Dec 112017
 

If you produced America’s best-selling car for over 41 years, you might tread lightly with a redesign. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Happily, Honda didn’t play it safe with the all-new 2018 Honda Accord and Latino Traffic Report was at the launch in Vermont for a chance to drive it.

Introduced to the United States in 1976, the Accord is the second-longest-running automotive nameplate in Honda’s history, after the Civic. Popular from the get-go, the Accord remains a top-seller in its segment. According to Honda: “Since its introduction, American car buyers have purchased more Accords than any other passenger car, with total U.S. sales exceeding 13 million vehicles.”

The classic midsize sedan’s groundbreaking redesign begins with an all-new body with a lower, wider stance, a lighter and more rigid unibody structure, new LED headlamps that sharply resemble those of Honda’s higher-end brand, Acura, a sweeping greenhouse, a bold front fascia, and a longer and lower hood. These features combine to create a more upscale appearance than the previous model.

The new body adds 1.9 inches of added rear legroom while overall passenger volume increases by 2.5 cubic feet and trunk space, grows to 16.7 cubic feet on all models.

Under the hood, the V6 is no longer an option, but the tenth generation Accord can be powered by three four-cylinder engines, including Accord’s two new turbos—a 1.5-liter direct-injected turbo with dual Variable Timing Control (VTC) 192 horses and 192 lb.–ft. of torque, and a 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo with dual VTC and 252 hp and 273 lb.–ft. of torque. Both can be matched to a six-speed manual transmission on the Sport trim. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) can be mated to the 1.5- liter and a new ten-speed automatic transmission is available to pair with the 2.0-liter. Both engines and configurations were available to drive at the launch as well as the third-generation 2018 Honda Accord hybrid. All models at the launch performed handily, including both engines, as did the hybrid.

As a staunch fan of manual transmissions, it’s a treat to have this option, especially in this segment much less on two trim levels. Most manual transmission remain available as a method of bringing the price point down but by offering the manual on two trims, enthusiasts like me can also get features like a blind spot monitor, standard on the 2.0-liter.

At the launch, only fuel economy figures for the 1.5-liter were available. Matched to the six-speed manual transmission, the Accord Sport should achieve 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. We achieved an average of 32 mpg at the launch. The CVT will achieve one mpg better than the manual in the city on the Sport trim but on other trims it earns four mpgs more in the city and three mpgs better on the highway.

Standard safety features, like Collision Mitigation and Adaptive Cruse Control, are included with Honda Sensing as well as the new Traffic Sign Recognition system that scans speed limit signs and updates the map display immediately.

Standard creature comforts on the Accord include dual zone climate control, push button start, a capless fuel filler, a customizable seven-inch TFT digital display in the gauge cluster, seven-inch audio display (with knobs), and USB audio interface. Higher-end features include an eight-inch audio display, heated leather seats (front and back), a power moonroof, Head-Up Display, wireless phone charging (Android only), and Honda satellite-linked navigation.

With manual transmissions available on two trims and a new sporty upscale exterior, the 2018 Accord should continue to dominate a crowded segment.

Built at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio auto plant since 1982, pricing for the 2018 Honda Accord starts at $24,445 with destination fees.

Dec 052017
 

 

As 2017 comes to a close, so does the fifty-first anniversary year of the Toyota Corolla. The revolutionary compact sedan continues to evolve from basic transportation to a sporty competitor in its segment, like the 2017 Corolla XSE, recently tested by Latino Traffic Report.

Production on the first Corolla began in November of 1966, eventually crossing the Pacific for its debut in the United States in 1968. It would become the “best selling nameplate of all time,” according to the manufacturer. It has also been one of the top sellers to Latinos car buyers as well.

Initially, it’s fuel efficiency and affordability set it apart. According to Toyota: “When the first Corolla arrived in the U.S., gasoline cost about 25 cents per gallon (the equivalent of about $1.75 in 2016). Many American drivers saw the long-term value in higher fuel economy and chose Corolla for that reason.”

Growing competition has forced Toyota to improve the Corolla’s other attributes, like performance and looks. For its fiftieth anniversary, the Corolla got refreshed styling with a sportier bent, from the new front grille and LED headlamps, as well as a special edition in 2017, the Corolla SE, with a special paint color, Black Cherry Pearl. The test model came in Blue Crush Metallic, and with blue accent stitching on the Softex seating and blue ambient lighting on the door sills.

