May 042021

Positioned near the top of the automotive food chain, premium full-size sport utility vehicles (SUVs) offer an exceptional level of luxury, comfort, and convenience. At a price nearing six figures (sometimes more), they appeal to a select consumer who expects a lot of bang for the buck.

Latino Traffic Report recently drove the Navigator, one of four plush Lincoln SUVs and its oldest and largest SUV nameplate Filled with lots of bells and whistles, including possibly the most comfortable seats in the business, the driving experience did not disappoint.

Redesigned for 2018, the Navigator continues to recover from two generations ago that was polarizing at best, e.g. an excessively chromed grille that made the Navigator appear to be wearing braces. The new look harkens back to Lincoln’s reputation for understated elegance.

The interior includes accents that should come with this segment, like real wood, aluminum, and leather. The test model Navigator Reserve with all-wheel drive (AWD) also came with a 12-inch configurable display in the instrument cluster, plus a ten-inch voice-activated touchscreen in the center console. The Sync3 system directed its connectivity, including access to AppleCar Play and Android Auto capability.

Modern features such as wireless charging and standard Wi-Fi, six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets and a 110-volt plug were included. Lincoln added a new standard feature, Phone As A Key that allows owners to lock and unlock, open the liftgate and, start and drive their Navigator by utilizing the Lincoln Way app.

Features like the illuminated Lincoln logo that reflected on the ground as the driver approached for improved security, especially at night, a button to automatically fold the second and third rows, heated and cooled seats in the front, and heated seats in the second row, power running boards, and a panoramic sunroof elevated the test model even further.

SUVs this size don’t just bring luxury, they also offer some utility, namely towing and cargo capacity. A twin-turbo V6 engine with an estimated 450 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque, matched to a ten-speed automatic transmission, powers all Navigators. Maximum towing can reach 8,700 lbs. (or 8,300 lbs. when equipped with AWD) and there’s 103.3 cu. ft. of room behind behind the first row. The Navigator’s lighter, high-strength aluminum-alloy body improves the ride as well as fuel economy earning an EPA estimated 16 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. It achieved an average of 19.3 mpg on the test drive. Multiple drive modes also improved performance.

Drivability can be tricky on hefty SUVs like the Navigator but its warning bells from Advanced Park Assist, the blind spot monitor, and Pre-Collision Assist, improve confidence. Its ample size also brings another benefit, seating for eight. Equipped with the optional captain’s chairs, the test model offered seating for seven.

Other standard technology on the test model included adaptive cruise control, a hands-free liftgate, Sync3 voice activated navigation, and a head up display.

Pricing on the 2021 Navigator, including destination fees, starts at $77,480. The as-tested price came to $92,020.

Sí: The Navigator carries the aspirational brand, technology, and premium features that justify its price.

No: The test model also included Cappuccino-colored leather seats, that while elegant, showed wear on the sides of the front seats.

Sports Car Review: 2020 Toyota GR Supra

 Reviews, Toyota  Comments Off on Sports Car Review: 2020 Toyota GR Supra
Oct 022020

After more than 20 years, Toyota opted to bring back one of its most relished models, the Supra. Latino Traffic Report recently got to test the fifth generation of the sports car, the 2020 GR Supra. From its exterior to its performance, the test model lived up to the Supra’s reputation and its fans’ expectations. Sharing much of its chassis with the BMW Z4 doesn’t hurt either.

Its uniqueness starts with its curb appeal. Its twin-scroll turbo charged in-line six, rear-wheel-drive design, low center of gravity, and optimal weight balance set it apart in the Toyota lineup. However, getting in and out of it can be a challenge.

Under the hood, the 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbo charged in-line six-cylinder engine produces 335 horses with 365 lb.–ft. of torque. For 2021, that power is expected to grow to 382 hp. It’s matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and accelerates from zero–60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds. Unlike its predecessor, however, there is no manual transmission option.

