Aug 072017
 

Believe it or not, the battle of the bulge (the war with the scale not the German counteroffensive in 1944) affects cars too. Dropping pounds can produce certain challenges for vehicles but in the search for better fuel economy, it’s worth it. Chevrolet took 400 pounds off of the all-new 2018 Equinox and Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch in Asheville, North Carolina to test drive the redesigned compact sport utility vehicle (SUV). Turns out it has more to brag about than just being lean.

“In a word, crossover customers want one thing, everything. From comfort and connectivity to efficient performance and safety, the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox delivers on all counts,” said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers.

Turbos have been at the heart of Chevy’s approach to fuel economy and it really ramps up with the Equinox, which offers a choice of three—a 1.5-liter, 2.0-liter, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel (a segment first). This makes the Equinox the first Chevrolet model in North America to use an all-turbocharged, multi-engine powertrain lineup. The 1.5-liter and diesel are matched to a six-speed automatic and the 2.0-liter is matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

GM estimates that the highway fuel economy on front wheel drive (FWD) models equipped with the 1.5-liter will reach 32 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway, 29 mpg with the 2.0-liter, and 40 mpg with the diesel.

For many manufacturers, the compact SUV market is the new sweet spot and Chevrolet is no exception. Equinox sales have reached nearly two million units since its launch and it’s Chevrolet’s top selling SUV and second-best selling vehicle overall, after the Silverado.

An elegant interior complements the new exterior design, particularly on the top trim levels that offer striking color combinations for the leather seating and accents.

Inside, there’s also 3.5 cubic feet of interior volume for a total of up to 63.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, this despite a reduction in overall length of 4.7 inches, making it easier to park and maneuver.

This family vehicle is not without safety innovations. A rearview camera is standard on all trims, as well as Teen Driver that allows parents to set controls and review in order to encourage driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle. The optional and improved Safety Alert seat buzzes the driver’s left or right upper thigh as a warning and the available Rear Seat Reminder pings when the ignition is turned off to remind drivers to check the back seat for children. These and other safety features like a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert are available although only on higher-end trim levels.

The MyLink infotainment system designed to support 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. Other convenience features include cruise control, air conditioning, and keyless start.

Available in L, LS, LT and Premier trim levels, and FWD or all wheel drive combinations, pricing for the next-generation 2018 Equinox will start at $24,525.

 

Jun 192017
 

From station wagons to crossovers, family vehicles have evolved to accommodate the needs of modern households. Most manufacturers have major players in every segment, but a few still don’t. Volkswagen is the latest to join the midsize sport utility vehicle (SUV) crowd with the all-new 2018 Atlas. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the launch in the Texas Hill Country.

“This is the biggest and boldest Volkswagen we have ever built in the United States, delivering the distinctive design and craftsmanship we’re known for, now with room for seven,” said Hinrich J. Woebcken, CEO of the North American Region, Volkswagen. “The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.”

Atlas Premium display.

Atlas SE display.

Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the seven-passenger Atlas is available in five trim levels—S, SE, SE w/Technology, SEL and Premium SEL—and is scheduled to appear in dealer showrooms in the spring of 2017. At the launch, the four top trim levels were available, i.e. all but the S were there. The SE and Premium are separated by more than $10,000 in price and the driving experience, particularly the interior, reflected that.

The Premium offers a digital TFT gauge cluster, while the SE uses traditional hardware. The digital 12.3-inch display can also be customized, a feature usually reserved for premium vehicles, no pun intended. The Atlas Premium interior also includes heated leather seats while the SE comes with leatherette upholstery.

Still, all Atlases offer utility with three rows of seats, including second and third rows that can fold flat to provide a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cubic feet behind the front-row seats.

For those a little more concerned with fuel economy, the Atlas will offer a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque. For families who’d like more power, the Atlas can also be outfitted with a 3.6-liter VR6 that delivers 276 horses and 266 lb.–ft. of torque. Both are matched to an eight-speed transmission. The maximum towing for the V6 is 5,000 lbs. with a factory-installed hitch. The standard Start/Stop technology on both engines that cuts the engine off at a stop, also helps conserve gas and while noticeable, it was less jarring than other systems.

