Valerie Menard

Valerie Menard is a freelance writer and published author with 16 years of reporting about the auto industry for Latino publications.

SUV Review: 2021 Kia Seltos

 Kia, Reviews  Comments Off on SUV Review: 2021 Kia Seltos
Dec 312021
 

Like the ever-expanding small sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment, Kia’s SUV lineup grew a bit larger in 2021 with the introduction of the Seltos, the middle sibling between the Soul and Sportage models. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove the 2021 Seltos EX with all-wheel drive (AWD) and found that it’s much more than a triplet, it’s a true individual.

Available in five trims, the as-tested EX also sits in the middle of the Seltos lineup. The all-new model bears a distinct exterior, holding onto the tiger nose grille, but its headlamp design could get it mistaken for a Ford, at first glance. Although the test model did not include it, the optional two-tone roof would have individualized the Seltos a bit more.

The advantage of a smaller SUV is improved fuel economy and the Seltos does have an impressive EPA estimated fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.  

It’s achieved with a powertrain that includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder MPI engine producing 146 horsepower and 132 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to an Intelligent Variable Transmission. It averaged 32.2 mpg on the week-long test drive.  A 1.6-liter Turbo GDI engine is available on other trims. Three drive modes, Normal, Eco, Sport, also help maximize the fuel economy and performance.

Inside, the Seltos fluctuates between plain and flashy. The 3.5-inch gauge cluster displays information in an understated black and white, but the stereo includes molded speaker covers in an interesting fractal pattern, heated front seats in a black Sofino leatherette and cloth combination, an eight-inch touchscreen compatible to Apple Car Play or Android Auto, and steering wheel-mounted controls. XM satellite radio, however, was missing. The SX trim adds mood lighting that changes color and intensity based on volume level.

As the name implies, utility is required for an SUV and the Seltos offers 60/40

split rear seats that fold flat as well as recline. Enhanced by a dual-level cargo floor, cargo room reaches 62.8 cubic feet.

The EX trim not only brings AWD for enhanced on-road confidence, it also includes a larger list of standard features, especially on the safety side, like the blind spot collision warning and avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert (a nice complement to the standard forward collision warning), and a rear seat reminder that alerts owners to check for valuables in the rear seat before exiting the car. Other options included on the test model were a power sunroof, a smart key with remote start, a wireless phone charger, and 17-inch alloy wheels with a striking machine finish.

Starting price on the 2021 Seltos is $23,110. The as-tested price came to $26,885.

Sí: The Seltos offers good fuel efficiency and utility.

No: The display is plain and a blind spot monitor is not standard equipment on all trim levels.

Merry-achi Christmas Tour 2021 Returns to El Paso

 Destinations  Comments Off on Merry-achi Christmas Tour 2021 Returns to El Paso
Dec 082021
 

As travel begins to ramp up during the holidays, El Paso stands ready to welcome visitors.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that the historic Plaza Theatre will bring back a traditional holiday favorite, The Merry-achi Christmas Tour, Sunday, December 19, 2021, 7 p.m. The colorful Mexican celebration, filled with seasonal songs, dance and festive merriment, is a Southwest favorite, featuring the nation’s premiere Sol de México de José Hernández.

Mariachi Sol de México.

A traveling cultural icon, Mariachi Sol de México symbolizes extraordinary musicianship and cross-generational joy. The troupe travels the world as ambassadors of mariachi music, having performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world including Spain, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, México, China, and North Korea.

Maestro José Hernández, a proud fifth-generation mariachi musician, and his platinum-selling Sol de México have broken countless barriers in mariachi music, becoming the first mariachi ensemble to be nominated three times for a Grammy Award.

Tickets are $54 and up. To purchase tickets, visit the website, or call 915-231-1100.

Tundra and Wagoneer Get Top Honors at 2021 TAWA Truck Rodeo

 Noticias  Comments Off on Tundra and Wagoneer Get Top Honors at 2021 TAWA Truck Rodeo
Dec 012021
 
2022 Toyota Tundra photo by Kevin McCauley

Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) has named the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra and the 2022 Grand Wagoneer as the 2022 Truck of Texas and 2022 SUV of Texas, respectively, following the Texas Truck Rodeo, held October 2021 and attended by LTR editor Valerie Menard, a TAWA voting member. Both models were first-time winners.

