Sedan Appeal: New Models Help Sustain the Segment

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Apr 292020
 
Volvo S60

Sedan sales may be down, but the segment is definitely not out. While domestic carmakers abandoned them, import carmakers continued to build them, including redesigns of existing nameplates. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently test-drove four very elegant 2020 models—the Kia K900, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Volvo S60, and Lexus LS 500—that offered ample legroom and plenty of bells and whistles.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Redesigned for 2019, the fifth-generation Avalon marked its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. As Toyota’s top-of-the-line sedan, it naturally elicits great expectations for its comfort and luxury but as a hybrid, the text model set hopes even higher for standard features and fuel economy.

Its interior roominess belied its midsize sedan designation. Toyota extended the rear cabin further by another seven inches so that rear legroom and trunk space measure 40.3 inches and 16.09 cu. ft., respectively and included numerous cubbies for storage.

At the heart of this hybrid is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Toyota Hybrid System II with a 650-volt electric motor and Continuously-Variable Transmission (CVT). These elements combine to produce 176 horsepower and 163 lb.–ft. of torque. They also give the Avalon Hybrid an EPA estimated fuel efficiency of 43 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and on the highway. Utilizing the Eco and EV modes (Normal and Sport are also included) it achieved an average rating of 38.9 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

Standard safety features in the Toyota Safety Sense package include pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and range dynamic cruise control among other features. The blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic detection and Safety Connect roadside assistance are also standard.

Creature comforts on all hybrids include dual-zone climate control, the Entune infotainment system with a nine-inch touch screen, access to Amazon Alexa and Apple Car Play, and a seven-inch display in the gauge cluster. For $1,720 more, the test model upgraded the stereo to the JBL Premium audio system with navigation.

On the plus side, the test model came loaded with standard features but on the downside, its exterior design may be polarizing. The blackened grille and rims helped a bit.

Pricing for the 2020 Avalon starts at $36,830. The as-tested price came to $42,259.

Volvo S60 T6 Inscription

According to AAA, Americans on average spend nearly an hour behind the wheel each day. Spending that time surrounded by a luxurious but functional interior can make time fly. Volvo has set the bar when it comes to design, inside and out, and its redesigned S60 is no exception.

LTR recently tested the S60 T6 AWD Inscription, a top-of-the-line trim, and while it included a healthy list of standard features, additional packages did escalate the price dramatically.

Bearing Volvo’s latest design DNA, the S60 sports a unique version of the Thor’s Hammer headlamp on the outside that first appeared on the redesigned XC90.

The S60’s 12.3″ digital driver display.

Inside, Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system sets off the interior design. Its tablet shape and function via the nine-inch touchscreen deliver a fairly intuitive interface for controlling multiple car functions from navigation to in-car entertainment applications (hint, go to Library to save radio presets). Less intuitive, however, was the adaptive cruise control. It increased speed by five miles per hour (mph) at each click rather than just one mph and it wasn’t clear how to reprogram it.

Wood inlays, leather seating with a backrest massage in the front seats (via the Luxury Seating Package $2,200), and a panoramic moonroof on the test model elevated the drive experience even further.

But the brand’s reputation stands on safety and the test model came equipped with several Volvo game changers like the blind spot information system with steer assist, cross traffic alert and autobraking, and low and hi-speed collision mitigation with cyclist, large animal, vehicle, and pedestrian detection, among other features.

In a bold move, Volvo bases its powertrain technology on turbocharged and twin engine super and turbocharged four-cylinders. The 2.0-liter version of the latter with 316 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed Geartronic transmission powered the test model. It had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 21/32 mpg. It averaged 24.7 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The 2020 S60 has a starting price of $37,045. With the extra packaging, the test model’s price came to $58,890.

Kia K900 Luxury

Equipped with suspensions that float like a boat, full-size sedans tend to get the “flagship” moniker. Redesigned for 2019 and with new technology, safety features, and premium touches, the Kia K900 easily lives up to that label. LTR recently test-drove the K900 Luxury, the only available trim.

Blind Spot View Monitor with camera image in the gauge cluster.

The second-generation K900 immediately scores points with its new streamlined exterior. It’s somewhat derivative of its competitors, especially on the inside, but still maintains enough Kia DNA, e.g. the tiger-nose grille with a Quadric pattern, to make it distinctive.

As the name implies, flagships should offer a suspension that fairly floats. Torsional stiffness on the new model, however, increased by 33 percent, gives the K900 a more solid and premium on-road feel. There are also four drive modes—Comfort, Sport, Eco, and Custom—to fine-tune the ride further.

The full-time rear biased and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system adds to its sure-footedness.

It’s also slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model for rear legroom and trunk space that measure 36.6 inches and 15.3 cu. ft. respectively. For added convenience, the trunk comes with a button to close automatically.

Metal veneers (first spotted by LTR on the Volvo S90) combined with a choice of four matte wood options and quilted Nappa leather enrich the interior. The test model also included a surround sound stereo, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, wireless charging (for Qi compatible mobile phones, e.g. iPhone 8, Samsung S7), a blindspot monitor with collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and a parking sensor, among other features. The VIP package ($4,400) added a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, tri-zone climate control, power adjustable and ventilated rear seats, and a rear phone charger.

The K900 shares the same engine that powers the sporty Kia Stinger, a 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 with 365 hp and 376 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It should achieve a city/highway fuel economy of 18/25 mpg. It achieved 21.8 mpg during the test drive.

Pricing for the 2020 K900 starts at $60,935. The as-tested pricing came to $64,895.

Lexus LS 500

Considered a flagship by Lexus, this four-door sedan, redesigned in 2018, bears a striking exterior design and comes stocked with bells and whistles. The Lexus LS 500 recently tested by LTR, used additional pricey packages to elevate those features.

LS 500 sliding gauge cluster.

It’s powered by an all-new 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged V6 that delivers 416 horsepower and 442 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to a ten-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 19/30 mpg. It averaged 22.6 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The chrome grille and 20-inch alloy spoke wheels with Vapor Chrome finish accentuated the LS’s premium look, while wood panels, a rear power sunshade, and its twelve-inch touchscreen as part of the Enform infotainment system made the experience inside visibly plush. The Enform system was less intuitive to program than similar systems, however.

