SUV and Wagon Launch: 2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar, V60 Polestar and Cross Country, and refreshed XC90

 Launches  Comments Off on SUV and Wagon Launch: 2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar, V60 Polestar and Cross Country, and refreshed XC90
Oct 222019
 
L to R: 2020 Volvo V60 Polestar, V60 Cross Country, XC60 Polestar and XC90
Original three-point seat belt.

More than 90 years ago, Volvo began with a focus on safety that continues to today. This year marked the sixtieth anniversary of its game-changing three-point seat belt (right). The brand also stands out for its distinctive Scandinavian interior design that combines beauty with function. For 2020 Volvo expands its list of desirables with vehicles that accentuate performance, on and off the road, namely, the all-new XC60 Polestar, V60 Polestar, and V60 Cross Country plus a refreshed XC90 with available seating for six. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) had the chance to test drive several of these new models at the recent launch in Banff, Canada.

2020 XC60 T8 Polestar

2020 XC60 Polestar

The test models were powered by a variation of the Volvo’s innovative powertrain that features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or twin engine that is either turbo or turbo and supercharged, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Surprisingly powerful, the four-cylinder can produce 250, 316, or 400 horsepower, depending on the model, but maximum power comes from the Polestar plug-in hybrid, Volvo’s performance trim, with 415 horses and 494 lb.–ft. of torque. That’s right, it’s a hybrid.

Speed limits along Canada’s highways did hinder the chance to fully appreciate the XC60 Polestar’s power, but on a test track, its Antilock Braking System with Electronic Brake Distribution and Electronic Brake Assistance

was on full display. Accelerating at full throttle, we were told to slam on the brakes to appreciate their control. The Polestar practically stopped on a dime, without swerving or skidding.

The sporty SUV retains Volvo’s distinctive technology, like the Sensus Connect infotainment system with a nine-inch vertical touchscreen display and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, but the black leather interior on the test model and bright gold seat belts, brake calipers, and Bowers and Wilkins stereo speakers added boldness and sportiness. The door panels, however, were less finished, revealing something you rarely see on a Volvo, plastic.

Pricing for the 2020 XC60 will start at $41,150. The as-tested price came to $73,490.

2020 V60 T5 Cross Country

2020 V60 Cross Country
2020 V60 Polestar

Powered by the same engine as the XC60 Polestar, the V60 Polestar plug-in hybrid will spice up the wagon segment with its aggressive good looks and performance. At the launch, however, we drove its sibling, the all-new V60 T5 Cross Country and as the name implies, it’s meant to wander.

Introduced in 1997, the 2020 version is the second generation of the V60 Cross Country. The all-new version includes All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and five standard Drive Mode settings—Comfort, Off-road, Dynamic, Eco, and Individual.

The Off-road setting in particular was put to good use at the launch, optimizing the engine and gearbox for better traction and setting the Electronic Stability Control to Traction/Sport, as the Cross Country climbed to the top of a ski slope at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, where lunch was served.

As a wagon, the Cross Country offers versatility as well with 50.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seat folded.

The 2.0-liter with 250 horses and 258 lb.–ft. of torque powered the test model.

Pricing for the 2020 V60 wagon starts at $41,290.  The as-tested price for the Cross Country came to $58,990.

2020 XC90 T8 Inscription and T6 R-Design

2020 XC90 Inscription

For the 2020 model year, the award-winning XC90 has been completely refreshed, including a new concave grille and a six-seat option, allowing for easier access to the third row of seats. It also offers some of the interior accents that have emerged on its siblings since its redesign in 2016, namely driftwood-inspired accents made of Grey Ash that first appeared on the XC60 and woolen accents for the door panel that premiered on the XC40.

At the launch we drove two 2020 XC90 models, the T6 AWD R-Design and the T8 AWD Inscription plug-n hybrid, both stand outs in their segments, but that Orrefors crystal shiftknob (left) on the T8, slightly modified for 2020, added extra wow factor as did the average fuel economy of 46.9 mpg on the test drive. The 2.0-liter super and turbocharged twin engine and electric motor combined to produce 400 horsepower and 472 lb.–ft. of torque. The similar 2.0-liter on the T6 R-Design achieved 316 hp and 295 lb.–ft. of torque.

