About: Autolove

Joe Mavilia is a syndicated columnist with more than 35 years in the automotive industry. He is a member of the Motor Press Guild and Automotive Press Association. His reviews have been published in print media including the Los Angeles Times, The Golden Transcript - Colorado, La Feria News - Texas, The Pasadena Weekly - California, and others around the country, including www.theweekenddrive.com where he is the West Coast Editor. Reviews and Opinion Columns may also be seen in Sunnews.org and The Country Journal every week in the Antelope Valley, CA. I hope they are helpful

Recent Posts by Autolove

2018 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year

2018 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year

By Phil Shuyler

It’s not an easy task picking a “vehicle of the year,” let alone an outdoor activity vehicle of the year in the Northwest. This year there were many deserving candidates, and a total of 7 winners, including the pinnacle award of Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.

Lets cut to the chase – the overall Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year is the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It’s go anywhere attitude and redesigned interior and exterior styling for 2018 helped cement the Wrangler as the leader in achievable off-road performance vehicles.

Personally, I loved the new Hyundai Kona a bit more all-around. The Wrangler blew the competition out of the water off-road, however that capability comes with a price on-road. It’s not uncomfortable to drive, it just feels larger, feels less nimble at speed and has less cargo space than most or all of its competitors. Enter the Kona. It’s in the subcompact SUV segment, so it’s definitely small, however it’s plenty big for the needs of most people. It has adventurous looks and comes in both green and blue colors that are a call to nature just by themselves. The Kona did however win the Subcompact SUV of the Year.

Another vehicle high on our list was the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure. This trim for the RAV4 provides an increased ride height, larger over fender flares, durable rocker panel guards, and more. And like the Kona, the RAV4 Adventure looks like it’s ready to go exploring. You also receive Toyota reliably and dependability as well as appealing stying both inside and out.

Of course one can’t consider an activity vehicle without mentioning pickup trucks. Two standouts in this category were the 2019 Honda Ridgeline and the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel. The Ridgeline excelled on pavement, but was not as capable off-road as the Rebel. Conversely, the Rebel is much larger, so its behavior on pavement made it feel like the large truck that it is, but once off road, it felt right at home. That’s not to say the Ram 1500 isn’t comfortable in and around town however. Its air ride suspension is silky smooth and gives you height for clearing rocks and logs, and then lowers for increased aerodynamics on the highway.

Rounding out our top picks is the 2019 Jeep Cherokee. This completely redesigned model is more capable than you might think, and the Trailhawk version also looks the part. Aside from the Wrangler, the Cherokee had the least amount of difficulty crawling over the logs and traversing the hills we encountered during our testing.

Here’s the full list for each of the category winners:

Subcompact SUV – 2018 Hyundai Kona
Compact & Midsize SUV – 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Family SUV – 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Luxury SUV – 2018 BMW X2
Pickup – 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel
Extreme – 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year – 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

(All photos courtesy Ryan Douthit/NWAPA)

2018 Lexus ES 350 4-door Sedan

2018 Lexus ES 350 4-door Sedan

An Automotive Love Affair
By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2018 Lexus IS 350 4-door Sedan. I wonder why every player in this class car is from a country outside the shores of America. The US dominated the auto industry for 100 years, and now it has become just one of the gang with less and less influence in the industry, it would seem. All the while the lines of distinction are becoming more and more blurred as no one company dominates in the world marketplace of the cars we love to love.

As precise and perfect as designs are now, possible through technology, there are differences that will change the landscape of which products succeed and those that fail. The list of cars that have come and gone is staggering. And no matter the failures of the early days, technology still hasn’t guaranteed successful products of any kind. If computers were the answer to a perfectly run company we would see no failures. I guess people still have a roll in decision making. Can it be any worse or better when computers run the show. So far computers only seem to make things more complicated. That’s my observation.

General Information:

It is assembled in- Japan; Classification is- Compact; Vehicles from Lexus- CT, ES,GS, GX, IS, LC, LS, LX, NX, RC, RX.

Handling & Performance:

Drive mode select is appreciated more every time I review a car that is equipped with it. It is a way to remind me of my heavy foot. When I feel the need for speed it is there at the push of a button or the turn of a select knob. But it also reminds me there is a cost attached to every choice. Cruising down the highway, ECO is my choice of settings.

