Wednesday, January 20, 2021




Fully redesigned for 2018, the Subaru Crosstrek gets some key updates for  2021 that include a new trim level and a major upgrade to what is under the hood for the upper half of the model portfolio.

A new Sport model gives buyers the choice of four trims to choose, and the new model comes with a standard 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine featuring Saburu’s traditional Boxer layout and its horizontally moving pistons.

Also available on the top-of-the-line Limited trim, the 2.5L engine gives the Crosstrek a significant, and much-needed boost to 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque over the 152/145, respectively, for the 2.0L that is standard in the Base and Premium trims.

The larger engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission that gets impressive fuel mileage ratings of 27 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway, and 29 combined while delivering a more satisfying driving experience. Crosstreks with the 6-speed manual transmission are rated at 22/29/25.

All CVT models except the Base also have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters simulating an 8-speed transmission in providing for manual gear selection.

You can also give a little jolt to the Crosstrek’s throttle response by switching from “Intelligent” (or standard/normal) mode to “Sport.” 

Being a Subaru, the Crosstrek also comes with all-wheel drive with settings for “snow/dirt” and “deep snow/mud” for more challenging conditions.

The new Sport trim that this review is based on offers styling upgrades that include sport-type 17-inch alloy wheels. sport-type wheel arch moldings,  and a distinctive finish for the front grille, side mirrors and badges. 

Inside the Sport,  yellow stitching has been added to the seats, and simulated leather door trim panel armrests, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift boot, and carpeted floor mats feature the Sport logo and yellow stitching.

Simulated carbon fiber accents also give the cabin a distinctive flair.

Among standard features included in the Crosstrek Sport’s starting MSRP of $26,545 (including the $1,050 destination and delivery charge) are an eyesight driver assist system that has been enhanced with adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist, automatic climate control, four USB ports, fog lights, roof rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, Subaru’s Starlink Plus multimedia system, remote keyless entry and push-button start, and water repellant upholstery.

An optional Starlink 8-inch Multimedia Plus system that includes blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist and a power moonroof ran the total for my test Sport model to $29,145.

The Base trim with a 6-speed manual transmission starts at $23,295 including destination and delivery, and the Premium with the manual starts at $24,345. The CVT adds $1,350 to the cost of the Base and Premium models.

The top-of-the-line Limited tops out at $30,440 when equipped with a moonroof, navigation system, and Haman Kardon premium audio system.

What I liked about the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport:
Styling is eye-catching. Though listed among subcompact crossover SUVs, the Crosstrek has a very roomy cabin with good stowage room before you have to fold the second row. Tech features are plentiful and very user friendly. The 2.5L engine (standard in Sport and Limited trim) is worth it.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport: I would prefer, say, an 8-speed automatic transmission or even a 7- or 6-speed rather than the CVT, but the only other transmission offered is a 6-speed manual available in the B and Premium trim.

Would I buy the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport? Yes Though I lean toward the Outback and Forester among Subaru SUVs, the Crosstrek is a nice alternative. The new Sport trim sits near the top of the lineup in MSRP but adds some nice extras.

Thursday, January 14, 2021



There was so much made in the months leading up to the debut of the first mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette in the summer of 2019 that you might have wondered if the vehicle itself could live up to all the hoopla.

But after a week in this beauty to start off the new year, I’m here to say that the C8 Corvette Stingray has not only lived up to expectations, it has taken the Great American Sports Car to a new, higher level.

The placement of the engine from in front of the driver to just behind in a mid-engine configuration is what has gotten the most attention, but designers just didn’t stick a V8 engine behind the cockpit and consider their work done.

They gave the 2020 Corvette an entire new look with a European flair and sleeker styling. This wasn’t just tinkering with the front fascia or the addition of quad headlights or the shark-like profile of models from the late 1960s to early ’80s.

This is a redesign in every sense of the word.

“Looks like a Lamborghini,” was a comment I heard from a mechanic at one non-Chevy dealer’s service bay.

This may upset some purists, but likely was a necessary move for the company to keep the Corvette relevant in the changing tastes of today’s market. Frankly, front-engine Corvettes of the past kind of struck me of being on the bulky side. Not so with this new model.