It’s powered by a 1.5-cylinder four-cylinder engine that produces 132 horsepower and matched to a Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligence and a sport mode to enhance its performance. Despite its size, the engine had a louder than average rumble. The test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. I averaged 29.5 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

All Corollas now come with a backup camera, plus the advanced Toyota Safety Sense-P technology, that bundles the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beams. A blind spot monitor, however, is not available.

Like the Corolla’s performance and exterior, its feature package has also evolved beyond a simple AM radio. Standard fun features on all Corollas in 2017 include Bluetooth, the Entune infotainment system, air conditioning, cruise control, 60/40-split rear seat, and a manual tilting telescopic steering wheel. Each trim level adds more features culminating in the top of top-of-the-line XSE, like the test model that brought driver and front passenger heated seats, a Smart Key with push button start, Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation and a seven-inch touchscreen, AM/FM CD player, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

The test model added stand-alone options like Entune Premium Audio ($525), mudguards ($129), and TRD Performance Exhaust ($649) and air filter ($80).

Pricing for the 2017 Corolla starts at $19,445. The As-tested pricing came to $26,288.

SI: Sporty and stylish, the Corolla offers good value and fuel economy plus you can still get a CD player.

No: The new exterior design does add sportiness but I’m not a fan of the gaping grille, plus a blind spot monitor should at least be available.

 

Nov 242017
 

At Latino Traffic Report (LTR), the chance for a back-to-back comparison of automotive competitors is rare, but sometimes, lightning strikes. Such was the case with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and the 2017 Nissan Rogue. Sharing a similar shade of exterior paint (Cajun Red and Palatial Ruby, respectively), they looked like brothers from another mother, but they were not. They were rivals that distinguished themselves in several ways.

Testaments to the increasing popularity of the small SUV segment, both models are top sellers for their brands. Equinox sales have reached nearly two million units since its launch and it is Chevrolet’s second-best selling vehicle overall, after the Silverado. Similarly, new sales records designate the Rogue as Nissan’s top-selling vehicle in the United States.

The two were nimble for city driving but the redesigned Equinox, also lighter by 400 pounds, felt much smaller compared to the outgoing model. It arrived in the mid-range LT trim as opposed to the Rogue, which came in the top-of-the-line SL AWD trim.

Under the hood, the Equinox offers three engine choices, all turbos—a 1.5-liter, 2.0-liter, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel (a segment exclusive). I drove the 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque.

Rogue SL seats

The Rogue can be equipped with a choice of two four-cylinder engines, a 2.0-liter on the hybrid or a 2.5-liter matched to the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission with Sport and Eco mode switches. I drove the latter that produced 170 horses and 175 lb.–ft. of torque, giving the Equinox the power advantage. The Rogue, however, should have been more fuel efficient, with an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 25/32 mpg compared to the Equinox’s 22/29 mpg rating. But I averaged 25.4 mpg with the Rogue and 26.7 mpg with the Equinox.

Equinox LT seats.

An SUV earns its stripes with utility, beginning with seating and cargo capacity. Both offer seating for five but the Rogue can also seat seven on lower trim levels with an optional third row. On the test model, the heated, two-tone leather seats elevated the Rogue’s interior, while the Equinox had quilted cloth seats. Both have 60/40 split second-row seats that fold flat. Inside, the Equinox there’s up to 63.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with the second row folded but the advantage goes to the Rogue with 70 cu. ft. of cargo room.

These family vehicles are not without safety innovations. Both SUVs equip all trim levels with rearview cameras but the Rogue tops that with its optional and innovative around view monitor on the SL trim. For the 2018 model year, a blind spot monitor will be standard on the Rogue but not on current models.

Rogue dash.

Chevy, however, offers its own signature safety technology, starting with Teen Driver (standard) that allows parents to set controls in order to encourage safe driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle. The optional and improved Safety Alert seat on the test Equinox buzzed the left or right upper thigh as a warning and the available Rear Seat Reminder, also on the test model, pinged when the ignition was turned off to remind me to check the back seat before locking the SUV.

Equinox dash.