While the Texas Hill Country can’t match the curves and climbs along some California highways, it did provide enough of a challenge to test the V6 engine and it reformed successfully. The turbo wasn’t available at the launch. Both engines are available on all trims with the exception of the Premium SEL, which is only offered with the VR6 engine and 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD). While there was no off-road course at the launch, Atlases with AWD do come with Driving Mode Selection or settings for handling road (and off-road) conditions—Onroad, Snow, Offroad, and Custom Offroad—plus, within the “Onroad” setting come additional options—Normal, Sport, Comfort and Individual.

EPA testing is still underway, but the front-wheel drive VR6 models are expected to earn around 18 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. As the 2.0-liter engine will have late availability, no mpg information is currently available.

Family vehicles need to be packed with safety features as well as utility. Setting the Atlas apart is the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which is standard on all models. Unavailable on the base model, the following features are standard based on the trim level. A blind spot monitor is standard on the SE and above while Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with emergency braking and pedestrian warning, and Lane Assist come with the SE w/Technology and above. Park Distance Control is only standard on the Premium.

Standard convenience features include a rearview camera, two-zone (first row and second/third row) climate control, cruise control, the MIB II infotainment system, and a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display.

Forging its way into a crowded field, the Atlas may not shake up the segment, but it will certainly carve out a niche.

Pricing for the 2018 Atlas starts at $31,425. The as-tested pricing on the 2018 Atlas SE and Premium trims at the launch came to $36,225 and $49,415, respectively.

 

Jun 092017
 

Like it or not (Mr. President), the clean energy train has left the station, which means alternative fuel vehicles will continue to arrive at a dealership near you. This year Hyundai bolstered that prediction with the introduction of its all-new hybrid, the 2017 Ioniq. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the regional launch in Durham, North Carolina to drive not one, not two, but all three versions.

Rather than wait years to complete the lineup, Hyundai will build three powertrains on one dedicated platform, the Ioniq Hybrid, Electric (with a range of 124 miles), and a Plug-in Hybrid (available in 2018). All three were at the launch where they performed nicely, and like the name, a cross between “ion and unique,” the Ioniqs displayed distinctive good looks.

Ioniq Electric

I appreciated its sporty accents, like LED daytime running lights, and while the arched roofline may resemble that of other hybrids, it’s a functional necessity to maximize aerodynamics and achieve an industry-leading 0.24 coefficient of drag.

According to WardsAuto, in the United States, “Total EV sales grew to 79,915 units from 72,374 in 2015. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales, counted in a separate category, totaled 71,329 units, up 63 percent from 43,815 in 2015, and hybrid sales totaled 373,359 units in 2016, up from 341,792 in 2015.” Hyundai believes that millennials will energize the market further, increasing sales, according to Brandon Ramirez, senior group manager, product planning at Hyundai Motor America.

A recent addition to the segment, the Ioniq gets the benefit of bringing up the rear, improving on what the first hybrids started, like offering the best combined fuel economy in its class, 58 miles per gallon (mpg) with the Ioniq Blue trim (non-Blue trims should achieve 55 mpg combined). At the launch, I averaged 51 mpg with the Ioniq Hybrid Limited trim. A new 1.6-liter direct-injected Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine powers the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrids, delivering an estimated 104 horsepower and an estimated 109 lbs.–ft. of torque. On the Hybrid, it’s matched to a quick-shifting six-speed double-clutch transmission, an electric motor that delivers an estimated 43 horsepower with an estimated maximum torque of 125 lbs.–ft., and a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery (with a lifetime warranty). With an 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, the Plug-in Hybrid provides an all-electric range (before the gas-powered engine kicks in) of more than 27 miles while the Ioniq Electric offers an estimated driving range of 124 miles with a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery . Mated to a single-speed reduction-gear transmission, the electric motor has a maximum output of 118 horsepower and 218 lbs.–ft. of torque. The Ioniq Electric has an EPA-estimated 136 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) rating, better than any electric vehicle sold in the U.S.

Range anxiety plus the length of time needed to charge can discourage potential buyers. The Ioniq may offer some solutions. Charging the Ioniq Electric to 80 percent should take approximately 23 minutes using an SAE Combo Level-3 DC, 100 kW fast charger. An integrated In-Cable Control Box also allows drivers to charge their Ioniq using a standard household electric socket.

Enhancing the car’s fuel efficiency and dynamic driving characteristics, the driver can select either SPORT or ECO modes. On the launch, the SPORT mode did add oomph but it was the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric models that offered noticeably smoother rides.