Many features like a blind spot monitor and pre-collision system were standard but Lexus added packages to enhance these features, like the Safety System +A ($3,000) that gave the pre-collision system active braking and steering, pedestrian alert, front cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. The Interior Upgrade Package ($3,730) added a massage function in the front seats as well as quilted and perforated leather seating and heated rear seats. Even the trunk received an upgrade with a carpeted mat ($105).

With 38.9 inches of legroom and 16.95 cu. ft. of truck space, the full-size sedan managed to fit in the garage with about an inch to spare.

Finally, run-flat tires on the LS were put to good use during the test drive when the right front tire took on a screw and didn’t flatten until after returning home. Enform Safety Connect with roadside assistance, complimentary for ten years, came to the rescue, loading the LS on a flatbed and delivering it to a Lexus dealership for a replacement tire.

Pricing for the 2020 LS 500 starts at $76,475. The as-tested price came to $94,075.

SUV and Wagon Launch: 2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar, V60 Polestar and Cross Country, and refreshed XC90

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Oct 222019
 
L to R: 2020 Volvo V60 Polestar, V60 Cross Country, XC60 Polestar and XC90
Original three-point seat belt.

More than 90 years ago, Volvo began with a focus on safety that continues to today. This year marked the sixtieth anniversary of its game-changing three-point seat belt (right). The brand also stands out for its distinctive Scandinavian interior design that combines beauty with function. For 2020 Volvo expands its list of desirables with vehicles that accentuate performance, on and off the road, namely, the all-new XC60 Polestar, V60 Polestar, and V60 Cross Country plus a refreshed XC90 with available seating for six. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) had the chance to test drive several of these new models at the recent launch in Banff, Canada.

2020 XC60 T8 Polestar

2020 XC60 Polestar

The test models were powered by a variation of the Volvo’s innovative powertrain that features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or twin engine that is either turbo or turbo and supercharged, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Surprisingly powerful, the four-cylinder can produce 250, 316, or 400 horsepower, depending on the model, but maximum power comes from the Polestar plug-in hybrid, Volvo’s performance trim, with 415 horses and 494 lb.–ft. of torque. That’s right, it’s a hybrid.

Speed limits along Canada’s highways did hinder the chance to fully appreciate the XC60 Polestar’s power, but on a test track, its Antilock Braking System with Electronic Brake Distribution and Electronic Brake Assistance

was on full display. Accelerating at full throttle, we were told to slam on the brakes to appreciate their control. The Polestar practically stopped on a dime, without swerving or skidding.

The sporty SUV retains Volvo’s distinctive technology, like the Sensus Connect infotainment system with a nine-inch vertical touchscreen display and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, but the black leather interior on the test model and bright gold seat belts, brake calipers, and Bowers and Wilkins stereo speakers added boldness and sportiness. The door panels, however, were less finished, revealing something you rarely see on a Volvo, plastic.

Pricing for the 2020 XC60 will start at $41,150. The as-tested price came to $73,490.

2020 V60 T5 Cross Country

2020 V60 Cross Country
2020 V60 Polestar

Powered by the same engine as the XC60 Polestar, the V60 Polestar plug-in hybrid will spice up the wagon segment with its aggressive good looks and performance. At the launch, however, we drove its sibling, the all-new V60 T5 Cross Country and as the name implies, it’s meant to wander.

Introduced in 1997, the 2020 version is the second generation of the V60 Cross Country. The all-new version includes All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and five standard Drive Mode settings—Comfort, Off-road, Dynamic, Eco, and Individual.

The Off-road setting in particular was put to good use at the launch, optimizing the engine and gearbox for better traction and setting the Electronic Stability Control to Traction/Sport, as the Cross Country climbed to the top of a ski slope at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, where lunch was served.

As a wagon, the Cross Country offers versatility as well with 50.9 cubic feet of space with the rear seat folded.

The 2.0-liter with 250 horses and 258 lb.–ft. of torque powered the test model.

Pricing for the 2020 V60 wagon starts at $41,290.  The as-tested price for the Cross Country came to $58,990.

2020 XC90 T8 Inscription and T6 R-Design

2020 XC90 Inscription

For the 2020 model year, the award-winning XC90 has been completely refreshed, including a new concave grille and a six-seat option, allowing for easier access to the third row of seats. It also offers some of the interior accents that have emerged on its siblings since its redesign in 2016, namely driftwood-inspired accents made of Grey Ash that first appeared on the XC60 and woolen accents for the door panel that premiered on the XC40.

At the launch we drove two 2020 XC90 models, the T6 AWD R-Design and the T8 AWD Inscription plug-n hybrid, both stand outs in their segments, but that Orrefors crystal shiftknob (left) on the T8, slightly modified for 2020, added extra wow factor as did the average fuel economy of 46.9 mpg on the test drive. The 2.0-liter super and turbocharged twin engine and electric motor combined to produce 400 horsepower and 472 lb.–ft. of torque. The similar 2.0-liter on the T6 R-Design achieved 316 hp and 295 lb.–ft. of torque.

As an added bonus, every XC90 includes the blind spot monitoring system as a standard feature.

Pricing for the 2020 XC90 starts at $48,350. The as-tested prices for the T8 Inscription and T6 R-Design were $86,990 and $74,735 respectively.

All four models included the City Safety suite of collision avoidance technology, like Forward Collision Warning that brakes automatically if the driver does not brake or steer away to avoid other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, plus Volvo’s signature large animal detection system.

12.3-inch digital display.

Semi-autonomous systems like Pilot Assist help with steering, acceleration at speeds up to 80 miles per hour and braking but still require the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel. New for 2020, the driver will feel a haptic response on the steering wheel if Pilot Assist is disengaged. During the drive, the temptation was strong to let go for a bit and see how it managed without hands on the steering wheel. It drove flawlessly but not for long, sounding a warning to retake the wheel.

Back-up camera displayed on the nine-inch touchscreen.

While Volvo on Call, a multifunctional app that can lock and unlock doors, among other functions, is standard on all models, it’s not available in Puerto Rico.  These models also complete the lineup that qualifies for the Care By Volvo program, the national flat rate, and all-inclusive vehicle subscription program.

Refreshed, improved, or all new, these models expand the Volvo lineup to appeal to performance and off-road enthusiasts, with the added bonus of Volvo safety features and Scandinavian design.

Premium Sedan and Wagon Launch: 2019 Volvo S60 and V60

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Feb 162019
 


The 2019 S60 Polestar.