2022 Grand Wagoneer photo by Kevin McCauley

“At the Texas Truck Rodeo, we get to put dozens of vehicles through their paces both on- and off-road,” said TAWA president Kristin Shaw. “At the end of the day, our members were duly impressed by the updates and technological advancements included in both the 2022 Tundra and the reborn Grand Wagoneer; both were equally capable on the road course and dirt circuit.”

More than 40 Texas Auto Writers Association journalists traveled to Star Hill Ranch outside Austin on October 4-5, to evaluate more than 50 vehicles on an upgraded off-roading course designed for the event. Drivers had the opportunity to drive vehicles on-road as well.

Members voted on the coveted Truck of Texas and SUV of Texas awards as well as eleven sub-categories including Full-Size Pickup Truck of Texas, Off-Road Pickup Truck of Texas, Luxury SUV of Texas, Mid-Size SUV of Texas and Compact SUV of Texas. Vehicles are measured on their interior, exterior, value, performance and personal appeal.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz photo by Valerie Menard

“With Texas as the number-one truck market, these awards have special significance,” said Menard. “I’ve been a member of this organization for more than 20 years and have been attending the annual truck rodeo for about as long. I look forward to it each year.”

While the Tundra and Wagoneer took the top prizes, other standouts for the day included the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which garnered the Compact SUV of Texas honor. Based on the Hyundai Tucson, the Santa Cruz will remind many of the Subaru Brat and while some may resist the urge to call it a pickup, the open bed does offer truck utility and includes a waterproof cooler inside the bed.

2022 Genesis GV70 photo by Kevin McCauley

Sporting a distinctive exterior look and exceptional interior luxury (including multi-zone massager in the front seats), the Genesis GV70 took home the Luxury SUV of Texas award. It has one of the lowest prices in its segment, starting at $52,000. The as-tested price was $64,045 but that pales in comparison to other competitors at the rodeo like the Maserati Levante Trofeo at $160,040 and even the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III at $109,580.

This year, the health and safety of all participants remained the top priority. Safety protocols that remained in place after being adopted in 2020 to address the pandemic included sanitizing vehicles between drives and hosting all meals and meetings outdoors. TAWA thanks our participating members, automakers, press fleets and sponsors for their support.

For a full list of award winners go to https://www.texasautowriters.org/truck-of-texas-2022.

Hybrid Review: 2021 Volvo XC90 and XC60

 Reviews, Volvo  Comments Off on Hybrid Review: 2021 Volvo XC90 and XC60
Nov 302021
 
Volvo Cars XC90 Recharge
Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 AWD.

By Andy Stonehouse

After an exciting time in the sizeable Volvo V90 Wagon last fall, I had expected the real, actual SUV version of Volvo’s full-size automobile category to seem impossibly huge, ponderous, and disconnected—kind of like a Swedish Chevy Tahoe. This was not the case with the XC90, except it also was. It’s smaller sibling, the XC60, was more fun to drive.

Volvo’s Flagship SUV, the XC90

XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

XC90 Plug-In Hybrid Inscription T8 – Seat Configuration

The XC90 is indeed a long and impressively styled and sculpted vehicle, with marvelous details and a very striking set of optional 21-inch glossy wheels to tie it all together. From the outside, it’s a little more obvious that it contains three comfortable rows of six or seven seats where the passengers at the very back get leg room, cargo bins and full amenities.

The newer XC90 T8 Recharge, the 400-horsepower plug-in electric hybrid version of the SUV, belies its moderately grand scale when planted in the driver’s seat. The ride height is more equivalent to a small SUV from other brands, while the cabin does feel broader and more open thanks to the extra head space.

As for that ultra-fancy Recharge hybrid system—my Inscription-level T8 started at $69,750 but was rounded up to a slightly gasp-inducing $81,690 with a gigantic list of options including a $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system—well, you get what you pay for, for the most part, though impressive mileage you do not and will not get.

Volvo has emphasized pure power here and the 400 horsepower and 472 lb.–ft. of torque are more Porsche-like, at least on paper, especially with just a 2.0-liter as the main gasoline power source—turbocharged and supercharged to make 313 horses on its own, before the electric boost kicks in.

What I did notice more than anything, besides a pretty mediocre 24.2 overall MPG (it’s rated at 27 combined highway and city MPG by the EPA), was a lot of odd noises, gurgles, inconsistent power delivery and an operating experience that clearly was going to take some getting used to. Even the Orefors crystal gear shifter knob required multiple taps forward or backward to officially get into gear; the learning curve there was a little steep.