The standard MyLink infotainment system on the Equinox that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, can be matched to a standard seven- or an available eight-inch-diagonal color touchscreen, included on the test model via the Sun and Infotainment Package ($1,995). Other convenience features included cruise control, air conditioning, and keyless start. The Confidence and Convenience Package ($1,945) added a power liftgate, heated front seats, and side blind zone alert.

Nissan Connect with Navigation was included on the Rogue SL along with a seven-inch display, Nissan Voice Recognition for navigation and audio, and a motion activated tailgate. The SL Premium Package ($2,020) added a panoramic sunroof, and the Platinum Package ($770) added intelligent cruise control, among other features.

Available in four trim levels, and FWD or all wheel drive (AWD) combinations, pricing for the next-generation 2018 Equinox starts at $24,525. The as-tested price came to $34,375. The Rogue comes with three trims as well as a hybrid and the all-new Rogue Sport and a choice of FWD or AWD. Pricing starts at $24,795. The as-tested pricing came to $31,365.

Sí The Equinox included innovative safety technology like Teen Safety, OnStar, and Rear Seat Reminder.

The Rogue offered better value, with seating versatility, five or seven, as well as convenience technology like a power liftgate, plus a blind spot monitor that will soon be standard.

No: Important safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, was unavailable on the base trim levels of the Equinox.

The Rogue was less fuel-efficient than expected.

 

 

Nov 222017
 

2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) is recalling certain 2014-2018 Mirage vehicles. The internal acceleration sensor in the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) Electronic Control Unit (ECU) can misinterpret vibrations such as those from poor road conditions or a flat tire to be a sensor error thereby disabling the air bags from deploying in a crash.

Air bags that do not deploy as designed in a crash increase the risk of injury.

MMNA will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the SRS-ECU software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in November 2017. Owners may contact MMNA customer service at 1-888-648-7820. MMNA’s number for this recall is SR-17-006.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Nov 152017
 

2018 Truck of Texas: Ford F-150. Photo by Kevin McCauley.

Latino Traffic Report (LTR) would like to recognize the winners of the 2018 Texas Truck Rodeo, hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) and presented by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI). Taking the top three awards, Truck of Texas, Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) of Texas, and Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) of Texas were the Ford F-150, the Volvo XC60, and Alfa Romeo Stelvio, respectively.

2018 SUV of Texas: Volvo XC60.

The thirtieth annual Texas Truck Rodeo took place at the Longhorn Ranch in Dripping Springs, TX.

2018 CUV of Texas: Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

Each year, automotive journalists spend two days driving on off- and on-road courses, testing  vehicles (trucks, SUVs, CUVs, and commercial vehicles) to select winners in 21 categories as well as three overall winners. Sixty-four vehicles, with a combined value of nearly $4 million were test driven this year by 75 journalists.

“The competition was incredibly fierce at this year’s Texas Truck Rodeo,” said TAWA President Nic Phillips. “Journalists put in more than 300 hours of driving time, evaluating the vehicles presented. The results in several categories are separated by the narrowest of margins … confirming just how competitive the trucks and utility vehicles are today,” Phillips said.

 

Full-size Pick-up of Texas: Nissan Titan. Photo by Kevin McCauley.

Engineers from the competing manufacturers were on hand to answer questions from journalists about the vehicles and to aid in the evaluation process. Vehicles are measured on their interior, exterior, value, performance, and personal appeal

Traditionally, new features or new models tend to attract the most votes. Restyled for 2018, one memorable moment in the F-150 Limited included getting a massage from the all-new seat massage function. This is the ninth win for Ford at the rodeo and a repeat from last year when the Ford F-250 won the title.

Mid-size CUV of Texas-Mazda CX-5. Photo by Kevin McCauley.

“With the new 2018 F-150, we’re honored to earn back-to-back Truck of Texas awards for F-Series, a recognition that speaks to the truck team’s dedication to our hard-working customers,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president and president of North America. “That’s especially true here in Texas – truck capital of the world.”


The SUV of Texas win represents a three-peat for Volvo. It was also the last SUV to be named Truck of Texas in 2003, prompting creation of the SUV and CUV of Texas awards. The 2018 XC60 T6 and the super luxe T8 Hybrid, with premium features like an Orefors crystal shift knob, were entered to compete in the Mid-Size Luxury SUV of Texas category, which it won as well. Additional awards for the XC60 included Best Connectivity for its Sensus infotainment system and Best Powertrain. Alfa Romeo’s first CUV also won the Luxury CUV of Texas category.