As an added bonus, every XC90 includes the blind spot monitoring system as a standard feature.

Pricing for the 2020 XC90 starts at $48,350. The as-tested prices for the T8 Inscription and T6 R-Design were $86,990 and $74,735 respectively.

All four models included the City Safety suite of collision avoidance technology, like Forward Collision Warning that brakes automatically if the driver does not brake or steer away to avoid other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, plus Volvo’s signature large animal detection system.

12.3-inch digital display.

Semi-autonomous systems like Pilot Assist help with steering, acceleration at speeds up to 80 miles per hour and braking but still require the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel. New for 2020, the driver will feel a haptic response on the steering wheel if Pilot Assist is disengaged. During the drive, the temptation was strong to let go for a bit and see how it managed without hands on the steering wheel. It drove flawlessly but not for long, sounding a warning to retake the wheel.

Back-up camera displayed on the nine-inch touchscreen.

While Volvo on Call, a multifunctional app that can lock and unlock doors, among other functions, is standard on all models, it’s not available in Puerto Rico.  These models also complete the lineup that qualifies for the Care By Volvo program, the national flat rate, and all-inclusive vehicle subscription program.

Refreshed, improved, or all new, these models expand the Volvo lineup to appeal to performance and off-road enthusiasts, with the added bonus of Volvo safety features and Scandinavian design.

Premium Sedan and Wagon Launch: 2019 Volvo S60 and V60

 Launches  Comments Off on Premium Sedan and Wagon Launch: 2019 Volvo S60 and V60
Feb 162019
 


The 2019 S60 Polestar.

Redesigns can be tricky. Most reflect a gradual evolution but retooling an entire lineup from one generation to the next requires more courage. Volvo took that leap, starting with the 2016 XC90. Distinguished by its Thor’s Hammer headlamps, Volvo’s new DNA is now embedded throughout the lineup with the addition of its latest models, the 2019 S60 sedan and V60 wagon. Latino Traffic Report attended the launch of the redesigned versions of both in Santa Monica, CA. Like their remade siblings, the new sedan and wagon should excite fans and gain new ones.

The 2019 V60 wagon.

The tested trim levels at the launch included the S60 T6 R-Design, S60 T8 Polestar, and V60 T6 Momentum—the entry-level T5 trim wasn’t driven.

Volvo has not only embraced a new look for its vehicles, but also new, greener technology, starting with turbo and supercharged four-cylinder twin engines matched to an eight-speed transmission with power and responsiveness that continue to amaze.

On the T6, the turbo and supercharged four-cylinder should produce 316 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque and achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The version developed for its new Polestar T8 twin engine plug-in hybrid cars (above), should produce 415 horsepower, 494 ft.–lb. of torque, and achieve 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and an electric range of 21 miles. At the launch, the average fuel economy hovered at 30 mpg.

Additionally, the T8 Polestar gasoline-electric hybrid keeps Volvo on track to become the first manufacturer to offer electrified models throughout the lineup in 2019. The new S60 is also the first Volvo to be sold without a diesel option.

While the S60’s exterior may follow in the footsteps of its siblings with subtle tweaks here and there, like on the headlamps, it does stand out as the first Volvo model built at the American manufacturing plant outside Charleston, South Carolina. It’s also the only sedan in the segment with a standard panoramic roof and available massage function. The T8 Polestar also includes the super posh Orrefors crystal shift knob (above).

The Sensus infotainment system accented with driftwood inlays.

Longer than the outgoing model, the third-generation S60 incorporates a few striking features from its siblings on the inside, like driftwood inlays, the Sensus infotainment system with a tablet-style touch screen, and leather seating. The T8 Polestar also features bright yellow seat belts and accent stitching to match its brake calipers. A less impressive feature also found on its siblings, the tilting and telescopic steering wheel that adjusts manually, is included on the S60.

Volvo’s commitment to offer electrified powertrains throughout its line-up by 2019 leads the manufacturer’s green commitment but the S60 also incorporates Volvo’s pledge to eliminate single-use plastics on its vehicles, also by 2019.