Dynamic radar cruise control is another new high-tech thing that make the ride easier to handle. It is truly a special development and when coupled with Lane Assist it keeps me on my toes to be a safer driver. It is easy to get distracted in this fast-paced world of cell phones that lead you to text or call when you really should not. We must all be very aware of ever-changing and increasing driver distractions.

Styling:

Although the looks are becoming more generic and difficult to tell brands apart there are always unique touches to distinguish those subtle differences. The grill work or smoother or sharper lines help but still too often we must look for the Badge to identify the manufacturer.

Fit and Finish:

Technology is available to all and component improvements are so advanced, over the past several decades, that all brands are consistently better, in assembly. Rarely do the cars of today have the shake, rattle and roll noises of the past. Remember when it was not so?

Cost:

Computers (computer aided design, or CAD systems) explain how precise pricing is possible across all brands. Component and labor costs are fine-tuned elements to create nearly identical product costs of the competition. The human factor is nearly non-existent in today’s world.

Conveniences and comfort:

Remote keys with the push button start/stop feature is so cool. When the car doesn’t have it digging in your purse or pocket to find the key is a real drag.

Consumer Recommendations:

We consumers have many choices in cars but sometimes it’s like a restaurant with a huge menu of choices that is more confusing than it needs to be. Oh, for the Henry Ford days when your choice of a Ford model A was black paint or black paint.

Recognised Competition:

Brand $$$ Cost MPG Avg Seating Doors Country of Origin Assembled
Lexus IS 350 43,000 23 5 4 Japan Japan
BMW 3 Series 43,000 36 5 4 Germany Germany
Alfa Romeo Giulia 43,000 26 5 4 Italy Italy
Jaguar XE 43,000 24 5 4 United Kingdom United Kingdom
Mercedes C Class 43,000 26 5 4 Germany Germany
Volvo S60 42,000 29 5 4 Sweden China
Audi A5 44,000 27 5 4 Germany Germany

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 311 horsepower engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, Drive mode select / ECO, Normal, Sport, Snow, dynamic radar cruise control, dynamic management, 18” 5-spoke aluminum wheels, ABS power disc brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution), tire pressure monitor, power tilt and slide moonroof, remote access with push button start/stop, 10-airbags, safety system with pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, auto high beam control, back up camera, Lexus Enform safety and service connect, 10-way power driver seat, 8-way power passenger seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, multi information full color display with Audio, Phone and trip information, Bluetooth hands free phone and audio streaming, Audio system with HD ?radio, Real-time traffic and weather , Gracenote Album Art, MP3 Player, USB integration, CD, SiriusXM Satellite radio.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 28 Highway MPG

$3.69 / Gal avg. May 14, 2018

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

Pricing:

MSRP $41,430.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2018 – An Automotive Love Affair

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Limited

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Limited

An Automotive Love Affair
By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Limited. Although I believe All Electric is not a viable power plant solution (for the next several years, if ever) Hybrids, like this Ioniq, are here, now and available at reasonable prices to buy or lease and economical to operate. The important thing to consider between all electric and hybrid is which one is a more reliable option. Well, with the Hybrid your chances of being stranded are far less likely than electric only battery powered cars. Further, I have not seen or heard of any significant negative press on Hybrid technology over the many years they have been on the market. (if you have had a different experience please write and tell me your story).

I have driven several ‘all-electric’ or ‘electric only’ cars over the past 20 years when they first came on the scene with a range of 25 miles. Whoopie ! I’ll remind you that electric cars were tried well over 100 years ago and never caught on, even though they had a range of 100 miles back then. I have a keen sense of the obvious that the Tesla crowd fail to exercise. History simply does not bear out electric only technology. OK, so it is possible there will be a breakthrough that will change the narrative. Until then, my recommendation is to stay clear of ‘electric only’ propulsion systems.

General Information:

It is assembled in- Montgomery, Alabama, USA; Parts- US/Canadian 1%, Korea 98%; Engine and transmission –Korea; Classification is- MidsizeCars; Cars from Hyundai- Accent, Azera, Elantra, Elantra GT, Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid, Santa Fe, Sonata, Sonata Hybrid, Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, Tucson and Veloster.

Handling & Performance:

When I look at the fuel economy numbers my interest perks up. But even though you don’t expect a rocket ship for such low horsepower performers this ride is no slouch. It has good power and generally OK handling. Most often lighter, lower cost cars are not as solid handling as the big boys or small super sport cars. If I were commuting coupled with mostly local driving needs, this is the ticket. If I put on a lot of long highway / road mile trips I would opt for larger models. Need over want applies here.