Overall, Nissan was the most overall awarded brand with five category wins and Mazda swept the three non-luxury CUVs, categories. Other highlights from the event included a near vertical climb up a hill with the Ram Power Wagon, assisted by a winch and the Land Rover Discovery, assisted by cruise control.

The following is a list of all the winners.

The 2018 award categories and winning vehicles were:

  • Truck of Texas: 2018 Ford F150
  • SUV of Texas: 2018 Volvo XC60
  • CUV of Texas: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport
  • Heavy duty pickup truck: 2018 Ram 2500 Limited Tungsten
  • Best commercial vehicle: 2018 Nissan Titan King Cab SV
  • Luxury pickup truck: 2018 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Southfork
  • Off-road pickup: 2017 Ford F150 Raptor
  • Full-size pickup: 2018 Nissan Titan Midnight Edition
  • Midsize pickup: 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
  • Best technology: Nissan Pro Pilot
  • Best connectivity: Volvo XC60
  • Best powertrain: Volvo XC60
  • Off-road utility vehicle: 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Recon
  • Sub-Compact SUV: 2017 Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk
  • Compact SUV: 2018 Nissan Rogue Platinum
  • Mid-size Luxury SUV: 2018 Volvo XC60
  • Compact Luxury SUV: 2018 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD
  • Full-size SUV: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT
  • Mid-size SUV: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
  • Compact SUV: 2018 Nissan Rogue Platinum
  • Full-size CUV: 2018 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring AWD
  • Mid-size CUV: 2017 Mazda CX5 Grand Touring GT
  • Compact CUV: 2018 Mazda CX3 Grand Touring FWD
  • Luxury CUV: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport
Nov 082017
 

At Latino Traffic Report (LTR), we celebrate advancement by Latinos in the auto industry. Most car buyers know Infiniti as Nissan’s premium brand but for Latinos, it has special significance. Every model bears the mark of senior vice president for Nissan Global Design and chief creative officer, Alfonso Albaisa, one of the highest-ranking Latino executives in the auto industry. Since 2013, Albaisa has made sure each Infiniti model combines provocative looks with luxury and technology, like the 2017 QX30 Premium AWD, that I recently test-drove.

“The category defying design of the QX30 stays true to the inspiration behind the daring QX30 Concept,” says Albaisa. “Its mix of artistry in the flowing lines, and power in the elevated stance and confident look, makes a bold visual statement and challenges current preconceptions of what a crossover should look like.”

Unique design cues, like the signature crescent or boomerang shape repeated throughout, like on the C-pillar and the front grille, also set the QX30 apart in a crowded segment.

To help buyers choose the model that suits their needs, it’s available in six trim levels: QX30, QX30 Luxury, QX30 Premium, QX30 Sport, QX30 Luxury all-wheel drive (AWD), and the top-of-the-line QX30 Premium AWD that I drove. The wide range of trim levels, however, results in a price difference of nearly $10,000 between the base and top-trim level, before adding optional packages.

Infiniti’s around-view monitor in the rain.

Impressive technology includes the new Intelligent Park Assist system that uses twelve sensors to park itself in parallel and reverse-in spots, available as part of the Technology Package ($2,200) or standard on the Sport trim. Happily, the test model came with this package that also included blind spot and lane departure warning systems, intelligent cruise control, an around view monitor, and forward emergency braking.

Powered by the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 208 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a seven-speed automatic dual clutch transmission, it should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 30 mpg for the AWD. I averaged 27 mpg during the weeklong test drive. The front-wheel drive should achieve three more city/highway mpgs.

The Intelligent AWD also included a drive mode selector to customize the ride and handling. For increased fuel efficiency, I chose the Economy mode and for tighter steering on Austin’s curviest road, FM 2222, I selected the Sport mode.

Inside, the QX30 showcases premium materials selected by Infiniti designers. The test model included the optional Café Teak Theme Package ($1,750) featuring brown Nappa leather seating and accent pieces, the Dinamica headliner, and genuine wood trim. Navigation was also added as part of a package ($1,850), which also added front and rear parking sensors.

Standard creature comforts on all QX30s include Intelligent Key, a rearview monitor, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control with rear seat vents, Infiniti InTouch with a seven-inch screen, and HD radio.