No discussion about a Volvo can exclude safety. Standard on all Volvos, the City Safety package includes technology that combines automatic braking and collision avoidance systems to detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals—the only system to do so—to avoid an accident.

Innovative technology like the Blind Spot Information System is standard on the Polestar but remains optional on other trim levels.

One of the first manufacturers to offer a subscription service, Volvo will include the new S60 under its Care by Volvo monthly flat rate program with no down payment.

Pricing for the T5 FWD, T6 AWD and T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid starts at $39495, $41295 and $55,395 respectively.

V60 Reflects Volvo’s Ongoing Love for the Wagon

The 2019 V60 wagon was also on hand at the S60 launch. Like its sibling, the wagon will share the same platform and therefore much of the same features, including the turbo and supercharged powertrains, Thor’s Hammer headlamps, City Safety, and Sensus infotainment system.  Unlike the S60, however, there will be a diesel option for the V60.

At the launch, Volvo brought the T6 Momentum version of the wagon that distinguished itself from the sedan with an interesting seventies retro-option for upholstery called city weave (right). While it could be polarizing, it definitely makes a statement, in a normally demure segment.

The V60 also offers more cargo capacity than the sedan with 50.9 cubic feet of space with the back seat folded flat.

There will be two trim levels for the wagon, the T5 FWD and T6 AWD in three grades, Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription.

Pricing for the 2019 V60 starts at $39,895.

Vehicle Launch: 2019 Hyundai Veloster

 Launches  Comments Off on Vehicle Launch: 2019 Hyundai Veloster
Oct 092018
 

Veloster Turbo R-Spec

Despite what it says in the dictionary, two doors no longer do a coupe make. It has been redefined by automakers to refer to sporty vehicles and can include four doors, or even three, like the singular Hyundai Veloster sport coupe. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch of the all-new 2019 Veloster in Austin, TX. Its cleaner exterior design and improved engine choices will excite fans and attract new ones.

The new fascia resembles Hyundai’s current design DNA more faithfully than its predecessor. The grille is less cluttered and a darkened roof is standard on the top-of-the-line Turbo Ultimate trim, reflecting the current industry trend. While the two-tone look is not available across the lineup, each trim does come in unique colors, materials, and accents.

The Veloster’s appeal may be connected to its sportiness but it is a hatch and as such, it offers something other sport coupe’s don’t, utility, namely 19.9 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row seat, more than Mini Cooper, Mini Clubman, and VW Beetle.

A 2.0-liter engine four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 lb.–ft. of torque powers the base model. It’s matched to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

Dash on the Veloster Turbo R-Spec.

Ramping up the sportiness factor is the turbo-charged 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine on the Veloster Turbo and Turbo Ultimate that produces 201 horses and 195 lb.–ft. of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and SHIFTRONIC transmission gear control. The automatic will earn the best EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. We drove both at the launch and clocked an average fuel economy of 32.9 mpg. While the manual may be slightly less fuel-efficient, it has a definite advantage when it comes to the driving experience, offering more power, responsiveness, and fun.

To customize the driving experience, Drive Mode Select is standard on all Velosters and offers three driver-selectable modes—Normal, Sport, and Smart. The cherry on top of every Veloster powertrain is Active Engine Sound that enhances that engine rumble that sports car enthusiasts crave.

Center stack on the Veloster Turbo.

Still mindful of the competitive advantage safety technology adds to any modern vehicle, the 2019 Veloster includes standard Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with autonomous braking to help the car detect and avoid an imminent collision, Lane Keeping Assist, and a rear view camera with dynamic guidelines.

Features like Blind-Spot Collision and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, as well as Blue Link, Hyundai’s onboard emergency, diagnostic, guidance service are standard on all but the base trim—it would be nice if these features were at least available on it. The base model does come with a blind spot mirror.

Seating on the Veloster Turbo.