Styling:

Hyundai has maintained a conservative approach in design and that suits me just fine. I like the overall look of Hyundai.

Fit and Finish:

Good attention to detail, especially at this price point.

Cost:

Well, this is a car I would hope my kids would embrace, especially as we watch gas prices soar.

Conveniences and comfort:

The listing of standard features noted below is quite good and includes a fair compliment of safety assist features for the money. Moderate comfort level for a midsize car.

Consumer Recommendations:

If you are looking for a good all-around economical 5 seat sedan in this price range, I believe this covers your need very well. It is curious why there aren’t more players in this category. It is a great commuter, but not so great for long hauls. If you are looking for a little heavier model and want the plug-in hybrid design, I suggest you look at the Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, that will cost about $10,000 more.

Recognised Competition:

Brand $$$ Cost MPG Avg Seating Doors Country of Origin Assembled
Hyundai Ioniq 29,000 52 5 4 Korea Korea
Toyota Prius 29,000 52 5 4 Japan Japan

Good News:

Economical commuter and fine example of a young family starter car.

Bad News:

No bad news that comes to mind.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter gas 4-cylinder engine, synchronous motor (44.5 KW), combined system power 139 horsepower, 6-speed automatic transmission, 8.9 kw/hour lithium – ion battery system, 120 volt charge cable, stability management with traction control, 4-wheel disc brake with integrated regenerative braking, ABS electronic brake force distribution with brake assist, front, front side curtain airbags, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist, rearview camera, 16” alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, heated power side mirrors with turn signal indicators, proximity key entry with push button start, 7” color display, leather seating with power driver seat with memory system, 60/40 split folding rear seat with center armrest, climate control, heated front seats, AM/FM/MP3 audio system with iPod/USB and Aux input jacks, HD Radio technology, SiriusXM, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, Bluetooth hands free phone.

Gas Stats:

$3.63-Gal avg. May 7, 2018

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

52 City and Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,185.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2018 – An Automotive Love Affair

2018 Lexus LS 500 4-door Sedan

2018 Lexus LS 500 4-door Sedan

An Automotive Love Affair
By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2018 Lexus LS 500 4-door Sedan. Wow!!! What a lovely state of the art luxury car for the fortunate few who can justify the price of admission. For most of us it would be a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there!

This past week I had the opportunity to get an overview of 11 different models of cars with high tech devices found in most cars these days. The trend is going deeper and deeper into the weeds of complication. If you want knobs and buttons on your radio I suggest you buy a ‘classic car’ from the 20th Century. Don’t laugh. Most of you reading this were born and spent most of your life in that Century. The good news is that you surely know a pre-teen who you can call upon to show you how to use the controls on your $100,000 transportation vehicle. But if you don’t know a kid, the manufactures have huge manuals to reference, and classes to teach you to select channels on your radio. In the meantime, “Do NOT” attempt to use those features unless you are PARKED.

Opinion:

I believe Henry Ford would NOT have approved of the exclusivity of such luxury cars. He was “All Inclusive” in his production of cars so anyone could afford to have motorized transportation. And that marked the time when buggy whips became obsolete.

Conversely this LS 500 is designed for a select segment of automotive consumers.

I drive nearly every car made and it becomes clear, to me, that the main objective of the auto industry is transportation. But it also provides for satisfying our ego and self-image. This realization reminded me of my first career job at Price Waterhouse – Coopers. A partner at the firm drove an old, old Buick that seemed hardly a car that an important successful member of business would drive. It made an impression on me. He was making a statement to all who knew him that you didn’t go to a client in a flashy expensive car. I never checked to see if he drove a Ferrari on weekends.

General Information:

It is assembled in- Japan; Classification is- Midsize; Vehicles from Lexus- CT, ES,GS, GX, IS, LC, LS, LX, NX, RC, RX.

Handling & Performance:

Today’s cars, generally, make us better drivers. Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure warnings where you must use the turn signal or a warning sound is triggered, Cross Traffic alerts and crash avoidance technology make us more aware drivers. These driver-assist features are becoming more common and will eventually be cheaper so the cost will be easily justified by all.

Styling:

Some tell me they do not like the grill design, but I rather like the bold look. How ‘bout you?