The QX30 Premium grade I drove added a Bose ten-speaker premium audio system, a rain-sensing windshield wiper with heated washers, the around view monitor, LED fog lamps, chrome trunk finisher, and aluminum kickplates. Oddly, neither the tilting telescopic steering wheel nor the tailgate were automatic.

Pricing for the 2017 QX30 starts at $30,945. The as-tested pricing came to $48,035.

Sî: The QX30 Premium is one of the sleekest crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) in its segment, favored by beautiful design.

No: The need to purchase packages to get features like a blind spot monitor and navigation in a premium segment was disappointing.

Note: Nissan is recalling 2017-2018 Infiniti QX30 vehicles. The driver’s air bag may unexpectedly deploy due to insufficient grounding of the steering components if an electrostatic discharge occurs and the air bag clockspring is broken. Owners may contact Infiniti customer service at 1-800-622-6200, option 7 or go to www.safercar.gov.
Oct 262017
 

Proving that no manufacturer is immune from recalls, Latino Traffic Report has learned that Tesla, Inc. (Tesla) is recalling certain 2016-2017 Model X vehicles. The left-side, second row, reclining seat backs may not fully latch due to having incorrectly adjusted recliner mechanism cables. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 207, “Seating Systems,” and 210, “Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages.” If the seat back moves forward in the event of a crash, it can increase the risk of injury.

Tesla will notify owners and Tesla service technicians will correct the cable adjustment for the left-side, fold-flat, second row, seat recliner mechanism, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in October 2017. Owners may contact Tesla customer service at 1-877-798-3752. Tesla’s number for this recall is SB-17-13-004.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov

Oct 152017
 

Determined to end deaths or serious injury in a Volvo vehicle by the year 2020, the Swedish automaker encroaches on that goal with every new model or redesign. The 2018 version of the XC60 small sport utility vehicle (SUV), for example, gets three new collision avoidance safety features. I recently drove the XC60 at the launch in Barcelona, Spain for Latino Traffic Report. For those who haven’t been to Barcelona, imagine San Francisco—the two are strikingly similar. That backdrop would complement any car, but the 2018 XC60 stood out for its own assets, i.e. beautiful design combined with cutting edge safety and powertrain technology.

The midsize SUV has been a popular addition to the Volvo lineup. According to Volvo, over one million XC60s have been sold globally since it was introduced in 2008 and the vehicle represents 30 percent of Volvo Cars’ global sales.

Car buyers already benefit from Volvo safety innovations, like the three-point seat belt or the Blind Spot Indication System (BLIS). New safety updates on the XC60’s Intellisafe City Safety system include Oncoming Lane Mitigation that uses steering assistance to prevent drivers from changing lanes into other vehicles. Steering assistance has also been applied to BLIS for the new XC60. It may feel like a “ghost in the machine” but when tested in Spain, the nudge it provides is just enough to get the driver’s attention but not so strong as to be alarming. They join standard City Safety features like pedestrian, cyclist, vehicle, and large animal detection. BLIS, however, remains optional, but we were informed at the launch that it will be a standard feature on future models. For added security, Volvo On Call with remote engine start is standard on all models for four years.

The XC60 also includes Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous feature from Volvo. It helps with steering, braking, and acceleration on roads at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, like adaptive cruise control but without needing a car in front of it to follow. According to Volvo, it’s intended to reduce stress in “stop-and-go commuter traffic.”

Safety isn’t all that Volvo improves upon. The striking but utilitarian Scandinavian design on every model gets better and better. On the 2018 XC60, designers repurpose driftwood to accent the interior on the Inscription trim level. According to Thomas Ingenlath,
senior vice president, design Volvo Cars: “Driftwood is a material formed by the sea and colored by exposure to salt and the extreme temperatures of our unique geography. Driftwood’s naturally silvered surface is an entirely new treatment that is alive with subtle colors and texture.”

For the test drive, we drove the T6 Inscription with the Luxury Seat Package that included heated and ventilated massaging front seats, heated rear seats, a power cushion extension on the front seats, a colorful 12.3-inch driver display for the digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, door handle illumination, and a hands free power liftgate.