Standard creature comforts include the basics like air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry, a seven-inch display screen with AM/FM radio, dual USB ports, steering-wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth, and cruse control, plus Apple CarPlay/Android Audio. Stepping up to the 2.0 Premium brings fancier features like an eight-inch display with the Infiniti Premium audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio, a proximity key, and heated front seats. The Turbos add a wide sunroof and leather seats to the list.

Hyundai likes to call the Veloster a “reverse halo” but if a halo car is one that attracts folks to a dealership, then the Veloster is simply a halo, no qualifiers necessary. Pricing for the 2019 Veloster starts at $19,385.

Veloster Turbo

Car Launch: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

 Launches  Comments Off on Car Launch: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta
Jul 122018
 

For its fortieth birthday, the VW Jetta compact sedan gets a new look for 2019, reflecting a discernibly new DNA. With plans to “become a volume brand in the United States,” Volkswagen will use an enhanced warranty, aggressive pricing, and improved fuel economy to make that happen.

While car sales are down, they’re definitely not out. More compact cars sold in March of this year than midsize, small, and large sport utility vehicles combined, according to The Wall Street Journal and rising gas prices will energize compact car sales even more.

The VW Jetta then and now.

Since its introduction in 1979, the Jetta has seen seven redesigns, each a subtle improvement on the last generation. Not so for the seventh version. With its bold trapezoidal grille, sloping roofline, rear spoiler, and available LED projector headlights, the new look amounts to a bold move for VW. It’s also longer, wider, and taller than the outgoing model.

At the recent launch in Durham, NC, attended by Latino Traffic Report, we drove the Jetta SEL powered by a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine with direct injection, standard on all 2019 Jettas, matched to the all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is available on the base model and for an extra $450, it can also be equipped with the blind spot, rear traffic, and forward collision warning systems. Rarely offered on a base model, much less one with a manual transmission, available technology like this represents another bold move for VW.

The engine produces 147 horses and 184 lb.–ft. of torque. Assisted by improved aerodynamics, the new Jetta has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 40 mpg on the highway with either the manual or the automatic. It averaged 35.8 mpg on the test drive.

An expanded exterior usually translates into a roomier interior, and so it is on the new Jetta, with more head, knee, and shoulder room than before. The standard 60/40-split rear seat also adds convenience and versatility. Additional standard convenience features include a rearview camera, a multi-function steering wheel, a trip computer displayed in the instrument cluster with information like fuel consumption, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and AM/FM radio and one USB port. Stepping up one trim level to the SE, however, adds lots more stuff like, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic tilting sunroof,and most importantly, and the afore mentioned blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and forward collision warning with emergency braking.

Offering offering luxury features like heated and ventilated front seats, BeatsAudio, a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel, ten-color ambient lighting, and Driving Mode Selection, VW’s compact sedan could be called the adult in its competitive set.

Finally, the Jetta will be covered by VW’s best-in-class transferable six-year/72,000-mile (whichever comes first) bumper-to bumper warranty, a move the manufacturer hopes will inspire renewed confidence in the brand.

Pricing for the 2019 Jetta starts at $19,440 with destination fees.

 

Compact SUV Launch: 2019 Volvo XC40

 Launches  Comments Off on Compact SUV Launch: 2019 Volvo XC40
May 152018
 

With multiple awards for its iconic XC90 sport utility vehicle (SUV), and more awards for its sibling, the XC60 small SUV, it’s no wonder that Volvo continued to propagate by entering the compact SUV segment with its newest baby, the 2019 XC40. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the national launch in Austin, TX and while the weather did not cooperate, the sporty XC40 was quite agreeable.

The small SUV segment (that includes compacts) remains one of the more robust in the auto industry with sales increasing by more than 45 percent from March of last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. More popularity, however, creates more competition, so from the onset, the XC40 will need to stand out in a crowd. As the only Swede in the bunch, it has a head start.

Volvo offers up to seventeen combinations for the XC40, including two-tone exteriors accentuated by a black or white roof. At the launch, we drove the XC40 T5 Momentum (mid-level trim) and R-Design in multiple color combinations.

Inside, Volvo’s distinctive Scandinavian touch combines art and function. On its siblings, like the XC90, that combination accentuated luxury, but a plethora of functional advances distinguishes the sportier XC40.