Redesigns can be tricky. Most reflect a gradual evolution but retooling an entire lineup from one generation to the next requires more courage. Volvo took that leap, starting with the 2016 XC90. Distinguished by its Thor’s Hammer headlamps, Volvo’s new DNA is now embedded throughout the lineup with the addition of its latest models, the 2019 S60 sedan and V60 wagon. Latino Traffic Report attended the launch of the redesigned versions of both in Santa Monica, CA. Like their remade siblings, the new sedan and wagon should excite fans and gain new ones.

The 2019 V60 wagon.

The tested trim levels at the launch included the S60 T6 R-Design, S60 T8 Polestar, and V60 T6 Momentum—the entry-level T5 trim wasn’t driven.

Volvo has not only embraced a new look for its vehicles, but also new, greener technology, starting with turbo and supercharged four-cylinder twin engines matched to an eight-speed transmission with power and responsiveness that continue to amaze.

On the T6, the turbo and supercharged four-cylinder should produce 316 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque and achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The version developed for its new Polestar T8 twin engine plug-in hybrid cars (above), should produce 415 horsepower, 494 ft.–lb. of torque, and achieve 27 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and an electric range of 21 miles. At the launch, the average fuel economy hovered at 30 mpg.

Additionally, the T8 Polestar gasoline-electric hybrid keeps Volvo on track to become the first manufacturer to offer electrified models throughout the lineup in 2019. The new S60 is also the first Volvo to be sold without a diesel option.

While the S60’s exterior may follow in the footsteps of its siblings with subtle tweaks here and there, like on the headlamps, it does stand out as the first Volvo model built at the American manufacturing plant outside Charleston, South Carolina. It’s also the only sedan in the segment with a standard panoramic roof and available massage function. The T8 Polestar also includes the super posh Orrefors crystal shift knob (above).

The Sensus infotainment system accented with driftwood inlays.

Longer than the outgoing model, the third-generation S60 incorporates a few striking features from its siblings on the inside, like driftwood inlays, the Sensus infotainment system with a tablet-style touch screen, and leather seating. The T8 Polestar also features bright yellow seat belts and accent stitching to match its brake calipers. A less impressive feature also found on its siblings, the tilting and telescopic steering wheel that adjusts manually, is included on the S60.

Volvo’s commitment to offer electrified powertrains throughout its line-up by 2019 leads the manufacturer’s green commitment but the S60 also incorporates Volvo’s pledge to eliminate single-use plastics on its vehicles, also by 2019.

No discussion about a Volvo can exclude safety. Standard on all Volvos, the City Safety package includes technology that combines automatic braking and collision avoidance systems to detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals—the only system to do so—to avoid an accident.

Innovative technology like the Blind Spot Information System is standard on the Polestar but remains optional on other trim levels.

One of the first manufacturers to offer a subscription service, Volvo will include the new S60 under its Care by Volvo monthly flat rate program with no down payment.

Pricing for the T5 FWD, T6 AWD and T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid starts at $39495, $41295 and $55,395 respectively.

V60 Reflects Volvo’s Ongoing Love for the Wagon

The 2019 V60 wagon was also on hand at the S60 launch. Like its sibling, the wagon will share the same platform and therefore much of the same features, including the turbo and supercharged powertrains, Thor’s Hammer headlamps, City Safety, and Sensus infotainment system.  Unlike the S60, however, there will be a diesel option for the V60.

At the launch, Volvo brought the T6 Momentum version of the wagon that distinguished itself from the sedan with an interesting seventies retro-option for upholstery called city weave (right). While it could be polarizing, it definitely makes a statement, in a normally demure segment.

The V60 also offers more cargo capacity than the sedan with 50.9 cubic feet of space with the back seat folded flat.

There will be two trim levels for the wagon, the T5 FWD and T6 AWD in three grades, Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription.

Pricing for the 2019 V60 starts at $39,895.

Luxury Sedan Review: 2018 Volvo S90

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Dec 282018
 

Competing in the premium segment, Volvo offers what no other manufacturer can, Scandinavian design that combines luxury with function. Latino Traffic Report recently took the 2018 S90 T6 Inscription on a road trip from Austin to Burnet, Texas. The redesigned 2018 S90 full-size sedan showcased the manufacturer’s best assets—design, technology, and safety.

Curb appeal for Volvo’s flagship sedan begins with distinctive design cues, specifically, all new taillights and the t-shape in the headlamps referred to as “Thor’s Hammer.” The luxury sedan also comes with leather seating, a power sunroof, a thirteen-inch digital instrument panel, and chunky real wood accents. In this segment, roominess has its advantages, particularly in the back. Rear legroom in the S90 reaches 35.9 inches.

Innovative technology on the inside includes the tablet-shaped nine-inch touchscreen that interfaces with the Sensus infotainment and navigation systems. To select a function, the driver can slide a finger to the left, right, up, and down. A cleaning cloth to remove fingerprints is included.

Despite its size, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder super and turbocharged engine produces a whopping 316 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque; it doesn’t sound like a four-cylinder either. Also equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the S90 T6 Inscription test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. On the test-drive, it averaged 26.9 mpg.

Volvo has committed to zero fatalities or serious injuries occurring in one of its vehicles by 2020. To do this requires new benchmarks for safety technology. With the S90, Volvo focused on avoiding large animal collisions, a serious driving concern in the Texas Hill Country. Included on the S90, Volvo’s latest technology, the Large Animal Detection system, uses radar to spot animals and trigger automatic braking.

Standard semi-autonomous technology on the S90 includes Pilot Assist. Akin to adaptive cruise control, it allows the vehicle to accelerate, decelerate, and come to a complete stop to maintain a safe distance from the car in front at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.

Pricing for the 2018 Volvo S90 starts at $47,945. The as-tested pricing for the S90 T6 Inscription came to $69,140.

Sí: Beautiful inside and out, the S90 leaves no doubt of its flagship status.

No: Despite its innovation and beauty there are a couple anomalies, like the telescopic steering wheel that requires manual rather than automatic function to adjust.

TAWA Weathers the Storm to Name Truck Rodeo Winners

 Noticias  Comments Off on TAWA Weathers the Storm to Name Truck Rodeo Winners
Nov 192018
 

Photo by Kevin McCauley/@capturingthemachine.

Truck of Texas-2019 Ram 1500. Photos by Valerie Menard.