Chevy first introduced the 2020 Corvette as a coupe in July 2019 and three months later came out with a convertible version. Both bear the “Stingray” label from the 1960s and are powered by a 6.2-liter, naturally aspirated V8 engine pushing out 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque in base form and 495/470, respectively, with the performance exhaust available in the optional Performance Package.

Though zero-to-60 mph times are in the three-second range, the Corvette remains just as at home on urban steeets as it does on the track.

A dual clutch 8-speed automatic is the only transmission offered — another Corvette first — and no manual is available, another reason for purists to decry the changes. Yes, of course, you can use paddle shifters for manual gear selection, and the instrument panels also displays what gear you are in when sticking to automatic mode.

Fuel mileage figures, assuming you care, are 15 miles per gallon city, 27 highway, and 19 combined, which compare favorably int the luxury sports car segment, though not the best.


Where the Corvette has a big advantage is in price. The 2020 Corvette Stingray Convertible that this review is based on had a starting MSRP of $67,095 including the destination and delivery charges.

Several Corvette competitors in the segment easily run into the six figures with at least a couple topping the $200,000 mark.

Among standard features included in the starting price for the Corvette Convertible are the retractable roof and a power glass rear window that serves as a back windscreen when the roof is lowered, LED headlamps, 8-way power bucket seats,, dual zone automatic climate control, rear camera mirror (a nice touch considering the restrict rear view), leather-wrapped steering wheel, lockable stowage, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and a wi-fi hotspot.

Connectivity standard features include Chevrolet’s Infotainment 3-Plus system with an 8-inch screen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a driver information center with a 12-inch diagonal display with selectable modes and gauge configurations, keyless open and start, and OnStar services.

A refined, high-class cabin is definitely driver focused with pretty much everything in finger-tip reach of who is behind the wheel. The carryover of the exterior color throughout the interior gives the cabin a classy appearance.

Many functions work off buttons arranged in a waterfall cascade down the right side of the center console, which are the cabin’s most distinctive feature.

The squared off steering wheel and supportive nature of the GT2 bucket seat sides give a driver the feel of being in an airplane cockpit.

A slew of option packages can run up the cost starting with the 3LT Convertible Premium Equipment Package that adds $11,450 to the bottom line. It includes navigation, Bose premium speakers, and heated and ventilated seats among many other things.

A Z51 Performance Package (for that hp and torque boost) includes Z51 performance brakes and performance suspension and exhaust was included in my test Corvette and adds another $5,000. 

The options don’t stop there, and the total for my test Corvette came to $90,775, which is still below the starting price of some of its competitors.

My experience was with the 2020 model that introduced the Corvette’s eighth generation. There are no major changes for the 2021 Corvette.

What I liked about the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible: This is one of the few convertibles that looks as good with the roof up as with it lowered, plus raising and lowering the roof is a snap. Just push a button that is among the switches on the side of the driver’s door. Infotainment features are intuitive and easy to operate. Performance is exhilarating, both in straight-line throttle response and precise cornering. I also liked the flat-bottom and top steering wheel. And, of course, the Corvette is an attention-getter in looks. 

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible: Rear vision is restricted when the roof is closed so adjusting your mirrors properly, particularly the side mirrors, is a must. It’s a bear getting in and out of, especially with the top up.

Would I buy the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible? In a heart beat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021




Introduced as a 2009 model, fully redesigned for 2018, and updated with some minor changes two years later, the Chevrolet Traverse goes into 2021 with no major changes from its immediate predecessor.

But don’t hold that against it.

When it comes to family transportation and all that goes with it (carpooling, weekend road trips, family vacations, etc.), the Traverse has a lot in its favor as a midsize SUV segment.

It comes in six flavors with the base L model checking in with a starting MSRP of  just under $31,000 and continuing with LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country trims.

Seating capacity is eight passengers in the lower trims which come with a bench seat for the second row. Higher trims get captain’s chairs for the second row, which makes access to the far back row easier but reduces overall passenger capacity to seven.

