Friday, May 17, 2019


While hybrid drivetrains are offered in many so-called mainstream vehicles these days, Hyundai created the Ioniq hatchback as a conventional gas-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and electric powertrain, but with no gasoline-only engine option and without some of the quirks that often come with the hybrid segment.

In fact, driving the Ioniq Hybrid can make you forget you’re being the wheel of a traditional hybrid.

Not that you’d confuse it with a high-performance sports car or anything, but shifting on the go from Eco to Sport mode gives you a hybrid that actually is fun to drive.

As noted, the Ioniq comes with the choice of three drivetrains, with the Hybrid and Plug-in mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the Electric to a single-speed reduction gear set.

This review is limited to the standard Hybrid in Limited trim with a base MSRP of $29,435 including the destination and delivery charge ($885). The base model for the hybrid is the Blue model with a starting price of $23,285. The SEL is a step up at $25,835.

Both the standard Hybrid and the Plug-in get a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine that is rated at 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque and matched with an electric motor that gets its power from a lithium-ion battery (located under the rear seat) to produce 125 pound-feet of torque. Combined horsepower is 139 hp.

The motor in the all-electric version is rated at only 118 hp but puts out a significant 218 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Blue trim Hybrid is rated at a segment-leading 57 miles-per-gallon city, 59 highway while  the Limited and SEL come in at 55/54 (assuming you haven’t spent all your time driving in Sport mode).

As the top dog in the lineup, the 2019 Ioniq Limited gets as standard such features as HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, power tilt-and-slide moonroof, proximity key entry and push-button start, leather seating surfaces with heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual automatic temperature control, 7-inch color touchscreen audio display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link system with a complimentary 3-year trial.

New as standard this year is safety equipment that includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane-keeping assist, Smart Cruise Control, High-Beam Assist, and Driver Attention Warning.

Other safety features include blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, vehicle stability management with traction control, a rearview camera, and the usual collection of airbags (front, front-side impact, side curtain, and driver’s knees).

At 176 inches long, the Limited Hybrid offers more stowage capacity (26.3 cubic feet) than its Plug-in and Electric brethren (23 cubic feet) with front legroom of 42.2 inches. Rear legroom in all Ioniqs is 35.7 inches, which isn’t cramped but not particularly generous either.

The ambiance of the interior isn’t luxury, but nice enough for the its class. There is some road noise, but it isn’t excessive.

Options like an Ultimate Package and carpeted floor mats runs the total tab to $31,760, which may produce sticker shock for those who haven’t been car-shopping in the last decade, but is in line with other current hybrid and electric models.

The Ultimate Package includes navigation that operates off the touchscreen, Infinity premium sound, and rear parking sensors for an extra $2,200.

All in all, the Ioniq is a hybrid you should find very comfortable to live with.

What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Limited: With the Ioniq, Hyundai has eliminated the annoying whine that often is heard when a hybrid slows to a stop by going with a traditional transmission instead of a CVT. Operation of infotainment features is very user-friendly, as is usually the case with vehicles out of the South Korean’s stable. Fuel efficiency is excellent, though if you want a better driving experience you have to go into Sport mode and sacrifice some of that advantage.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Limited: The backseat is on the small side, but what is more distressing at the rear is the annoying crossbar that splits the large rear window. It is a feature that first popped up with Toyota’s Prius and impacts the rear view. 

Would I buy the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Limited? Of all the compact hybrids on the market, this is one I would seriously consider. A well-equipped Limited model would be my choice, but SEL trim also can be fitted with key options as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


For over four decades, Ford’s F-Series has been America’s top-selling pickup truck, and it doesn’t appear that it will give up that title any time soon.

Numbers for the first quarter of 2019 show the F-Series holding a hefty margin over its top two competitors, falling just short of matching the sales numbers for the Ram pickup and Chevrolet Silverado combined.

Ford reported sales of 214,611 F-Series pickups in 2018, a slight increase of 0.2 percent over numbers for the same period in 2017 with the Ram showing a significant, 15.4 percent increase for this past quarter with 120,026 sold and the Silverado showing a decline of 15.7 percent to 114,313.

The three domestic manufacturers hold a comfortable lead over their import competition with No. 4 Toyota selling 54,183 Tacomas in the period from January through March.

The bell-cow in the Ford F-Series is the F-150, which began life when the company introduced Ford “Bonus-Built trucks” to replace the car-based pickups it had previously been manufacturing. The half-ton model became the F-1.