Sixty-nine members of the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), including Latino Traffic Report, recently set out on a dark and stormy morning for the Long Horn Ranch in Dripping Springs, TX to attend the twenty-fifth annual Texas Truck Rodeo. While the 57 vehicles set for off- and on-road test drives were up for the challenge, the event was eventually relocated to the Sonesta Hotel in Bee Caves, TX out of concern for the ranch and the damage that soggy off-road courses would inflict. After two days of on-road testing, the all-new 2019 Ram 1500, 2019 Maserati Levante GTS, and 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio were named the 2018 Truck, SUV, and CUV of Texas, respectively, as well as winners in 18 categories.

CUV of Texas: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

CUV of Texas–2019 Maserati Levante GTS.

“It’s clear that TAWA journalists know their trucks, and they picked the new 2019 Ram as the clear winner,” said Fabian Campos, TAWA vice president and events chair. “The overwhelming feedback from our members was that the truck performed well during some of the most challenging weather conditions during the historic Hill Country floods.”

New products tend to excel at the Truck Rodeo but there were noticeable absences, including the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and 2019 Ford Ranger as well as the Ford F-150 that won the title of Truck of Texas last year. Both manufacturers offered budget concerns for opting out of the event.

Still, the completely redesigned Ram bears a radical transformation. Gone is the crosshair grille, the last vestige of its connection to the Dodge brand. Powered by a V6 or V8 engine, it also offers increased fuel efficiency on both with the new eTorque mild hybrid system, and new capability with a maximum towing of 12,750 lbs. and payload capacity of 2,300 lbs. On the inside, the test model featured the available 12-inch UConnect touch screen (left), a first in its class and winner of the Best Technology award at the rodeo.

“Being named the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Truck of Texas is the highest honor in the world’s largest pickup market,” said Reid Bigland, head of Ram brand and U.S. Sales, chairman, president and CEO, FCA Canada Inc. “Winning this award is a challenge, but the Ram 1500 is well suited to the hard-working needs of Texas truck buyers.”

2019 Volvo XC40/

Volvo brought the all-new 2019 Volvo XC40 to defend Volvo’s three-year reign of winning top honors at the rodeo. While the XC40 did win its category, Compact Luxury SUV, it was supplanted by the Maserati Levante GTS as SUV of Texas. The six-figure Levante offered exceptional exterior styling and performance with a 550 peak horsepower and 538 lb.–ft. of torque, but the interior, with its carbon fiber accents, was lackluster, particularly considering the price tag. Of all the competitors, only the Alfa Romeo successfully defended its title of CUV of Texas.

2019 Toyota Rav4.

Toyota also made an extra effort to bring the all-new 2019 RAV4, including the hybrid version, to the rodeo. With a sportier exterior and new technology like the camera in the rearview mirror, it also won its category, becoming the Compact SUV of Texas. For a full list of winners, go to https://www.texasautowriters.org/news.

“As a whole, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) swept all the overall awards at this year’s competition, a very noteworthy accomplishment for their multi-brand lineup,” said Campos.

Super SUVs and CUVs for Summer Travel

 Features  Comments Off on Super SUVs and CUVs for Summer Travel
Aug 092018
 

2018 BMW X3

Summer’s heating up as families hit the road for vacation. There’s no question that sport and crossover utility vehicles (SUVs and CUVs) have claimed the family car market, but happily, the supply and variety from which to choose is incredibly healthy. Here’s an overview of some of the models tested by Latino Traffic Report (LTR).

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in the United States, the CX-5, stands out in a crowded segment with its design, including the signature Soul Red Crystal premium exterior paint ($595) on the test model. For 2018, this compact CUV moves ahead of the pack by making the blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert a standard feature on all CX-5s, something even premium compact CUVs and SUVs don’t do. Also added to the standard features list for 2018 are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and new cylinder-deactivation technology; Mazda is the only automaker to offer this technology on a four-cylinder engine in North America.
The test model, CX-5 Grand Touring AWD, also included the i-ACTIVSENSE suite with High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go function.
Powered by a 2.5-liter engine that delivers 187 horsepower and 186 lb.–ft. of torque with cylinder deactivation for better fuel economy and matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the CX-5 should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It averaged 28.5 mpg on the test drive.
On road trips, entertainment features come in handy and Mazda’s infotainment system centers around Mazda CONNECT with a seven-inch touch screen, Bluetooth audio streaming, and phone pairing. While it took four steps to set presets, there appeared to be no limit to the number allowed, from AM to SiriusXM Satellite radio.
With seating for five and 59.6 cubic feet (cu. ft.) of cargo room with the second-row seats folded, the 2018 Mazda CX-5 has a starting price of $25,125. The as-tested price came to $34,685.

Chevy Equinox

Chevy MyLink

Since its launch in 2005, the Equinox has been Chevrolet’s second-best selling vehicle overall, after the Silverado. It includes what families want, convenience and versatility, plus a few other features that other small SUVs don’t.
Under the hood, the Equinox offers three engine choices, all turbos—a 1.5-liter, 2.0-liter, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel (a segment exclusive). LTR drove the 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. The Equinox test model had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel rating of 22/28 mpg. It averaged 26.7 mpg on the test drive.
Inside, the Equinox there’s up to 63.5 cu. ft. of maximum cargo space with the second row folded flat. During the test, the seats were heavy and slammed down when deployed.
Certain brands may have created a reputation for safety but Chevy offers its own signature safety technology, starting with Teen Driver (standard) that allows parents to set controls and review driving history in order to encourage safe driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle. The available Rear Seat Reminder, also on the test model, pings when the ignition is turned off to remind the driver to check the back seat before locking the SUV.
The standard MyLink infotainment system on the Equinox that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, can be matched to a standard seven- or an available eight-inch-diagonal color touch screen.
Available in four trim levels, and front wheel or all wheel drive (FWD or AWD) combinations, pricing for the next-generation 2018 Equinox starts at $24,525. The as-tested price came to $43,050.