Cruising along in the XC90 was no problem, though the gas/electric power handoffs were a little jagged. Properly charged, in warm weather, with the wind blowing the right direction, you are said to have a full … 18 miles of all-electric range?

That’s disappointing, to say the least, especially since it’s such a classy and dignified vehicle, with razor-sharp suspension. It’s stunningly outfitted in leather seating, a fantastic stereo and hand-stitched console, and dash and door inserts that are even more beautiful than in the V90.

The vertically-oriented Sensus navigation/touchscreen system used to seem enormous before Ram started putting full flatscreen TVs aboard their trucks. Volvo’s is easy to use, with a purist simplicity embodied by one knob.

The XC90’s Spritely Sibling, the XC60

Volvo XC60 Recharge

If you’d like a hybrid experience that actually delivers, the one-size smaller XC60 Recharge, base priced at $61,000 and tested at $71,340, channels that very same powertrain into a more sprightly, responsive and semi-decent mileage kind of situation.

Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 IP display.

Besides the slightly hovercraft-styled reality of the vehicle’s four-corner air suspension system, which set itself down on top of curbs when I parked a couple of times, the 60 seems like a more practical use of the electrified platform. That air system is also helpful if you do want to go lightly off-roading, as it will give you significant lift when you want it.

It’s still 400 horsepower, it’s still got just about 19 miles of full-electric range, but I found it easier to push the mileage into the 30-MPG range, depending on how hard you drive it.

All that electric boost shows up more tangibly here and adds extra oomph to what I believe is one of the most pleasant crossovers of its size category— like the 90, it’s super stylish, comfortable and still utilitarian, with a little less of the pure mass.

It’s also more devoid of the shudder, the ambiguity and the disconnected feeling as the hybrid shifts and blends between electric kick and regular gas-engine wallop.

Design is fantastic, from its ultra-anatomical, perforated leather seats and the cream-colored cabin. The dash is low and flat and the A-pillars thin, though the boxy, oversized side mirrors can get in the way of some visibility, and rear headrests can be automatically dropped to provide clearer rear vision.

Rear seating will still accommodate most passengers, though the cabin is a bit more plain back there, with B-pillar mounted air conditioning and heating vents. You’ll also find reasonable storage space (63.3 cubic feet, total), though the under-deck space is largely used up by batteries and the air bottles for the optional lift system.    

Sí: One of the classiest, most attractive and least gawd-awful-gigantic full-size SUVs around, loaded with technology, and simply wonderful to just sit aboard. The kind of car you wish you would get when you grow up.

No: Volvo’s ambitious and aggressive move to an all-electric fleet might start with hybrids, but an almost $82,000 hybrid that gets 24 MPG isn’t impressing anyone.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.

Volkswagen Recalls Certain Audi Models

 Recalls  Comments Off on Volkswagen Recalls Certain Audi Models
Oct 272021
 
Audi A5 Sportback
Audi Q3

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (Audi) is recalling certain 2021 Audi A8 and S8, 2022 Audi A5 Sportback, A4 Sedan, E-Tron GT, Q3, Q5, RS6 Avant, A3 Sedan, S5 Sportback, Q5 Sportback, Q7, Q8, RSQ8, SQ7, SQ8, and S3 Sedan vehicles. A software error may prevent the rear-view image from initially displaying when the vehicle begins to reverse. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 111, “Rear Visibility.”

Dealers will update the infotainment unit parameters, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed December 17, 2021. Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Audi’s number for this recall is 91CR.

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

Audi A8

Hyundai Honors Hispanic Heritage Month

 Noticias  Comments Off on Hyundai Honors Hispanic Heritage Month
Oct 152021
 
The Hyundai Project Youth check presentation at Someone Cares Soup Kitchen on Oct. 10, 2021 in Costa Mesa, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

As Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15–Oct. 15) winds down, Latino Traffic Report has learned that Hyundai has launched a campaign to honor the Latino communty and celebrate their achievements and contributions. The multifaceted campaign includes philanthropic and community-based support as well as sponsorships highlighting Hispanic achievements and contributions to America.

“Hyundai is proud to support and spotlight the Hispanic community’s rich and diverse heritage and celebrate the achievements and invaluable contributions Latinos have made to America,” said Angela Zepeda, CMO, Hyundai Motor America. “Hispanic Americans are an integral part of our nation’s fabric and a key driving force of the automotive industry.”