 It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Switching to Sport mode will enhance its performance and engine rumble while sacrificing a bit of fuel economy. It averaged 23.2 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The test model came in Renaissance Red on the outside with a black leather-trimmed interior, including black sport seats, a black steering wheel and black center console with carbon-fiber accents. The instrument panel was a bit plain, though it did include a four-color Head-up Display.

The infotainment system on the test model included an 8.8-inch touchscreen, the JBL audio system with an amplifier, and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Programming presets, however, was less intuitive than other infotainment systems tested on Toyota products.

Standard safety features on both grades, as well as the Launch Edition, include the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams. 

On the test model, adding the blind spot monitor required an extra $1,195 as part of the Driver Assist Package that also included Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Parking Sensors with an emergency braking function. These were particularly handy for protecting the Supra’s front bumper lip.

Pricing for the Supra 3.0 starts at $50,920.  Available in three trim levels, the as-tested price on the mid-range 3.0 Premium came to $58,280.

Si: The GR Supra has the sporty looks and performance that fans have long anticipated. Young men were especially inquisitive during the test drive.

No: Any sports car should offer a manual transmission and while fun to drive, it’s pretty pricey.

Compact Car Review: 2020 Mazda3 Hatchback

 Mazda, Reviews  Comments Off on Compact Car Review: 2020 Mazda3 Hatchback
Aug 122020

How do you become a brand’s top-selling model in the world? Features like fuel economy and affordability seem to help, but give car a hatchback and it earns another advantage, utility. Mazda accomplished that with its entry-level model, the Mazda3, but not content to stop there, Mazda decided compact hatches needed one more attribute, performance. Latino Traffic Report recently tested the 2020 Mazda3 hatchback and it delivered on most of the above, although its sportiness does come at a cost.

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 186 horses and 186 lb.–ft. of torque powers all Mazda3s. While it’s available with a six-speed manual transmission, which tends to heighten the sporty experience, the test model came with the six-speed automatic transmission with the Sport mode.  

Mazda3 gauge cluster.

Equipped with iActive all-wheel-drive, the test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. It’s the lowest EPA rating for the Mazda3 lineup but only by two mpg in the city and three mpg on the highway. It averaged 29.3 mpg during the weeklong test drive. The 60/40-split rear seats folded flat to reveal 47.1 of cubic ft. of cargo room.

While the test model did not come in Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal exterior paint color, it did have red leather seats on the inside by virtue of being the top-of-the-line or Premium trim level.  The Premium trim also included a power moonroof, paddle shifters, a head-up display on the windshield or in Mazda vernacular, Active Driving Display, and adaptive front lighting, among other features.

Compared to a sedan, a hatchback brings added value and fun so the list of standard safety features gets a bit more generous. All Mazda3 hatchbacks include a rear backup camera, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and Driver Attention Alert that monitors the driver’s alertness and issues an alarm if it senses fatigue, among other features.

Mazda’s infotainment system starts with Mazda Connect and an 8.8-inch display, HD radio, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, eight speakers, and voice command. The test model also came with XM Satellite, but the overall set-up, with a volume control in the center console next to the shift knob, was awkward and the process for setting channel favorites was counterintuitive.

Other luxury features on the test model included heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, aluminum speaker grills, the Bose premium audio system, and an eight-way power front seat.

Pricing for the 2020 Mazda3 hatchback starts at $24,495. The as-tested pricing for the hatchback came to $31,470. By comparison, the Mazda3 sedan starts at $21,895.

Sí: Fun to drive, the Mazda3 hatchback lives up to its promise of performance and utility.

Muscle Car Review: Mustang Bullitt

 Ford, Reviews  Comments Off on Muscle Car Review: Mustang Bullitt
Jun 302020

Which came first, the Mustang Bullitt or the 1968 movie with the same name? Apparently, it was the latter. Two Mustang GT fastback models were used in the movie and then Ford adopted the name to release a Bullitt of its own in 2001.

