Genesis G80 Sport

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2017 Genesis G80
2017 Genesis G80

We weren’t in the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport more than 30 seconds before my wife said, “Why don’t we get one of these?”

2018 G80 Sport
2018 G80 Sport

It’s important to point out that, despite the fact that she married me, my wife has great taste. She can quickly size up quality and isn’t afraid to voice her opinion. In the Genesis G80 Sport, she liked what she saw and felt.

By now you should know that Genesis is its own brand. Just as Toyota spun off Lexus and Nissan created Infiniti, Hyundai realized it needed a separate division if it was going to nibble away at the luxury market. Since the Genesis name was reserved for the upper Hyundai range, it only made sense to spin it off as the luxury brand.

The Genesis G80 Sport isn’t going to knock Mercedes off of its lofty perch, but it is going to wreak havoc in the mid-range of the luxury world. Once again, Hyundai has packed a lot of car into a great price.

2018 G80 Sport
Just Sporty Enough

The first thing we need to do is make a distinction between the G80 and the G80 Sport. Not surprisingly, the G80 Sport is supposed to be the performance sedan of the Genesis range. Most reviewers have called it “Sport” with quotation marks, or “Sport-Light”. While it may be sportier, they don’t think it qualifies as a true performance car. The horsepower is fine, but some folks don’t think it would measure up in a slalom test. So here’s the thing to remember: are you ever going to run it through a slalom? If the most exciting driving you do is accelerating on the curve that merges on to the freeway, don’t worry about how many Gs it will handle. You want it to accelerate crisply, brake solidly and corner in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re drifting away. The G80 Sport does all those things well. Maybe not at Audi or BMW levels, but good enough for what most people want and need.

Genesis G80 Sport 3.3 Liter Engine
Genesis G80 Sport 3.3 Liter Engine

The Sport gets a 3.3-liter twin turbocharged V6 that gives 365 horsepower. If that’s not enough for you, there is a 5.0 liter V8 that will pump out 420 horsepower. That’s just not available in the Sport version. Frankly, 365 is plenty. Push the throttle and it comes to life very quickly. It’s mated to Hyundai’s second generation 8-speed transmission which shifts just fine. You have your choice of Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow modes.

To be honest, the G80 Sport’s weakest point is probably in the MPG department. Officially it’s good for 17 MPG in the city and 25 MPG on the high way with a combined number of 20 MPG. Frankly, I only managed about 17 MPG during my test week. It was nearly all city driving and I was pretty hard on the throttle, but it’s not as good as some sporty competitors.

Genesis G80 Sport Shifter
Shifter works great, but maybe a bit awkward.

The G80 uses shift-by-wire technology. In other words, the shifter on the center console no longer has a mechanical connection to the gear box. Various manufacturers have tried different systems. Genesis has a handle with a button on the side. Push the button with your thumb and nudge the handle forward and it goes into reverse. Pull it back and you’re in drive. The only awkward thing was the park button that is situated just in front of the shift handle. It works fine, but just seems to be out-of-place.

Genesis G80 2017-2018 comparison
Genesis G80 – 2017 on the left, 2018 on the right

This year the G80 got a mild face-lift. It has redesigned headlights along with a lower front grill. If you don’t like big grilles, you won’t like modern cars. Bigger is in, especially if the car is labeled Sport. I think the G80 grille is just right. Big without being overpowering. Overall, the G80 has an attractive, upscale look.

While it may not be a super Sport, driving the car is a great experience. It uses continuous damping control suspension to give a better ride. It’s also loaded with safety features like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver attention alert and smart cruise control. I thought the thought the lane keeper assist worked very well. It gradually pushed me back into my line without being jerky.

Genesis G80 Sport Interior
Genesis G80 Sport Interior

Inside the G80 Sport gets a few special touches. It has dark chrome trim with carbon fiber along with copper contrast stitching on the leather surfaces. That copper matches the accents on the headlamps and wheels. The Sport edition comes with a Lexicon surround sound system that has 17 speakers. The display interface works well. Hyundai’s version is one of the best on the market. Easy to understand and no major glitches.

The seats were nice, but it’s the front legroom that is especially impressive. The G80 beats most of its competitors by three or four inches. Don’t need all that room up front? Fine, slide your seat forward and the folks in the back get extra room to stretch out.

