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.

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.

 

 

Sep 282017
 

In the words of The Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler, “I’m a girl.” I’ve also been writing about cars for the last eighteen years and as such, I’ve tested several. This year I’ve decided to write my first Top Picks story for Latino Traffic Report on vehicles for Latinas, based on cars I’ve driven and tested. They will appeal to women at different stages of life, with different needs, priorities, goals, and income. Some, however, are just damn cute!

Cars for Girls

Younger women may have greater financial constraints when car shopping, but that doesn’t mean the choices need be lackluster. These shoppers can sacrifice utility for fun, if need be, which brings me to my first selection.

Fiat 500c Lounge Cabriolet

For 2017, all Fiat 500 models can be ordered as a cabrio for an extra $1,495, and what could be more fun than a convertible? The folding roof opens with the push of a button as much or as little as you like although less than fully opened will produce tons of wind noise.

The diminutive little convertible also offers respectable fuel economy, with an EPA estimated 27 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. I averaged 24.9 mpg on the test drive. Don’t expect a lot of oomph, however, from the 500c’s 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 101 horses, even when you select the Sport mode

The test model came in Celeste Blu on the outside, one of fifteen special shades, with similar toned accents on the inside, and for $250 more, Ivory leather-trimmed bucket seats. The combination gave it an upscale feel.

It’s two-tone interior also included some fancy features like a 5.0-inch Uconnect touchscreen, a seven-inch thin-film transistor cluster display, a USB port in the glove box, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It included a parking assist system but no back-up camera, nor is one available, or push button start.

Optional equipment added as part of the Customer Preferred Package, included GPS Navigation ($495). One option on the test model that I wouldn’t go for was the six-speed automatic transmission ($695). The five-speed manual would have certainly ramped-up this car’s performance and fun factor.

Granted, its cuteness may be its best selling point but it made me smile each time I saw it and for a prospective owner, that effect can be priceless.

Hecho en Toluca, México, pricing for the 2017 500c starts at $14,995. The as-tested price came to $23,420.

Kia Soul! Turbo

While the cuteness factor still applies to the Kia Soul, it gets more oomph for 2017 from an all-new 1.6-liter turbo engine with 201 horsepower. The test model, the Soul Exclaim (!), arrived in a Wild Orange shade that blended well in the Burnt Orange home of the Texas Longhorns.

Matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (an exclusive feature on the Exclaim trim), the Turbo did exhibit extra pep, but not without a little turbo lag. It has a combined EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 mpg. I averaged 33.3 mpg during the weeklong test drive. There is a six-speed manual version but only on the base model.

Well suited for city driving, the Soul offers extra versatility with its folding seats that produce 61.3 cu. ft. of cargo space with the rear seat folded, as well as an expansive glove box. To enhance the driving experience, it comes with a choice of two driving modes, Normal, and Sport.

The navigation system was relegated to Apple Car Play, which worked well but does eat up data. Creature comforts included AM/FM/MP3 with a seven-inch touchscreen, push button start, Bluetooth wireless technology, leather seats with cloth inserts, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and the UVO infotainment system.

While a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert systems were not included on the test model, they are available on the Exclaim and Plus trim levels. Standard safety features on all models include electronic stability control and Hill Start Assist.

Pricing for the 2017 Soul starts at $16,995. The as-tested pricing came to $23,620.

 

VW Golf SportWagen TSI S

I love a manual transmission, which is why I had to include this model, but it had me stymied over listing it under Cars for Girls or Cars for Moms on the Go but since most moms have their hands full, I decided that the enterprising millennial interested in learning a new skill might find this wagon appealing.

I tested the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen TSI S with a five-speed manual transmission matched to a peppy 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 170 horsepower and 199 lb.–ft. of torque. The manual transmission added tons of fun plus it helped with fuel efficiency. The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 25/35 mpg, the best of all three trim levels. I achieved an average of 32.8 mpg at the end of a week.

