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 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 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.

Aug 122017
 

How do you redesign one of your all time best-selling models? Hyundai chose to add new features and technology to the all-new 2017 Elantra while dropping the starting price by $100. Having attended the regional launch last year, I recently drove the Limited or top-of-the-line Elantra trim level in a week-long test, for Latino Traffic Report and was reminded of the value Hyundai continues to reflect in its lineup.

As the word implies, a redesign starts on the outside. Defined by Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille, the new Elantra also has 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.

The Elantra comes with two available powertrains, a 1.4-liter turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s reserved for the Eco trim level. The Limited and base model SE are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 horses and 132 lbs.–ft. of torque. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic Shiftronic transmission with the Active ECO System on the Limited, which also includes Drive Mode Select that allows the driver to choose between a Sport, Eco, or Normal setting to further enhance its performance. I kept it in the Eco mode for most of the drive to conserve fuel. The Limited, with its 17-inch wheels, has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. I averaged 35 mpg during the test drive.

Stepping up to the Limited trim level brings many more advantages, particularly when it comes to safety features. Standard advanced safety features include a rearview camera, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist. Surprisingly, some premium brands still include a blind spot monitor on an optional package so I’m always happy to find this critical safety feature included as standard equipment. Still, I would like to see it available throughout the lineup but it’s not available on the base SE with a six-speed manual transmission, it comes with a blind spot mirror on the driver’s side instead.

The Limited is the only trim with leather seating throughout, the Blue Link Connected Car system and a three-month trial of Blue Link Connected Care. The Limited trim also includes heated front seats and offers heated rear seats not found among its competitors.

Segment firsts include premium features like s a hands-free Smart Trunk (standard on the Limited)—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.

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

The test model also added the Tech Package ($2,500) that included navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Infinity Premium audio system, and the Ultimate Package ($1,900) with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection, Lane Keep Assist, and smart cruise control, among other features.

Pricing for the 2017 Elantra Limited starts at $23,185. The as-tested pricing came to $27,710.

Sí: The Elantra Limited offers great value with impressive standard features like the blind spot warning system.

No: Important safety technology should not be reserved for the top-of-the-line trim but should be available across the lineup.

Jul 302017
 

Despite predictions to the contrary, gasoline-electric hybrids have carved a niche in the automotive industry. According to hybridcars.com, the first to market in the United States in this segment was Honda with the 1999 Insight. Since then, the Insight has come and gone, twice, but Honda continues to bring hybrids to the lineup. I spent three months in the 2017 Accord Hybrid Touring for Latino Traffic Report and the most important thing to know is that this hybrid saves gas, in fact it’s the best in the segment.

Long-term test drives beg for a car to be driven, so I did, more than 5,000 miles over Texas highways, to small towns, like Burnet and Bryan, and big cities, like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. It’s a comfy ride over the long haul and nimble enough to scoot through traffic.

While its fuel economy is stellar, the hybrid’s styling also deserves a mention. Redesigned for 2016, the Accord took on a more sculpted, angular appearance, Marking the Accord’s fortieth anniversary, Honda introduced its sibling, the hybrid that benefits from the Accord’s new look while adding enhancements under the hood.

At the heart of its fuel saving ability is its two-motor hybrid system combined with an ultra-efficient 2.0-liter i-VTEC Atkinson Cycle engine and matched to an electric continuously variable transmission. It achieves a peak-combined output of 212 horsepower, the highest of any midsize hybrid sedan.

Initially, the test model proved to be more fuel efficient in cities than on highways, which is as is should be according to its EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 49 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. Over time, however, fuel economy on the highway also improved, especially with cruise control engaged. I averaged about 48.5 mpg in three months—city and highway combined. When it comes to cost, I spent more than $300 on gasoline.

I engaged the Econ button that can be used at all times, as well as an EV button that operates the hybrid on electric power for small distances, to maximize efficiency. For more power, I pushed the Sport mode button that gave the hybrid better acceleration.

Displays in the instrument cluster and center stack, including a seven-inch touchscreen, helped me maintain gas saving driving habits, like coasting and accelerating smoothly from a stop. While I found them to be helpful, they also raised a little anxiety when the fuel economy slipped.

All Accord Hybrids come with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety features with advanced technology like forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control that allows the driver to set a distance behind a vehicle that cruise control maintains, automatically.

I never grew accustomed to Honda’s LaneWatch camera, also standard, that can be engaged with the turn signal to view the blind spot on the right. The picture wasn’t that clear, especially at night, and focusing made it distracting. A blind spot monitor, available on other Honda models, would be preferable.

