Thursday, November 9, 2017

2017 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8T R-LINE

A WINNER IN A SHRINKING SEGMENT


One can never be sure — there are always grammar nazis around ready to jump on you for the slightest misuse of a term — but I think I have this right.

One of the ironies in the automotive world today is that the better manufacturers are making sedans, the fewer the public seems to be interested in buying.


If that doesn't fit the exact definition of the term “ironic” or “irony,” please take your complaint elsewhere because that’s not the point here. Just reread the part of the second paragraph that starts with the words “… that the better,” which is the gist of today’s blog.

Yes, we are headed into a country where crossovers and SUVs overrun our streets, if we haven’t gotten there already. The family sedan? Not so much.

Consider, the latest U.S. sales numbers show that last October seven of the top 10 selling family sedans — Honda Civic and Accord, Toyota Camry and Corolla, Nissan Sentra and Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Elantra, and Chevrolet Malibu and Cruze — all showed declining numbers for the month over the same time period last year.

Same thing for year-to-date sales comparing 2017 to 2016. They are down anywhere from 2.3 to 22.6 percent for seven of the top 10.



To be fair here, sales of seven of the top-10 selling SUVs were also down for October, but only two of the top 10 were down for the year-to-date.

As a segment, passenger car sales were down 600,000 units over the same time a year ago, according to data compiled on the website goodarbadcar.net.

Analyzing the reasons for all this is something that is beyond my pay grade. I’m just here to say that, despite the declining sales numbers, it appears to me that the choices in the affordable sedan segment long dominated by the likes of the Toyota Camry and Corolla and Honda’s Civic and Accord are more varied than ever.

If you don’t like the Japanese imports, you have many other quality options for sensible, comfortable, and affordable family transportation.

I would include the 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T R-Line high in that group.

The R-Line is one of four trim lines VW offers on the Passat for 2017. The German manufacturer — though the Passat comes out of the VW assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee — calls it the “most sporting variant” of the group with 19-inch wheels, unique rocker panels and grille, a different front bumper, and chrome-tipped exhaust among distinguishing marks.



Other standard equipment includes 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support (manual for the passenger), leatherette seat surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel, brake lever, and shift knob, R-line interior trim, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a rearview camera and blindspot monitoring system with rear traffic alert, a six-speaker sound system, and a 6.3-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system.

It also features VW’s Intelligent Crash Response System, which in the event of a crash unlocks all the doors in the car (making for quicker access by emergency responders), activates all the interior lights, and disengages the fuel pump (stopping the engine and reducing the risk of fire) and all high-voltage electronics.


Oh. And the ICRS also turns on the hazard lights to let others know where you are and that you are in trouble. (Three words here to you who turn on your hazard lights when driving in the rain: STOP DOING THAT!)

All that is included in the base MSRP of $24,795 including the $820 destination and delivery charge. That’s a small step up from the $23,260 asking price for the base 1.8T S and well under the $34,715 tag for the top of the line V6 SEL Premium model.


Often, an “R” designation on a car model denotes a vehicle with enhanced performance, but that’s not so much the case with the Passat R-Line. Handling is improved, but it comes with a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine also found in the S, SE, and SEL trips. You can get a V6, which boosts the MSRP up to $30,115 for the SE w/Technology and $34,815 for the SEL Premium.



The 1.8T produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the V6 280/258, respectively. Mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the 1.8T is rated at 23 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway, and 27 combined, which a bit below average for its class, but the overall driving experience is enhanced when the sport mode setting is engaged, which makes up for that.

I just reminded myself that I wasn’t driving a sport sedan and was OK with the 1.8T experience.



The interior is a tad short of luxury class, but easy on the eyes. It is functional, comfortable, quiet and also roomy. Front legroom is over 42 inches, rear just over 39.

The infotainment system is easy to operate (thank you, VW, for providing knobs to adjust volume and surf the radio dial and knobs for the A/C). The touch screen is on the small side, but my test vehicle did not come with navigation so screen size really wasn’t an issue this time.


I’m not sure why VW went back to a pull-lever on the console for the parking brake after earlier models, like the 2007 Passat Wagon my wife drives, operated with the push of a button, but that’s not really a deal breaker. Think of it as exercise.

In short, the Passat 1.8T R-Line is a very capable sedan that provides a choice for the buyer who likes to think outside the box. If it doesn’t stand out from its competitors as exceptional, it does everything well and is a solid entrant in a competitive class.