Fit and Finish:

Careful attention to assembly is exceptional in this class of car. You’ll find perfection in seams, stitching and perfect fits when doors and trunk lid closes.

Cost:

Well….. when I get to the $100,000 price point, I begin to wonder if I get what I pay for. Hey, I’ve been looking at Motorhomes and the price of this car buys a great home on wheels.

Conveniences and comfort:

Most of the comforts of home except you wouldn’t want to spend the night.

Consumer Recommendations:

“Just think, by boy, think” – Richard’s grandpa.

Recognised Competition:

Brand $$$ Cost MPG Avg Seating Doors Country of Origin Assembled
Lexus LS 500 76,000 23 5 4 Japan Japan
Genesis G90 75,000 23 5 4 Korea Korea
Audi A7 73,000 23 5 4 Germany Germany
Cadillac XTS 73,000 18 5 4 USA Canada
Cadillac CT6 70,000 21 5 4 USA USA
Audi S7 82,000 18 4 4 Germany Germany
BMW 7 Series 84,000 24 5 4 Germany Germany
Porsche Panamera 91,000 23 4 4 Germany Germany

Good News:

Elegant classy look and feel, bold styling, top high tech capable, comfortable ride.

Bad News:

I found the controls (follow the pack) needlessly too complicated. (classes for using the features are available, which makes my point.)

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter twin turbo 416 horsepower V6 engine, continuously variable valve timing, direct cylinder injection system, 10-speed sequential automatic transmission, drive mode select ECO, Normal, Sport, Electronic power steering, 19” alloy wheels, 10 airbags, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, all speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with lane keep assist, intelligent high beam headlights, vehicle dynamic integrated management, stability control, brake assist and brake force distribution, traction control, ABS braking system, tire pressure monitoring system, electronic parking brake, smart stop technology, intuitive parking assist with auto stop, Blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, rain sensing wipers, Navigation with high resolution 12.3” screen with remote touchpad and backup camera, Lexus Enform Safety connect and service connect (10 years of ownership), Enform Wi-Fi (1-year included), Enform remote App and destination assist (1-year included), Enform App Suite 2.0, Enform dynamic Navigation (3-years included), SiriusXM satellite radio (3 months), Climate control, 16-way driver’s and front passenger power seats, leather trimmed interior, power rear sunshade, hands free power trunk open/close, keyless entry with push button start/stop, tilt and slide moonroof, 12-speakr sound system, multiple USB and AUX, single disc CD, Bluetooth and HD radio.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 30 Highway MPG

$3.69 / Gal avg. April 29, 2018

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

Pricing:

MSRP $81,000; with the rest of the options $102,000.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2018 – An Automotive Love Affair

Coast Autonomous P-1

Coast Autonomous P-1

An Automotive Love Affair
By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the future of several modes of transportation of people and cargo. So many applications that you will come up with many yourself I haven’t even considered.

I love the ingenuity of this human endeavor and how a few have risen for the time of their day. Well the greats like Edison, Bell, Ford, …… are followed with innovation of those alive in 2018.

With headquarters in Pasadena, California, the company describes it this way: “Coast Autonomous is a self-driving technology and software company at the dawn of one of the fastest and most profound disruptions to impact the transportation and logistics industries”.

Vehicles are built by proven manufacturers and then automated by fitting sensors/electronics and installing Coast software. Each AV is then certified to existing safety standards and regulations. At the same time, the Coast operations teams work with clients to plan and install AV systems. This work includes identifying infrastructure needs; mapping the environment where the vehicles will be operating; defining and programming the routes; setting up and testing the vehicles; setting up supervision and fleet management systems; training on-site supervisors and client staff; and establishing maintenance and cleaning schedules.

Coast’s founder and CTO, Pierre Lefevre, is the “father” of low-speed AVs and inventor of the world’s first commercially available autonomous shuttle, which won a “Product of the Future” award at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in 2014. This game-changing shuttle has already carried over 100,000 passengers without incident through a demonstration at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). Coast’s technology team includes industry experts with over 50 years of experience in Artificial Intelligence, 3D mapping, robotics, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), connected vehicles, fleet management and automation.

Coast’s P-1 Shuttle with 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and Coast CTO Pierre Lefevre. Franchitti recently joined Coast’s advisory board and will use his championship driving skills to tutor Coast’s self-driving artificial intelligence systems to improve safety and vehicle performance.