Hyundai and Kia have always been big on value, and the Genesis line will carry that forward. For example, the 2018 G80 gives you 3 years/36,000 mile complimentary normally scheduled maintenance, Genesis Connected Services (which includes a suite of safety services), SiriusXM Travel Link (traffic data), and Map Care (annual navigation map updates).

2018 G80 Sport Dash
You know it’s a luxury car when it has an analog clock…

And then there’s the price. The base 2018 Genesis G80 starts at $41,750. My 3.3T Sport edition was priced at $56,225 and that included freight and handling. There were no options listed, and I can imagine that you’d really need any. Compare this to the other cars in the G80’s class and you’ll quickly realize you’re saving some serious cash.

The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport may not the pinnacle in road performance, but it’s still a strong package on just about every front and one you really need to consider if you’re looking for a luxury sedan. Besides, it only took my wife 30 seconds to figure out this car was a contender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Cars to Have Fun With in 2018

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2018 Lexus LC 500
2018 Lexus LC 500

If you’re looking for five ways to have fun with the new 2018 cars here’s a quick list:

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek – Subaru generally makes homely cars, but this one is the exception. All wheel drive means you can go almost anywhere. Plus, there must be a reason Subaru owners are so darn loyal.

 

2018 Toyota C-HR
2018 Toyota C-HR

Toyota C-HR – This is brand new from Toyota. OK, it’s just another compact SUV. But it looks so darn cool people will just feel younger driving it.

 

2018 Ford Expedition
2018 Ford Expedition

 

Ford Expedition – So you’ve finally decided to take that cross-country trip to visit all the relatives who offered you a place to stay (OK, maybe then didn’t really mean it, but why not give it a shot). You could buy an RV, but it’s a pain to park and just so darn big. The Expedition is the perfect choice. It’s a big comfortable cruiser with plenty of luggage and people space that fits into (almost) any parking spot. And you could always tow a nice Airstream if the relatives rethink the invitation. 

2018 Kia Stinger
2018 Kia Stinger

Kia Stinger – To start with, it’s got a great name! If you’re used to mundane cars for South Korea, the Stinger will change your outlook. It’s aimed straight at cars like Audi and BMW with 365 horsepower and a chassis that loves windy roads.

2018 Lexus LC 500
2018 Lexus LC 500

 Lexus LC – You’ve always wanted a Ferrari but you’re never going to spend that much on a car. Any car. Check out the new Lexus RC. Amazing looks and spectacular performance with a sticker that starts below $100k. Sure it’s a lot of money, but the guy in the Lamborghini spent way more and the valet will park this car right next to his!

 

Car Review: 2017 Kia Niro

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2017 Kia Niro
2017 Kia Niro

For years the Toyota Prius has truly owned the hybrid market. Oh sure, there have been plenty of other hybrids on the streets and they while they may have gotten better mileage than their gas counterparts, they didn’t get killer Prius-like mileage.

It’s time for the Prius to put on a little body armor. The hybrid wars are hearing up. There are now several cars that are delivering mileage in the Prius range.

2017 Kia Niro
2017 Kia Niro

Take the 2017 Kia Niro. It costs less than a Prius and delivers mileage that is darn close. Let’s start with those mileage numbers. The Niro will get 51 mpg around town and 46 on the highway for a combined number of 49. That’s 3 mpg short of what the Prius will deliver, but it’s definitely in the ball park. (By the way, if you’re after mega mileage in a traditional hybrid, try the Hyundai Ioniq. Its combined number is 58.) My test car was the Niro Touring which is rated a little lower at 43 mpg combined. Still, I averaged about 46 mpg during my week without really trying to save fuel.

Niro Hybrid Engine
Niro Hybrid Engine

Power for the Niro comes from a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 104 horsepower. It also has a 43 horsepower electric motor fitted between the engine and transmission. Working in tandem with the gasoline engine they pump out 139 horsepower. It uses a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission to get that power to the road.

Most people buying hybrids aren’t worried about 0-60 times. That’s just as well because the Niro is not especially impressive in that department. It gets you to freeway speed, but it’s not going to impress anyone along the way.