What I liked about the 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T R-Line: The cabin is very roomy, and it also has good trunk space for a midsize (15.9 cubic feet). 

What didn’t like about the 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T R-Line: I’d like a little more kick when it comes to throttle response.

Would I buy the 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T R-Line? Yes. My recommendation may be influenced by the good experience I have had with my wife’s Passat Wagon for nearly a decade, but the new sedan stands solidly on its own as well.

Monday, October 30, 2017

YES, A MUSCLE CAR CAN HAVE FOUR DOORS; DODGE CHARGER DAYTONA SHOWS IT CAN!


Muscle Car aficionados and automotive purists may have been unhappy when Dodge resurrected the Charger as a four-door sedan instead of the two-door coupe from the 1960s and ’70s, but a little over a decade later, it seems to have worked out just fine.

The Charger in four-door form is the brand’s best-seller among coupes and sedans and actually is outselling the Durango crossover so far in 2017. Dodge reported sales of 9,230 Chargers for September to 6,207 for the Durango.

For the year to date, the Charger was holding a nearly 15,000 advantage in sales over the Durango through September.

With the Charger in four-door form, buyers who really want a Muscle Car but need transportation for the family have an easy decision.

They can have both!

As a full-size sedan, the Charger offers such family family features as a nice-sized trunk (16.5 cubic feet), room for three in the backseat (and two rear doors to give them easy access back there), and a 5-star overall safety rating from the government.

In SE or SXT trim, the Charger comes with a V6 Pentastar engine rated at 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which is adequate for most everyday driving situations. 

Call it the Clark Kent version.


But move up to V8 power, and the Charger becomes Superman.

The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona I recently had the opportunity to drive for a week (yes, the name is taken from the Daytona 500; a Dodge Charger Daytona was the first stock car to break 200 mph, though it was at Talladega, not Daytona) is in the middle of the Charger lineup but definitely leans toward Muscle Car. It will take a nano-second after you push the star/stop button and those deep bass exhaust notes emanate from the rear to convince you of that.

Hey! Does this thing have a HEMI?

Of course, it does!

The Charger Daytona (and R/T trim) gets a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 that sends 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission with optional Sport mode or paddle shifters for manual gear selection. (All-wheel drive is optional on SE and SXT models.)

Not enough power?

You can always opt for the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 (485 hp, 475 lb.-ft. of torque) standard in the R/T Scat Pack, Daytona 392 and SRT 392 trims or the 6.2-liter supercharged beast (707 hp/650 lb.-ft.) in the Hellcat.

Too much of a fuel eater?

Well, the 5.7L V8 in the Daytona features what Dodge calls “fuel saver technology” that turns theV8 engine into a 4-cylinder operation when cruising at highway speed or operating under light conditions. That doesn’t make the Charger a Prius hybrid, but it does make for slightly better mileage (16 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 19 combined) than you might expect.

Recommended fuel is 89 octane for the 5.7-liter V8, though the company says regular is acceptable. (The V6 runs on regular 87 octane; premium 91 octane is recommended on the 6.4L V8, and the Hellcat V8.)

Obviously, with power numbers like those above, you’re never going to be lacking for punch when it comes to performance. But in addition to the straight-line get-up-and-go, the Charger handles corners well while delivering a firm, but not overly stiff ride, that has good road manners.


Some Muscle Cars can take, well, muscle to maneuver, but not the Charger. You may get the impression the Charger Daytona is about a half-acre wide when you look over the flat hood, which includes huge HEMI lettering over the large functional hood scoop, but it doesn’t drive that big.

Still, it is a full-size sedan, so the front especially is roomy, and the backseat offers just over 40 inches of legroom.


The Daytona also gets some extra styling touches, like heated and ventilated sport, suede/leather seats with “Daytona” embroidered on the backrests, special floor mats, a performance steering wheel, and extra stitching on the seats and door panels.

It’s not a luxurious interior, but is functional and nicely laid out.

The exterior, too, gets attention with prominent “Daytona” and “HEMI” markings and badges in several prominent spots (including the front grille), 20-inch black forged aluminum wheels, and a satin black performance spoiler.

There’s no mistaking this car when you are coming down the street either visually or audibly.


All that does come with a cost, though. You can get into a base Charger SE for just over $29,000 (when destination and delivery charges are thrown in), depending on your negotiating skills, of course. The Daytona with the 5.7-liter V8 starts at $40,985 and gives you pretty much all the fun that the Hellcat does for nearly $29,000 less.