After extensive research that included feedback from its target audience—young professionals—Volvo adopted a clutter-free approach to the compact SUV’s interior. At the launch, we met David Clark of Kartwheel Studio (pictured, right), who designed a special desk to offer Volvo solutions that embodied the clutter-free goal for the XC40, like large door pockets, integrated bag hooks and customizable cargo spaces for special objects like laptops, a tissue box, cell phones, take out food, grocery bags and even trash. For added convenience, a power tailgate with hands free opening is standard.

Like all Volvos, the XC40 gets its power from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, specifically, a 2.0-liter, on the base T4, but with a different turbocharger than the T5, which is the first to go on sale. Its engine produces 248 horses and 258 lb.–ft. of torque. While a hybrid and electric versions are planned, the only available fuel consumption information at the launch refers to the T5, which should achieve 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, according to www.fueleconomy.gov. Four available drive modes, Eco, Dynamic, Comfort, and Individual, help customize the driving experience even further on every XC40.

Large door pockets, felt and steel inlays on the 2019 XC40 Momentum.

Metal accent on XC40 R-Design.

Additional standard features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, the nine-inch Sensus Connect touch screen shaped like a tablet, Bluetooth connectivity, leather seating, 4G LTE connectivity with an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot (six-month trial subscription), and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A premium brand like Volvo also offers nice creature comforts like a panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting that can be adjusted, unique metal accents, and wireless QI mobile phone charging.

While the brand has evolved to grab raves for its design, safety will always be an essential element of any Volvo’s DNA. Standard safety features on the XC40 include Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and Run-off Road protection and mitigation. The Blind Spot Information System that Volvo invented, however, and Cross Traffic Alert remain optional on the XC40 Momentum and R-Design. It is standard on the Inscription.

At the launch, Volvo execs also discussed Care by Volvo for customers not ready to commit to buying or leasing. It allows car buyers to choose a car online, pay a flat-rate monthly fee, and have the opportunity to upgrade to a new car as early as twelve months.

Available in all-wheel and front-wheel-drive versions, the 2019 XC40 has a base price of $34,195, including destination fees. Pricing for the currently available 2019 XC40 T5 is $36,195.

The new XC40 displays a youthful exuberance that should grab attention in the increasingly competitive compact SUV segment.

 

Hybrid Launch: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

 Launches  Comments Off on Hybrid Launch: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
Apr 082018
 

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

By Lyndon Conrad Bell

Completing the trifecta that is Honda’s Clarity lineup, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid joins the Clarity Fuel Cell and Clarity Electric Vehicle (EV). Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch in Calistoga, CA.

If it looks suspiciously like Honda is angling to get a foothold in the electrification business, this is indeed the case. The company predicts electrified passenger cars will comprise two-thirds of global sales by 2030. Like its Clarity siblings, the Plug-in Hybrid version of the five-passenger sedan delivers premium appointments, an exceptionally quiet and smooth demeanor, and outstanding fuel economy.

For an automobile with a footprint similar to Honda’s flagship Accord sedan, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon and 47 miles on electricity alone. Even better, you can see this kind of range driving perfectly normally. The powertrain produces a total system output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb.–ft. of torque.

You also have the flexibility of choosing to cruise around town on electrons, while only burning dino juice out on the highway. This, in fact is the most efficient use of the powertrain. Gasoline engines deliver their best fuel economy at cruising speed on the highway and fall down when forced to deal with stop-and-go city driving. Electric motors have no such qualms. You can also set the powertrain to recharge the battery when you’re on the highway, so you have full charge with which to negotiate city streets when you arrive in town.

 

With seating for five adults, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (as does the entire Clarity family) falls firmly into the mid-sized sedan category. Yes, the rear middle passenger will be in hip contact with seatmates, but there’s more than adequate leg and headroom. Ingress and egress are easy too. What’s more, trunk space solidly approaches generous.

As impressive as all the above is, Clarity’s quiet will absolutely blow you away. Even when the gasoline engine is powered up, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it’s running.