With the discontinuation of the turbo-4 engine with among the 2020 updates, all Traverse models now come with a 3.6-liter V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. It puts out 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel mileage is 18 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway with standard front wheel drive and slightly less (17/25) with available all-wheel drive. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds with an optional trailering package.

This review is based on the AWD High Country trim that sits at the top of the Traverse’s food chain and carries a pretty steep MSRP in the midsize SUV segment. It starts at $54,295 including the $1,195 destination and delivery charge. That’s not the highest in the segment, however, and is also mitigated by the long list of standard features that reduces the need for expensive option packages.

Included in the MSRP are such niceties as the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Premier system with navigation featuring an 8-inch touchscreen and voice recognition, a wi-fi hot spot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, Bose Premium Sound 10-speaker system, OnStar services (naturally; it’s a GM product), leather-appointed seats, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat and 6-way front passenger (each with power lumbar support), heated and ventilated front seats, rear-camera mirror, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, tri-zone climate control, and a 120-volt power outlet.

Standard exterior features for the Traverse High Country include 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, dual panoramic sunroof, LED headlamps, fog lights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and a hands-free power rear liftgate to access an expansive cargo area.

Safety features found on the High Country include a surround-view camera, rear park assist and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change alert with blind-spot alert, lane-keeping assist with lane departure warning, front pedestrian braking, and Chevy Safety Assist’s system that features forward collision alert, a following distance indicator, and enhanced emergency braking.

Unless you are looking for a more spirited driving experience, the Traverse has about everything you desire in an SUV.

What I liked about the 2021 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country: The Traverse has lots of room for both passengers and their stuff. Even with a third row, the Traverse offers 23 cubic feet of cargo space without folding any seats. Max cargo space is 98.2 cubic feet to the front seat. The infotainment functions are plentiful and very user friendly. The ride is quiet and comfortable

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country:
The engine comes with a stop-start function (considered a fuel-saving device) and unfortunately there is no switch to disable it. You can ease up on the brake ever so slightly after coming to a stop to turn it off. I would like to see some more attention to upgrading interior materials considering the High Country’s price tag.

Would I buy the 2021 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country? I don’t need (or want) a three-row SUV, but if that is what you need/want, yes, the Traverse should be on your list. Considering there are no major changes from 2021l, you might go for the older model to save a few bucks (assuming you can bargain much better than I). It is one of the better choices in its segment.

Saturday, January 2, 2021



Infiniti’s compact QX50 crossover SUV has received a lukewarm reception among many reviewers, mostly because of the unsteady performance of the continuously variable transmission.

But if you are looking for a stylish vehicle that features a cabin full of quality materials and technological features, the QX50 delivers.

Introduced as a 2014 model, the QX50 served as a replacement for Infiniti’s 2013 EX37 under the company’s new naming policy that designated its sedans and coupes with “Q” badging and tagged its luxury crossovers with a “QX” label.

The compact QX50 was redesigned for 2019 and updated in 2020 with a new dual-screen infotainment system. The refining continues for the 2021 GX50 with enhancements like a new Mineral Black exterior color option, rear seat-mounted side-impact supplemental airbags and Automatic Collision Notification with emergency call, acoustic laminated front side glass, and a wi-fi hotspot across the line.

In addition some features on some trims were made standard, including heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, distance control assist, blind-spot warning, lane departure prevention and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist on the Luxe trim.

For 2021, the QX 50 comes in five versions starting with the base Pure model and continuing through Luxe, Essential, Sensory, and Autograph. This review is based on the Sensory trim that was added along with the Autograph for 2020.

Slotted just below the top trim Autograph model, the Sensory comes with a lot of standard features that make adding a long list of options unnecessary.

Included in the $53,025 MSRP (including destination and delivery) are such items as LED signature daytime running lights, a panoramic moonroof, roof rails, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Intelligent key with push-button start, head-up display, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, lumbar support for the driver’s seat, and memory driver’s seat, mirrors, and steering wheel.

Driver assistance features include front and rear parking sensors, around-view monitor, Intelligent (adaptable) cruise control, Pro Pilot Assist, distance control assist, Infiniti’s In-Touch technology with navigation and double screen, Wi-Fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

All that is offered in a comfortable, quiet cabin featuring lots of premium materials.