2017 Kia Niro
Taller than a car, shorter than most SUVs

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Prius and Niro is the styling. The Prius has that quirky hybrid look, while the Niro is an attractive SUV. To be honest, the Niro’s body is sort of a hybrid as well. It’s taller than a traditional car, but lower than what most folks would expect from an SUV. It’s smaller size also means limited cargo space as well, but then that’s the trade-off for the great mileage.

I love the fact that more and more cars are coming with a wider range of safety features. Depending upon options, the Niro has seven airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist and Lane Departure Warning. Kia is also touting that the Niro chassis is 53 percent Advanced High Strength Steel, including reinforcing the roof pillars and roof rails which makes it both lighter and safer.

2017 Kia Niro
Nothing fancy, but comfortable and laid out well

The Niro has a comfortable interior. My touring edition was a little more upscale and included goodies like heated and cooled seats. I liked the instrument panel. On the right hand side is a speedometer, on the left side is the energy status. I liked the status view because it was kind of subtle. It doesn’t beat you over the head with hybrid high-techiness. I’m a fan of the Kia UVO control system. It’s easy to understand and works well. My test car also had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I’m convinced that’s the future of the connectable car.

Incidentally, considering its size the Niro has impressive back seat room. It will give you nearly four inches more than the Prius.

2017 Kia Niro
Base Price Starts At $22,890

The impressive thing about the Niro is the starting price. It begins at $22,890 and works its way up. My test car had the touring package which meant it was fully loaded (including a $1,900 advanced technology package). It stickered at $32,840. If you’re still making Prius comparisons the Niro starts out at nearly $1,800 less.

In the past you’d have to decide whether you wanted an SUV, or killer gas mileage. The Kia Niro gives you the chance to have both.

 

 

Car Review: 2017 Volvo S90

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2017 Volvo S90
2017 Volvo S90

There’s no question in my mind that if The Saint ever needed a car for an elegant evening on the town, he would have chosen the 2017 Volvo S90.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD
2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD

OK, stick with me on this one.

The Saint was a TV show back in the 60s starring Roger Moore who played a thief who robbed from the really bad guys. He drove a Volvo P1800 which was a nice sporty-looking two-seater that, frankly, was more show than go. When The Saint was remade into a movie with Val Kilmer in 1997, he used a Volvo C70 coupe. Both great cars, but hardly something that would impress the valet at an upscale restaurant.

2017 Volvo S90
Simple and Elegant

The Volvo S90 could do just that. It’s brand new for 2017 and elegant from stem to stern. The clean body lines are only upstaged by the beautiful interior. Volvo claims it has invested $11 billion dollars over the last five years in developing its latest line of cars. One drive in the S90, and you’ll think it was money well spent.

Let’s start with the outside. It has clean, simple lines that just exude style. To be honest, the pictures you see don’t really even do the car justice. In person, it just looks better. The grille is typical Volvo styling flanked by a pair of headlights that Volvo refers to as “Thor’s Hammer”. The body has a slight rake that gives it just a hint of aggression. Volvo didn’t take the S90’s styling in a different direction than other luxury sedans, it just nailed the elegance of simplicity.

2017 Volvo S90 Interior
Did I mention how much I liked the interior?

I’m already gushing and I haven’t gotten to my favorite part: the interior. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautiful passenger compartment in any car. The top of the dash has a leather folio look with the perfect edge. My test car had wood trim on the dash and side panels. The seats were more than just comfortable, they were artistically sculpted. The center console is narrow without being too thin. It moves towards the dash where you’ll find a perfectly placed display interface.

Volvo S90 Dash and Display
Volvo S90 Dash and Display

That display is also interesting. It works like an iPad. You swipe between three screens. In the center is a list of your active apps, navigation and entertainment. Swipe to the left and you have all of the car’s functions, swipe to the right and you’ll find the audio controls. My test car had the Bowers and Wilkins sound system. It actually lets you choose what type of audio you’d like to hear. You can opt for studio, individual stage or concert hall. It really does make a difference. You can also  tune it to sound best for the driver, or all the passengers. Of course it’s a $2,650 option, but if you’re an audiophile you won’t be able to resist. To be totally honest, there were a few times when I found the display just a little glitchy. But overall it worked well.