The Ioniq reflects a deeper commitment to green from Hyundai with its use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive materials, like interior door covers made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone.

Innovations continue on the inside with a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster that displays all gauge functions and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system, which is standard on the Electric model for three years. Placing the battery underneath the rear seats also adds extra passenger space on the Ioniq hybrid, an estimated 122.7 cubic feet and best-in-class cargo of 26.5 cubic feet, plus it gives the Ioniq a lower center of gravity for better road hugging. Handy features, like a rearview camera are standard, but safety technology, like a blindspot warning system, remain optional, even on the more expensive Electric model.

Looking to the future, Hyundai and the all-new Ioniq will continue to attract consumers to the green car segment. Pricing for the Hybrid and Electric (pricing for the Plug-in was not available) models should start at $23,035 and $30,335 respectively, and the Electric will be eligible for government tax credits of $7,500, according to the IRS.  

Ioniq Hybrid

 

Feb 132017
 

The reasons why the CR-V and Civic have been top sellers for Honda are many. Offering families the versatility they need as well as value they seek explains how the CR-V became the best-selling SUV in America for the past 20 years, selling nearly four million models in the United States since it was introduced in 1997. For its part, the Civic offers an affordable and fuel-efficient option for a daily driver. Honda chose to introduce the all-new 2017 version of the CR-V in Monterey, California, a fitting backdrop for its popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV). For the Civic, also a favorite among Latinos, Honda marked the return of a body style that has been anticipated for years, the hatchback. Latino Traffic Report attended the launch of both, beginning with the 2017 Civic Hatchback in San Francisco.

Honda Civic Hatchback

It’s been more than 25 years since the Civic offered a hatchback version, some would say its return has been long overdue. Available in five trims: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L Navi, and Sport Touring, the body style will be added to the tenth generation of the Civic, joining the sedan and coupe.

As a five-door hatch it offers more versatility than a coupe or sedan, including a best-in-class cargo capacity of 25.7 cubic feet of room and an innovative cargo cover that retracts to the side rather than from the top for added convenience.

Happily, it comes with a six-speed manual transmission, as well as a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Both are both matched to the same 1.5-liter in-line four cylinder turbo with 174 horses (horsepower jumps to 180 on the Sport and Sport Touring trims) that also powers certain CR-V trim levels.

The best fuel economy comes from the CVT matched to the turbo with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 31 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. The base model manual should achieve one mpg less. The Sport and Sport Touring versions will achieve a little less than that. The model I drove, however, achieved an average fuel efficiency of 39.3 mpg.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

The six-speed manual, however, really ramps up the fun-to-drive experience of the hatchback, but what’s even better is that it’s available on two trim levels, the base (LX) and the Sport. That means that while one version may be fairly basic, the second can be upgraded with more technology and options, like Honda Sensing on the LX, a suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies that includes the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning integrated with the CMBS, and Adaptive Cruise Control  with Low-Speed Follow or steering wheel paddle shifters and 18-inch alloy wheels on the Sport. Honda’s version of a blind spot monitor, LaneWatch, is standard on the EX trim and above, which excludes the LX and Sport.

Still, standard features on all hatchbacks include the Eco Assist system to improve fuel economy, a multi-angle rearview camera, cruise control, and a 60/40 split rear seat that folds down, among other features.

Pricing for the 2017 Civic Hatchback starts at $20,575.

Honda CR-V

For 2017, Honda designers opted to sharpen design cues on the CR-V’s extrerior rather than take a radical approach, starting with the headlamps. The hood is also longer while the rear receives a shorter overhang, elongated LED taillights, and new dual exhaust outlets. Its wheelbase also grows by 1.6-inches.

No family vehicle is complete without a discussion of safety features and the CR-V has a story to tell. For the first time it will offer (except on the base model) both Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow. Additional new available driver-assistive features that could be considered must-haves include a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Blind Spot Information System, Auto High-Beam and the all-new Driver Attention Monitor.

Adding convenience, the available Hands Free Access Power Tailgate that automatically opens and closes the tailgate by simply swiping your foot to activate a sensor under the rear of the vehicle is a Honda-first. Hauling is made easier with the new one-motion dive-down 60/40-split rear seat that falls softly when deployed rather than slamming down like so many others.