The Daytona 392, which has the 6.4-liter V8, has a listed MSRP of 46,095, which is close to the listed $46,315 that was listed on the Monroney sticker for my test Daytona.

I will say that a price topping the $40,000 mark is rare territory for a Dodge, but if you're looking for performance in a full-size sedan/Muscle Car, the Charger is hard to beat.

What I liked about the 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona: The fun-to-drive quotient is pretty much off the char.  I also liked he optional UConnect 8.4 Nav system for the simplicity of its operation.

What I didn't like about the 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona: Rear vision is somewhat restricted. The interior, while not bad, could use a bit more refinement. 

Would I buy the 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona? Yes. It's a bit on the expensive side, but if you're considering a Charger, this is no time to skimp.




Saturday, October 21, 2017

THINKING PINK? THE GOOD FOLKS AT VW CERTAINLY DID WITH THE 2017 BEETLE


This was a few years ago when Volkswagen was bringing updated versions of its famed Beetle back to the U.S. that it cleverly labeled the New Beetle. (I wonder what kind of bonus the deep thinker who came up with that got for Christmas?)

I was to have a New Beetle Convertible for the week and was stumped by what was stuck on the dash.

It was a plastic cylindrical tube that seemed to serve no real purpose other than to distract me.

Was it a place to store coins for tolls? No, because it was too thin for anything but a dime, and even back then the toll collectors were demanding more than 10 cents a pop. Not to mention it would be tough to get even a dime out of it, let alone a quarter.

A champaign flute? Of course not. No way would an automaker include such a blatant promotion to drinking and driving among its options.

A finger bowl?

Of course, if you know the history of the original Bug, which I obviously didn’t, you are aware that the object that had me stumped was a bud vase. It was put back in when the Beetle was revived in 1998 as a nod to the 1950s and ‘60s models and their appeal to the “flower children” of that generation. I was never a “flower child” and missed out on that. (I wasn’t at Woodstock either.)


In my defense, the fleet manager had neglected to put a bud or any kind of flower into the New Beetle I was driving to give me a hint, so how was I to know?

VW dispensed with this particular option in the major redesign it gave the Beetle for 2012, because, the thinking went, the Bug had become too much of a “chick car” and the bud vase played a major part in promoting that image. (Hey. Don’t blame me for that phrasing. It’s what Adweek said when it reported that the vase had been scrapped.)

Apparently, that is no longer a concern with the VW image makers.


If I thought a bud vase was stretching the limit when it came to automotive cuteness and the VW Beetle, and I did, I was wrong.

Witness the latest version of the Bug, the 2017 #PinkBeetle.

Yes, it comes with a hashtag. Yes, pink is incorporated into the name. And yes, of course, it comes in a shade of pink — VW dubs it Fresh Fuchsia Metallic — that changes color depending on the lighting. At times, it can look red or raspberry, though in struck me as looking more like a huge purple grape as I walked up to it in the parking lot one evening last week.

#PurpleBeetle?

No. #PinkBeetle.


The color scheme is carried over to the interior but not overly so. Doors and the dash get touches of the color., and pink stripes replace red ones in the plaid cloth seats,. The restraint makes it easier on the eyes.

Other than the color scheme and other design notes like the gloss black mirror caps and black side skirts with chrome accents, the #PinkBeetle is very much a regular Beetle. It has a 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and a shiftable, six-speed automatic transmission is standard. 

That combination provides enough oomph for a vehicle of this size (168.4 inches long with a wheelbase of 100, 71.2 inches wide, 58.5 inches tall and a little over 3,000 pounds) and results in fuel economy ratings of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 28 combined, which, frankly, are somewhat disappointing for the class.

As is usually the case with smaller vehicles (the Smart ForTwo being an exception), it gives you a feeling of speed, agility and sharp handling that larger vehicles don’t provide even if they are faster, more agile, and sharper handling. Motor Trend reported a zero-to-60 mph clocking of 7.3 seconds for the #PinkBeetle in coupe form. (It also is available as a convertible.) For more in the way of response, you can shift into Sport mode. Alas, no manual transmission is offered.


The #PinkBeetle gives you a comfortable, fairly quiet ride on the highway, and its compact size makes it an ideal vehicle for crowded city environs. Obviously, you can squeeze into small parking spaces and still have room to open its doors without dinging a car next to it. But it’s big enough that it isn’t intimidating to be around SUVs or even semi trucks. The government gave it a five-star overall safety rating.