Up-front in my test car was the 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 316 horsepower. Think about that for a moment. Four cylinders in less than 122 cubic inches with more than 300 horses. It’s mated up to an 8-speed transmission. It uses it’s power carefully. You’re not going to squeal away from the curbs but you’ll definitely get up to speed quickly. You can also opt for a 250 horsepower engine if you want to save some money. A hybrid gas/electric engine combo coming later this year is supposed to pump out closer to 400 horses.

Volvo Animal Detection
Volvo Safety Suite Will Even Spot A Moose.

It’s probably not a surprise that Volvo is embracing the car’s safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane keeper assist that gently nudges you back into your lean. Volvo proudly calls the S90 “semi-autonomous”. Best of all, this suite of safety features is standard. You even get Volvo’s City Safety technology that detects and warns the driver not just about other vehicles, but pedestrians and bicycles the occasional large animal as well to avoid a collision.

My test car was the S90 T6 All Wheel Drive model. The sticker started at $52,950 and went out the door at $66,105. While it’s pricy, it’s not bad compared with BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. It’s definitely a worthy option for anyone wanting something elegant that is also slightly different.

After all, if it’s good enough for The Saint, it will fit you just fine.

 

Car Review: 2017 Honda CR-V

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2017 Honda CR-V
2017 Honda CR-V

Several years ago I wrote about the Honda CR-V saying that while it was a great SUV in just about every area, it was a hard car to love. That’s because it was too smooth, too good. It just didn’t evoke much emotion.

2017 Honda CR-V
2017 Honda CR-V

Enter the newly redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V. And while it hasn’t exactly gone off the emotional edge, it’s definitely reaching into the feelings zone. Everything about the CR-V is better and frankly it’s just a little more likable. That’s important because the last generation CR-V was already a big seller for Honda. In 2016 one-quarter of all Hondas sold in the US were CR-Vs. In fact, according to Honda, the CR-V has been the best-selling SUV in America for the past 20 years, with total U.S. sales of nearly 4 million units since it was introduced in 1997. So when contemplating changes the company brass was likely holding its collective breath. They can let it go. The new CR-V is just fine.

2017 Honda CR-V
New Design For 2017

Let’s start with the outside. Honda styling hasn’t exactly been cutting edge over the last 15 years. Attractive? Yes. Forward thinking? Not really. This latest version of the CR-V takes a solid step into the current generation of automotive design. You could argue that this body style may even be a few years late, but at least it’s finally here.

2016-2017 CR-V Comparison
2016 CR-V on Left, 2017 CR-V on Right

The new look isn’t a radical departure, just a fresh restyling. Up front CR-V owners will be very comfortable with the same upward-sweep of the headlights. What they’ll also see is more bling with more chrome in the grille. And if it’s bling they want, they’ll love the rear hatch. A chrome bar stretches across and connects nicely with the bolder taillights. The side of the CR-V has a little more contouring as well which gives it a nicer look. Once again, it’s not a whole new direction, just a great update. Incidentally, Honda says the new body is more aerodynamic which will likely help fuel mileage.

2017 Honda CR-V Interior
2017 Honda CR-V Interior

The interior is a nice upgrade as well. It’s funny how one little thing can make a big difference, but that’s the case with the CR-V’s new center arm-rest. There’s a reason most manufacturers build them this way, and it was nice to see Honda jump in with something that does what driver’s actually want.

I like the new instrument display. Unlike some displays on other types of cars, the CR-V’s readout is constant. But that’s fine. It does just about everything you’ll need. There’s also a video display mounted on the dash. While it’s not the best integration I’ve seen, it’s definitely well done. The new Honda interface controls are better than the older version. The usual cluster of climate control buttons are immediately below. There’s a standard mechanical shift underneath that. None of that fancy fly-by-wire electronic stuff.

2017 Honda CR-V Engine
2017 Honda CR-V Engine

Under the hood, the Honda has given the CR-V its first turbocharged engine. It’s a 1.5 liter direct fuel injection four-cylinder good for 190 horsepower. Your other option is a 2.4 liter non-turbo engine that actually delivers only 184 horsepower. The smaller turbo engine on the all-wheel-drive model gets 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway for a combined total of 30 mpg. The non-turbo gets slightly less. During my week with the CR-V I didn’t do quite that well, but then mine was strictly city driving.