Honda offers two available engines on the 2017 CR-V beginning with its first ever turbocharged, 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway when equipped with front wheel drive (FWD). The second engine option, a 2.4-liter direct-injected i-VTEC with Variable Timing Control powers the base model and should earn an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 26/32 mpg when equipped with FWD. Both engines are mated to a CVT with Honda G-Shift control logic. The Active Shutter Grille system that lowers aerodynamic drag and helps improve fuel economy is another Honda-first. We averaged 31.3 mpg on the test drive.

Like the Civic hatchback, every 2017 CR-V is equipped with a green ECON button located on the center console near the shift lever. Activating the ECON mode helps improve fuel efficiency by modifying throttle mapping and HVAC operation.

All-wheel-drive (AWD) models feature an upgraded Real Time AWD system with a significant increase in maximum rear-wheel torque delivery.

Pricing for the 2017 CR-V starts at $24,985.

The redesigned CR-V and all-new Civic hatchback will please their enthusiastic and loyal customers as well as appeal to new fans.

Jan 152017
 

It’s a happy coincidence when the name of your product matches that of a blockbuster movie. So it is with Nissan Rogue and Rogue One, the latest tale from the Star Wars franchise. Nissan recently launched the refreshed 2017 Rogue, all-new Rogue Hybrid, and Sentra SR Turbo in Greensboro, Georgia and Latino Traffic Report was there.

Impressive fuel economy from an all-new hybrid version—the first ever for Rogue— and enhanced technology and versatility should help the crossover utility vehicle (CUV) remain the top-selling Nissan model, while the new SR Turbo trim for the Sentra adds sportiness to the lineup.

Efforts to refresh the Rogue include a new front fascia with integrated fog lamps, and bumper. It now features the Nissan signature “V-Motion” grille and revised headlights with LED signature Daytime Running Lights and LED boomerang signature taillights in the rear. A new rear bumper and chrome-trim side door moldings complete the freshened appearance.

Versatility improves on the CUV with wide opening (77 degrees) rear doors for easier entry and exit to the rear passenger space. Available technology, like a new Motion-Activated Liftgate, uses a kick sensor system to open and close the tailgate. It’s standard on Rogue SL and available on Rogue SR as part of the SR Premium Package.

Refreshing changes continue on the inside with a new D-shaped steering wheel and leather-booted sport-mode shifter. Premium options like a heated steering wheel, memory for driver’s seats and mirror, and remote engine start are also now available, giving the Rogue a more premium look and feel.

It comes with two rows of seating for five but a third row can be added (except on the hybrid version) to expand seating to seven. Nissan’s innovative EZ Flex Seating System allows every seat except the driver’s to fold down—the front passenger seat folds rearwards—expanding versatility as well as cargo room to 70 cubic feet. But the Rogue’s configurability doesn’t end there. It also offers the Divide-N-Hide Cargo System that provides eighteen adjustable variations (two-row models only, not available with Rogue Hybrid) between the cargo and occupant areas.

Standard safety features include a RearView monitor, remote keyless entry, traction control, and Vehicle Dynamic Control. The available Rogue Safety Shield expands that list, adding a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, Intelligent Cruise Control, and Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection.

As mentioned, the new gasoline-electric hybrid version offers an additional powertrain option to the standard 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. Fuel economy on the all-new hybrid should reach 33 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, dropping slightly on all-wheel-drive (AWD) models. On the test drive, we achieved an average of 34.6 mpg.

This compares to the expected city/highway fuel economy for the non-hybrid of 26/33 mpg, and 25/32 mpg on AWD models.

Pricing for the 2017 Rogue starts at $24,760.

Nissan introduced a limited edition of the Rogue with a Star Wars theme and branding at the LA Auto Show in November and partnered with Lucasfilm Ltd for a fully integrated marketing campaign. The additions and improvements on the 2017 version, including the all-new hybrid, should continue to grab attention, even after the blockbuster comes out on DVD.

2017 Sentra SR Turbo

For an added treat, Nissan also revealed a new, sporty trim level for the 2017 Sentra, the SR Turbo. The best news is that it comes with a responsive six-speed manual transmission that put a smile on my face as I drove it on a quick route in Greensboro. For those who can’t drive a manual, an Xtronic transmission is also available.

The SR’s four-cylinder, 1.6-liter Direct Injection Gasoline turbo engine with 188 horses also improves performance. Enhancements to the suspension, front brakes, and electric power steering complete the driving experience.