Creature comforts included Ivory leather seats, with heated seats in the front and back, navigation, dual-zone climate control (Honda seems to have addressed the air conditioning system’s habit of fading at stops in previous hybrids), a moonroof, and a multi-view back-up camera. I got used to the lack of knobs for volume control and put the CD player and the MP3 USB port to good use on several road trips.

Pricing for the Accord starts at $30,480. Pricing for the as-tested 2017 Accord Hybrid was $36,790.

Sí: The Accord Hybrid Touring achieved what’s expected of a hybrid, it saved gas, but it also came in a handsome package with nice creature comforts.

No: Honda LaneWatch just doesn’t have the intuitiveness of a blind spot warning system and the lack of clarity on the screen is distracting.

Jul 102017
 

My parents bought a new Buick LeSabre every ten years for three decades. Soon after that nameplate was retired in 2005, the LaCrosse was born and for 2017, the third generation has emerged. On a recent weeklong test drive of the 2017 LaCrosse Premium by Latino Traffic Report, the elegant sedan fairly floated along Austin’s highways and byways.

Earning a full-size classification from the EPA with the last generation, the newest version is even longer, lower, and wider than the previous model. That translates into a roomier interior, specifically, 42 inches of front legroom, 40 inches in the rear, and 15 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk. The 60/40 split rear seat also folds to extend cargo space further. It also bears the new face of Buick, featuring a new design on its waterfall grille including the return of a three-color Buick tri-shield insignia, accented by wing-shaped elements.

Trim ranges include: LaCrosse, Preferred, Essence, and Premium. While the test model was front-wheel drive Premium, it can also be configured with all-wheel drive. Like any big sedan, the LaCrosse offers a smooth ride and takes it to another level on the Essence and Premium, with the available electronically controlled Continuous Damping Control active suspension with selectable Touring and Sport modes.

All LaCrosse models are powered by a new 3.6-liter V6 that produces 310 horsepower and 282 lbs.–ft. of torque. Paired to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, featuring Stop/Start and Active Fuel Management, the 2017 LaCrosse FWD has an EPA estimated fuel economy for is 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I achieved an average mpg of 20.1 mpg on the test drive.

The Buick IntelliLink (left) infotainment system with a frameless eight-inch-diagonal color touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and OnStar guidance for three months, OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot integration three-month data plan, and OnStar five-year basic plan with limited vehicle mobile app features, monthly diagnostics report, and dealer maintenance notification are standard on all trims,

All models also include dual-zone air conditioning,  AM/FM stereo with up to 60 preset channels and two USB ports, Bluetooth, cruise control, driver and front passenger eight-way power seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Rear Park Assist.

Really posh features on the Premium test model, like massage controls in the heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and Head-Up display are standard.

Innovative safety technology from General Motors includes the Teen Driver feature allows parents to set controls, review driving habits, and encourage safe driving habits even when they are not in the vehicle is standard on all trims. Additional standard safety features include a rear vision camera.

The Premium brings safety technology like Forward Collision Alert, Head-up Display reflected onto windshield above steering wheel, Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Safety Alert Seat, Side Blind Zone Alert. The test model added the Driver Confidence Package 1 with Rear-Cross Traffic and Blind Zone Alert.

The test model was also equipped with an automatic rear sunshade with the Sun and Shade package ($1,550), adaptive cruise control and Automatic Parking Assist, via the Driver Confidence Package 2 ($1,690), and navigation and a Bose stereo from the Sights and Sounds Package ($1,145).

Pricing for the 2017 Buick LaCrosse starts at $32,990. The as-tested price came to $48,395.

: Larger, more luxurious, and better looking, the all-new 2017 LaCrosse embodies the full-size sedan that Buick lovers expect.

No: Safety features like a blind spot monitor should be available on more trim levels.

May 302017
 

On college campuses across the country, May is moving month. For the parents of these college students, this is when a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) can earn its sticker price. While moving my niece from Bryan, TX to San Antonio to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio, I had the opportunity to test the cargo-carrying ability of the redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia AWD SLT-1 for Latino Traffic Report. We took full advantage of every cubic foot of available cargo room the SUV had to offer.

As the word implies, a redesign starts on the outside and the all-new Acadia displays a more refined look with a dimensional grille, wraparound halogen headlamps, and standard LED lighting. GM invested $167 million at the Spring Hill, Tenn. assembly plant to support production of the 2017 Acadia and additional vehicles.

While SUVs aren’t known for their fuel efficiency, the new Acadia is 700 pounds lighter, which should help stretch a gallon of gasoline a little farther.

A 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with direct injection and variable valve timing is new for 2017. It offers an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon (mpg) highway for front-wheel drive models. The test model, however, came with all-wheel drive and the optional 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 310 horses and 271 lb.–ft. of torque and has a city/highway EPA estimated fuel efficiency of 18/25 mpg. During the weeklong loan that included a 185-mile road trip, I averaged 32.4 mpg on the highway and 17.2 in the city.