In 2018, Ford re-introduced the iconic fastback for the 2019 model year and Latino Traffic Report recently got to test it. In a nutshell, fans of the Bullitt’s reputation for power, performance, and a loud engine rumble will not be disappointed but more timid drivers will be compelled to push the throttle too.

The fun begins with the Bullitt’s upgraded 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers at least 475 horsepower and 420 lb.–ft. of torque, pushing it to a top speed of 163 miles per hour (mph), an eight mph increase over the latest Mustang GT. As an added treat, all Bullitts come with a six-speed manual transmission featuring a cue ball shift knob like the original—an automatic transmission is not an option.

Retuned exhaust tips give the car a signature roar, as well as a new Open Air Induction System and Shelby GT350 intake manifold. The adjustable exhaust mode cranks it up further for those who really want to make noise.

Not that it matters, especially for Bullitt enthusiasts, but the fuel economy for this muscle car was better than expected. The EPA estimated miles per gallon (mpg) wasn’t even included on the Monroney (window sticker) but it did average 23.7 mpg on the test drive.

Only two color choices exist for the Bullitt, Dark Highland Green and Shadow Black, the test model came in the latter. It was accented by chrome around the grille and front windows, 19-inch five spoke heritage aluminum wheels, red painted Brembo brakes, and a unique black front grille.

There’s also plenty of Bullitt badging throughout, like on the illuminated door sill scuff plates, in the instrument cluster, and on the driver air bag cover.

Pony reflected on the ground from the side mirror as driver approaches the Bullitt.

The Bullitt comes with all the standard equipment included on the GT Premium trim level, like selectable drive modes with toggle switches, dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled leather front seats (the fan for cooling, however, was loud), the Sync3 voice recognition communications and entertainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen with Pinch-to-Zoom capability, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

As a top-of-the-line trim level the Bullitt adds a 12-inch all-digital LCD instrument cluster with a unique Bullitt welcome screen that starts in green with an image of the car rather than the pony, green accent stitching and a heated leather steering wheel.

The test model also included Recaro black leather seats and the Bullitt Electronics Package ($2,100) that added a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a CD Player, HD radio, and navigation.

Pricing for the 2020 Mustang starts at $26,670. The as-tested pricing for the Bullitt came to $51,290.

Original 1968 Mustang from movie Bullitt.

Sí: The Bullitt lives up to its reputation for power, speed, and thrilling ride.

No: The lack of access to a blind spot monitor across the lineup was disappointing and the seats were difficult to program.

Sports Car Review: Hyundai Veloster

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Mar 312020
Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate

From coupes to convertibles, sports cars can be found in several automotive segments, but among three-door sport coupes, there’s only one option, the Hyundai Veloster. Redesigned for 2019, the more refined model bears a cleaner exterior design and improved engine choices. For 2020, the Veloster gains even more standard equipment. Latino Traffic Report recently zoomed about town in the Veloster Turbo Ultimate.

The Veloster’s third door.

There are six available trims and each comes in unique colors, materials, and accents. The redesign smartly included a two-tone exterior paint option reserved for the Turbo Ultimate trim. The test model came in a Chalk White body with a black roof.

While a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower and 132 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a six-speed manual powers the base model, the test model came with the turbo-charged 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that produces 201 horses and 195 lb.–ft. of torque. It’s paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters. A six-speed manual transmission had been available on the Turbo Ultimate, but not for 2020. That’s a shame because at the Veloster launch, where LTR drove both transmissions, the manual really ramped up the coupe’s sporty performance. The manual is also standard on the R-Spec trim.

 The automatic, however, will earn the best EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. During the test drive, it averaged 33.8 mpg.

To customize the driving experience, Drive Mode Select comes standard on all Velosters and offers three driver-selectable modes—Normal, Sport, and Smart. Left in Sport for most of the weeklong test, the ride was noticeably stiff and heavy. Active Engine Sound, standard on the R-Spec trim and above, allows the driver to adjust the engine rumble for a sportier effect.

