Car Launch: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

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Jul 122018

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

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

The VW Jetta then and now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


¡Hola Guapa! Volvo Reveals the All-New S90 Sedan

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Nov 102016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truck Launch: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

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Oct 062016


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

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline In-Bed Trunk

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

For starters, Honda designers gave the Ridgeline a truck profile, replacing the previous side panel with one that has an integrated truss, while retaining its unibody construction and smooth ride. There’s actually a seam down the side between the cabin and the bed that gives the appearance that the two are separate, but they’re not.

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

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

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

We also tested the Ridgeline’s Intelligent Traction Management System that enhances off-road capability with drive modes for different conditions— Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand on the AWD and Normal and Snow for the 2WD. Towing maxes out at 5,000 lbs.

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

New available technology includes an eight-inch Display Audio touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a new generation of the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System, Smart Entry, and Remote Engine Start.

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

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

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

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



CUV Launch: 2017 Kia Sportage

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Aug 092016

2016-03-03 14.02.28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launches: Volvo Introduces the All-New XC90

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Jul 162015

2015-05-21 vxc90fro

When Volvo first launched its sport utility vehicle (SUV), the XC90, more than ten years ago, I was there. Fast forward to 2015 and Santa Monica, California, and I’m back for the launch of the all-new 2016 XC90. Highly acclaimed when it was first introduced, the latest version takes the SUV to a new, more luxurious level.

Like its predecessor, the XC90 captures attention from its design. It bears the “new face” of Volvo that includes a new grille with a prominent iron mark and revamped headlamps with the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” design cue.

XC90-0197Competing in the premium SUV market, the XC90’s interior will be its ace in the hole. Scandinavian aesthetics, combining beauty and utility, abound, from the diamond cut metal around the control knobs, to the tablet-inspired nine-inch touch screen above the center stack where drivers can control the entertainment, climate, telephone, and navigation systems, or Sensus interface. Sensus can also access a wide selection of cloud-based applications.

Center stack display with a 360 back-up camera view.

Center stack display with a 360-degree back-up camera view.

On the plug-in hybrid version of the XC90, the gear lever is made of crystal from Orrefors, the Swedish glassmaker. It’s simply stunning.

Yet, with all this bling, there is one exception. Oddly, the tilting and telescopic steering wheel has a manual control rather than electronic.

The leather seats are configured to mimic the shape of the human spine to seat seven passengers comfortably and safely. The second row seats slide, as well as recline. Volvo’s innovative integrated child seat is optional as is a massage function.

Standard features like a panoramic sunroof, a 12.3-inch digital and configurable gauge cluster, and a separate climate control system for the rear seats further enhance the interior.

If the interior is the ace in the whole, then the XC90’s engine lineup is its royal flush.

2015-05-21 20.51.07True to Volvo’s commitment of utilizing four-cylinder engines exclusively, the XC90 offers two versions, one for its gasoline model, the T6, and the other for the world’s first seven-seat plug-in hybrid, the T8. Don’t let the numbers, six and eight, fool you. They only imply the kind of performance the T6 and T8 deliver, 316 and 400 horsepower, respectively from their supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder powertrains. Wow.

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the T6 is 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The plug-in hybrid should get an estimated fuel economy of 59 mpg equivalent (mpge) that includes a 17-mile range on electric power. Both are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The all-new Volvo XC90 - seven-seat interior overview

The all-new Volvo XC90 – seven-seat interior overview.

Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and outlying areas, the XC90’s performance and handling was truly impressive, even more so with the Dynamic mode engaged. Drivers can also choose Comfort, Eco, and Off-road driving modes.

Known for advances in safety, e.g. the integrated child safety seat, Volvo equips the XC90 with the latest collision avoidance systems—run-off road protection and auto braking at an intersection—as well as all-wheel drive with instant traction control.

The blind spot information system, parking sensor, 360 surround view (back-up) camera, and lane keeping aid are available as part of optional packages. At least one of these systems should be standard, especially on a Volvo.2015-05-21 volvoxc90

Still, the new XC90 won’t disappoint Volvo fans and more than likely, will win a few more.

Pricing for the XC90 T6 and T8 starts at $49,895 and $69,095, respectively.


Kia Unveils the 2016 Sorento

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Feb 112015


2016 Kia Sorento

2016 Kia Sorento launch, driving with Enrique Kogan.

First introduced in 2002, the Kia Sorento welcomes its third generation for 2016. Sporting a more refined exterior, the dapper crossover utility vehicle (CUV) offers more versatility, technology, and value. At the recent launch in Lake Tahoe, it grabbed the road, as well as attention.

Car buyers appreciate choices when car shopping, maximizing bang for the buck. Kia has complied with the new Sorento, offering customers a choice of five trim levels– L, LX, EX, SX and SXL.

Available with seating for five or seven, with two- and three-row configurations respectively, both versions include split seats that can be folded flat. With both rows folded, cargo room expands to 73.5 cubic feet. The new Sorento adds interior volume as well with a wheelbase that’s 3.1 inches longer than the previous model.KiaSorentoWave2-90

Offered with all-wheel drive (AWD) capability, the Sorento includes a choice of three gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines: a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, a 3.3-liter V6, and a new 2.0-liter inline-four turbo. The most fuel-efficient of the mix will be the front-wheel drive 2.4-liter with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

The V6 produces 290 horses giving it an increased towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. when equipped with the AWD system that automatically routes power to the wheel with the most traction.

2016 Kia Sorento2014-12-11 sorentoleatherAll three engines are matched to an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission featuring Sportmaticsimulated manual shifting. The standard Driver Mode Select allows drivers to choose among sport, normal and eco modes, further improving driving performance on all models.

While standard safety features include traction and electronic stability control, it would be nice if one of the following optional features were also standard: Back-up Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and a Around View Monitor.

At the launch in Lake Tahoe, the driving route included slushy weather with snow flurries and rain, but the Sorento held the road with confidence. However, the inclement weather did obstruct the BSD. A warning message in the center screen on the instrument cluster lets drivers know not to rely on the BSD if this happens.

Not only is the Sorento new on the outside, inside the CUV includes more technology as well as creature comforts.2014-12-11 14.27.42

The base model starts with cloth seats treated with Yes Essentials for easier maintenance. Cruise control, air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with a CD player and MP3 connectivity, Sirius Satellite radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted controls, and fuel economy indicator, are also standard. Available features include a panoramic sunroof, navigation, and Infinity surround sound with ten speakers.

The all-new Kia App Store offers apps that can be downloaded for free from iTunes or Google Play.

Built in the United States at the plant in West Point, Georgia and on sale now, the 2016 Kia Sorento has a starting price of $25,795.