CANELA.TV Sponsorship
CANELA.TV’s Journey to Success Series Presented by Hyundai highlights the real stories of today’s Hispanic heroes and explores a day in their lives. The 6-episode inspirational series features Kiki Melendez, La Marisoul and Edoardo Chavarin. The all-new series is currently available to stream at CANELA.TV Journey To Success Presented by Hyundai. Hyundai is also presenting CANELA.TV’s My Latin Roots section featuring classic films from Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema. 

Kristin Gomez and Brandon Ramirez from Hyundai Motor America present Karen Ruan and Marisol Parand from the Project Youth OCBF with a donation to help at-risk youth in Fountain Valley, Calif., Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

Philanthropic Efforts
Hyundai will make a $25,000 Donation to The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, an organization founded in 1975 that empowers students and parents to successfully complete a higher education, while providing support services and scholarships to as many exceptional students as possible.

Hyundai’s support to empower future generations of leaders extends beyond Hispanic Heritage Month and is a year-long commitment. Hyundai and its employee resource group (ERG), Amigos Unidos, will be hosting the Fourth Annual Hyundai Career Experience Virtual Program for first- and second-year college students to learn about automotive career opportunities.

Latin American Museum in Long Beach (MOLAA)
Hyundai is also sponsoring the Latin American Museum in Long Beach (MOLAA) Día de los Muertos community event and exhibition celebrating this important holiday. This year MOLAA will present an onsite event on Sunday, Oct. 17 as well as online programming that is accessible to all. For more information, please visit Day of the Dead Festival at MOLAA.  

Hyundai’s Amigos Unidos ERG members have also been volunteering their time and providing financial assistance to community-based organizations. This includes the Project Youth OCBF in Santa Ana which helps keep at-risk youth in school, healthy and drug-free through education, counseling, mentoring, and family strengthening, and Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa, Calif. that provides a daily nutritional meal to all members of the community in need. 

SUV Review: 2021 Land Rover Defender

 Land Rover, Reviews  Comments Off on SUV Review: 2021 Land Rover Defender
Oct 072021
 

By Andy Stonehouse

The highly-anticipated 2020 (now 2021) Land Rover Defender, the uber-stylized, virtually unstoppable, retro-futuristic reinvention of Land Rover’s classic-looking off-roader, is quite the vehicle, in many ways. There hasn’t been a Defender in North America since 1997, owing to domestic safety rules, so this is indeed a big reintroduction.

While I had a joyous experience in the $71,025 Defender 110 SE model, the legion of hardcore, old-school Land Rover fanatics will either love or recoil in horror from the new, Slovakian-built Defender’s very striking mix of futuristic design and super-classic elements.

Like the very first Land Rovers going back to the late 1940s, this new model has decided that boxy is better and the rear cabin of the extended-wheelbase (119-inch) 110 model integrates that retro, safari-proven style with functional side skylights and an optional, ultra-classic white contrast roof. There’s also a peculiar, body-colored panel inserted in the otherwise black-on-black windows in the rear (which serves as the mounting plate for roof racks and such); side mirrors are tiny boxes, and the rear brake lamps look like they come out of a 12-year-old kid’s Minecraft session.

The 110 model can be ordered in five- or seven-passenger seating arrangements—mine subbed in a dedicated cargo area with the most rugged plastic floor and seatback plating I’ve ever seen (an effect repeated on its hood panels). Later this year, you will also be able to order the shorter Defender 90 model; all Defenders can be customized with a gajillion accessories, e.g.  roof racks, gear carriers, spare wheel covers, portable rinse systems and scuff plates.

I literally beat the hell out the Defender 110 during the test drive, engaging all of its ultra-sophisticated electronic off-road controls and easing up and down steep, rocky, sandy and snow-covered slopes, without a single problem. They’re all controlled by a new, fantastic center console (featuring an upright gear lever kind of like a joystick) that is entirely dark with the power off, but lights up to allow you access to easily control everything from terrain and throttle/braking response to the vehicle’s self-guided crawl mode. A broad video screen offers feedback on 4×4 settings, with innovative around-view cameras to help with safer navigation in sketchy spots. It’s also got a new wading mode to safely glide through up to 34 inches of water.