Like the base model Sentra S, the SR base model lacks options. The next level, SV trim, can be upgraded, but only the highest trims, SR and SL, can be upgraded with premium packages that bring features like leather-appointed seating, a Bose Premium audio system with eight speakers, Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Pricing for the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo starts at $17,855.

 

Jan 132017
 

It’s one thing for a manufacturer to launch a new vehicle, it’s quite another to launch several at a time.  Nissan recently invited Latino Traffic Report to Northern California where it presented four new vehicles for 2017, the Titan (half-ton) and Titan XD Single Cab, Armada, and Pathfinder. Of the four, the Armada represents a complete redesign. The other three add a new model, transmission, configuration, and engine.

2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab

Titan

The Titan XD made quite an impression when it was launched in 2015 with a 5.0-liter V8 Cummins Turbo Diesel that produced 310 horsepower and 555 lb.–ft. of torque and a capability that placed it in a class by itself between a half-ton and heavy duty. It was so impressive that the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) named it the Truck of Texas in 2015, a rare feat for an import.

2017 Titan XD Single Cab

Nissan adds the Titan, a half-ton model for 2017, plus a Single Cab configuration to both the Titan and Titan XD models, a first for any generation of the truck, giving the lineup more appeal to business owners as a basic work truck. Once again TAWA members appreciated the latest Nissan products, naming the Titan XD Single Cab the Commercial Vehicle of Texas and the half-ton the Full-Size Pickup of Texas at the 2016 Truck Rodeo.

On the first day of the three-day launch, I drove the gasoline-powered Titan Crew Cab with the 5.6-liter V8 and new seven-speed automatic transmission. Producing 390 horses and 394 lb.–ft. of torque, the V8 will have a maximum towing rate of 9,390 pounds when properly equipped. Maximum towing capacities for the XD gasoline and diesel are

Under seat storage in the 2017 Titan Platinum Reserve

11,590 lbs. and 12,640 lbs., respectively. All Single Cabs come with an eight-foot bed for maximum payloads of 1,930 pounds (half-ton), 2,910 (XD gas), and 2,420 (XD diesel).

Available in five trim levels, from the base S to the Platinum Reserve, and two-wheel or four-wheel drive (2WD or 4WD), the Titan continues to give truck owners utility for work and comfort for families.

Pricing for the 2017 Titan starts at $35,975 and $30,775 for the Single Cab. Pricing for 2017 XD Single cab starts at and $32,285.

 

Armada

The next day we drove the all-new 2017 Armada, Nissan’s biggest sport utility vehicle (SUV). It shares the same powertrain as the gasoline-powered Titan, the 5.6-liter V8 and the seven-speed transmission, but not the same platform. Still, based on a truck-like body-on-frame construction, it embodies its segment, with a standard towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. for both 4WD and 2WD models (when properly equipped).

Like the Titan and Pathfinder, we tested the Armada on-road and off-road at the launch (see videos below), but we also enjoyed its comfort and convenience. This is after all, a premium SUV, in accoutrements as well as pricing. Like the Titan, it was also recognized at the 2016 TAWA Truck Rodeo, winning the title of SUV of Texas.

The all-new body design offers a 20 percent increase in twisted body stiffness for better handling and ride comfort. With seating for eight, it can be configured for seven with the optional Captain’s Chairs in the second row. Both second- and third -row benches are split 60/40 and fold flat to expose 95.4 cubic feet of cargo room. New technology includes a power folding feature for the third row that is optional on the base model SV and standard on the SL and Platinum grades.

Standard Armada creature comforts include, a push button ignition, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch color display, and Bose audio system. The Armada SV offers premium cloth seating surfaces, while leather-appointed seating is standard on SL and Platinum grades. The Platinum adds a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and heated second-row sets.

A suite of available safety and security features includes the class-exclusive Predictive Forward Collision Warning that warns the driver of risks that lie beyond the driver’s forward field of vision, Backup Collision Intervention, and Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection. Lane Departure Prevention, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, and class-exclusive Blind Spot Intervention are available, though not on the base model. It would be nice if at least one of these were standard.

Available in three trims and 2WD and 4WD, pricing for the second-generation Armada should start at $45,995.

Pathfinder

Before heading to the airport, we spent the last morning in the Pathfinder. Redesigned in 2013, it turned heads when it traded its body-on-frame construction for a unibody (car-like) construction. For 2017, it gets a refreshed exterior, increased performance, and new technology.