With all of that said, let’s address the 400-pound gorilla that is Clarity’s styling. Yes, it’s solidly inline with the contemporary Honda family, but regardless of the angle from which you view the sedan, this is one frumpy-looking car. Yes, we understand those rear fender skirts improve the aerodynamics, and yes, we know all of those slots and vents in the body are functional too. But this is an exterior design very few people (if any) will characterize as lovely.

Meanwhile, the interior is one of the nicest we’ve ever seen in a Honda. In fact, they could’ve badged Clarity an Acura and we would’ve been just as impressed. High quality finishes abound. Handsome shapes please the eye and the ergonomics are outstanding. Well, except for the audio system. Honda still insists on going knob-less in that regard and we’re solidly in the, “Oh, no not again,” camp. Would it kill them to give us rotating dial for the volume and tuning controls?

However, this is the only real issue we could find inside the beautifully turned out sedan. What’s more, you can feel good about it, because 80 percent of the materials are either recycled or originate from sustainable sources. When Honda says its down for doing its best to ensure blue skies for our children, moves like these leave us believing they’re serious about it.

Pricing for the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid starts at $33,400

 

Car Launch: 2018 Hyundai Sonata and Elantra GT

 Launches  Comments Off on Car Launch: 2018 Hyundai Sonata and Elantra GT
Feb 082018
 

Auto shows may offer a first look, but automotive launches give journalists a first impression of a new or redesigned vehicle. At the recent launch of the redesigned 2018 Hyundai Sonata and all-new 2018 Elantra GT in Charleston, South Carolina, attended by Latino Traffic Report, two features made a big impression—the blind spot monitoring system and six-speed manual transmission.

Hyundai has been known to take risks to set itself apart from its competitors, like its five-year/60,000-mile, fully transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty. For the 2018 Sonata, Hyundai makes another bold move by adding a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert to the Sonata’s list of standard equipment, setting it apart in the midsize sedan segment. At the launch, John Shon, senior manager, Hyundai product planning, admitted that this is the most requested feature by customers.

Created at Hyundai’s California design studio, the 2018 Sonata improves on looks, accented by the new cascading grille, sculpted hood, LED daytime running lights, and catamaran shape on the lower bumper, as well as, essentials.

Choices abound when it comes to powertrains with three available engines and transmissions—a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, a 2.4-liter gasoline direct injected engine matched to a six-speed automatic, and 1.6-liter turbo matched to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. All transmissions are include Shiftronic simulated manual shifting.

While a hybrid and plug-in hybrid will be available, the best fuel economy from the three powertrains mentioned, will be the 1.6-liter turbo unique to the Eco trim with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Powered by the 2.0-liter turbo, the test model Sonata Limited at the launch averaged 28.8 mpg.

As for other new technology, a wireless charging pad for Android phones is available as is Lane Keep Assist with Driver Attention Alert, a heated steering wheel, and smart cruise control.

Built in the United States at the Alabama assembly plant, the 2018 Sonata has a starting price of $22,935.

 

Elantra GT

With a silhouette that bears more resemblance to a wagon than a hatch, the all-new five-door 2018 Elantra GT presents an interesting option in the compact segment. Even more refreshing, however, is that it also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and not just on the base trim.

If offered at all, most manual transmissions are used by manufacturers to lower the starting price on the base model, which is sold as-is, i.e. without the chance to add available options. Equipping both trims, the Elantra GT and GT Sport, with a manual transmission means that aficionados, like yours truly, can drive a stick with access to upgrades and features like a blind spot monitor (standard on the GT Sport) or smart cruise control. The GT Sport also gets a unique red shift knob.

The appeal for a hatch is convenience and the GT fulfills that expectation offering nearly 25 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 55.1 cu. ft. with the 60/40- split rear seat folded flat.

Standard features include a rearview camera, eight-inch display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and individual tire pressure display, another great feature. Have you ever tried to figure out what tire needs air without it?

Interior, 2018 Elantra GT Sport.