Lexus NX 300h

For road trips, fuel economy, comfort, and cargo carrying matter. The Lexus NX 300h hybrid competes handily in these areas. The test model also included the Lexus navigation package ($1,815), another road trip essential.
Lexus excels at comfort and luxury and the NX 300h test model was no exception. Enhanced by the Luxury Package ($4,545), it included buttery beige leather seating with heated and ventilated seats in the front. The second row also included a power button ($400) for folding the seats flat and exposing 53.7 cu. ft. of cargo room.
Powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor through its electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, it has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 33 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It averaged 28.4 mpg on the test drive. The engine lacked a little power but the Sport mode, part of the standard Drive Mode Select system, gave it some oomph. Normal and Eco modes are also available as well as an EV mode for full electric power at speeds below 25 miles per hour (mph). Regenerative braking charges the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the wheels when the brake is applied, storing it in the nickel-metal hydride hybrid battery pack.
Semi-autonomous features like adaptive cruise control are standard but the blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert was added to the test model ($660).
Other standard features included a backup camera, dual-zone climate control, Lexus Enform safety connect, and a power tilt and telescopic steering column.
For 2018 it gets a refreshed exterior and improved handling.
Pricing for the 2018 NX 300h starts at $39,330. The as-tested pricing came to $51,683.*

BMW X3 xDrive30i

All new for 2018, the BMW X3 brings a sporty element to the premium compact SUV segment (or Sports Activity Vehicle according to BMW), making it a bit more fun to drive than its competitors. Like its siblings, the X4, X5, and X6, the X3 is built at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, SC where 70 percent of BMW vehicles exported to 140 markets worldwide are produced.
The third-generation sports new fascia features including a three-dimensional kidney grille and fog lights featuring a hexagonal design. It’s also the first X3 to offer a factory installed trailer hitch.
A twin-power turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder inline gasoline engine that produces 248 horses and 258 lb.–ft. of torque powered the X3 xDrive30i test model, matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles and xDrive all-wheel drive (AWD). It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. It earned 24.1 mpg on the test drive.
Four drive modes, Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, helped customize the ride and handling and overcome a slight turbo lag.

orange ambient lighting

Adding to that was the new 50:50 weight distribution between the front and rear axle.
Standard features on the test model included tri-zone climate control, a 40/20/40 split folding rear seat that can be released from the rear to expose 62.7 cu. ft. of cargo room, WiFi hotspot, and power tailgate. The test model, X3 also included multiple packages—Convenience ($2,850), Driving Assistance ($900), Dynamic Handling ($1,400), Parking Assistance ($1,300), and Premium ($3,300)—that added features like a panoramic sunroof, variable sport steering, and oddly, a rearview camera—it’s standard on most vehicles these days.
Pricing for the 2018 BMW X3 starts at $42,450. The as-tested pricing came to $57,470.

Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription

Safety is paramount to Volvo so it’s no wonder that the redesigned 2018 version of the XC60 adds Oncoming Lane Mitigation to its list of standard collision avoidance safety features, plus advancements to two available features—the Blind Spot Information System with steering assistance, part of the Vision Package ($1,100), and Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous feature from Volvo, included on the test model with the Convenience Package ($2,000). It helped with steering, braking, and acceleration on roads at speeds up to 80 mph, like adaptive cruise control but without needing a car in front of it to follow.
Two remarkable four-cylinder engines power the new XC60, a turbo 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower and 258 ft.–lb. of torque on the T5 base and a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter with 315 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque on the T6 Inscription test model. It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. It averaged 22.1 mpg during the test drive.
Blessed with Scandinavian design, inside and out, the T6 test model standard creature comforts included leather seats, a beautiful dash intricately trimmed with driftwood-inspired wood accents, a nine-inch Sensus Connect touch screen that provided a clear vantage when utilizing the standard backup camera, a panoramic sunroof, multi-zone climate control, and 4G LTE connectivity with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. It offered seating for five and 63.3 cu. ft. of cargo with the rear seats folded, a loss of about four inches from the previous XC60.
The Luxury Package ($3,000) added heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats and the Advanced Package ($1,900) added a 360-degree backup camera, among other features.
Representing 30 percent of Volvo’s global sales, the 2018 XC60 has a starting price of $42,495. The as-tested pricing was $63,290.

Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium

Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the seven-passenger Atlas is a new entry into the midsize SUV market for Volkswagen. It offers utility with three rows of seats, including second and third rows that can fold flat to provide a maximum cargo volume of 96.8 cu. ft. behind the front-row seats. The seats on the test model, however, were heavy and slammed down when deployed.
The digital 12.3-inch TFT display in the instrument panel can also be customized, a feature usually reserved for premium vehicles.
While a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque is available, the test model, Atlas SEL Premium, is only powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that delivers 276 horses and 266 lb.–ft. of torque and is matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The maximum towing for the V6 is 5,000 lbs. with a factory-installed hitch.
The standard Start/Stop technology that cuts the engine off at a stop also helps conserve gas and while noticeable, it was less jarring than other systems. That said, the test model had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 17/23 mpg. The test model, equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive, averaged 17.2 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. Four Motion also included Active Control with Eco, Individual, Normal, and Sport driving modes but power was noticeably lost in the Eco mode.
The test model also had three-zone climate control, leather seating with heated and ventilated seats in the front, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, a front and rear parking monitor, blind spot monitor, Fender audio, and eight-inch touch screen with navigation, and a CD player.
Pricing for the 2018 Atlas starts at $31,745. The as-tested pricing came to $49,415.

Ranger Rover Sport HSE

Some SUVs stand out for plushness, others for their off-road capability, and some, like the Ranger Rover Sport, for both. The test model, Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 doubled down on these attributes.
Piling tons of off-road capability onto a fancy SUV may seem at cross-purposes but the Land Rover’s brand legacy demands it. While most owners will keep their nearly six-figure SUV on the road, if they want to climb rocks, they can in the Range Rover Sport. Rather than drive modes, the Sport included off-road modes via the Terrain Response System—General, Snow, Mud and Sand.
The test model, however, stayed on the road, powered by the available 3.0-liter V6 diesel that produced 254 horsepower and 443 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 22/28 mpg. It surpassed expectations during the test drive, achieving an average of 32.7 mpg.
Additional features affecting performance included Intelligent Stop/Start and full-time four-wheel drive (4WD). While the Sport version is supposed to be the more nimble Range Rover, it still felt heavy and at times, difficult to maneuver.
Of the multiple interior tech features, the stand out was the 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment four-panel display for selecting navigation, entertainment, climate control, and Bluetooth functions. Other posh features on the test model included a panoramic sunroof, Oxford perforated leather seats (heated and ventilated in the front), a TFT virtual instrument panel, Head-up Display, and a heated steering wheel. For 2018, the Range Rover Sport gets a refreshed exterior and new version of the InControl Touch Pro.
The test model was also equipped with advanced safety features like a blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, and parking assistance. Pricing for the 2018 Range Rover Sport starts at $67,745. The as-tested price came to $73,645.*