The Veloster’s appeal may be connected to its sportiness but it is a hatch and as such, it offers something other sport coupes don’t, utility, namely 19.9 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row seat and 44.5 cu. ft. with it folded flat.

Standard safety features on the Veloster include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with autonomous braking, Lane Keep Assist, and a rear view camera with dynamic guidelines. One away from the top-of-the line trim, the Ultimate added Forward Collision-Avoidance with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control.

Features like Blind-Spot Collision and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, as well as Blue Link, Hyundai’s onboard emergency, diagnostic, guidance service, are standard on all but the base trim.

Standard creature comforts include basics like air conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, a seven-inch display screen with AM/FM radio, dual USB ports, steering-wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth, and cruse control, plus Apple CarPlay/Android Audio. Stepping up to the Turbo Ultimate brings fancier features like an eight-inch display with the Infiniti Premium audio system and navigation, a proximity key, leather seating with heated front seats with an orange accent stripe, a sunroof, and a heads-up display.

Pricing for the 2020 Veloster starts at $19,755. The as-tested price came to $29,440.

Si:  The three-door Veloster stands alone among sports coupes with its design and value.

No: The automatic transmission didn’t elevate the driving experience.

Sedan Review: 2019 Audi A7

 Audi, Reviews  Comments Off on Sedan Review: 2019 Audi A7
Dec 312019

Fans of the sedan need not despair. While domestic carmakers may have thrown in the towel, import brands, like Audi, remain loyal to them, even reconfiguring sedans to increase their appeal. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove the all-new 2019 Audi A7 quattro. It may be pricey but for those who can afford it, the A7 delivers the luxury and elegance expected of a premium sedan, with a twist.

The A7 is not the average midsize sedan. It reflects a more modern design concept, the sportback or five-door coupe, which is basically a sedan with a hatch rather than a traditional trunk. This gives the A7 a sleeker profile, with a sloping roofline, as well as enhanced versatility with 24.9 cubic feet of cargo room and a button for shutting the lid automatically, kinda like a tailgate.

Audi added a turbocharger to its 3.0-liter V6 engine that powers the 2019 A7, increasing performance to 335 horsepower and 369 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, the A7 can accelerate from zero–60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds.

This much power, plus the standard quattro all-wheel-drive, will detract from fuel economy but the stop-start technology (less jarring than on other vehicles) at traffic stops helps the A7 achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. It achieved 22.7 on the test drive.

Standard features on the A7 include Audi advanced key, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio with a 90-day free trial, Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, regular cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and Audi’s MMI navigation plus system.

Inside, the test model got an upgrade from the Prestige Package that added more than $8,000 in exclusive features, including the Bang and Olufsen premium sound system, a full-color head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, a rear sunshade, and wireless charging.

Additional safety features like Audi side assist, rear cross traffic alert, a top view camera, Audi pre-sense rear collision alert, and adaptive cruise control, were also included with the test model.

Every new A7 also features Audi’s all-new MMI touch response system9 that replaces the rotary dial and the conventional buttons and controls of the previous model with two large, high-resolution touch displays. While haptic and acoustic feedbacks help users hear and feel a click as confirmation when their finger triggers a function, the lack of knobs makes the system less intuitive and a little distracting.

Starting price for the 2019 A7 is $68,975 and $69,975 in 2020. The as-tested pricing came to $85,240.

Sí: The A7’s distinctive sportback design adds luxury and versatility.

No: The MMI touch response system9 was clunky to operate and there was very little storage capacity in the center console.

Electric Vehicle Review: 2019 Kia Niro EV

 Kia, Reviews  Comments Off on Electric Vehicle Review: 2019 Kia Niro EV
Nov 252019

Not satisfied with reversing nearly every clean air and water regulation enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since its inception in 1970, the federal government has decided to take on California’s clean air laws. Despite these efforts, new and improved electric vehicles (EVs) will keep rolling off production lines, due in large part to California’s successful emissions standards.