To improve the ride, the XC60 sits on a new double wishbone front suspension for reduced torque and understeer and rear-wheel suspension with an integral link design. The available air suspension on the T6 and T8 features automatic leveling for improved ride stability as well as speed dependent steering, active dampers, and a Drive Mode selector with Comfort, Dynamic, ECO, Individual, and Off Road settings. All-wheel drive is standard on all XC60s.

Standard creature comforts include leather seats, a nine-inch Sensus screen that also provides a clear vantage when utilizing the standard backup camera, a panoramic sunroof, multi-zone climate control, and 4G LTE connectivity with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. It offers seating for five and 63.3 cubic feet of cargo with rear seats folded, a loss of about four inches from the previous XC60.

Two remarkable four-cylinder engines power the new XC60, a turbo 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower and 258 ft.–lb. of torque on the T5 base model, a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter with 315 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque on the T6. Super peppy and responsive, the engine belies its size, particularly on the T6 driven at the launch. The T5, however, should be the most fuel efficient, besides the Hybrid (see below) with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Pricing for the 2018 XC60 starts at $42,495. The as-tested pricing was about $53,795.

The 2018 XC60 launch took place in Barcelona, but the actual test drive headed into the surrounding countryside. While the route held certain challenges, like distracting Catalonian vistas and road signs en español, I knew the XC60 had my back.

—Valerie Menard

The new Volvo XC60 T8

Volvo Completes XC60 Lineup with the T8 Hybrid Launch

Volvo sees the future of cars as being electric and self-driving, and the 2018 XC60 T8 electric/hybrid is an early favorite in what will be a very competitive field. Recently launched in Denver, CO, the T8 hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder twin engine that delivers 400 hp and 472 ft.–lb. of torque matched to an electric motor and lithium ion battery. It has an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 59 mpge.

To enhance ride and handling, the Hybrid model offers six  drive modes—Hybrid, Power, Pure, Individual, Off-Road, and AWD.

I had the opportunity to spend some time in the T8 trim, which really is worth considering if electric power is important to you. Be advised, the T8 is great for highway driving, beautiful for a ride, impressive on the inside and out, but not racing. It handled beautifully at the launch, as it went through curves and challenges all along the Rocky Mountains. The power, however, is a bit crimped and stalled, but that’s how these electric/hybrid types are. You don’t get from electricity what you get from gas, and that can be a bit disappointing to your ears and your heart.

Clearly, the Swedes are taking aim at impressive luxury crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. The market for these vehicles is very competitive and promises to get even more so, but that’s great for buyers who today have more choices than ever before. All this and all the luxury and precision for which Volvo is known is on full display here.

On sale now, pricing starts at $53,895.

—Sammy Gomez

Oct 112017
 

Winding up Hispanic Heritage Month, Latino Traffic Report has learned that Alba Colón Chevrolet Racing program manager, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series received the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Award, sponsored by ExxonMobil the at the Thirtieth Hispanic Heritage Awards presented by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), September 14 at the historic Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. The show was also televised on PBS, October 6.
Created by the White House in 1987 to commemorate the establishment of Hispanic Heritage Month in America and supported by 40 national Hispanic-serving institutions that co-host the program, The Awards are among the highest honors by Latinos for Latinos.

STEM Award Honoree Alba Colon and J.W.Cortés

“I am very proud of my heritage and I would not have wanted to journey through this life any other way,” commented Colón during her acceptance speech. “By working together and celebrating the beauty of our heritage and who we are … we can change the world.”
A Spanish native, Colon grew up in Puerto Rico where she moved with her family at the age of three. It was an interest in space, not cars that led her to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. She worked at Sterling Pharmaceuticals in Puerto Rico after college but left to work on the Formula SAE program, where she, as team captain, built race cars from the ground up, exhibiting them at events held at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI. GM hired her after three years of competing in the Formula SAE program, and in 2001, named her Chevrolet Racing’s Program Manager for NASCAR Cup racing. She’s one of the most powerful women in the sport and the only top female engineer in the sport of NASCAR racing.
“As a Latina in a traditionally underrepresented field, Alba Colón is a transformative role-model for our community,” said José Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the HHF. “The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is privileged to honor her with the STEM Award on an evening which will be entertaining, meaningful and inspirational as we present America with the great value Latinos provide. It’s more important than ever to showcase visionary Latinos like Alba and the other Honorees.”