The test model also included the All Terrain package with badging throughout, an advanced Active Twin Clutch AWD system, 20-inch aluminum wheels, a cargo management system, and seating for five. While the Acadia can offer seating for seven, the All Terrain package replaces the third-row of seating with covered storage bins and a cargo management system in the rear cargo floor. For this trip, we focused on storage above the floor. The second row deployed easily to expose 79 cu. ft. of cargo space. We had room for multiple boxes and bags, but most impressive, was that the Acadia also fit a twin mattress. We didn’t need to tow but if we had, the Acadia included a Trailering Package ($650) that gives it a maximum towing capability of 4,000 pounds.

All Terrain models are also distinguished with a body-color grille surround, black chrome trim and unique wheels on the outside.

The user-friendly GMC IntelliLink system has been enhanced to include phone integration technology via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The test model also included navigation, a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, OnStar, and SiriusXM Satellite radio for three months, as well as a panoramic sunroof. The shade, however, snaps back with some force so little fingers may need to beware.

Other standard convenience features on the Acadia include cruise control, keyless open and start, a rear vision camera, remote keyless entry, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Safety features will always matter, particularly on a family vehicle like the Acadia and GMC features two new standard technologies—a Rear Seat Reminder that alerts the driver to check the seat before locking the car and the Teen Driver system that allows parents to program the Acadia to allow certain features to encourage safer driving. It prevents certain safety systems from being turned off and even provides parents with a report on their teen’s driving habits.

More common safety technology, like a blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, are available on the SLE-2 trim and are standard on the SLT-1 trim and above. Advanced technology like forward collision alert and the safety alert seat that vibrates to warn the driver, come with the Driver Alert Package II, standard only on SLT-2 and Denali trims.

The starting price for the 2017 GMC Acadia is $29,995. The as-tested price, that included several packages, came to $47,465.

: The Acadia offers the versatility and convenience that’s expected of an SUV.

No: Safety features, like a blind spot monitor, should be available across the lineup and not just reserved for higher trim levels.

May 152017
 

Acura recently unveiled a 2018 redesign of the Acura TLX at the New York International Auto Show, but the 2017 version still has life in it and Latino Traffic Report recently took the TLX 3.5L Advance for a ride.

The five-passenger TLX offers a sports-sedan blend delivering athleticism and premium refinement. Looking better than it has for a while, its signature Jewel Eye LED headlights, standard on all models, set it apart, while offering excellent illumination. LED lighting can also be found on the taillights, above the license plate and as accents on the side mirrors.

Powered by two high-output direct-injected i-VTEC engines, the test model came with the 3.5-liter V6 with Variable Cylinder Management. It was matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission, one of two available transmissions. It was also equipped with one the latest iterations of Acura precision-handling technologies—Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS)—and paddle shifters for added sportiness. A 2.4-liter four cylinder engine, an eight-speed Dual Clutch transmission, and Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive are also available.

While the four-cylinder offers the best fuel economy, the TLX with the 3.5-liter V6 with P-AWS has an EPA fuel-economy rating of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. I averaged 34.2 mpg overall, but on the highway, the average mpg reached 36. Like it’s siblings,

Electronic Gear Selector

the TLX lacks a shift knob and utilizes push buttons, or an electronic gear selector, in the center console instead, which can be a little unnerving, i.e. you don’t want to push the wrong button at the wrong time. The test model also included the Integrated Dynamic System with Econ, Normal, Sport, and Sport S drive modes. The Sport S mode really revved its performance with added power and tightened handling.

When you step up from a Honda to an Acura, you might expect a little more bells and whistles. You can get ’em, but at a price. TLX models with the 2.4-liter engine can be upgraded to the Technology package and models with the 3.5-liter engine can add Technology or the line-topping Advance Package. Both were included on the test model. The Technology package brought essential features like blind spot information, forward collision warning, and a rear cross traffic monitor, as well as convenience features like perforated leather seating, navigation with voice recognition, the AcuraLink communication system, and Acura ELS Studio premium audio.

The Advance package added Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, ventilated front seats, and front and rear parking sensors, among other features.

All TLX models come equipped with Siri Eyes Free technology that allows the driver to use the features of Siri using familiar voice commands, when paired with a compatible iPhone. Other standard features include the multi-view rear camera, cruise control, Multi-information Display, USB Audio Interface with iPod Integration, Bluetooth streaming audio, keyless access, heated leatherette front seats, and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback. Oddly, Bluetooth Hands-Free Wireless telephone is not standard.

Pricing for the 2017 TLX starts at $32,950. The as-tested price came to $43, 540.

: The 2017 TLX Advance offered a sporty ride with a big list of features.