Initially, EVs did present certain challenges. With minimal electric ranges, the first EV models helped coin a new phrase, “range anxiety.” Tesla reversed that with ranges of 300-plus miles and other manufactures followed suit. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently tested the 2019 Kia Niro EV EX Premium and its range of 200-plus miles will set minds at ease.

Kia first introduced the gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Niro in 2017. It was followed by the Niro PHEV plug-in hybrid in 2018 and in 2019, the Niro EV completed the lineup.

Knowing that this vehicle uses no gasoline is a thrill, but that it does it without immediately losing power or range elevates the experience. Powered by a 201-horsepower electric motor with 291 lb.–ft. of torque, lithium ion polymer battery and assisted by an onboard charger and adjustable regenerative braking via paddle shifters, the Niro EV has an estimated electric range of 239 miles.

When testing other EVs, LTR has seen the starting range quickly evaporate once the throttle or any other function like air conditioning was engaged, but not on the Niro. After charging overnight on a 120-volt plug in the garage, the range read 263–285 miles and dissipated at a normal rate, much more like gasoline, even with the air conditioning running. Of the four drive modes that come standard, Normal, Sport, Eco + and Eco, most of the test drive was conducted in the latter.

On the outside, it stands out from its siblings with a unique front fascia with a closed off grille for improved aerodynamics. It stands out among EVs with a Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast-charge plug located in the front of the vehicle.

Early electric vehicles were small and light to help extend the range but the Niro brings the convenience of a crossover utility vehicle with seating for five and a rear seat that folds flat to expose 53 cubic feet of cargo room.

It’s also loaded with standard features, like a blind spot monitor, that help justify its starting price. Technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert (essential in any parking lot and assisted by a whirring sound so that it can be heard by pedestrians), a smart key with push-button start, and AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM audio system are all standard.

As the premium trim, the test model also included more exclusive features like a power sunroof, heated and ventilated leather front seats, Harmon Kardon premium audio, navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen, and a rear parking sensor.

Pricing for the Niro EV starts at $39,545. The as-tested pricing came to $47,155.

Sí: The Niro EV beckons to the open road with an impressive range and with a quick charger that extends electric power.

No: Already a bit pricey, not sure the added features for the Premium trim warrant more than $10,000 extra from the base.

CUV Review: 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

 Mitsubishi, Reviews  Comments Off on CUV Review: 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Jul 162019

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Like the celestial phenomenon for which it’s named, the Mitsubishi Eclipse has appeared and disappeared over time. It emerged as a sport coupe in 1989 but left in 2012. Last year, however, it re-emerged to join the growing crossover utility vehicle (CUV) segment as the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove the 2019 Eclipse Cross SEL S-AWC and while some may miss the sport coupe, others will appreciate the added convenience and versatility of the new CUV.

While Mitsubishi would like the Cross to be known as a “Coupe SUV,” it really leans more toward a CUV in its design. It has a hint of sportiness on the outside with a sculpted form, wedge-shaped profile, and strong beltline. The front fascia reflects the Mitsubishi modern DNA, specifically on the grille, but it stands out at the back with a forward-raked rear window and angular rear gate that some might say looks akin to the Pontiac Aztek’s but much improved and without the polarizing effect. The test model also included the latest trend for two-tone exteriors with a black roof and Pearl White body at an added cost of $295.

LCD color multi-information display.

A 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with direct injection, 152 horsepower, and 184 lb.–ft. of torque powers all Eclipse Crosses, It’s matched to an eight-speed continuously variable automatic transmission with a Sport mode. All but the base model also come with Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive technology or Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC).

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the test model was 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. It averaged 19.1 mpg on the test drive.

With six trim levels to choose from, the test SEL model also included the Touring Package, making it a top-of-the-line model. As such, it came equipped with higher-end features and technology, like a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert (also standard on the SE trim), adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, forward collision mitigation, and lane departure warning.