Like the Sonata, the Elantra offers unique four cylinder powertrains for both trim levels. The 2.0-liter powers the GT with 161 horsepower and 150 ft.–lb. of torque. While the manual transmission is standard, a six-speed automatic is available. The GT Sport is powered by the 1.5-liter turbo with 201 peak horsepower, 195 ft.–lb. of torque and offers a seven-speed automatic as an option.

Fans of new technology will appreciate the new Blue Link skill for Amazon Alexa that links an Alexa-enabled device, like an Amazon Echo or Dot, to start the car.

Pricing for the 2018 Elantra GT starts at $20,235.

At the launch, both vehicles performed nicely and should attract buyer attention. Offered in a wide range of trim levels, the fact that all Sonatas now include the blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert creates a win-win, from the base to the top-of-the-line. The compact five-door segment offers versatility and economy. With a manual transmission available on both Elantra GTs, Hyundai’s five-door hatch surpasses expectations.

 

 

SUV Launch: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

 Launches  Comments Off on SUV Launch: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
Jan 192018
 

With the majestic Colorado Rockies as a backdrop, Volkswagen launched the second generation of its popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), the 2018 Tiguan. Latino Traffic Report attended the event in Denver, Colorado, where the Tiguan tackled the terrain and the altitude.

On the outside, the all-new Tiguan shares several design cues with its larger sibling, the 2018 Atlas, namely, the grille, headlamps, and taillights.

Powered by an updated 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged TSI engine, with 184 horsepower and 221 lb.–ft. of torque, and matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the compact SUV should gain an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Tiguans equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) will earn just one mpg less in the city. At the launch, I averaged 26.1 mpg in the SEL Premium AWD. The 2.0-liter turbo did struggle on inclines and there was some turbo lag. Of course, the elevation certainly didn’t help.

Active Control, a unique feature with 4Motion, also allows more intrepid drivers to chose among four driving modes—On-road, Snow, Off-road, and Custom Off-road. To fine tune the On-road experience further, four additional modes—Normal, Sport, Eco, and Custom—can be engaged with the push of a button. Along curvy mountain climbs and descents, I tested the Sport mode. It improved handling via tighter steering but didn’t offer a noticeable increase in power.

The new Tiguan tackles the versatility challenge by adding 10.6 inches in length, giving it up to 58 percent more cargo space than the current model. It also includes a 50/50 split third row third-row seat, suitable for children, on entry-level trims with front-wheel drive (FWD) and makes it available on models with VW 4Motion AWD technology. The 40/20/40 split second-row bench can recline and slide seven inches fore and aft. Both rows fold down to create a maximum of 65.7 cubic feet of cargo room.

With four available trim levels, S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium, there’s quite a gap between standard features from the base to the top-of-the-line model, amounting to a difference in value of more than $10,000.

On the outside, the base has halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, foglights with a cornering function, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators, and 17-inch wheels. By comparison, the SEL Premium comes with 19-inch wheels, LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System, rain-sensing wipers, and power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lights. For added convenience, the SEL Premium also includes the foot-activated, hands-free Easy Open power liftgate.

Standard cloth seats in the all-new Tiguan

Standard safety features on all models include a rearview camera and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, unique to VW. The Premium SEL adds an overhead view camera, Active Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Park Distance Control among other features.

Standard creature comforts include a multi-function steering wheel, cloth seats with a nice quilted pattern, cruise control, a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen with AM/FM radio and one USB port, Bluetooth, VW Car-Net App-Connect, and the MIB II infotainment system.

The SEL Premium adds a panoramic sunroof, an eight-inch touchscreen, heated leather seats and steering wheel, two more USB ports, a power driver’s seat with memory, keyless start, and the Fender premium audio system.

With a bolder design on the outside, the 2018 Tiguan bears the new face of VW, but it also improves on essentials with more room and technology.

Pricing for the 2018 Tiguan starts at $25,495 and $37,150 for the SEL Premium.

 

Car Launch: 2018 Honda Accord

 Launches  Comments Off on Car Launch: 2018 Honda Accord
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.

SUV Launch: 2018 Volvo XC60

 Launches  Comments Off on SUV Launch: 2018 Volvo XC60
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 mid-size 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 used driftwood to inspire wood interior accents 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