There are two choices of power for those various models, including a 296-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and the very impressive 395-horsepower, mild hybrid electric vehicle inline-six cylinder engine. Mine had the latter and its 48-volt integrated supercharger turns what is a lot of metal into a box that will hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, and absolutely gallop up mountain passes. A very slow cruise got me mileage in the mid-20s, but I would expect the 19 combined MPG the EPA sticker suggests.

Si: Undoubtedly one of the most capable off-road vehicles in the world, it will offer assistance to other brands with extra, semi-hybrid power that helps it boogie, uphill.

No: It’s weird as hell, in a lot of ways, and the looks and design are definitely polarizing. The interior also looks more like a science experiment than a passenger vehicle.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.

SUV Review: Ford Expedition

 Ford, Reviews  Comments Off on SUV Review: Ford Expedition
Sep 222021
 
Expedition Premium
Expedition Max King Ranch

As sport utility vehicles (SUVs) grow, so do their price tags so that even the base model of a full-size SUV can produce a bit of sticker shock.  With a starting price above $50,000, the Ford Expedition is no exception.

Redesigned in 2018 (it’ll be refreshed for 2022), the Expedition continues to serve buyers with the need for transporting multiple passengers, lots of cargo, and towing. Latino Traffic Report recently tested the two highest end models of this fancy workaholic, the Expedition Platinum and extended length Max.

The Expedition

Regardless of trim level, all Expeditions benefitted from a new exterior design that gave them a more refined look in 2018. Three years later, the fourth generation Expedition still showcases a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and ten-speed automatic transmission that produce up to 375 horsepower and 470 ft.–lbs. of torque with best-in-class maximum towing capability of 9,300 pounds.

It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 23 on the highway. The aluminum-alloy body, redesigned high-strength steel frame, and stop-start technology help stretch fuel further. The extended version adds 11.9 inches in length but loses a couple mpgs with a city/highway EPA estimated fuel economy of 16/21 mpg.

Flexible seating and storage solutions include second-row tip-and-slide seating, standard on all models, that provide easy access to the third row.

Improved utility on the all-new Expedition comes with the class-exclusive Pro Trailer Backup Assist camera that helps drivers maneuver with confidence when backing up to a trailer.

Standard safety features include a perimeter alarm, the SOS post-crash alert, traction control, and a blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, pre-collision warning, and automatic high beams as part of Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 technology suite.

Platinum 4X2

Fully loaded with technology and otherwise optional features, the Platinum trim level also improves on aesthetics with satin chrome scuff plates, ivory leather seats, and body color door handles.

As a 4×2 configuration, the test model was meant to stay on the road and as such, provided a comfy, quiet ride ensconced in a plush interior. Ford sets the bar regarding seating comfort, in LTR’s experience.

Not only were the front seats heated but so were the second row. The front seats, however, were also cooled or ventilated. The rear seats deployed easily with the push of a button as did the hands free liftgate. Both test models offered seating for seven with captain’s chairs in the second row rather than a bench.

Maneuvering such a large vehicle requires extra technology like a 360-degree camera when in reverse with sensors to make sure to avoid people and objects. For the smaller statured, power running boards make getting in and out of the vehicle much smoother and adjustable pedals improved driver confidence and safety.

A panoramic sunroof on the test model and a hotspot with wireless phone charging included on both, added luxury and convenience.

The Premium averaged 20.4 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

Built at Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Kentucky, pricing on the 2021 Expedition starts at $52,290 with destination fees. The as-tested price came to $75,925 with 22-inch wheels and second-row buckets seats adding $595.

King Ranch 4×4

Not only is the Expedition Max longer than other Expeditions, the test model came in one of the most successful and plush trims that Ford offers, the King Ranch. Named for the famed ranch in Kingsville, Texas, purchasing this trim rewards the buyer with Del Rio leather seating and accents that bear the King Ranch logo.

The test model swapped a panoramic roof for the roof rack found on the Premium and added a ten-way driver and passenger memory seat.

While max towing on the King Ranch can reach 9,000 lbs., a little less than its shorter sibling, its added length expanded cargo room for a maximum of 121.5 cubic feet.

The test modal also lost a bit of fuel efficiency due to its size, it averaging 17.9 mpg.

The main feature on the King Ranch that sets apart, however, really boils down to its interior. There’s more plastic included than in the past but the leather seating, with saddlebags on the seat backs for added storage, achieves quite a high standard in the segment.