The #PinkBeetle comes with a nice list of standard equipment that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, rearview camera, keyless access with push-button start, an adjustable, flat-bottom, leather-trimmed steering wheel, heated front seats with manual lumbar support, manual climate control, eight-speaker sound system, satellite radio capability (three-month trial subscription included), Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and VW’s Car-Net suite of features.

That’s all included in the starting MSRP of $22,710 (including destination and delivery), which is about $1,500 more than the standard Beetle’s price tag.

That’s if you can find one. The 2017 #PinkBeetle is a limited edition model that went on sale some time ago, and you won’t find it in the 2018 list. You will find a new “Coast” trim, however, and the Beetle Dune is a nice alternative with a distinctive, though less polarizing, look. But the Dune’s MSRP approaches $27,500 including the destination and delivery charge.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, the new Coast trim comes in an optional “Deep Sea Teal” color. Frankly, my impression of “Deep Sea Teal” is that it would make a great color scheme for a bathroom, but not so much on a car.

But, as they say, to each his own. Which explains the #PinkBeetle. The young lady in the drive-thru loved it.


What I liked about the 2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle: It’s a small thing, but I liked the double glove box for extra storage. I also liked the car’s handling. Like many small cars (with the exception mentioned about), it’s fun to drive. And the front seat is comfortable and roomy enough for two.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle: Fresh Fuchsia Metallic just doesn’t do it for me.

Would I buy the 2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle? Yes -- as a graduation gift for my daughter/granddaughter. It's not that I don’t like the Beetle, because I do. But I can’t get away from that color.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

IT WASN’T THE FIRST, BUT FORD EXPLORER SET THE BAR FOR SUVs TO COME


The Ford Explorer wasn’t the first SUV, which dates back to the 1930s with the wagon-like Chevrolet Carryall Suburban, nor was it the first of the modern version inspired by the post-World War II Land Rover and Jeep.

In fact, it wasn’t even the first vehicle of it type out of Ford factories. That would be the Ford Bronco that was promoted as a multi-purpose vehicle and was manufactured from 1966 through 1996, long enough for Al Cowlings to try to spirit away O.J. Simpson on the infamous low-speed chase through Los Angeles freeways.

But certainly the case can be made that the Ford Explorer quickly became the iconic vehicle of its class when it was introduced in 1991, outselling (according to Motor Trend’s history of the Explorer) the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevrolet S-10 Blazer combined with 300,000 units the first year and over 400,000 units by the end of the second generation a decade later.


It took just three years (1994) for the Explorer to become the No. 9 best-selling motor vehicle of any type, not just trucks and SUVs.

It no longer occupies such a lofty perch, ranking behind the Escape as far as Ford’s SUV sales and behind the F-Series, Escape, and Fusion for all Ford cars/trucks. Not that it is anywhere near it deathbed.

According to September reports taken from the website goodcarbadcar.net, the Explorer ranked 16th in U.S. September sales and a total of 21,207 vehicles sold, an increase of nearly 11 percent over the 19,146 reported for 2016 with an increase of 5.6 percent to 199,034 for year-to-date sales.


Considering all the bad publicity that the Explorer got in the late 1990s and early 2000s (Remember the Firestone rollover controversy?), it’s a wonder it isn’t on life support if around at all.

The Explorer of today is very different from its predecessors in one especially key aspect. It no longer is of body-on-frame construction as typical of early SUVs. The truck-based platform is good for off-road vehicles and towing but the ride is generally less than friendly, and, considering the time most people spend off-roading with their SUVs is minimal, that makes them less practical for most buyers than the unibody frame crossovers. (Think sedan.)


Ford made the switch for unibody construction for the Explorer with the 2011 model after a 20-year run, so, no, the 2017 Ford Explorer is probably not your father’s Explorer and certainly not your grandfather’s. (Or grandmother’s. I don’t want to be sexist here.)

That’s not a bad thing, but maybe kind of a good thing. After all, the Wilderness Society estimates the percentage of people who use their vehicles to actually go off-roading at a mere 1.5 percent.

As with many Ford products, the Explorer comes with a lot of choices. It is offered in five trims — base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum — with three engines available. Sport and Platinum editions are all-wheel drive only, but others get front-wheel as standard with optional AWD. All models get a six-speed automatic transmission.