No: Some of the available features should be standard, e.g. blind spot monitor, Bluetooth telephone.

Apr 292017
 

Over the decades, the convertible has stood the test of time, sustained by an over-the-top fun factor. Volkswagen continues to grow its convertible offerings with more topless versions of the Beetle. Latino Traffic Report recently embarked on a windy adventure in the 2017 Beetle 1.8T Dune Convertible.

The Dune’s peppy 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI engine hails from Silao, Mexico. It produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.–ft. of torque, and should earn an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 35.6 mpg on the test drive. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, no manual transmission is available.

The test model came in the most striking of three available shades, Sandstorm Yellow, but subtle design cues also differentiate the Dune from its siblings. It has new front and rear fascias and black wheel arches, plus it rides a little higher and sits a little wider. The bumper adds s a large central air intake and on either side, two black honeycomb vents contain the foglights. It sits on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and has “Dune” graphics displayed on both doors. At the back, the Dune sports a large rear spoiler, standard LED taillights, and a new bumper design. In other words, it’s a head turner.

It’s most distinctive feature, however, is the black canvas top that drops with the push of a button and while at a speed of up to 31 miles per hour. According to VW, it should take 9.5 seconds but on my count, it took seven.

Inside, the attention to detail continues with contrasting “Curry” yellow stitching on the sport seats and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, unique to the Sandstorm Yellow exterior color. Additionally, the test model featured body color upper door trims and dashpads, The Pure White and Deep Black Pearl vehicles will have piano black door and dashpad trim.

Standard entertainment features include the Composition Media infotainment system with a 6.3-inch screen and a capacitive touch sensor and a proximity sensor that detects when a hand is nearby and automatically switches its display. Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect, USB and Bluetooth connectivity for compatible devices and an AM/FM/HD radio with SiriusXM Satellite radio, and a CD player are included

Safety features take on a unique focus due to the convertible’s body style. On the Dune, its reinforced front roof crossmember, strengthened A-pillar, and the Automatic Rollover Support System should add confidence. In the event of a crash, two rollover bars, concealed behind the rear bench seat back, will deploy. Additional standard safety features on the test model included a rearview camera and the Park Distance Control (ParkPilot) system, Automatic Post-Collision Braking system, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System. A blind spot monitor was not available.

Pricing for the 2017 VW Dune starts at $30,215. With no added packages on the test model, the as-tested pricing matched the starting price.

Sí: The Dune stands out in a crowd and fulfills the thrills of topless driving.

No: At this price point, a blind-spot monitor or navigation should be included, much less available.

Mar 202017
 

Riding the wave of growing sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales, the premium SUV segment reported an increase in sales year to date by five percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The segment is not the largest, but when you drop an average of $60K on a premium SUV, be prepared for lots of bells and whistles.

Latino Traffic Report recently drove the all-new 2017 Audi Q7 for a weeklong test drive. Its premium appointments inside stood out, but not all were standard and the extras did cost a pretty penny.

What sets an Audi apart in the segment is its performance heritage. The Q7 gets its power from a 3.0-liter V6 with 333 horses and 325 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission—hence the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It’s also equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.

The EPA expected fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. I averaged 21.1 mpg.

Like most premium SUVs, the Q7 adheres to expectations, with plush leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a singular infotainment system, MMI—Audi’s is less intuitive than others, but I did like that it allowed for 48 different radio presets.

The test model also included red, white, and blue, interior lighting accent strips, a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled seats in the front, and a power liftgate. What really distinguished Audi’s interior, besides the fit and finish, were features like a pop-up display above the center stack that displays navigation maps and other functions. With seating for seven, it has a convenient button to release the third-row bench to fold flat. The second row, was not automatic and therefore, a little less easy to deploy.

Unique safety features like  Audi pre-sense basic and pre-sense plus that help detect and mitigate a potential collision, were also included.As mentioned earlier, additional creature comforts came at a price.

The Prestige Package ($9,500) added 20-inch ten spoke wheels, the Bose 3D surround sound stereo system, navigation, and a heads up display on the windshield, Audi Connect Prime and Plus, Audi Connect Care, and my favorite safety features, a blind spot monitor and rear parking sensor. For $4,000, the Q7 amped up its ride and handling with an Adaptive Chassis Package that included air suspension and four-wheel steering. The Driver Assistance Package ($2,400) added adaptive cruise control, another of my favorite features, active lane assist, and traffic sign recognition. Finally, the Cold Weather Package ($500) included a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.

Redesigned for 2017, the second-generation Q7 has a starting price of $55,750.The as-tested price came to $72,875.

 

Sí: The Audi Q7 lives up to its premium brand with sophisticated design, inside and out.

No: Upgrades to the Q7 can add up quickly.