Infiniti QX80 4WD

It takes special needs to step up to the big boys in the SUV segment, e.g. lots of capacity and versatility. Luxury and comfort also enhance a vessel like the 2018 Infiniti QX80 full-size premium SUV, or as Infiniti’s press release says: “It will appeal to a buyer that wants for nothing.”
A 5.6-liter V8 engine with 400 horses and 413 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission propelled the massive seven-seater (or eight-seater with the second-row bench instead of captain’s chairs) along the highway. The test model, equipped with computer-controlled 4WD and Drive Mode Selector (Snow and Tow), had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 13/19 mpg and a maximum towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. It averaged 15.3 mpg on the test drive.
Interior features on the test model testified to its unique craftsmanship, like real wood accents, illuminated doorsills, Infiniti’s InTouch eight-inch touch screen, and the Bose premium audio system with SiriusXM Satellite radio and two USB ports. While all QX80s come with leather seating, the test model stepped it up a notch with the semi-aniline leather (made from the most desirable portion of the animal’s hide) with contrasting stitching and piping, part of the Deluxe Technology Package ($5,700).
Additional features on the test model included the Theater Package ($2,450) with eight-inch monitors in the front headrests and heated second-row seats, and the Driver Assistance Package ($2,900) that included advanced safety technology like the blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, and back-up collision warning, among other features.
Pricing for the 2018 QX80 starts at $66,045. The as-tested pricing came to $84,660.

Toyota Land Cruiser

In 1957 the Toyota Land Cruiser was among the first Toyota vehicles sold in the U.S. Toyota’s oldest SUV currently on the market has evolved into a premium full-size SUV with refined good looks and advanced off-road capability.
The number eight figures prominently in the 2018 Land Cruiser, with seating for eight and a powertrain that includes a 5.7-liter V8 matched to an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The V8 produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb.–ft. of torque and has a maximum towing capacity of 8,100 pounds.
It has an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 13/18 mpg. It averaged 15.2 mpg on the test drive.
Safety advancements on this family vehicle include the standard Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) system, with a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beams among other features. Stepping up to the 4WD version, like the as-tested model, brought technology like a blind spot monitor, a front and rear parking sensor, and rear cross traffic alert.
While the seats are split 60/40 in the second-row and 50/50 in the third-row, they were heavy and a little awkward to deploy. Once folded flat, however, the cargo room expanded to 81.7 cu. ft.
Entertainment and convenience features on the test model included four-zone climate control, JBL audio with navigation and a CD player, a nine-inch touchscreen, and a cooler box in the center console.
Toyota has reserved its premium products for Lexus, but the Land Cruiser is an exception. Pricing for the 2018 Land Cruiser starts at $84,960. The as-tested price, with the rear entertainment system ($2,220) came to $87,180.

*Driving impressions based on a 2017 model.

Compact SUV Launch: 2019 Volvo XC40

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May 152018
 

With multiple awards for its iconic XC90 sport utility vehicle (SUV), and more awards for its sibling, the XC60 small SUV, it’s no wonder that Volvo continued to propagate by entering the compact SUV segment with its newest baby, the 2019 XC40. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the national launch in Austin, TX and while the weather did not cooperate, the sporty XC40 was quite agreeable.

The small SUV segment (that includes compacts) remains one of the more robust in the auto industry with sales increasing by more than 45 percent from March of last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. More popularity, however, creates more competition, so from the onset, the XC40 will need to stand out in a crowd. As the only Swede in the bunch, it has a head start.

Volvo offers up to seventeen combinations for the XC40, including two-tone exteriors accentuated by a black or white roof. At the launch, we drove the XC40 T5 Momentum (mid-level trim) and R-Design in multiple color combinations.

Inside, Volvo’s distinctive Scandinavian touch combines art and function. On its siblings, like the XC90, that combination accentuated luxury, but a plethora of functional advances distinguishes the sportier XC40.

After extensive research that included feedback from its target audience—young professionals—Volvo adopted a clutter-free approach to the compact SUV’s interior. At the launch, we met David Clark of Kartwheel Studio (pictured, right), who designed a special desk to offer Volvo solutions that embodied the clutter-free goal for the XC40, like large door pockets, integrated bag hooks and customizable cargo spaces for special objects like laptops, a tissue box, cell phones, take out food, grocery bags and even trash. For added convenience, a power tailgate with hands free opening is standard.

Like all Volvos, the XC40 gets its power from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, specifically, a 2.0-liter, on the base T4, but with a different turbocharger than the T5, which is the first to go on sale. Its engine produces 248 horses and 258 lb.–ft. of torque. While a hybrid and electric versions are planned, the only available fuel consumption information at the launch refers to the T5, which should achieve 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, according to www.fueleconomy.gov. Four available drive modes, Eco, Dynamic, Comfort, and Individual, help customize the driving experience even further on every XC40.

Large door pockets, felt and steel inlays on the 2019 XC40 Momentum.

Metal accent on XC40 R-Design.

Additional standard features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, the nine-inch Sensus Connect touch screen shaped like a tablet, Bluetooth connectivity, leather seating, 4G LTE connectivity with an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot (six-month trial subscription), and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A premium brand like Volvo also offers nice creature comforts like a panoramic sunroof, ambient interior lighting that can be adjusted, unique metal accents, and wireless QI mobile phone charging.

While the brand has evolved to grab raves for its design, safety will always be an essential element of any Volvo’s DNA. Standard safety features on the XC40 include Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and Run-off Road protection and mitigation. The Blind Spot Information System that Volvo invented, however, and Cross Traffic Alert remain optional on the XC40 Momentum and R-Design. It is standard on the Inscription.

At the launch, Volvo execs also discussed Care by Volvo for customers not ready to commit to buying or leasing. It allows car buyers to choose a car online, pay a flat-rate monthly fee, and have the opportunity to upgrade to a new car as early as twelve months.

Available in all-wheel and front-wheel-drive versions, the 2019 XC40 has a base price of $34,195, including destination fees. Pricing for the currently available 2019 XC40 T5 is $36,195.

The new XC40 displays a youthful exuberance that should grab attention in the increasingly competitive compact SUV segment.

 

Jury Names North American Car, Truck, and Utility for 2018

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Jan 152018
 

Henio Arcangeli, senior vice president of the Automobile Division of American Honda Motor Co., accepts the award for 2018 North American Car of the Year for the Honda Accord at the 2018 North American International Auto Show on 1/15/18.