As is usually the case, my vehicle for the week was the top-of-the-line Platinum edition that bears an MSRP of $54,180 including the $945 destination and delivery charge. That’s about a $22,000 jump over the price for the base model, but naturally, you get a whole bunch of equipment that is standard on the Platinum but optional (if available) on the base or other trims.

That list includes (but is not limited to) LED signature lighting, chrome exhaust tips, power moonroof, rear spoiler, roof rack with side rails, heated and ventilated front seats, second-row heated seats, adaptive cruise control, leather touches throughout the interior (including seat surfaces), power-fold third-row seat, power tilt and telescope steering wheel, woodgrain interior accents, a trailer towing package (towing capacity is only 5,000 pounds), park assist, lane-keeping assist, premium audio, front 180-degree and rearview camera, remote start, Sync3 infotainment functions (including voice-activated navigation) with 8-inch screen, and a terrain management system that adapts to different conditions (normal, mud, snow, and sand) and includes hill descent control.


That eliminates the need for a lot of options, but the model I had was a special red color (ruby red metallic tinted) and featured 20-inch bright machine face wheels, second-row bucket seats, and a second-row console that put the final tab at $55,420.

The Explorer is smaller than the full-size Expedition, but that doesn’t make it a small vehicle, of course. I prefer to drive it in Sport mode, which adds to the driving experience and gives you more active responses, but no doubt impacts the fuel mileage ratings of 16 miles-per-gallon city, 22 highway, 18 combined for the optional 3.5-liter V6 Ecoboost engine (365 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque).

You can shift gears via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which you don’t find on every SUV, though with Sport mode setting available, there really isn’t a lot of reason to use them.

Other engines available on the Explorer are a 2.4-liter, Ecoboost 4-cylinder that offers the best fuel mileage (19/27) while compromising only slightly on power (280 hp, 310 lb.-ft.) and a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 17/24 (290 hp, 255 lb.-ft.)

The Explorer is an excellent highway cruiser and not all that difficult to negotiate around town taking into consideration its size. It looks bigger than it really is, which is 198.3 inches long and 70 inches tall with a curb weight of 4,453 pounds. It seats seven, though those in the back get less than 34 inches of legroom. The two in the front get over 41 inches, and the second row is in-between, a cozy 39.5 inches.

All in all, it’s easy to see why the Ford Explorer enjoyed the success that it has, but unlike when it was introduced, it has a lot of competitors in the segment now, especially since it now is a crossover. Maybe it should have kept that body-on-frame construction.


What I liked about the 2017 Ford Explorer Platinum: There’s a lot of room for storage behind that third row (21 cubic feet) and if you need more, the back row seats fold flat with the push of a button giving you nearly 44 cubic feet of cargo volume with a flat floor.


What I didn’t like about the 2017 Ford Explorer Platinum: The starting price tag of over $53,000 seems a bit much for an Explorer, but it does include a lot of equipment. But even the Explorer’s base MSRP starts at well over $31,000.

Would I buy the 2017 Ford Explorer Platinum? I’d give it a look. I liked the performance and it does a lot of things well, which accounts for its popularity. No, the rollover issue is not a concern. It got a 4-star safety rating from the federal government in rollover and 5-star score in other crash tests (front and backseats, front and side crash) an 5-star overall mark.



Sunday, October 8, 2017

IT’S A TRUCK! A CROSSOVER! A TRUCK!

NO, IT’S A 2018 NISSAN PATHFINDER SUV!


A few years back I had a friend who said the reason she had bought her Pathfinder was because she had decided that if she was going to buy an SUV, she wanted a real, truck-basedSUV with body-on-frame construction, not one of the new unibody crossovers that were just coming onto the market.

Like she was going to go rock crawling or drive it up a mountain or something. Right.

I don’t remember what year that was, but the considering the time frame here (sometime in the early 2000s), she may not have gotten what she wanted.


Unless she had bought an older, used model from the Pathfinder’s first generation (1987-95), she just may have gotten the crossover SUV she was trying to shun. That’s because for its second generation (1996-2004), Nissan switched the Pathfinder to a unibody platform.

Or maybe my memory is such that this actually came up later than I recall and she got a third generation (2005-12) Pathfinder, which was back to body-on-frame.

Does Nissan have trouble making decisions? Well, yes and no.