The only downside for me is the continuously variable transmission. They work great, but they aren’t exactly fun. Stepping on the throttle doesn’t give you very much kick. Granted, it’s only 190 horsepower, but CVT trannies never seem to be very enjoyable. But then, most folks simply want transportation not hard-core performance and the CR-V will deliver just fine.

2016-2017 CR-V Rear Comparison
2016 CR-V on Left, 2017 CR-V on Right

The CR-V now also has the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assisting technologies as standard equipment on EX and higher trims. High tech goodies like Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor will help keep you safe.

My test car was the Touring model with the 1.5 turbocharged engine. Nicely equipped, the final sticker price was $34,595.

The world of compact SUVs is very crowded. It’s impressive that the CR-V has dominated so well for so long. With a fresh look for 2017, it’s likely that Honda’s CR-V is poised to keep that string alive for years to come.

 

Car Review: 2017 Kia Cadenza

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2017 Cadenza
2017 Cadenza

The 2017 Kia Cadenza is going to leave stuck between the rock and the hard place.

2017 Cadenza
2017 Cadenza

On one side is the rock. A newly redesigned upscale sedan that does a lot of things right including a price that won’t force you to mortgage your home.

The hard place is the name. It’s a Kia. That’s not going to impress the gang down at the country club. They’re into BMWs and Audis. Oh sure, they’ll tell you how nice it looks, but inside they’ll be dismissing the pedestrian roots.

So which way do you go?

2017 Cadenza
Straight from the Kia California Design Studio

Let me make the case for the Cadenza. First, your friends who don’t know cars will never know it’s a Kia until you tell them. The newly redesigned exterior is a product of Kia’s California design studio. Chief Designer Peter Schreyer’s likes what he calls “the simplicity of the straight line.” That means one design feature that goes the length of the car giving it a sleeker profile.

The grille is an evolutionary step from Kia’s “tiger nose” concept. There are actually two different grills. Lower trim models get what Kia calls the “Diamond Butterfly” pattern. Upper trim gets the “Intaglio” look with vertical blades.

The 2017 Cadenza has the same overall length last year’s model, but it’s slightly wider and lower in height.  The wheelbase is a little longer which gives a little extra legroom for passenger in the back seat.

2017 Cadenza Engine
290 Horsepower is Just Right

Under the hood is a 3.3 liter V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower without a turbo. The result is instant power right when you need it. Connected to an eight-speed gearbox you’ll find it hard not to like its performance. Mileage is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway with a combined number of 23 mpg. In fact, that’s exactly what I got during my test week.

Kia touts the Cadenza’s stronger, lighter and more rigid body structure. They say it all adds up to a more enjoyable driving experience. Overall, that’s very true. Just don’t expect a sports sedan. If you love zipping through canyons, you’re probably going to need a true sporty vehicle. Having said that, the Cadenza does a great job of comfortably getting around town.

2017 Cadenza Interior
Simple Elegance Inside

Once your friends are inside, they won’t know it’s not a true luxury marque. After all, it has the official sign of all upscale cars: an analog clock on the dash. OK, it’s more than just the clock. My test car had white Nappa leather seats that are both heated and vented. Portions were quilted to give it just the right touch. It even has one of those shades that rises up to block that nasty sun from glaring through the rear window.

The dash has a nice clean layout with the Kia/Hyundai Uvo display that controls just about everything. I’ve said before I’m a fan of their system because it’s easy to understand and use. I liked that the backup monitor also uses a 360 degree view so you have no excuse if you hit that trash can in your driveway. There’s a great phone compartment at the front of the center console with a wireless charging pad.

2017 Cadenza SXL
Your Friends Will Like the Extra Leg Room in the Back

But let’s get straight to the best part. The Kia Cadenza starts with a base price of $31,990. If you want the full upscale experience, you’ll want the Cadenza Limited which starts at $44,390. Throw in all the options necessary to impress your friend and you’ll spend… $44,390. My test car $45,290 because it included a $900 freight and handling fee. Don’t forget Kia’s 5 year/60,000 miles basic warranty and 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.