One of the oldest Nissan nameplates, the 2017 Pathfinder has a new hood, front bumper, and fog lights for a more aggressive style plus a new “V-Motion” grille and boomerang-shaped headlights with LED daytime running lights. It also receives a new, more powerful V6 for an increased tow rating of 6,000 lbs.

For added convenience, the new Motion-Activated liftgate can now be engaged with a sweeping motion below the rear bumper and takes technology from Infiniti to bring intuitive touch for the eight–inch entertainment display. The Pathfinder’s instrument cluster now includes the standard Advanced Drive-Assist Display (ADAD) with additional infotainment and driver assistance displays.

New available safety technology includes Forward Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control, and  Moving Object Detection that has been added to the available Around View Monitor. The Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems remain optional.

Pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder will start at $31,240.

Part of Nissan’s “Year of the Truck” campaign, these three models capture its efforts to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and families.

Nov 102016
 

2016-06-09-15-56-57

Car manufacturers take great pains to select a backdrop for new vehicle launches that help their products stand out. Volvo chose Spain’s Costa del Sol to launch its all-new 2017 Volvo S90 premium four-door coupé. Lucky me and Latino Traffic Report.

According to Anders Robertson, Volvo 90 Series product manager, 150,000 premium sedan leases will mature this year. Volvo hopes the well-timed launch of the S90, plus its styling, technology, and pricing, will encourage lessees to cross-shop and ultimately choose the S90.

Volvo begins by giving its flagship sedan curb appeal with distinctive design cues, specifically, all new tail lights and the T-shaped Thor’s Hammer headlamp design that first premiered on the 2016 XC90 sport utility vehicle.2016-06-09-16-16-26

Competing against brands like Audi, BMW, and Lexus, Volvo offers what no other manufacturer can, a Scandinavian interior that combines luxury with function. For starters, the tablet-shaped nine-inch touchscreen that interfaces with the Sensus infotainment and navigation systems, first introduced on the XC90, reappears on the S90. It’s more than just handsome to look at, it’s one of the easiest systems to operate as it functions similarly to a conventional tablet by sliding your finger to the left, right, up, and down. A cleaning cloth to remove fingerprints is included.

2016-06-09-16-14-51Standard leather seating combined with a power sunroof and unique air vents take the S90 interior up a notch. Instead of thin wood veneers that don’t appear convincingly real on some vehicles, the S90 T6 Inscription that we drove on the launch included chunky Walnut wood accents with a matte finish. I predict that this design cue will get copied, like so many of Volvo’s safety innovations.2016-06-09-16-15-04

In this segment, roominess has its advantages, particularly in the back. Rear legroom on the S90 comes to 35.9 inches.

Another XC90 feature that returns on the new S90 T6 is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo and supercharged powertrain, for which Volvo has received numerous accolades. The power (316 horses and 295 lb.–ft. of torque) and responsive throttle belie the engine’s size, and it doesn’t sound like a four-cylinder either.

Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the S90 T6 should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. On the test-drive en españa, I averaged 22.6 mpg. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will power the T5 Momentum entry-level model.

2016-06-09-16-14-55No discussion of the S90 would be complete without considering safety. Volvo has committed to zero fatalities or serious injuries in one of its vehicles by 2020. To do this requires setting new benchmarks in safety technology. With the S90, Volvo has focused on avoiding large animal collisions. According to Jim Nichols, Volvo product and technology manager, 1.23 million deer strikes occurred last year in the United States. alone, resulting in 200 deaths. Volvo will include its latest technology, the Large Animal Detection system that uses radar to spot deer, moose, etc., and engage automatic braking.

All S90s come with an improved version of Pilot Assist that allows the vehicle to accelerate, decelerate, and come to a complete stop to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, up to speeds of 80 miles per hour (mph). This makes it the first car in the U.S. with standard semi-autonomous technology.

The S90 means to compete, con ganas, in 2016-06-09-15-57-34the premium sedan segment. Its design, technology, and value give it a definite advantage.

Pricing for the 2017 Volvo S90 T5 Momentum and T6 Inscription starts at $47,945 and $57,245, respectively. A wagon version, the V90, will be available in 2017.

Driving an S90 along Spain’s Costa del Sol wasn’t exactly on my bucket list, well, almost. Visiting Spain was, driving the S90 was just the delicious cereza on top!