The Coast Difference:

  • Focused on low-speed environments
  • Controlled and / or constrained environments
  • Connected environments (infrastructure and other vehicles)
  • Working with established manufacturers with proven safety records
  • Best-in-class safety protocols
  • Strategic partnerships with leading experts in Key Areas;
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human interface
  • Risk assessment mitigation
  • Connected vehicles
  • Carbon composites
  • Digital checklists

General Information:

Assembly: USA

Handling & Performance:

This is the amazing part. It is a driverless vehicle with autonomous attributes explained in the synonyms: Independent, self-directed, self-sufficient, self-governing, and sovereign.

Experts agree that Transportation-as-a-Service (“TaaS”) will disrupt widespread vehicle ownership, significantly reduce what an average consumer now spends on owning, maintaining and insuring a vehicle, and dramatically slash energy demand and tailpipe emissions by upwards of 90%.

Styling:

Futuristic. It grows on you. Follow the progress at the website www.coastautonomous.com. P-0 (Zero) was the prototype that was similar in look but the technology is the same. It is prettier with the new design, and other looks, not covered in this story, are flatbeds and other designs for moving cargo.

Fit and Finish:

Lovingly assembled in fulfillment of the designer’s dream and attended to with the same care as with a new born baby. Diapers not needed.

Cost:

Indeterminate to develop but it is anticipated to be cost effective for the consumer, even without competition.

Conveniences and comfort:

It has everything it needs for a people mover. It reminds me of my Navy days when we were moved around the base in what was disdainfully (while at the same time “lovingly”) referred to as “cattle cars”. And there was no seating in those cattle moooovers.

Consumer Recommendations:

If you are a business or Metropolitan district, college, airline, and well you know who you are, you will find the possibilities mind boggling. Another application is that it can increase mobility for the elderly and disabled if you hadn’t already thought of that.

Applications also include scheduled shuttle services, on-demand personal transportation, perimeter security and the indoor and outdoor movement and delivery of cargo and freight.

Standard Equipment:

Seating, automatic operating door openers.

Gas Stats:

No gas engine. It operates on continuously charging batteries along the prescribed route and will operate 24/7 without intervention.

Pricing:

To Be Determined based on the application.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2018 – An Automotive Love Affair

2018 Lexus ES 350 4-door Sedan

2018 Lexus ES 350 4-door Sedan

An Automotive Love Affair
By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2018 Lexus ES 350 4-door Sedan. I understand the ES will sport some re-design for next year, but I doubt it will be a radical change even though the last model year changes were made in 2013. Some have complained about steering and body control issues, but I don’t consider the criticism real.

Gas and hybrid versions will continue to be available next year.

In the meantime, this 2018 is a fuel efficient spaciously comfortable 5-seater that makes a nice family sedan.

General Information:

Assembly: Japan; Classification is: Midsize; Vehicles from Lexus: CT, ES, GS, GX, IS, LC, LS, LX, NX, RC, RX.

Handling & Performance:

The model I tested was the 3.5-liter V6 with plenty of power and did well over the mountain course (The Crest Test).

Styling:

Futuristic styling that sets it apart in design. Nice.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Well priced in this highly competitive luxury badged segment of the sedan market. Of course, you can opt to extend to the Ultra luxury stuff, navigation and other added features that could push the price up by $10,000. Nice but not necessary for me.

Conveniences and comfort:

Excellent array of features as it is priced, including the important safety high tech stuff I think are important. Things like Pre-collision system, dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert and smart start / stop technology top my list.

Consumer Recommendations:

In class there are only 4 recognized players so I would test drive them all. If fuel economy is a hot item look at the Hybrid model similarly priced. Smaller 4-cylinder engine at a combined horsepower of 200 with a combined 40 MPG. I’ve found you don’t sacrifice noticeably on power performance. Certainly, worth consideration.

Recognised Competition:

Brand $$$ Cost MPG Avg Seating Doors Country of Origin Assembled
Lexus ES 350 40,000 24 5 4 Japan Japan
Infiniti Q50 40,000 23 5 4 Japan Japan
Buick Regal Sportback 40,000 22 5 4 USA Germany
Acura TLX 39,000 24 5 4 Japan USA

Good News:

Well equipped, competitive, good fuel economy, spacious comfort.