In 1953 when it moved into its second generation, the half-ton pickup got the label F-100,  and it served as the base truck through the 1984, though the F-150 had been launched in 1975.

Just two years later the F-Series became the best-selling pick up on the market and the remake the company gave it in 1987 when it moved into its eighth generation would eventually lead it to become the best-selling vehicle in America period. It still is that.

No doubt, those who designed the early F-Series models would be dazzled as to what the truck has become in 2019. The new F-150 is stunning in looks, more than capable in performance, and packed with a full-menu of technological features in the higher trim levels.

This review is based on the Limited edition, which is near the top of the food chain and carries a base MSRP of $67,135. A couple of options ran the final price tag for my test vehicle to $71,350 including the $1,495 destination and delivery charge, which is approaching Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV company.

MSRPs start at just over $28,000 for the base XL model with King Ranch, Lariat, Platinum, and Limited going up the scale. (The Raptor is pretty much in a class by itself.)

The Limited gets as standard the Supercrew cab with a 5-foot, 5-inch box and such features as LED quad-beam headlamps, power sliding rear window, remote tailgate release, power deployed running boards, twin-panel moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats (with 43.6 inches of max legroom), adjustable pedals with memory, memory driver’s seat, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, 8-inch center stack touchscreen, active park assist, push-button start, lane-keeping assist, voice-activated navigation (which could use some updating with changes in some key road configurations in South Florida), and pre-collision assist with automatic braking.

The 3.5-liter, Ecoboost high output V6 engine feature auto stop-start technology, but it can be turned off by pushing a button at the top of the center stack. The engine is rated at 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection via a button on the shifter. Mileage figures are 17 miles-per-ballon city, 22 highway, and 19 combined, and towing capacity is 7,000 pounds.

The F-150’s ride is remarkably smooth, quiet, and comfortable, especially considering the vehicle’s size. At 231.9 inches long and 96.8 inches wide including standard mirrors, the F-150 Limited is no shrinking violet. But then, why should it be?

What I liked about the 2019 Ford F150 Limited: The cabin is spacious with lots of legroom in the second row and very comfortable. The ride is not as rough as you might expect of a full-size workhorse like this. The retracting running boards also makes getting into the cabin a snap, and the fold-out step in the tailgate (a $375 option) eases the climb into the rear bed. The 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 provides plenty of punch for a pleasant driving experience. Oh, yes. Infotainment features are user-friendly. Let’s hear for big knobs to operate audio and climate control functions!

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Ford F150 Limited: Some areas of the cabin could use an upgrade but my main complaint would be about the segment itself. The size of a full-size pickup like the F150 is not conducive to many mall parking lots. 

Would I buy the 2019 Ford F150 Limited? For $70K-plus? That’s a pretty high figure for a pickup, but you can get an F150 for under $30K so unless you just like to show off, that may be the spot to start looking. Several other nice trims are available as well.

Friday, May 3, 2019


With the demise of brands like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and, earlier, Hudson and AMC, the number of Muscle Car makes on the market today falls considerably short from their hey day of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Fortunately, Chevrolet resurrected a charter member of the genre when it brought back its Camaro for 2010 after ending production following the 2002 model year.

The present Camaro represents the sixth generation of the renown coupe/convertible with the 2019 model getting a mid-cycle refreshing that includes new front-end styling, new rear fascia that features LED taillamps, a new 20-inch wheel design, a 10-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous 8-speed, an updated infotainment system with an 8-inch screen, and revised ambient lighting.

Chevy offers it in several trims and either a turbo 4-cylinder, V6 or V8 power starting at just under $26,000 and running into the $60,000 bracket for the top ZL1 performance model.

This review is limited to the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible that carries a base price of $48,995 (including destination and delivery) plus another $1,595 for the automatic transmission for a bottom line of $50, 590.

That puts the 2SS version at the high end of the portfolio, but it carries a lot of nice features that come as standard. About the only thing missing was a navigation system, but with Waze and other apps available on Smart phones, factory-installed navigation is becoming less and less worth the extra cost.

Powering the Camaro 2SS Convertible is a 6.2-liter, V8 engine rated at 455 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 455 pound-feet of torque at 4400. The automatic transmission drinks recommended premium fuel at the rate of 16 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway which is very close to the manual numbers of 16/25.

An official zero-to-60 time from Chevy isn’t available, but Motor Trend reported a clocking of 4.1 seconds, or about a half-second or so slower than the top ZL1 model.