Safety features include automatic collision notification and emergency call system, forward collision warning, rear automatic braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blins-pot warning, and lane departure warning and depature prevention.

Powering all GX50s is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. As noted previously, it is mated to a continuously variable transmission that features simulated shift points for “manual” gear selection via  wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

My test vehicle came with all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard across the line with AWD as an option.

Options included a Climate Package (climate controlled front seats, rear side window shades, tri-zone, advanced climate control, Cargo Package (reversible cargo area protector, cargo blocks, console net, cargo net), Accent Package (mirror caps, bodyside moldings, front lip finisher), illuminated kick plates, and welcome lighting, running the bottom line to $54,920.

That gives the QX50 a very competitive edge in a class that includes entries from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Acura, Lexus, Land Rover, Lincoln Alfa Romeo, and Volvo.

What I liked about the 2021 Infiniti QX50 Sensory AWD:
Some reviewers have panned the double-screen center stack, but I think it is a good idea. You can fiddle with the radio without switching off the navigation screen, for instance. The QX50’s ride is smooth and the seats are comfortable. For a small SUV, 
there is excellent room for luggages/stowage behind the second row. 

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Infiniti QX50 Sensory AWD: I’m not a big fan of CVTs. At issue here is a somewhat annoying engine drone at higher speed, which many blame on the CVT.

Would I buy the 2021 Infiniti QX50 Sensory AWD? Yes. It has a nice, refined appearance and if you can get along with the CVT, it is a good choice. The base trim, dubbed Pure, starts at under $40,000 if the Sensory’s starting price is a bit too much for your budget.

Friday, December 25, 2020

2021 KIA K5



When it came time for Kia to update its Optima sedan after nearly 20 years of production, the South Korean automaker didn’t mess around.

The overhaul was so extensive that the old Optima is completely gone, replaced by a new vehicle, the K5, for 2021 with a major upgrade in both appearance and features from its predecessor.
The 2021Kia K5  already has had a huge impact in sales, taking over the No. 2 spot in Kia’s November report, passing the smaller Forte behind only the company’s popular Telluride SUV after just its fifth month in showrooms.

With an all new platform, the new K5 is longer, wider, lower, and, according to the company, stronger than its predecessor. It is offered in five trim levels — LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT — with two turbocharged engines depending on the trim and available all-wheel drive instead of the standard front-wheel-drive setup.

Most trims, like the GT-Line that I checked out recently, get a 1.6-liter turbo 4-banger that checks in at 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The top-of-the-food chain GT model gets a 2.5-liter turbo-4 that ups horsepower and torque numbers to 290 and 311, respectively, and is mated to a new “wet” double-clutch transmission.

Fuel mileage numbers for my GT-Line model are a solid 26 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway, and 29 combined which puts it in the middle of the segment.

Numbers for the dual-clutch GT model are slightly less, but you have to pay some price for the 5.8-second zero-to-60 clocking Kia reports for the GT.

The K5 has a coupe-like sleek profile that does cut down on rear headroom to 37.8 inches and requires you duck your head wisely when getting in the backseat, but that also gives the K5 a classier outer appearance.

The impression that there is more to the K5 GT-Line than just a typical run-of-the-mill midsize sedan carries over to the interior, where there is amble legroom (46.1 inches in the front, 35.2 in the back) and cloth and leatherette seat trim (with the GT-Line logo) to accommodate your tush.

Yes, you will find hard plastics in the cabin, but there is also generous use of higher quality materials as well for a near-luxury feel.

The list of creature comforts on the K5 GT-Line is extensive as well. They include a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, front console with armrest and good-size storage bin, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a leather steering wheel with buttons for Bluetooth, audio, and cruise controls.

Standard technological systems include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, second-row USB charge ports, an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment functions, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and push-button start.

Driver assistance technology and safety features include forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and alert, an electronic parking park with an auto-hold function,  and an assortment of airbags that include full-length side-curtain airbags.

LED headlights with auto on/off, LED fog lights, heated outside mirrors with LED turn-signal alert, and LED taillights complete the standard features while also included in the $$28,0 90 starting MSRP are such items as a panoramic sunroof, wireless phon charger, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and Smart cruise control.