DETROIT (January 15, 2018) – Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the Honda Accord, Volvo XC60, and Lincoln Navigator were crowned as the winners of the 2018 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards today at the North American International Auto Show.

The awards are among the most prestigious in the industry because they are chosen by a panel of more than 60 jurors from print, online and broadcast media across the United States and Canada. Votes were tallied confidentially by Deloitte LLP and remained sealed until they were announced today by NACTOY officers, president Mark Phelan, vice president Matt DeLorenzo and secretary-treasurer Lauren Fix at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The three winners each stood out in their segments for different reasons.

“Honda seems to have executed some sort of magic trick—not only is this tenth generation Accord far sleeker and more decisively styled than its predecessor, it’s somehow roomier inside, too,” said Chris Paukert, a NACTOY juror and managing editor of Road Show by CNET. “Even in low-end trims, it drives well and offers a strong amount of standard equipment.”

According to Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of the Automobile Division and general manager of Honda Sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc, “Honda took a clean-sheet approach to reinventing America’s most popular car, and we couldn’t be prouder to receive this honor for Accord as the North American Car of the Year,” he said. “We’re especially proud for the production associates in Ohio where Accord has been built to the highest quality standards for over 35 years.”

Standing next to the all-new Volvo XC60, Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA holds the award for 2018 North American Utility of the Year won by the 2018 XC60.

The XC60 is the second Volvo in three years to win the coveted award after the XC90 won in 2016. “Like the XC90, the XC60 offers Volvo’s distinct brand of luxury and it may even be more appealing than its bigger brother. The ride is exemplary, and when smartly equipped, it is a fine value,” said NACTOY juror and freelance auto writer Kirk Bell.

“We are so proud the XC60 has won this prestigious award,” said Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. “It is a very tough competition and we thank all the judges for recognizing the great style, technology, and engineering in the XC60.

Kumar Galhotra, president, The Lincoln Motor Company holds the 2018 Truck of the Year award for the all-new Lincoln Navigator.

NACTOY Juror Ron Sessions of the New York Daily News said, “The 2018 Navigator received a more dramatic update than its Ford Expedition sibling and its impact for the brand will be stronger as a result. With its design now aligned with the Continental, the Navigator becomes an even more important image—and the profit-maker for Lincoln.”

Accepting the award for Lincoln was Kumar Galhotra, president, The Lincoln Motor Company. “Lincoln is honored to be named the best among such a strong field of competitors,” he said. “The entire Lincoln team is very proud of the work that was done to create a truly differentiated, luxury Lincoln experience in our all-new Navigator.”

Chosen from dozens of new vehicles, jurors evaluated the finalists based on segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. The process started in June 2017 by determining vehicle eligibility and includes three rounds of voting. LTR attended the launches of the XC60 and Accord last year and can attest that these vehicles are class leaders.

Now in their twenty-fourth year, the awards are selected by a group of respected automotive journals with lifetime appointments to the jury, distinguishing them from other industry awards distributed by a single publication, website, radio,  or television station. For a list of all the nominees go to For more about NACTOY and its history: http://northamericancaroftheyear.org/.

TAWA Picks Truck Rodeo Winners

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Nov 152017
 

2018 Truck of Texas: Ford F-150. Photo by Kevin McCauley.

Latino Traffic Report (LTR) would like to recognize the winners of the 2018 Texas Truck Rodeo, hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) and presented by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI). Taking the top three awards, Truck of Texas, Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) of Texas, and Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) of Texas were the Ford F-150, the Volvo XC60, and Alfa Romeo Stelvio, respectively.

2018 SUV of Texas: Volvo XC60.

The thirtieth annual Texas Truck Rodeo took place at the Longhorn Ranch in Dripping Springs, TX.

2018 CUV of Texas: Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

Each year, automotive journalists spend two days driving on off- and on-road courses, testing  vehicles (trucks, SUVs, CUVs, and commercial vehicles) to select winners in 21 categories as well as three overall winners. Sixty-four vehicles, with a combined value of nearly $4 million were test driven this year by 75 journalists.

“The competition was incredibly fierce at this year’s Texas Truck Rodeo,” said TAWA President Nic Phillips. “Journalists put in more than 300 hours of driving time, evaluating the vehicles presented. The results in several categories are separated by the narrowest of margins … confirming just how competitive the trucks and utility vehicles are today,” Phillips said.

 

Full-size Pick-up of Texas: Nissan Titan. Photo by Kevin McCauley.

Engineers from the competing manufacturers were on hand to answer questions from journalists about the vehicles and to aid in the evaluation process. Vehicles are measured on their interior, exterior, value, performance, and personal appeal

Traditionally, new features or new models tend to attract the most votes. Restyled for 2018, one memorable moment in the F-150 Limited included getting a massage from the all-new seat massage function. This is the ninth win for Ford at the rodeo and a repeat from last year when the Ford F-250 won the title.

Mid-size CUV of Texas-Mazda CX-5. Photo by Kevin McCauley.

“With the new 2018 F-150, we’re honored to earn back-to-back Truck of Texas awards for F-Series, a recognition that speaks to the truck team’s dedication to our hard-working customers,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president and president of North America. “That’s especially true here in Texas – truck capital of the world.”


The SUV of Texas win represents a three-peat for Volvo. It was also the last SUV to be named Truck of Texas in 2003, prompting creation of the SUV and CUV of Texas awards. The 2018 XC60 T6 and the super luxe T8 Hybrid, with premium features like an Orefors crystal shift knob, were entered to compete in the Mid-Size Luxury SUV of Texas category, which it won as well. Additional awards for the XC60 included Best Connectivity for its Sensus infotainment system and Best Powertrain. Alfa Romeo’s first CUV also won the Luxury CUV of Texas category.

Overall, Nissan was the most overall awarded brand with five category wins and Mazda swept the three non-luxury CUVs, categories. Other highlights from the event included a near vertical climb up a hill with the Ram Power Wagon, assisted by a winch and the Land Rover Discovery, assisted by cruise control.

The following is a list of all the winners.