The Awards recognize the contributions and accomplishments of leading Latino individuals and organizations in various fields while celebrating cultural pride and the great promise to America. Additional honorees this year included:

The DREAMERS Inspira Award, sponsored by American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Luis Fonsi– Special Trailblazer Award, sponsored by TARGET

Gael García Bernal – Vision Award, sponsored by The Walt Disney Company

Rudy Beserra – Leadership Award, sponsored by The Coca Cola Company

The Latin Recording AcademyArts Award, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, the Official Airlines

Alba Colón: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Award, sponsored by ExxonMobil

November 1, 2015: at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA . (HHP/Andrew Coppley)

The Hispanic Heritage Awards are unique in that educators, physicians, innovators, businesspersons, community leaders, and elected officials stand alongside celebrities and great artists in representing the great value Latinos provide the United States and the globe. They serve as a launch of HHF’s year-round, award-winning programs that inspire, prepare, and connect Latino leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s needs in priority fields.

Oct 042017
 

BMW X4 M40i at the Salt Lick Restaurant in Driftwood, Texas.

In 2008 BMW redefined the meaning of a coupe, sedan, and sport utility vehicle (SUV) when it introduced the X6 sport activity coupe (pronounced coup-ee). Hoping to appeal to buyers with a need for utility as well as speed, apparently, the gamble paid off because BMW added the new X4, a smaller version of the X6, to the segment last year. I recently drove the sporty 2017 X4 M40i trim level for Latino Traffic Report and found it to be the perfect vehicle for a road trip.

Larger than a sedan but smaller than an SUV, it offers the best attributes of both—positioning the driver higher in the driver’s seat for a better vantage while handling more like a sports car than an SUV. Its size also expanded the cargo room to 49.4 cubic feet with the second-row seat folded flat for added versatility.

“We started the segment in 2008 with the X6 Sports Activity Coupe, a unique design concept and driving dynamics never seen before, ideal for people who are searching for the added space and practicality of an SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle, i.e. X3, X5) but also crave the aesthetics and dynamic driving experience of a coupe,” explains Hector Arellano-Belloc, BMW product and technology spokesperson. “Like its larger sibling, the BMW X6, the X4 offers the unique blend of style, driving dynamics and all-road capability that can only be offered by a BMW Sports Activity Coupe.”

The M performance classification on the test model brought sport performance specifications starting with the new TwinPower Turbo inline six-cylinder gasoline engine that delivered 355 horsepower and a maximum torque of 343 lb.–ft. It’s matched to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for added sportiness. This combination gives the X4 M40i a best-in-class zero–60 miles per hour acceleration of 4.7 seconds.

M performance also added suspension technology that included four driving modes, Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, for added performance. Along the drive, I tested all four and found that the Sport+ really boosted power and steering tightness along curvy roads. Though not as much fun, the Eco Pro mode did help make the X4 M40i more fuel efficient, a rare attribute for a performance vehicle. At the end of a weeklong test drive, I averaged 22.5 miles per gallon (mpg) above the EPA estimated average fuel economy of 21 mpg.

The X4 M40i matched a handsome exterior with an elegant interior that included Nevada leather seating, real wood trim, the Harman Kardon surround sound stereo system, a moonroof, a leather steering wheel, keyless entry with a push button start, and a one-year subscription to satellite radio. The stereo system even included a CD-player.

The X4 M40i that I tested did come up a little short on safety features, e.g. it lacked a blind spot monitor. I also found it odd that a rearview camera, something many premium brands include as standard, cost an additional $400.

The X4 M40i did include intelligent BMW xDrive all-wheel drive that improved traction, especially in rainy conditions, Park Distance Control parking sensors in the front and rear, and Intelligent Emergency Call that can be engaged manually or automatically in an emergency.

Pricing for the 2017 X4 starts at $46,550 including destination fees. The test model included several optional packages, like the Cold Weather Package ($950) that added a heated steering wheel and heated seats in the front and back, and the Technology Package ($2,750) that added navigation, a head-up display, and BMW Online and Apps. Even the distinctive exterior shade of Melbourne Red Metallic cost $700 extra. This brought the as-tested pricing for the 2017 X4 M40i to $67,495.

The 2017 X4 M40i at the LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, TX.

: Great styling, performance, and versatility for a performance vehicle.

No: Packages that add features normally found on a premium vehicle, like navigation and a back-up camera, escalate pricing dramatically.