Frankly, though, unless she really was going to take an off-roading adventure, my friend probably was better off in the crossover version of the Pathfinder. It has all the hauling capability of the truck-based model while providing the kind of smooth ride and handling that I suspect she is used to.

Nissan moved the Pathfinder back into the crossover genre in 2017 for its fourth generation. Following that makeover, it has added several new features for 2018 some of which are standard (Automatic Emergency Braking and a Rear Door Alert system that lets you know if you have left a package, pet,  bottom of milk, or child in the backseat after you have turned off the ignition and left the vehicle).

The Rear Door Alert system is one of the best innovations I have seen recently. It works simply enough. If you have opened the rear door prior to driving to put a package, pet, bottle of milk, or child in the backseat but haven’t opened the rear door at the end of your trip, it alerts you to the fact that you might have forgotten something (like a package, pet, bottle of milk, or child) if you leave the vehicle without opening that door.


After making its debut on the 2018 Pathfinder, it will be made available later on other Nissan models. The system can be turned on or off, though that would seem to defeat its purpose.

That the system is standard may be what the Pathfinder needs to set it apart in what is a very crowded midsize SUV segment with offerings like the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander, and new Volkswagen Atlas, not to mention Nissan’s own Murano, all competing for buyers’ attention.

The Pathfinder also offers three-row seating for up to seven passengers with a decent amount of space behind the back row for storage. It’s kind of a pet peeve with me that engineers would design an interior to hold that many people and then not give them any room for their stuff.

If you need more cargo capacity than the 16 cubic feet behind the third row, you can fold that back row and capacity is boosted to nearly 48 cubic feet. For really big hauls, nearly 80 cubic feet is available with the second row folded as well.

Nissan offers the Pathfinders in four models starting with the base S followed by SV, SL, and Platinum trims.

All come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that got a power boost for 2017 up to 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission offered with either standard 2-wheel or optional  4-wheel drive is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that functions as an automatic.


I’m not a big fan of a CVT, but Nissan, generally recognized as the first mainstream company to go with the technology in a big way, has refined it to the point where I can live it.

CVTs are supposed to provide better fuel economy, and that is reflected in numbers for the Pathfinder of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway with FWD and 19/26 with AWD. Zeroto60times.com clocked the 2017 Pathfinder going from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Towing capacity is cited at a hefty 6,000 pounds.

I found the ride comfortable and quiet with little to no wind noise, and features like the navigation system — optional on SV models and standard on SL and Platinum editions — are fairly easy to operate. NissanConnect, which features automatic collision notification, emergency call and stolen vehicle locator, and other customizable alerts, also is standard on SL and Platinum models, optional on SVs.


Consumer Reports recently included the Pathfinder on its list of 10 vehicles as the worst for visibility, citing its small back windows and the head restraints on the back rows as major factors. But, as with lots of things the magazine dives into when it comes to automotive vehicles, I find the criticism overwrought.

The Intelligent Around View system (standard on the SL and Platinum models) helps alleviate visibility issues when parking, and setting the mirrors right eases the issue when at speed.

The 2018 Pathfinder S with FWD starts at $31,765 including the $975 destination and delivery charge and the top-of-the-line Platinum with AWD checks in at $44,985. That’s well within line of its competitors as well.

What I liked about the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Limited: The list of standard equipment on the lower trims is fairly extensive. It’s nice to see that Nissan didn’t keep the Rear Door Alert system just to the more expensive models.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Limited: I am not a big fan of CVTs, but that’s what you often have to live with with Nissan vehicles.

Would I buy the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Limited? I’d give it a good look, but with so much competition, I’m not sure where I would wind up. If I didn’t need a third row of seating, which I personally don’t, I’d likely go for the Murano.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

2017 HYUNDAI IONIQ: A TRADITIONAL

HYBRID THAT DOESN’T ACT LIKE ONE


I have never been a big fan of the Toyota Prius, no matter what version (Prius Hatchback, Prius C, Prius Prime, or Prius v Wagon) you are talking about.

When they first came to the U.S. 17 years or so ago, I ran a few numbers and immediately thought, “Wow. You're going to have to drive a lot of miles to make up in savings on gas what you are paying in up front costs.”

Plus, I thought the interior was full of a lot of cheap materials, likely a necessity to make up for the cost of the hybrid technology. (Even then they initially were sold for a loss here.) Having what instrument panel there was over in the middle of the dash made for an uncomfortable feeling, and I didn’t like the way the gear selector stuck up out of the dash.