You’re going to be pretty hard pressed to buy any of those fancier names in this size of car for anywhere near this price. That’s why you’re stuck. Do you want upscale value or do you want a prestige name that delivers more sporty performance?

Here’s an easy way to decide. Check out the prices and just imagine how much fun you can have with all the money you’d save buying the 2017 Kia Cadenza. So much for the hard place.

 

 

 

 

 

Car Review: 2017 Kia Soul Turbo

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2017 Soul Turbo

You have to hand it to the Kia Soul. It’s a survivor.

2017 Soul Turbo
2017 Soul Turbo

Remember when boxy cars were the rage? You could get the Nissan Cube and the Scion xB. If you wanted more room Ford had the Flex. Here we are years later and the only boxy shape left in the daily commuter world is the Kia Soul. But it’s more than just surviving. Last year Kia sold almost 150,000 of the squared off bodies. That means it’s more than any other small crossover SUV.

So how do you keep a car that owns its niche growing? Add more power, of course.

Last year the Soul’s engine options maxed out at 160 horsepower. Adding a turbo moves the 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine up to 201 horses. We’re not talking fast, but the Soul has definitely moved into the peppy range. One morning I was pulling into traffic from a side street. It didn’t bother me to punch the throttle and zip into a little spot that opened up. The engine responded quickly and I didn’t have to worry about the oncoming car chasing me down.

2017 Soul Turbo
The Boxy Survivor

A 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission helps as well. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of paddle shifters given the additional power. I’m not one of them. I’m convinced very few people actually use the paddles after the first week. They’d rather save the money.

Increasing power usually means lower MPG numbers. That’s not the case. The efficient turbo actually gets better numbers than the normally aspirated versions. You can expect 26 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway. During my week I averaged 30 MPG and I wasn’t gentle on the throttle.

I guess it’s important to point out that the Kia Soul Turbo is designed to peppier, not sportier. Kia only made slight tweaks to the suspension. But that’s OK, there are plenty of other options if you want to hit the parking lot slaloms.

2017 Soul Turbo Interior
Way Beyond Basic Inside

Inside the Soul is a long way from cheap, and not trying to be a wannabe luxo imposter. The front seats were a pleasant mix of leather and cloth with red baseball stitching. The dash has three prominent speakers that give it an old school boombox look. I think it works nicely. The Soul has the Kia/Hyundai UVO display interface. Frankly, it’s one of the best on the market. Everything works exactly the way you think it should. Having said that, the navigation is just OK. But then there aren’t many cars that do well in that department. The Soul does have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so you can tap into your phone for better directions.

There’s a fair amount of room in the back. I hauled some passengers who called the rear seat roomy and reasonably comfortable, if a little on the firm side. Fold the seat down and you get 61 cubic feet of cargo space which is pretty impressive.

2017 Soul Turbo
Plenty of Room When the Seats Fold Down

Outside, the Soul turbo has gotten some minor body refreshing. It has slightly new styling front and rear and the side skirt has a red accent.

When you buy a Soul, you can get the Base, a model called “+” (which they creatively call “plus”) and the top of the line which is the “!” When you talk to your friends, just call it the “exclaim” and avoid trying to visualize the point with body movements

You can get a base Soul for $16,100. Step up to the “!” with the turbo and the price starts at $22,800. My test car came in near $28,000.

So the Kia Soul is a successful survivor that has given buyers yet another reason it should be considered. I guess you could call it a peppy, boxy-looking, small crossover. Now that’s a niche.

Car Review: 2017 Dodge Charger Scat Pack

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Dodge Charger Scat pack
Dodge Charger Scat pack

To call the 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack a classic muscle car is both totally right and totally wrong at the same time.

22017 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack
2017 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

Back in the 60s Detroit automakers took all kinds of sedans and stuffed big engines under the hood. They had figured out that car owners like to go fast, and horsepower was the key. Fast forward to 2017 and that’s basically what you get with the Charger R/T Scat Pack. Under the hood is a 6.4 liter V8 that pumps out 485 horsepower.

Now, just take a moment to think about that number. The base Charger has a V6 that delivers 292 horsepower. Frankly, that’s all most people will ever need. So what’s it like when you throw on nearly 200 more horses? Let’s just say it’s enough fun to get you into a lot of trouble from your local law enforcement.