The as-tested price for the King Ranch came to $81,680 with an added $1,570 for its 22-inch wheels and heavy-duty trailer tow package.

Sí: Both test models offered what buyers would expect in a large SUV, particularly at this price point, lots of luxury, comfort, and convenience.

No: The infotainment system didn’t offer enough presets and the start-stop fuel saving system was abrupt.

LTR Joins 2022 Hispanic Motor Press Awards Jury

 Noticias  Comments Off on LTR Joins 2022 Hispanic Motor Press Awards Jury
Aug 112021
 

The Hispanic Motor Press Foundation (HMPF) announced today their new panel of judges for the 2022 Hispanic Motor Press Awards (HMPA) and Latino Traffic Report (LTR) made the list. The premier independent Latino vehicle awards presented in the United States recognize the best new vehicles for Hispanic buyers. Winners will be announced during this year’s LA Auto Show, the annual ten-day auto and lifestyle event featuring the most diverse range of vehicles and brands in North America that opens to the public on November 19, 2021.

Genesis GV80, 2021 Luxury Car of the Year.

“With Hispanic buyers accounting for 25 percent of the growth in new-vehicle sales, HMPA guides consumers in preselecting choices,” states Ricardo Rodriguez-Long, founder and president of the Hispanic Motor Press. “Los Angeles is the top Hispanic market in the U.S. and the LA Auto Show continues to be a top performing show.”

The HMPA jury panel is comprised of national Latino automotive journalists, bloggers, content creators, and industry influencers selected by the organization’s advisory board. Twenty-three automotive experts and Hispanic consumer engagers—handpicked every year—and one jury director, form the panel. 

“This is the only national automotive award selected exclusively by Latino automotive journalists who best understand the needs and concerns of Latino car buyers,” says Valerie Menard, CEO of LTR. “It’s an honor to have been selected to serve on this jury.”

The jurors evaluate the vehicles from their perspective as part of their professional work through September 2021. Finalists are selected for the top ten best new vehicles: Car, EV Car, Hybrid Car, Sports Car, Luxury Car, Car Technology, Sports Utility Vehicle, Pick-Up Truck, Adventure Car, and the ultimate award Family Car of the Year.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, 2021 Family Car of the Year.

Auto manufacturers voluntarily submit their entries, and the panel evaluates the vehicles on their features including overall design, comfort, safety, economy, handling, performance, functionality, infotainment integration, interior design, environmental requirements, driver satisfaction, and price.  The final top ten vehicle winners represent the most significant automobiles in the market, as they meet the needs and desires of Latino consumers. Winners will be announced during the LA Auto Show’s Automobility LA press days, November 17–18, 2021. The general public is invited to attend the LA Auto show from November 19–28, 2021 and view the winning vehicles in-person.

Rodriguez-Long will serve as jury moderator. The Hispanic Motor Press Awards 2022 jury panel from across the country includes:

1. Aaron Sanchez (ABC News) CA9. Ellie Byrd (El Heraldo News) TX17. Maria Ravani (Sobre Rodas Magazine) FL
2. Alejandro Maciel (LA Times Español) CA10. German Angel (Enfoque Social) – CA  18. Pepe Delfino (El Automovilista) – FL  
3. Angelica Willard (Willard Post) FL11. Gil Silva (Mitchell Books) – CA  19. Pepe Forte (Automania)- FL  
4. Armando Varela (La Opinion) CA  12. Hector Russo (Geek’s Room) – TX  20 Roger Rivero (Automotriz Channel) – OR  
5. Camilo Alfaro (Autoproyecto) CA  13. Jaime Gabaldoni (Univision Autos) – FL21. Sandra Munoz (Latinaology)- AZ  
6. Carlos Hernandez (LatinOCC) CA  14. Jeffrey Gomez (The Snob Magazine) – TX22. Valerie Menard (Latino Traffic Report) – TX
7. David Loji (The Detroit Bureau) MI  15. Jose Melendrez (La Alcancia) – NY 
8. Dawn Garcia (A Taste of Dawn/ATOD Magazine) – CA  16. Lizza Monet Morales (Xoxo, Lizza Inc.) – CA   

For information on previous Award Winners visit www.hispanicmotorpress.com.