Bad News:

N/A

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 288 horsepower engine, automatic transmission, 17” split 10-spoke alloy wheels, front, front knee, side seat mounted and side curtain airbags, theft deterrent system with engine immobilizer, stability control, ABS power disc brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution), smart stop technology, pre collision system, pedestrian detection, high speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, high beam automatic system, keyless entry with push button start/stop, drive mode select (ECO, Normal, Sport), Lexus Enform safety connect plus Remote access, fog lights and daytime running lights, rain sensing wipers, power 10-way front seats, heated power mirrors, dual zone climate control, power tilt and slide moonroof, audio system with MP3 and 8-speakers, Bluetooth, USB, Sirius XM satellite radio.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 30 Highway MPG

$3.49 / Gal avg. April 14, 2018

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

Pricing:

MSRP $38,950.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2018 – An Automotive Love Affair

2018 Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring RF

2018 Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring RF

An Automotive Love Affair
By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Grand Touring RF (retractable fastback). Of course, the first thing you’ll notice in this model is the automatic power hard top feature. Remember the days when it was a major task to get the top up or down. In fact, the British had a way of making a car that required you to be a mechanic with a complete set of tools just to start the car. I think their concept of a car owner was as enthusiastic about the car as the designers were. Cars of the 1950s and 1960s like MGB and Austin Healey immediately come to mind and of course we can’t forget the Jaguar XKE. Hey, I’ve owned them and loved ‘em too but, in retrospect, I could have used a lot less wrench turning and knuckle busting and more driving.

Well the joy continues with the driving experience you get from driving a sport car like this Mazda. It is the top selling sport car in the world, and for good reason, it is simple and easy to drive. Japanese manufacturer Mazda in 1989 was passionate about a sport car and got his inspiration from the classics mentioned above from the early years. He achieved his goal in my opinion.

BUT, they aren’t for everyone and are more fun than practical. It’s kinda like you need a real car or truck for the real world and for fun and giggles and the sheer joy of driving you get a sport car. It also demands a little flexibility of body just getting in and out.

General Information:

It is assembled in- Hiroshima, Japan; Parts-US/Canadian 0%, Japan 90% Engine and transmission – Japan; Classification is- Two Seater. Cars from Mazda- CX-3, CX-5, CX-9, Mazda 3, Mazda 5, Mazda 6, MX-5 Miata, MX-5 Miata RF.

Handling & Performance:

6-speed manual transmission is nearly an appendix that has little use in today’s automotive landscape. Some research disclosed that only 3% of cars sold are so equipped. No surprise, since it is rare to find anyone who knows how to drive what was referred to as a “standard transmission” up until about 40 years ago. Do you think we should now refer to an automatic transmission as “Standard”?

But for those few drivers who are comfortable with a ‘manual’ transmission it is as ‘automatic’ to their driving style. Me – I’m ok with a manual transmission but only as a novelty because the newest and best automatics are unbeatable for performance.

Styling:

Classic Miata styling, and over time it has matured from its early years when, by any measure, it was rather ‘tinny’ sounding when you closed the doors and trunk. That is not the case in recent years. What’s more, the body is broader and more stable looking and feeling. Nice.

Fit and Finish:

Very good assembly especially considering the fact it is affordable, which explains why it is the world’s best-selling sport car.

Cost:

It is well priced and right with its most close competitor, the Fiat 124.

Conveniences and comfort:

Far more features than I expected with all the new technology but if you need a good size trunk you are in the wrong market. I’m reminded of a trip my wife and I took to Lake Tahoe in Northern California to visit my daughter and her family. It was the end of 1990s or early 2000s and we had to pack for a week. Me – I took a toothbrush since that’s all the room that was left after she loaded her stuff. Really, why do women need so much stuff?

Consumer Recommendations:

For me it would be a toss-up between Miata and the Fiat Spider in this class. I’ve owned a 124 Fiat and liked it a lot.

Recognised Competition:

Brand $$$ Cost MPG Avg Seating Doors Country of Origin Assembled
Mazda MX-5 RF 34,000 29 2 2 Japan Japan
Fiat 124 Spider 30,000 30 2 2 Italy Japan
Audi A3 48,000 28 4 4 Germany Germany

Good News:

Looks great, fair pricing, fun to drive, fantastic hard top convertible.