2017 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack
Sure the styling is getting dated, but at least it is different!

During the week I had my test car, Phoenix had a few of its rare rainy days. To be honest, I had to be careful launching from a dead stop. It way too easy to hit the throttle and start sliding as the rear wheels tried to hook up. I know that can be trouble with any car in the rain, but 485 horsepower made accelerating especially entertaining.

If you’re looking for great mileage, move along. Around town this Charger is rated at 15 MPG, while it should get about 25 MPG on the highway. The combined number is 18 MPG, which is exactly what I got during my test week. Not really great, until you factor in how much fun you had during that tank of gas.

So why is it totally not a classic muscle car? The 1960s sedans with big blocks were great in a straight line, but stopping and turning was always an adventure. Not so with the Charger R/T Scat Pack. It has big Brembo disc brakes with Bilstein sport suspension. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a sports car. But it has the tools necessary to do keep you out of trouble after you’ve done your best time in the quarter-mile.

2017 Dodge Charger R/T Interio
Interior is roomy and the Uconnect display is great.

Speaking of which, you need to check out the performance pages on the Charger’s Uconnect system. That’s the display interface which does all the usual stuff like control the audio, phone and navigation. Frankly, Chyrysler’s Uconnect is the best interface in the car business today. It just works great. Throw in the performance pages, and it’s even better. There are timer pages so you can track your best quarter-mile time (mine was 13.1 seconds) or how fast you get from 0-60 (4.8 seconds in my case). You can measure g-forces or watch how many of the 485 horses are being used at any one moment.

I always give Chrysler credit for not building cookie-cutter cars. They don’t look anything like what the rest of the car companies are building. Having said that, some of their designs are getting a little old. The Charger got a mild refresh last year and still looks nice, but I’m starting to wonder where they will go from here.

2017 Dodge Charger R/T Interior
The Scat Pack can scoot!

Base price on the Charger R/T Scat Pack is $39,995. Throw in a $995 destination charge and my test car stickered at $40,990. Frankly, that’s a lot of bang for your buck without any fancy options.

Sure, you can spend bigger bucks and get more power, but why? 485 horses will satisfy just about any adrenaline junkie. So if all you want is a thrill every time you hit the accelerator pedal, then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better package than the 2017 Charger R/T Scat Pack.

Car Review: 2017 Acura MDX

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If I get a nose job will you love me more?

2017 Acura MDX
2017 Acura MDX

Apparently that’s what the folks at Acura were pondering when they were looking at styling options for the 2017 MDX. For years Acura used a signature grille that had a heavy beak-looking piece of brightwork. It has actually been getting smaller in recent years and for 2017 the beak disappeared completely. In its place is something significantly more traditional. I can only assume that focus groups somewhere decided that while the grille was distinctive, it wasn’t attractive. No sense in having a signature look if folks don’t like it. Personally, I like the new look (not that I was included in the focus group).

Oh, and don’t think you older MDX owners will be able to buy a new look insert. The grill has a different shape to go with the new styling.

2017 Acura MDX
Not Much Change Past the Nose

I know that’s a lot to say about a nose job, but frankly, it’s the biggest change from last year’s model. And that’s not a bad thing. The Acura MDX is a solid choice in the upscale world of three row SUVs. Its 3.5 liter V6 delivers 290 horsepower which is perfect for a vehicle this size. Oh sure, more would always be nice, but this engine won’t leave you feeling underwhelmed when you pull away from the light. Mated to a 9-speed transmission it gives the MDX a nice smooth run up to freeway speeds.  You can expect 19 MPG in town and 26 mpg on the highway with a combined total of 22 MPG.

2016 Acura MDX Engine
290 Horsepower is Just Right

MDX no longer has a traditional stick for changing gears, but I can’t say I’m thrilled with the replacement. It just requires too much thinking to go from park to drive to reverse. Unlike Chryslers which have a small hockey puck-looking device that you simply twist from one gear to the next, the MDX has a park button, a lever for going backwards and different buttons for drive and neutral. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not brain surgery and I’m sure owners will get used to the system. It just seems more complicated than it needs to be.