Rear seats folded flat.

All Crosses come with a fold-flat rear seat that exposes 48.9 cubic feet of cargo room, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, a seven-inch touch screen, a rearview camera, and an Eco indicator in the LCD color multi-information display within the gauge cluster.

Standard features on the top-of-the-line test model included paddle shifters, leather seats with orange accent stitching, a multiview backup camera, and a head-up display that reflected driving information on a plastic flap above the dash. The Touring package ($2,500) added a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and rear seats, and the Rockford Fosgate premium audio sound system. Interaction with the infotainment system included a touch pad on the center console that appeared to be inspired by Lexus, but setting presets for FM and XM satellite radio (standard at this level) was a little clunky.

Still, the Cross was fun to drive and efficient at its purposes of scooting around town, with passengers and/or cargo, and along curves if necessary.

Pricing for the 2019 Mitsubishi Cross starts at $24,690. The as-tested price came to $33,305.

Sí: The new styling is modern and on trend, plus the added convenience with a CUV is always appreciated

No: Fuel economy, especially with a turbo engine and on the highway, is subpar. Also, not the best “new car” smell.

Fiat 500L vs. MINI Countryman

 Fiat, MINI, Reviews  Comments Off on Fiat 500L vs. MINI Countryman
Jun 122019
Fiat 500L
MINI Cooper Countryman

Known for fuel economy and affordability, compact cars do have one disadvantage, versatility. Their size can limit cargo room and comfortable seating for passengers. Fiat and MINI took this into consideration and decided to stretch their subcompacts, the 500 and Cooper, creating the MINI Cooper Countryman and Fiat 500L. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove both of these competitors, specifically the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 (plug-in hybrid) and the Fiat 500L Trekking. Here’s how they compared.

Countryman cargo room
500L cargo room

For starters, they may not seem to be competitors, one is a hybrid, the other is not, but they certainly appear to be and both were created to navigate an urban setting with ease. On these models, designers took the cartoonish looks of their smaller siblings, i.e. rounded headlamps, squat stances, and smiling grilles, and elongated them, stretching the headlamps to an elliptical shape and rooflines to wagon-like silhouettes.  

The extra room from their extended designs naturally converted into more cargo space, specifically 47.9 cu.ft. with the rear seats folded flat, and seating for five on the Countryman. A split rear door added convenience for loading and unloading cargo, i.e. groceries.

Introduced in 2015 for the 2016 model year, the 500L offered 42 percent more interior space than the 500 and 68 cu.ft. of cargo room with the rear seat folded flat (it did slam down so watch those fingernails) as well as seating for five.

First introduced in 2010, the 2011 Countryman (left) was considered an upscale model. For 2019, MINI added a panoramic sunroof, leatherette upholstery, keyless entry, and a rearview camera with rear parking sensors as standard features.

Similarly, the 500L included a rear backup camera and parking sensor, available ambient lighting as well as a leather steering wheel. For 2019, a universal garage door opener is now standard on Fiat 500L Trekking (left) and Lounge models. What set it apart, however, was the available Beats premium audio system that was included on the test model.

Both came with AppleCar Play  (the 500L also had Android Auto compatibility) to enable use of features like Google Maps via the seven-inch touchscreen on the 500L and 6.5-inch touchscreen on the Countryman. The test model Countryman also included heated front seats.

All 500Ls are powered by a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine a 160-horsepower with 184 ft.–lb. of torque matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.

As a hybrid, the test model Countryman was powered by a three-cylinder twin turbo engine with 134 horsepower and an electric motor that added 87 more horses, a hybrid all-wheel-drive system with 221 horsepower and a lithium ion battery pack.  These were matched to a six speed automatic transmission. 