Bad News:

Small trunk and storage spaces and difficult entry and exit.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 4-cylinder 155 HP engine, 6-speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive, ABS 4-Wheel power Disc brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, 17” allow wheels, power retractable hard top, auto on/off headlights, heated power mirrors, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise, Bluetooth controls and leather shift knob and hand brake, power windows and locks, leather trimmed upholstery, keyless entry, with push button start, Bluetooth phone / audio, tire pressure monitor, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, anti-theft alarm, front and rear stabilizer bars, front dbl wishbone suspension, rear multi-link suspension, rain-sensing wipers, Bose AM/FM/CDS, 9 speaker audio, aux jack, 2-USB inputs, Sirius XM radio, Navigation system, 7” color touch screen display, cruise control, trip computer with color display, climate control, heated front seats, stability control, traction control, front and side airbags, anti-theft engine immobilizer, auto high beam control and lane departure warning system.

Gas Stats:

$3.45/ Gal avg. April 9, 2018

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

26 City and 33 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $32,750.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2018 – An Automotive Love Affair

2018 Mini Cooper Countryman

2018 Mini Cooper Countryman

By Phil Shuyler

If you love Minis and need the maximum amount of interior space, you should make a date with the Mini Cooper Countryman. And you should also make a date with the Mini Cooper Clubman. These two models are quite similar and you should look at both if you’re leaning in the direction of a larger Mini. Here are some of the numbers.

The Countryman is longer (169.8” vs 168.3”).
The Countryman is wider (71.7” vs 70.9”).
The Countryman is taller (61.3” vs 56.7”).
The Clubman has more cargo volume (47.9 ft3 vs 47.6 ft3).
The Countryman has more rear seat legroom (37.6” vs 34.3”).
The Clubman has more front seat legroom (41.4” vs 40.4”).
The Countryman has more rear seat headroom (38.3” vs 38.0”).
The Countryman has more front seat headroom (40.5” vs 40.2”).
The Wheelbase is the same for both (105.1”).

So as you can see, they’re quite similar. The Countryman is larger in a number of categories, however the Clubman surprisingly has more front seat legroom and overall cargo capacity. Now with that out of the way, lets talk about the Countryman.

This 5-seater has a standard 40/20/40 split rear seat to give additional flexibility for hauling all of your gear. All trims are available with all-wheel drive (ALL4), and the higher end models are only available with ALL4.

A total of 4 power plants are available, one for each of the trims – Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works and Cooper S E. The base Cooper has a 1.5L TwinPower turbocharged 3-cylinder that produces a dismal 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. I say dismal because when you lose a race at the line to a Yaris, that’s pretty embarrassing. The Cooper S feels much more capable with its 2.0L TwinPower turbocharged 4-cylinder with 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. On the top of the ladder is the John Cooper Works, with 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is delivered through a 2.0L TwinPower turbocharged 4-cylinder.

There’s also a plug-in hybrid Cooper S E with a 12 mile all-electric range and a combined 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque.

All variants include a standard 6-speed manual, and an 8-speed automatic with optional F1 style paddle shifters is available. Fuel economy varies for each engine, but they each achieve over 30 mpg on the highway and mid 20s in the city.

Interior

No matter what engine you choose, the exterior and interior are sure to please. There’s a standard high-resolution 6.5” infotainment screen at the center of the dash, with a illuminated ring that changes during acceleration and while interacting with the car. With the Technology Package, you can increase the display to a 8.8” touchscreen with navigation, and add wireless phone charging as well. A panoramic sunroof is also standard, as are 3 different drive modes – Green, Sport and Mid. Each are selected using one of the really cool switches in the center stack. Turning the car on or off also uses a switch, and it’ll glow red once you’re in the car, letting you know it’s eager to rev up and hit the road.

A rearview camera is standard, as are proximity sensors that let you know when you’re getting a little too close to that car behind you.

Pricing for the 2018 Countryman starts at $26,600 for a base Cooper, and tops out around $40,000 for a Cooper S E plugin hybrid. For some, there’s no substitute for Mini’s styling, and for those, the new Countryman is not going to disappoint.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT

By Phil Shuyler

The all-new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT comes in 2 flavors, GT and GT Sport. On the exterior there are few differences, however the GT sport gets sprinkles on its sundae, with a 1.6L inline 4-cylinder turbo GDI engine, which produces 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The standard GT receives a 2.0L inline 4-cylinder GDI engine with 161 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque.

Both engines come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, and for around $1,000, the GT can be paired with a 6-speed automatic and the GT Sport with a 7-speed dual clutch with paddle shifters. Fuel economy is in the low 30s for highway driving and mid to upper 20s for combined driving. We experienced a pleasant 29.2 mpg for the week with mixed driving.