The SportWagen combines fun and utility with the extra cargo-carrying ability of a wagon. The rear seats fold flat easily to offer 66.5 cu. ft. of volume.

As expected with the base model, the interior was a little plain, but it did include a few conveniences like cruse control, App Connect for smartphone integration (which I used for navigation), a leather-trimmed steering wheel, brake lever, and shift knob, an AM/FM/HD/CD stereo with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a CD player, and illuminated vanity mirrors.

It also came with a few safety features like a rearview camera, Automatic Post-Collision Braking and Intelligent Crash Response systems.

Not offered on base model, forward collision warning,  a blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, are available on the SE trim and standard on the top-of-the-line SEL trim level.

Pricing for the 2017 Golf SportWagen starts at $22,400, which was also the as-tested pricing. A six-speed automatic transmission is available for an additional $1,100.

 

Cars (and a Pickup) for Moms on the Go

Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E

Named the 2017 North American Truck of the Year by a jury of automotive journalists, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, with its 64-inch bed, maximum payload of 1,584 lbs. and available in-bed trunk that can double as an 82 qt. cooler, offers Latinas a vehicle with greater capability than a sedan or wagon.

Redesigned for 2017, Honda gave the Ridgeline a truck profile, replacing the previous side panel with one that has an integrated truss, while retaining its unibody construction and smooth ride. Additionally, every Ridgeline has four doors and seating for five.

Powered by a more powerful and efficient direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Ridgeline two-wheel drive (2WD) has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) model, like the one I drove, loses one city/highway mpg. I averaged 23.9 mpg after a week.

The test model included Ridgeline’s Intelligent Traction Management System that enhances off-road capability with drive modes for different conditions—Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand on the AWD. The 2WD includes Normal and Snow. Towing on the AWD maxes out at 5,000 lbs.

While the multi-angle rearview camera and push button start are standard on all models, a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert only come with the top trim levels.

The test model also included available technology like an eight-inch Display Audio touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a new generation of the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System, Smart Entry, a power sliding rear window, and Remote Engine Start. Creature comforts included heated seats, adaptive cruise control, and a moonroof.

All these fun features, however, ain’t cheap. Starting price on the 2017 Ridgeline is $30,415. The as-tested pricing came to $42,270.

 

Toyota Highlander SE

Crossover utility vehicles have become the new family car and one of the leaders in the segment is the Toyota Highlander. It doesn’t pretend to have an SUV’s off-road bravado but it does offer families the versatility and convenience they’re after.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Highlander has a city/highway EPA estimated fuel economy of 21/27 mpg. I averaged 20.4 mpg on the test drive. A 2.7-liter four-cylinder is the base engine.

Offered in five trim levels, the SE FWD I drove is the second from the top-of-the-line model. Standard features included leather seating and heated front seats, a backup camera with an eight-inch display, five USB ports, integrated side window shades, Toyota Safety Sense with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Entune infotainment. The intuitive system also made it easy for me to expand preset channels for a total of 36.

Safety features carry particular clout on a family vehicle. The Highlander includes its signature Star Safety System with traction control and anti-lock braking, plus a backup camera and Hill Start Assist Control. The test model also included a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and rear parking sonar that are not offered on lower level trims.

The versatile SUV can seat up to eight or seven and the rear seats are split to fold flat for an expanded cargo carrying space of 83.7 cu. ft.

Optional equipment included a rear seat Blue Ray DVD entertainment system with a nine-inch display ($1,810).

Pricing for the 2017 Highlander starts at $31,390. The as-tested pricing came to $42,440.

Cars for Posh Latinas

BMW i3

Brand conscious Latinas will gravitate to BMW, it’s just a natural instinct, but for those who would also like to save the planet, the i3 serves a dual purpose.

