450 pounds with the use of high strength steel and aluminum for the doors, tailgate and hood, but notably not an aluminum cargo box – for better or worse – like the Ford F-150. The big news really is the powertrain, which includes revised versions of the 5.3L and 6.2L V8s. Diesel lovers will rejoice at the inclusion of an 3.0L inline six Duramax. The 6.2L and 3.0L both are paired to a new 10-speed automatic. No power ratings are announced yet (nor pricing), but being a light duty diesel the fuel economy numbers will be just as important to the success of this diesel against the 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel in the Ram and the F-150’s new Powerstroke. The truck wars are heating up, and regardless of which brand comes out on top, customers will be the real winners.

2018 NAIAS: 2019 Buick Regal

January 15th, 2018 No comments

As midsize car owners continue to flock to crossovers, Buick attempts to minimize the exodus from its midsize Regal with a two-pronged approach. No longer a traditional sedan, Regal is now dubbed Sportback, in reference to its hatchback design. Accompanied by the Sportback is the TourX, which is Buick-speak for wagon. Light rocker cladding gives it crossover pretensions similar to an Audi A4 Allroad or Suburu Outback, but wagon lovers know the truth. The Sportback offers a 250 hp 2.0L turbo, while the GS features a 310 hp 3.6L V6 paired exclusively with all wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic. Neither powertrain offers a manual transmission, which was unexpectedly offered at times throughout the previous generation Regal’s tenure. The TourX offers only the 2.0L Turbo and standard AWD.  Prices (with destination charge) start at $25,915 for the Sportback, $39,995 for the GS, and $29,995 for the TourX.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado Design Critique

December 8th, 2017 No comments

Chevrolet surprised us with a reveal of the 2019 Silverado even though we are still a couple weeks away from the North American International Auto Show and it is still only 2017. If there are any surprises with this design it is that the bowtie brand continues to gravitate back toward its milestone 1988-98 truck design. The two tiered grille remains, but the body sides appear to attempt some stylistic connection to the passenger car line within the brand. This is the new Trail Boss trim so it will be interesting to see what variations in the styling are featured among the typical myriad of trim levels. Read more…

Video Review: 2017 Toyota Highlander XLE

August 11th, 2017 Comments off

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2017 Chicago Auto Show: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT

February 21st, 2017 No comments

 

The Dodge Durango has been promoted as the three-row Dodge Charger. That description has held some truth. After all, the Charger and the Durango share the V6 Pentastar and V8 HEMI engines. What they have not shared, however, is the Charger’s SRT powertrains. That all changes with the first ever Durango SRT. While the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) badge might seem like an oxymoron on a crossover, skeptics may change their minds when they learn of the Durgano’s 392 cubic inch V8 that produces 475 horsepower and 490 pound feet of torque. They also may be swayed by the all wheel burnouts such a powertrain can produce with the Durango’s all-wheel-drive setup. Zero to sixty comes in at just 4.4 seconds. Indeed, a seven passenger family hauler never looked like so much fun. Exterior modifications on the SRT include a functional hood scoop that looks like it was swiped from the Charger Hellcat, and the looks-like-a-stormtrooper grille and lower fascia. A t-shifter replaces the rotary knob and commands the 8 speed automatic. Stiffer springs and sway bars aid in handling, and Brembo brakes bring the crossover to a stop. If this SRT-badged Durango sounds like a cure for the common crossover, you can find it at Dodge dealers beginning in the fall of 2017.