#hispanicmotorpress

#hmpaawards

Midsize Sedan Reviews: Mazda6 and Lexus IS 350

 Lexus, Mazda, Reviews  Comments Off on Midsize Sedan Reviews: Mazda6 and Lexus IS 350
Jul 312021
 
Mazda6 Signature
Lexus IS 350 F Sport

Believe it or not, fans of the sedan do still exist and at a time when computer chip shortages have made most sport utility vehicles hard to find, overlooked sedans may lurking on the lot. Packed with standard features and new technology, the modern sedan has gotten sleeker inside and out. Latino Traffic Report recently drove the Mazda6, specifically the top-of-the-line Signature trim as well as the Lexus IS 350 F Sport, two viable sedan options with more in common than expected.

Mazda6

UltraSuede dash.

Mazda’s flagship midsize sedan, the Mazda6, pushes style and refinement but the Signature trim is considered the most aspirational in the lineup.

Regarding its design, the test model Mazda6 set itself apart on the outside with unique features like a gunmetal front grille and on the inside, with Nappa leather seating enhanced by heated and cooled seats, Japanese Sen wood and gilded UltraSuede (right), accents that most carmakers save for their luxury nameplates.

Convenience features on the Mazda6 also hit a high mark with a 360-degree View Monitor (backup camera) with front and rear parking sensors, a seven-inch reconfigurable digital gauge cluster, and Mazda’s navigation system with Traffic Sign Recognition, an essential feature for speed traps. On the test model, a black headliner, frameless rearview mirror, LED ambient lights and unique stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel completed the heightened look and feel. Plus, the rear seat was split 60/40 for added utility and access to the trunk.

For 2021, Mazda enhances the standard safety suite of features by adding radar cruise control with stop-and-go function, pedestrian detection, collision and lane departure warning with Lane-Keep Assist, and a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

The test model added a rear spoiler, ambient cabin lighting, and XM Travel and Traffic Link.

While it offers more luxury than most in its segment, the Mazda6 doesn’t ignore performance. A more powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Mazda’s signature Skyactiv fuel saving technology with 227 horses and 310 lb.–ft. of torque powered the test model. The engine was matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with a Sport mode for a more aggressive performance.

The EPA estimated fuel economy on the Mazda was 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. It averaged 26 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

The starting price for the base model 2021 Mazda6 is $25,270. The as-tested price came to $36,620. For fans of Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal Metallic exterior paint color, that’ll cost an extra $595.

Lexus IS 350

The IS represents the entry level Lexus sedan model for car buyers who aspire to move into the luxury segment.

As such, the IS reflects the brand’s distinctive design DNA, namely the spindle grille, while pushing its sportier side.

One would assume luxury nameplates always include a bigger list of standard features but that’s not always true, for instance, leather seating is not offered on the IS, including on the test model, IS 350 F Sport considered near the top-of-the-line IS—replacing rear-wheel drive with all-wheel drive on the test model would have made it top of line. NuLuxe, a man-made leather upholstery, is standard on the IS but also convincing as a leather alternative. Lexus’s dramatic color palate for the seating also helps. The test model came with black seats with gray accents and blue stitching. The shift knob and steering wheel, however, were leather trimmed.

As expected, the Lexus included a healthy list of safety features, like pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and Smart Watch and Alexa Skill integration, among other features. The parking sensor, however, didn’t always engage.

Lexus is one of the few automakers to stick with a six-cylinder engine and that’s what powers the IS, specifically a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 hp and 280 lb.­–ft. of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the test model also came with drive modes and paddle shifters on the steering wheel for better performance. It had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 20/28 mpg and averaged 23.3 mpg on the test drive.

As mentioned, the test model came equipped with the F Sport package ($3,735) that put badging wherever possible and with a sportier look inside, like metal pedals and bolstered front seats, but more importantly, a sport tuned and adaptive variable suspension, limited slip rear differential, and 19-inch alloy wheels. It also added fancy features like a power rear sunshade and illuminated door sills. For 2021, only the IS 350 comes in an F Sport model.

Starting price on the 2021 Lexus IS is $39,050 without destination fees. The as-tested price came to $52,484.

Sí: The Mazda6 may seem pricey but it effectively combines luxury amenities with a sporty performance.

The Lexus IS 350 F Sport offers a sporty performance in a snazzy package.

No: The lack of leather seating on any Lexus seemed odd and the level of road noise was surprising.

The infotainment system on the Mazda6 was a bit clunky and hard to program.