Powered by a synchronous electric motor with 170 horsepower and 184 lbs.–ft. of torque, available as soon as the electric motor begins to turn, and a lithium high-voltage battery, it produces an electric range of approximately 114 miles when fully charged. The test model also included the Range Extender, a two-cylinder gasoline engine that helps alleviate range anxiety. It switches on once the battery is depleted to 6.5 percent state of charge and provides an additional range thanks to a larger fuel tank (2.4 gallons).

While it arrived with a full gas tank, the i3 test model had no charge. It does have quick charge capability but it took three days to charge fully in my garage using the standard occasional use cable for connecting to a domestic power socket. According the i3’s onboard system, I had an estimated electric range of 130 miles, but that number dropped sharply within minutes of getting on the road. Still, I managed to power the car exclusively on electricity for the remaining four days of the test drive and avoiding gasoline was a welcome experience.

The inside of the i3 also deserves a mention. It reminded me of a first class club at the airport, very airy, clean and green with the available unbleached light eucalyptus wood trim. Other creature comforts included automatic climate control, and Dynamic Cruise Control. The i3 did lack a blind spot monitor but it did have a rear parking camera and sensors.

Pricing for the 2017 BMW i3 starts at $45,445, excluding tax credits. The as-tested price came to $54,295.

 

Infiniti Q70

Infiniti’s striking curviness sets its lineup apart in the luxury performance segment. The 2017 Q70, its flagship sedan, embodies the brand’s sensuality.

Available in a long-wheelbase version, for Latinas who really need legroom, as well as AWD, the test model I drove was the rear-wheel drive Q70 5.6 with the standard wheelbase and the Sport Package.

Powered by two available engines, the test model came fully loaded with 420 horsepower and 417 lbs.–ft. of torque via its 5.6-liter V8 engine. Adding even more sportiness was the seven-speed transmission with a manual shift mode and Infiniti Drive Mode Selector that added four more modes—Standard, Sport, Eco, and Snow. With this much power, fuel economy was the trade off but I managed an average of 19 mpg.

Inside, I found more sexy features, starting with the curves on the binnacle brow (that overhang that shades the instrument cluster from the sun’s glare), or in this case, binnacle bra. Expected creature comforts at this price point, like leather seating throughout and heated and cooled seats in the front, dual-zone climate control, a heated, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, navigation with traffic and weather information, an eight-inch infotainment screen, an around-view camera, and a Bose stereo, were included.

While the test model came equipped with the Premium Package, it did add two more, rather pricey packages, to bring features like a blind spot monitor, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking to avoid a collision per the Technology Package, ($3,300). The Sport Package ($4,900) added sport suspension, magnesium paddle shifters, Bose Studio Surround 16-speaker premium audio system, among other features.

Despite the need for additional pricey packages, the Q70 is still a beautiful sedan for the posh Latina who can afford it.

Pricing for the 2017 Q70 starts at $51,295. The as-tested pricing came to $72,720.

It’s been well documented that women make 85 percent of household buying decisions. Of all the cars to choose from, this list is but a sampling for Latinas to consider and savor.

Sep 142017
 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (Volkswagen) is recalling certain 2017-2018 Audi A3 Cabriolet and A3 Sedan vehicles. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) software may misinterpret the flywheel rotation on engine start-up as a “knocking” condition, and the adjusted air/fuel mixture may result in an engine stall. An engine stall can increase the risk of a crash.

2017 A3 Cabriolet

Audi will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the ECU software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 29, 2017. Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen’s number for this recall is 24DF.

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.

Sep 082017
 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that the communications team at Hyundai Motor America has added Hyundai veteran Brandon Ramirez as the senior group manager of Product Communications. In this role, Brandon is responsible for communicating the attributes of Hyundai’s entire product lineup to traditional and digital media. This includes auto show strategy, new vehicle launches and ongoing content creation for Hyundai vehicles. Brandon reports to Jim Trainor, director of Hyundai’s communications efforts in the United States.