Oct 062016
 

2016-05-05-11-52-44

More trucks are sold in Texas than in any other state in the country so it’s no wonder that Honda chose San Antonio, TX for the launch of its all-new 2017 Ridgeline. This redesign is not in name only; it’s a true reconstruction of the midsize pickup from the top down. As a result, the Ridgeline looks more truck-like and offers greater versatility and capability.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline In-Bed Trunk

The class-exclusive In-Bed Trunk on the 2017 Honda Ridgeline

For starters, Honda designers 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. There’s actually a seam down the side between the cabin and the bed that gives the appearance that the two are separate, but they’re not.

The new Ridgeline also retains certain innovations from the inaugural model that launched in 2006, namely a dual-action tailgate that opens to the side, as well as drops down, and a locking in-bed trunk that can hold wet or dry cargo. New for 2017 is the available in-bed audio system, perfect for Latinos who love to picnic or tailgate. Another first is the availability of two-wheel or four-wheel drive (2WD or 4WD) configurations.

Powered by a more powerful and efficient direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 engine (280 horses and 262 lb.-ft. of torque) matched to a new six-speed automatic transmission with a wider ratio spread, the Ridgeline 2WD has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

2016-05-05-14-59-50Those equipped with AWD add the new Intelligent Variable Torque Management torque-vectoring system to achieve a class-leading city/highway EPA fuel economy rating of 18/25 mpg, plus improved all-weather traction and handling capability. I averaged 23.4 mpg on the test drive.

We also tested the 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 and Normal and Snow for the 2WD. Towing maxes out at 5,000 lbs.

With a bed that has been stretched to 64 inches in length and 60 inches in width, it’s longer than its main competitors, and with the afore mentioned in-bed trunk that can double as an 82 qt. cooler, the Ridgeline offers a best-in-class payload of 1,584 lbs. It’s the only bed in the midsize class that can flat haul four-foot-wide items, like drywall. It also has best-in-class cargo volume inside, under the rear seat and with the rear seats flipped up.2016-05-05-14-44-27

New available technology includes 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, and Remote Engine Start.

While the multi-angle rearview camera is standard, advanced safety features like a blind spot monitor or rear cross traffic alert only come with the top trim levels.

Standard convenience features include push button start, a Class III towing hitch, fold-up rear seats, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, illuminated steering wheel-mounted controls, and AM/FM stereo with an MP3 auxiliary jack and Windows Playback capability, USB audio interface, Bluetooth phone, and streaming audio.

2016-05-04-20-32-06In the ten years since it was introduced, I never got to meet the original Honda Ridgeline. I have met the next generation, however, and the pleasure was all mine. It’s pricey but competitive with comparably equipped versions in the segment.

Built at the Honda manufacturing plant in Alabama and available in seven trim levels, the 2017 Ridgeline has a base price of $30,375 with destination fees. You’ll have to spend $42,270 on the RTL-E trim to get cool features like the in-bed audio system.

 

 

Aug 092016
 

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Introduced in the early nineties, the Sportage is Kia’s longest-running nameplate. Redesigned for 2017, Kia recently introduced the all-new Sportage in San Diego and Latino Traffic Report was there. With striking new looks, the Sportage adds more standard equipment for 2017 as well as new safety technology.

2016-03-03 11.34.40The compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) handled curves deftly at the launch, but its new exterior really grabbed attention, particularly at the first stop—the Julian Pie Company in Julian, California. The original apple pie with cheddar cheese was delicious!

Designed in Germany, it’s no surprise that the new Sportage inspires a comparison to other German brands—I found myself referring to it as the “baby (Porsche) Cayenne.” Still, Kia’s design cues remain front and center starting with the “tiger-nose” grille in the front fascia. The headlights sit higher than on the previous Shortage, but the fog lamp array on each side really stands out.

Improved ride and handling comes from a stiffer structure, new suspension, and advanced driver assistance systems. The available intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD) can be added to every trim ($1500) and features a 50/50 locking center differential and torque vectoring. The Driver Mode Select (DMS) that gives the driver three choices—Normal, Sport, or Eco—improves performance on all models.2016-03-03 rear.06

Offered in three trim levels (LX, EX, and SX Turbo), the Sportage can be powered by a choice of two four-cylinder engines—a 2.0-liter inline-four turbo with 240 horsepower (237 on AWD models) and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The base model LX and the EX come with a normally aspirated 2.4-liter engine that produces 181 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines have been retuned for better fuel efficiency and are matched to an updated six-speed automatic transmission.