2017 Acura MDX Interior
Interior is Upscale, but not Flashy

The interior is nice, but it’s not an all-out luxury car. The seats are comfortable, both front and rear. The third row isn’t huge, but that’s fairly normal for similar SUVs. If you want a third row that will truly be comfortable for an adult, you’d better go for a full-sized SUV. One nice touch is that the second row seat can slide forward just a bit so the folks way in the back can get a little more leg room.

2017 Acura MDX Gear Selector
Slightly Over complicated Gear Selector

The Acura display interface and controls are so-so. They work OK, but like the gear selector, they require too many steps to get where you’re going. I’m really hoping that the Acura engineers kick it up a notch in the next generation.

Is it enough to avoid the MDX? Hardly. In fact, for full disclosure, we own a 2014 edition which is very similar (minus the nose job). It’s my wife’s daily driver and she absolutely loves it.

Base price for the 2017 MDX is $44,050. My test car which was an all-wheel drive model equipped with the Advanced option package came in at $57,340. Compare it to cars higher up the luxury food chain and it’s a pretty solid deal.

So let’s recap. Solid three row SUV with a few minor flaws gets a nose job. Works for me.

Car Review: 2017 Mercedes SL450

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The 2017 Mercedes SL450 is a car that can proudly live up to its legacy.

2017 Mercedes SL450
2017 Mercedes SL450

That hasn’t always been the case in the SL world. Those two letters first came together for Mercedes back in 1952 with the W194 racing car. SL stood for “sport light”.  It gained fame with the iconic 300SL. Those were cars that were rooted in racing and performance. But other SLs haven’t always done the same. Shortly after the 300SL hit the streets, Mercedes introduced the 190SL. It was a beautiful car, but in reality it was neither sporty nor light.

As time marched on, the SL was known more as a sporty looking luxury cruiser. It owned that niche well, but it just wasn’t the same.

You can’t say the same for today’s SL450. Sure, it’s still a great luxury cruiser, but it’s honoring its sporty roots.

2017 Mercedes SL450 Engine
V6 Delivers 362 Horsepower

Let’s make it clear, the SL450 is a performance car. It has a 3.0 liter V6 engine that pumps out 362 horsepower through a new nine speed transmission. Push the throttle and you instantly feel the response. Want more? The SL550 delivers 449 horses and the AMG versions top out at 621 horsepower. More is nearly always better, but anyone buying the SL450 won’t be left disappointed. You can also use Dynamic Select to tweak the engine, transmission and suspension. I loved the fact that it had two different sport modes.  And while people buying this car aren’t likely to care an awful lot about fuel mileage, the SL450 delivers an impressive 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for a combined 23 mpg.

Mercedes changed the sheet metal on the 2017 SL models. From the front of the door forward has been redesigned. This wasn’t one of those “totally new direction” makeovers. It was a subtle revision of the old look. To be honest with you, while I like he looks of the car I wouldn’t say it qualifies as beautiful. Still, that’s all in the eye of the beholder. It’s definitely a strong sporty look that will get you recognized the moment you come into view.

2017 Mercedes SL450 roof
Convertible Hardtops Are Always Fun To Watch

The roadster is a hardtop convertible. Styling for these is always a compromise, but overall this Mercedes has a great look. And there are few things more fun than watching that top go down. The back of the car looks a little awkward, but again, it’s not bad. My test car had the $2500 magic sky roof. It darkens at the touch of a button. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go completely opaque. Living in Phoenix where we try to limit the amount of sun pounding down on us during the summer, I’m not sure that I’d really love it.

Inside the car is a wonderful experience. Plenty of luxury and sport. The seats do an awful lot. They massage you. They heat you. They cool you. They have all kinds of support. One great feature is something called the dynamic multicontour seat. Turn right or left at speed and the corresponding side bolsters gently push against you, working against the G-forces that will try to push you aside. Critical? No. Very cool? Yes.

2017 Mercedes SL450
Convertible Hardtops Just Look Better

Base price was for the SL450 is $86,950. My test car had options like the $5050 premium package (which includes the rearview camera, parking pilot, ventilated seats, multicontour seats and more. The final price as tested was $100,585. Not cheap, but at least you’re getting what you pay for. This is a luxurious sports roadster.

The 300SL established quite a legacy for Mercedes. It’s nice to know that the 2017 SL450 has answered the challenge.