500L IP

One would expect the 500L to be outmatched by the hybrid Countryman on fuel economy but not so. While the Countryman offered an electric range of twelve miles and an estimated electric miles per gallon (mpg) of 65, the estimated combined fuel economy using gasoline was 27 mpg. For the 500L, the estimated average fuel economy was 25 mpg. On the test drive, however, the Countryman did excel, averaging 30 mpg to the 500L’s average of 24 mpg. It was difficult, however, to track the electric range on the display (below).

Countryman IP

Regarding safety features, neither included a blind spot monitor but the 500L did have a blind spot side view mirror on the driver’s side.

Pricing for the 2019 MINI Countryman and Fiat 500L starts at $26,900 and $21,064 respectively. The as-tested prices were $40,000 and $25,460, respectively.

Sí: The added cargo room and seating capacity on these models is a definite plus, though the 500L has the advantage, not just in cargo room but value.

No: It’s always a pleasure to drive without using gas but the Countryman’s electric range is fairly limited and at its price point, a blind spot monitor should be included. The 500L has a limited fuel economy despite its size.

Luxury SUV Review: Infiniti QX60

 Infiniti, Reviews  Comments Off on Luxury SUV Review: Infiniti QX60
Jan 132019
The Infiniti QX60 parked at the History Murals of Kerr County, TX.

Crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) rival minivans as the favored family car, especially for road trips. On a recent drive to Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country by Latino Traffic Report, the Infiniti QX60 CUV offered a cozy ride that fairly floated along Interstate 10 West. The Infiniti QX60 capitalizes on luxury and comfort for a premium ride.

The QX60 at Stonehenge II in Ingram, TX.

Refreshed in 2016, the QX60 bears a handsome sculpted exterior, distinguished by chevron or boomerang design cues on the grille and rear side windows. Its plush interior includes standard quilted leather seating with heated seats in the front, a welcome feature in the winter, even in Texas. When temperatures rise, cooled or ventilated front seats, included on the test model, as well as a heated steering wheel, maple wood accents, and the Around View Monitor that offers a bird’s eye view around the CUV for improved safety and parking ease, are also available.

Big changes in 2019 include making safety features like Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection and Predictive Forward Collision Warning standard on all grade levels.

With three rows of seating, the QX60 can seat up to seven. The split second and third rows also fold flat to create 75.8 cubic feet of cargo room. Adding convenience, the second row moves forward for easier access to the third row that returns upright automatically with the push of a button. A new innovation for 2018 included the standard Rear Door Alert that reminds an owner, with a series of distinctive honks, to check the back row before locking the vehicle.

One engine powers the QX60, a 3.5-liter V6 with 295 horsepower, 270 lb.–ft., of torque and matched to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. The QX60 got a new engine in 2017, which increased performance more than ten percent, while retaining one of the best fuel economy figures in its class, an EPA estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway and 19 mpg in the city. On the test drive, the average fuel economy came to 18.3 mpg.

Infiniti simplifies the selection process by offering only two trim levels based on the QX60’s configuration, i.e. front-wheel or all-wheel drive (AWD). The test model came with the latter. For 2019, two new grade levels, Pure and Luxe, were also added, as well as additional packages.

AWD models also include the Drive Mode Selector that allows the driver to choose among Standard, Sport, Eco and Snow modes. While the Sport mode did add extra power for the hilly climb along the 65.5-mile drive to Kerrville from San Antonio, the power loss in Eco mode was quite dramatic.

The QX60 and Louise Hays Park, Kerrville, TX.

Standard entertainment features include Bluetooth, an AM/FM/CD stereo with an eight-inch touchscreen interface, and tri-zone air conditioning. Family essentials include eight cup holders, six bottle holders, and four USB ports.

While selecting a trim level may be simplified, selecting options, can be costly. Pricing for the 2019 Infiniti QX60 starts at $47,045, while the as-tested price came to $60,670.

Sí: The QX60 is quite plush, especially with the quilted seating and distinctive wood accents and adding the Blind Spot Monitor to all 2019 grades was an excellent move.

No: The loss of power in the Eco setting was substantial, making it practically unusable.