At the launch we drove AWD and front wheel drive (FWD) versions of the SX Turbo equipped with a sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters.

2017 Sportage SX TurboLonger by 1.2 inches, the new Sportage has a roomier interior with seating for five. It’s also available with additional appointments for a more luxurious cabin and a range of technologies including UVO eServies and telematics, AppleCar Play, and Android Auto.

The SX Turbo included leather seating with ventilated and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Harmon Kardon audio with Clari-Fi, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a panoramic sunroof with an opening that is 4.1 inches longer than the outgoing model’s.2017 Sportage SX Turbo

The top-of-the-line SX also included the latest safety technology, like a rearview camera, blind spot detection, front and rear parking assist, and rear cross traffic alert. While these features are not available on the base model, they can be added to the mid-range EX. The rearview camera, however, is standard on all three trim levels.2017 Sportage SX Turbo

Thanks to an innovative dual-level cargo floor and a widened luggage area, cargo capacity behind the second row has grown from 26.1 cu.-ft. to 30.7 cu.-ft. The 60/40-split second row also folds flat and reclines for added convenience.

The base model includes air conditioning, a five-inch color touchscreen AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM audio system with Bluetooth, hands-free phone operation and streaming audio, USB auxiliary input jacks, and SiriusXM, satellite radio for three months.

Convenience features like cargo net hooks, remote keyless entry, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, are also standard. The SX adds a smart power tailgate that opens automatically when it senses the key fob.2016-03-03 11.01.48

Good looking, fun, and versatile, the all-new Sportage should be a fierce competitor in its segment.

Pricing for the 2017 Kia Sportage starts at $23,885. The as-tested pricing for the SX FWD and AWD was $33,395 and $34,895 respectively.

Jun 242016
 

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Launched in 1990, the award-winning Elantra is one of Hyundai’s all time best-selling models. For 2017, Hyundai manages to add new features and technology to the all-new Elantra, while dropping the starting price by $100. At the regional launch in New Orleans, the Elantra impressed Latino Traffic Report with its bar-raising segment firsts.

The redesign starts with a new look on the outside, defined by Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and smoother contoured lines that enhance its aerodynamics. The redesign also includes equipment firsts like the available HID headlights with Dynamic Bending Lights, unique vertical LED daytime running lights, the LED door handle approach lights, and LED taillights.

Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay

The base model Elantra SE matches the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Great news for fans of the stick shift, except that it’s sold as-is. Stepping up to the Eco trim level makes the 1.4-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission standard. The Eco trim should offer the best gas savings of all with an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon (mpg).

At the launch, we drove the Limited trim level that’s powered by the 2.0 liter matched to a six-speed automatic Shiftronic transmission with the Active ECO System. We averaged 35.9 mpg while driving at a good clip and crossing state lines between Louisiana and Mississippi. Standard on all Elantras, the Drive Mode Select further enhanced its performance.

2017 ELANTRA SEDANStepping up to the Limited trim level brings many more advantages, including standard advanced safety features like a rearview camera, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist. While not offered on the SE manual, they are available on the SE with the automatic transmission.

Premium soft-touch materials, new creature comforts like dual climate control, and available advanced technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, give the  Elantra a more upscale interior. It’s also larger than its competitors, so much so that it’s classified as a midsize sedan by the EPA. Segment firsts include premium features like s a hands-free Smart Trunk—there’s no need to swipe a foot under the bumper, just approach with keys in your pocket and in a few seconds the trunk will open.

60/40-split folding rear seat

60/40-split folding rear seat

More segment firsts on the inside include the integrated memory system for the power driver seat and side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and advanced ergonomic front seats. The Limited trim adds heated front seats and offers heated rear seats (not found among its competitors).

For added convenience, the rear seat is split 60/40, folding forward for additional cargo volume. The Elantra already offers class-above total interior volume with 110.2 cu. ft. Cargo volume in the trunk reaches 14.4 cu. ft.

Standard entertainment features include Smartphone/USB and auxiliary input jacks, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 Audio System, and complimentary SiriusXM activation with a three-month trial subscription.2016-02-23 11.38.23 HDR

In a competitive segment like compact cars, the Elantra excels at offering a generous list of standard and available features, including some not normally found among its competitors.

Pricing for the 2017 Elantra SE starts at $17,985, while pricing for the Limited starts at $23,185.