Brandon is transitioning to the communications team from Hyundai’s product planning division, where he worked for the past thirteen years leading product development, market launches and lifecycle management for Hyundai’s lineup of cars, CUVs and alternative-powered vehicles.

BRANDON RAMIREZ

His expertise also includes target audience research, analyzing market trends, and serving as company spokesperson to media and other third parties. Brandon also has extensive multicultural experience serving as the chair of Hyundai’s internal “Amigos Unidos” employee group, which is tasked with community engagement and raising culture awareness at Hyundai.

“Brandon is the perfect fit in this role with his in-depth product and industry knowledge, experience as a media spokesperson and the relationships he has throughout the entire organization,” said Trainor. “The addition of Brandon completes the recent reorganization of the PR team that better aligns Hyundai communications with the evolving automotive business, media and digital landscape. We’ve built the communications team of the future that will be able to quickly adapt to changing consumer preferences and media habits, and can help us stay ahead of our competition.”

Prior to Hyundai, Brandon spent several years in product strategy at Mitsubishi Motors North America and was an acquisition analyst at Fairfield Investments. Brandon graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of San Diego.

Sep 062017
 

On an off-road course, like Moab, UT or California’s Rubicon Trail, Jeep’s reign supreme. Every Jeep offered has the ability to climb rocks, but some are more suited to city driving, like the Compass.

Redesigned for 2017, the small SUV brings more convenience features and an improved on-road experience as well. I recently test drove the 2017 Compass Sport FWD for Latino Traffic Report, and while it didn’t climb any rocks, it did get me through at least one on-road challenge.

The Compass Sport I drove was practically a base model, with a few optional packages. One option I would have passed up, and the most expensive one at $1500, was the six-speed automatic transmission. I would have preferred the standard six-speed manual transmission on the Compact Sport. Jeep also offers a nine-speed automatic for some 4×4 models.

While these transmissions could be matched to a choice of five engines worldwide, in North America, the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder powers the Compass. The test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 25.9 mpg during the weeklong test drive. To stretch fuel efficiency further, the engine cuts off at idle but it also tends to weaken the air conditioning.

The front-wheel-drive test model did not offer Compass’s best-in-class 4×4 off-road ability, but it did have some of the new features for 2017, like a 3.5-inch LED driver information display (DID) instrument cluster, Uconnect 5.0—one of four new Uconnect infotainment systems—displayed on a rather diminutive touch screen, a capless fuel filler, push button start, ParkView Backup camera, and Remote Keyless Entry.

Of the more than 70 available safety features on the new Compass, like electronic stability control, roll mitigation, and traction control, it was the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and tire service kit that really impressed me.

While driving around town, the TPMS warning light appeared. Some TPMS systems just show the alert icon, forcing the driver to guess which tire is low, but the  DID on the Compass displayed PSI levels for all four tires so that I was able to monitor the leak. Upon returning home, I could hear the sound of air hissing from the left rear tire and by the next day, Sunday, it was flat. With plans to fly out of Austin on Monday, I had to find a quick fix.

Checking the trunk for a spare tire, I found the tire service kit that included sealant and a pump. With a little help from a friend, we injected the tire with the sealant and while the leak persisted it did slow down. The electronic air pump helped assure me that I could refill the tire upon my return. After a few days, it had lost some air but the pump, which plugs into one of two 12-volt auxiliary ports, was quick and easy to use.

The test model also included the Technology Group ($495) with the Park Sense rear park assist system and Sport Appearance Group ($595) with 16-inch wheels and tinted glass. It did not, however, come with a blind spot monitor or forward collision warning technology, nor are these technologies available on this trim level.

Pricing for the Jeep Compass starts at $22,090. The as-tested price came to $24,680.

: The 2017 Jeep Compass offers segment-leading off-road capability, a manual transmission on the base model, and improved fuel economy.

No: The as-tested Compass Sport FWD lacked the ability to add important safety technology like a blind spot monitor, plus the engine stop-start technology weakened the air conditioning.