Our test car was the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder, and we were never really lacking power. Of course those yearning for more should lean toward the Sport. The automatic transmission is quiet and smooth, with natural shift points.

Styling

In a segment where many people do not care too much about how their car looks, the Elantra GT brings some style to the table. It’s by no means flashy or sporty, but it sure is easy to like. Simple lines and a big grille up front help give it an attractive appearance. The blacked out rear spoiler and rear diffuser help break up the color from the rest of the car, and the big taillights help to reduce what can often be too much sheet metal on the hatch.

Great looking 17” wheels are standard on the GT, and 18” wheels are standard on the GT Sport. Again, something you wouldn’t think you’d be impressed with on a base car in this segment.

Interior

The inside of the Elantra GT is comfortable and packed with available features many will enjoy. The panoramic sunroof (included in the Tech Package) brings in tons of natural light, and the 7-speaker Infinity premium audio system with integrated subwoofer filled that bright space with deep rhythmic sound. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all Elantra GT and GT Sports, and an upgraded navigation system (which uses the same 8” infotainment screen) is available, but definitely not necessary.

Two-tone seats are available (and look really good), as are heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Once you dive into the menus, all Hyundai vehicles give you many ways to customize your vehicle. Through the infotainment screen and instrument cluster’s settings menu, we encourage you to check them out. GTs equipped with navigation can turn on and off traffic data, posted speed limits, change rerouting preferences, and more.

Additional features for the tech savvy include wireless phone charging and Amazon Alexa Blue Link remote starting.

Safety

To help keep you safe out there on the road, the Elantra GT has a wide variety of available safely tech including Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Keep Assist, and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection. A backup camera comes standard.

Starting price for the Elantra GT is $19,350, and the GT Sport starts at $23,250. While not the cheapest wheels, it’s a car that you’ll enjoy inside and out.

2018 Chevrolet Cruze

2018 Chevrolet Cruze

By Phil Shuyler

Get ready world, the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback now comes with an optional diesel engine. Not only that, but it’s available with an automatic transmission or a manual. The styling of the Cruze may not blow you away, but overall it hits the sweet spot for many by having a conservative yet visually appealing exterior.

Powertrains

The 2018 Cruze is available with a 1.4L turbocharged I-4 variable valve timing (VVT) direct injection engine, or a 1.6L turbodiesel. The I-4 provides 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, while the turbo diesel has just 137 horsepower, but boasts 240 lb-ft of torque. That torque number is key for those wanting a zippier driving experience.

Both engines are extremely efficient, with the diesel achieving up to 52 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission. We averaged around 40 mpg with mixed city and highway driving, which is right where it should be. The gasoline engine tops out at 40 mpg with the sedan and an automatic transmission.

Speaking of transmissions, there are 3 available for the Cruze. A 6-speed manual (for both the gasoline and diesel engines), a 6-speed automatic (for the 1.4L gas engine), and a 9-speed automatic (for the 1.6L diesel engine). The manual gear shifter looks a little different than most, with an oblong tapered shape that fits well in your hand.

Driving

On the road, the power of the diesel engine has more power than you’d think, however with that power comes a bit of torque steer. There’s also a fair amount of turbo lag if you put your foot down at a stoplight. Stopping at stoplights may be inevitable, but stopping at the gas station doesn’t have to be. The diesel engine can go up to 700 miles on a single tank of fuel (depending on your driving of course), which is impressive and much higher than most vehicles.

Interior

The inside of the Cruze is simple and functional, and overall esthetically pleasing. There aren’t many buttons on the center stack, which gives it a nice and clean look. A 7” screen is standard, and an 8” screen is available and includes navigation. Both screen sizes include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The seats are comfortable, even on longer trips, and both front and rear seats can be heated on higher trim levels. A power driver’s seat is also available.

For those wanting to spruce up their ride, wireless charging, a heated steering wheel, and a sunroof are all optional, as are 15”, 16” or 18” wheels. You also have the option for remote start, an excellent addition for those living in cold weather climates.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes 10 total airbags, a rearview camera, bluetooth connectivity, daytime running lights, and a Teen Driver mode. Optional safety gear includes
a Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, Rear Park Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze starts at $17,850 for the gasoline sedan model and $22,695 for the diesel. The hatchback body style adds a couple thousand more to the price tag.

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