The 2018 award categories and winning vehicles were:

  • Truck of Texas: 2018 Ford F150
  • SUV of Texas: 2018 Volvo XC60
  • CUV of Texas: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport
  • Heavy duty pickup truck: 2018 Ram 2500 Limited Tungsten
  • Best commercial vehicle: 2018 Nissan Titan King Cab SV
  • Luxury pickup truck: 2018 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Southfork
  • Off-road pickup: 2017 Ford F150 Raptor
  • Full-size pickup: 2018 Nissan Titan Midnight Edition
  • Midsize pickup: 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
  • Best technology: Nissan Pro Pilot
  • Best connectivity: Volvo XC60
  • Best powertrain: Volvo XC60
  • Off-road utility vehicle: 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Recon
  • Sub-Compact SUV: 2017 Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk
  • Compact SUV: 2018 Nissan Rogue Platinum
  • Mid-size Luxury SUV: 2018 Volvo XC60
  • Compact Luxury SUV: 2018 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD
  • Full-size SUV: 2018 Dodge Durango SRT
  • Mid-size SUV: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
  • Compact SUV: 2018 Nissan Rogue Platinum
  • Full-size CUV: 2018 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring AWD
  • Mid-size CUV: 2017 Mazda CX5 Grand Touring GT
  • Compact CUV: 2018 Mazda CX3 Grand Touring FWD
  • Luxury CUV: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

SUV Launch: 2018 Volvo XC60

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Oct 152017
 

Determined to end deaths or serious injury in a Volvo vehicle by the year 2020, the Swedish automaker encroaches on that goal with every new model or redesign. The 2018 version of the XC60 mid-size utility vehicle (SUV), for example, gets three new collision avoidance safety features. I recently drove the XC60 at the launch in Barcelona, Spain for Latino Traffic Report. For those who haven’t been to Barcelona, imagine San Francisco—the two are strikingly similar. That backdrop would complement any car, but the 2018 XC60 stood out for its own assets, i.e. beautiful design combined with cutting edge safety and powertrain technology.

The midsize SUV has been a popular addition to the Volvo lineup. According to Volvo, over one million XC60s have been sold globally since it was introduced in 2008 and the vehicle represents 30 percent of Volvo Cars’ global sales.

Car buyers already benefit from Volvo safety innovations, like the three-point seat belt or the Blind Spot Indication System (BLIS). New safety updates on the XC60’s Intellisafe City Safety system include Oncoming Lane Mitigation that uses steering assistance to prevent drivers from changing lanes into other vehicles. Steering assistance has also been applied to BLIS for the new XC60. It may feel like a “ghost in the machine” but when tested in Spain, the nudge it provides is just enough to get the driver’s attention but not so strong as to be alarming. They join standard City Safety features like pedestrian, cyclist, vehicle, and large animal detection. BLIS, however, remains optional, but we were informed at the launch that it will be a standard feature on future models. For added security, Volvo On Call with remote engine start is standard on all models for four years.

The XC60 also includes Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous feature from Volvo. It helps with steering, braking, and acceleration on roads at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, like adaptive cruise control but without needing a car in front of it to follow. According to Volvo, it’s intended to reduce stress in “stop-and-go commuter traffic.”

Safety isn’t all that Volvo improves upon. The striking but utilitarian Scandinavian design on every model gets better and better. On the 2018 XC60, designers used driftwood to inspire wood interior accents on the Inscription trim level. According to Thomas Ingenlath,
senior vice president, design Volvo Cars: “Driftwood is a material formed by the sea and colored by exposure to salt and the extreme temperatures of our unique geography. Driftwood’s naturally silvered surface is an entirely new treatment that is alive with subtle colors and texture.”

For the test drive, we drove the T6 Inscription with the Luxury Seat Package that included heated and ventilated massaging front seats, heated rear seats, a power cushion extension on the front seats, a colorful 12.3-inch driver display for the digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, door handle illumination, and a hands free power liftgate.

To improve the ride, the XC60 sits on a new double wishbone front suspension for reduced torque and understeer and rear-wheel suspension with an integral link design. The available air suspension on the T6 and T8 features automatic leveling for improved ride stability as well as speed dependent steering, active dampers, and a Drive Mode selector with Comfort, Dynamic, ECO, Individual, and Off Road settings. All-wheel drive is standard on all XC60s.

Standard creature comforts include leather seats, a nine-inch Sensus screen that also provides a clear vantage when utilizing the standard backup camera, a panoramic sunroof, multi-zone climate control, and 4G LTE connectivity with in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. It offers seating for five and 63.3 cubic feet of cargo with rear seats folded, a loss of about four inches from the previous XC60.

Two remarkable four-cylinder engines power the new XC60, a turbo 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower and 258 ft.–lb. of torque on the T5 base model, a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter with 315 horsepower and 295 ft.–lb. of torque on the T6. Super peppy and responsive, the engine belies its size, particularly on the T6 driven at the launch. The T5, however, should be the most fuel efficient, besides the Hybrid (see below) with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Pricing for the 2018 XC60 starts at $42,495. The as-tested pricing was about $53,795.

The 2018 XC60 launch took place in Barcelona, but the actual test drive headed into the surrounding countryside. While the route held certain challenges, like distracting Catalonian vistas and road signs en español, I knew the XC60 had my back.

—Valerie Menard

The new Volvo XC60 T8

Volvo Completes XC60 Lineup with the T8 Hybrid Launch

Volvo sees the future of cars as being electric and self-driving, and the 2018 XC60 T8 electric/hybrid is an early favorite in what will be a very competitive field. Recently launched in Denver, CO, the T8 hybrid is powered by a four-cylinder twin engine that delivers 400 hp and 472 ft.–lb. of torque matched to an electric motor and lithium ion battery. It has an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 59 mpge.

To enhance ride and handling, the Hybrid model offers six  drive modes—Hybrid, Power, Pure, Individual, Off-Road, and AWD.

I had the opportunity to spend some time in the T8 trim, which really is worth considering if electric power is important to you. Be advised, the T8 is great for highway driving, beautiful for a ride, impressive on the inside and out, but not racing. It handled beautifully at the launch, as it went through curves and challenges all along the Rocky Mountains. The power, however, is a bit crimped and stalled, but that’s how these electric/hybrid types are. You don’t get from electricity what you get from gas, and that can be a bit disappointing to your ears and your heart.

Clearly, the Swedes are taking aim at impressive luxury crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. The market for these vehicles is very competitive and promises to get even more so, but that’s great for buyers who today have more choices than ever before. All this and all the luxury and precision for which Volvo is known is on full display here.

On sale now, pricing starts at $53,895.

—Sammy Gomez