Frankly, I thought the introduction of hybrid powertrains into models like the Camry, Accord, or Malibu would eventually bring about the demise of the Prius, but I was definitely wrong about that. The Prius seems to be as popular as ever.

But if the Fusion Hybrid can't knock the Prius from its perch, perhaps Hyundai has a vehicle that will.


That shouldn’t be a surprise. The South Korean automaker seems to have a knack for taking technology and features that other companies have created and refining them to the point where they are actually better than the original and not some cheap knockoff.

Like the Hyundai Ioniq.

Hyundai added this hatchback to its portfolio in 2017, offering three different drivetrains. There is the conventional gas-electric hybrid system, a plug-in version, and a fully electric model, all of which went on sale earlier this year in the U.S.

Hyundai claims a range of 124 miles for the Ioniq Electric and says that using a DC fast charger can get the battery up to 80 percent capacity in just 23 minutes.

The plug-in also offers a battery-only range of up to 25 miles.


And the traditional hybrid setup in the Base Blue trim offers up to 58 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency, which is better than the EPA rating of the basic Prius Hatchback's 52 mpg.

The Ioniq Hybrid Limited that I had for a week carries fuel ratings of 55 mpg city, 54 highway and 55 overall, which puts it at the top of its segment, and with a base MSRP of $28,355 (including $835 destination and delivery) it's very competitive in price as well. The Base Ioniq Blue checks in at around $23,000, which is less than the least expensive Prius.

But there is more to the Ioniq than mere powertrain and price. Yes, it’s nice to punch the start button and see the instrument panel light up showing that you have a range of over 550 miles for your use, but I like to have something that looks good sitting in the driveway as well.

No, the Ioniq doesn’t get the juices flowing like having a 911 Porsche sitting outside my house would, but it looks sharp, and it isn’t funkiness that draws the attention.


With its sleek profile and eye-catching exterior, the Ioniq has the appeal of a sports coupe with its flowing lines, bold grille, LED daytime running lights and cat eye-like headlamps featuring HID lights (standard on the Limited trim). The profile may be somewhat reminiscent of the Prius, but the details are a huge step up in sex appeal. It’s a real car, not something a science fiction writer would conjure up.


Inside, the Ioniq has an attractive cabin with high quality materials and operation of technological functions arranged in an intuitive, user-friendly manner. One of Hyundai’s strengths seems to be that its designers take the approach that technology is supposed to simplify and amplify life, not overly complicate it. It works for me for sure.

Standard equipment in the Ioniq Limited includes safety features like blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist, a rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, a tilt-and-slide sunroof, push-button start, dual climate control, leather seating surfaces, satellite radio capability, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems, and Hyundai’s Blue Link system.

Our test vehicle also featured options like an easy-to-operate navigation system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, premium audio, and wireless device charging for compatible Smart phones that ran the total MSRP to $31,460.

Driving the Ioniq Hybrid doesn’t fall into the category of “thrilling” but neither is it “boring.” Pleasant might be the the best way to describe it. The 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque that is augmented by the horsepower electric motor.

Combined net horsepower is rated at 139, which gets to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission that essentially operates as an automatic. But no paddle shifters. Sigh.

To kick up the fun, you can switch to sport mode and get much quicker throttle responses than the standard zero-to-60 mph time of 8.9 seconds, which is over a second quicker than the 2017 Prius Prime and a half-second faster than the standard 2016 Prius, according to the website zeroto60times.com, though some other sources report slightly slower times for the Ioniq.


Sport mode also gives a boost to the handling characteristics to add to the driving experience.

The bottom line here really is that with the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited you forget you are behind the wheel of a traditional gas-electric hybrid, which, to me, is a good thing.
Oh. Keep in mind that there are some differences in what is offered on the Ioniq Plug-In or Ioniq Electric.

What I liked about the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited: The technology is really very easy to operate, and the driving experience when put in sport mode is a fun one. Storage room is very good (26.5 cubic feet). The annoying whine that is heard on many hybrids when slowing to a stop isn’t in evidence with the Ioniq.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited: Perhaps because of its hatchback configuration, Hyundai designers haven’t solved the issue of the cross bar that splits the rear liftgate that just about any Prius driver will tell you can be a visual distraction when looking in the rearview mirror.

Would I buy the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited? Yes. I’ve not gotten aboard the hybrid bandwagon in the past, but this is one that I certainly wouldn’t mind owning.