That left only a couple of options for my test vehicle with special wolf gray paint and navigation with a 10.25-inch screen running the bottom line to $31,300 including the $965 destination and delivery cost.

What I liked about the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line: The exterior has a sleek profile that gives the K5 the look of a higher class model. The infotainment system comes with a touchscreen that (with one exception noted below) is very user friendly. Most safety features are standard. Trunk capacity is a generous 16 cubic feet, which is usually confined to full-size sedans.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Ki a GT-Line: It’s no more than a slight annoyance in the operation of infotainment features, but I still would like a knob to surf the radio dial instead of using the touchscreen.

Would I buy the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line? Yes. It faces a lot of tough competition from its Japanese rivals and even its South Korean compadre Hyundai (which owns a 34-percent share of Kia), but it still is worth a look if you are looking for an attractive and value-laden passenger sedan. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020



After a brief run over a decade ago, the Aviator name is back for Lincoln, and it is welcome change from the use of alphanumeric nomenclature among luxury class vehicles, whether they been sedans, coupes, convertibles, or the growing crossover SUV segment.

It is much easier to remember “Aviator” than it is “MKX” or whatever Lincoln’s previous midsize SUV was.

Slotted between the smaller Nautilus and larger Navigator, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a luxury take on the trend-setting Ford Explorer with a classy exterior and a refined, roomy interior packed with lots of easy-to-operate technological features.

It is offered in trims designated Standard, Reserve, Black Label, Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label and available with either a standard gasoline V6 engine or a plug-in hybrid gas-electric powertrain (available in Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label models).

The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and is rated at a healthy 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. Those are decent enough numbers for a competent driving experience, though for a real punch the hybrid offers a combined 495 hp and 630 lb.-ft. Those numbers are based on premium fuel, but the Aviator also accepts regular.

Rear-wheel drive is standard on the Aviator with all-wheel available. Black Label models come only with AWD.

The Reserve trim served for my test drive and with the available AWD offered fuel mileage figures of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway, and 20 combined. According to the government, that will cost you an extra $2,500 in fuel costs over a five-year period.

The Aviator can seat seven in synthetic leather seats (genuine leather is available) though as is typical in a midsize SUV the third row can become a bit snug. With captain’s chairs in the second row, capacity is reduced to six.

Third-row passengers get only 29.2 inches of legroom and cargo capacity is just 18.2 cubic feet with the third row seats in place. Lower the third row and cargo capacity is 41.8 cubic feet.

Standard features on the Aviator Reserve include a 360-degree camera, push-button start, lane-keeping system, Lincoln Connect with 4G modem and WiFi capability, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual zone climate control, hands-free liftgate, full LED headlights, a chrome-mesh grille, intelligent (adaptable) cruise control, and drive modes that allow you to select from Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep Conditions.

Standard safety items on the Aviator Reserve in addition to the usual collection of airbags and seatbelts  included blind-spot warning, auto high beams, and a pre-collision assist system.

All that is covered by the Reserve’s starting MSRP of $59,700.

Adding extras like Lincoln’s Co-Pilot Plus system (evasive steering assist, reverse brake assist, and active park assist), a luxury package that adds a massage function to front seats, a convenience package that provides a head-up display for the driver to monitor speed and also allows you to use your smart phone as a key, a panoramic sunroof, 23-inch wheels, and a dynamic handling package ran the total up to $75,815 with the $1,995 destination and delivery charge included.

You can add a towing package for your boat. Or a camper trailer for that matter, but I’m thinking if you are shopping in this class you’re probably more likely to have a boat than a camper.

What I liked about the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD:
The exterior styling is exquisite and the interior is very classy. Technological features, including a standard surround view camera, are plentiful and very user friendly. The adaptable cruise control works very smoothly and efficiently. I also liked the way the Aviator lights up as you approach it with the key fob in your possession. 

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD: I only inputted one destination on the navigation system, and it didn’t quite take me all the way to where I wanted to go. Could have been operator error, I suppose, but not sure about that since it did get me close and my phone had it right.

Would I buy the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD? Definitely. This is a roomy SUV with all the features you would want in a luxury vehicle, and it is very easy to maneuver through tight parking lots.