Standard features for the 2SS  include the 20-inch, bright silver painted aluminum wheels, performance suspension, drive mode selection (tour, sport, track, snow/ice), Brembo performance brakes, HID headlights with LED signature lighting, keyless open and start, dual zone climate control, premium Bose sound system, memory seating, illuminated sill plates, and safety equipment that includes rear park assist and rear cross-traffic alert, HD rear vision camera, and lane change and blind spot warning.

Lowering and raising the top is basically a one-finger operation. You do have to have the trunk divider in place before lowering, but it automatically latches in place when closing.

Connectivity systems on the 2SS model include Chevy’s 3-Plus infotainment system with 8-inch diagonal screen, 4G LTE hotspot, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and, as is customary on GM products, OnStar services.

SiriusXM Satellite radio capability also is included with a subscription fee after 12 months.

Driving the Camaro 2SS Convertible with that V8 power under the hood is a kick, and the ride is unusually civilized for its segment. Even when in Sport mode, it is comfortable and not unbearingly stiff, even for picky riders.

What I liked about the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: Being able to lower the top by pressing a button on the key fob is a nice feature. It allows you to air out the interior on a hot day. I like it much better than being able to start the engine by pushing another button. Also, this is the first vehicle that I have been able to see the “head-up” display while wearing polarized sunglasses. Infotainment features are plentiful and intuitive to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: The backseat is pretty much useless, and the trunk is small even by convertible standards. When the top is down, the available storage is more like a glove box than a trunk. The interior has a lot of hard surfaces and could use some upgrading. Visibility with the top up is restricted.

Would I buy the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible? Yes! And I would stick for the V8 version. If you are going to get a Muscle Car, you need to get a vehicle that matches the description.

Friday, April 26, 2019


For the 2016 model year, Mercedes-Benz adapted new nomenclature for its extensive vehicle lineup which, among other changes, denoted that all of the German company’s SUV models would be prefixed with the letters “GL.”

The “G” was in homage to its legendary G-Wagen with the “L,” according to the press release announcing the changes, serving as a “linking letter that makes the model designations easier to remember and easier to pronounce.”

The third letter was to indicates “the relationship to the relevant core model series.” Thus the SUV previously designated ML became the GLE to correspond to the familiar E-Class sedan.

Or something like that. Look at it this way: Just as the A-Class is the smaller sedan, the GLA is the smaller SUV. The S-Class is the larger sedan, GLS is the larger SUV.

I’ll let others argue just how “simple, clear, and transparent” as the release said the new naming strategy is, but what is clear is that the vehicles themselves haven’t lost any of their stature in luxury and performance they have become known for.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE ranked among the Top 5 sellers in the midsize luxury SUV segment for 2018, just ahead of models from Teutonic compatriots BMW and Audi, and the changes coming for 2020 would seem to ensure that status in the future.

It comes in two versions, with the GLE 350 featuring a 2.0-liter, inline-4 turbocharged engine and offered in rear-wheel or Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. It is rated at 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. With the 4MATIC system, mileage figures are 19 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway.

A 3.0-liter, inline-6 turbo engine with EQ boost — a mild hybrid system that adds up to 21 horsepower via an integrated starter generator — powers the GLE 450, which is available only with the 4MATIC system. It bumps horsepower and torque up to 362 and 369, respectively and offers the same fuel mileage number in the city as the GLE 350 4MATIC with a slight drop to 24 mpg on the highway.

With the wheelbase extended 3.1 inches to 117.9 inches, the interior of the new model is larger than its predecessor. Though it has a five-passenger capacity, Mercedes even says a third-row seat is available on request.

Standard features include push-button start, dual-zone climate control, leatherette upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats.

Optional add-ons include full leather, massaging and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, sport seats with premium leather, and heated rear seats. The cabin is offered in four different styles — classic, sport with black/yellow contrasts, progressive, and understated.

Naturally, there is a plethora of technological features, most of which are operated off the touchscreen or a laptop computer-like touchpad on the center console. The Germans are not necessarily known for the simplicity of their infotainment operating systems, but they also offer voice control that is activated by a “Hey, Mercedes” command, so I guess it evens out.

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 starts at $54,695 including the destination and delivery charge. It will arrive in showrooms in the summer.  On sale now, the GLE 350 4MATIC starts at $57,195 and the GLE 450 4MATIC at $62,145.

What I liked about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC: The cabin is roomy and resplendent with luxury touches. The engine certainly has enough power, and handling is superb.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC: The touchpad system for operating infotainment functions is a big pain. It is overly sensitive, and you can accidentally change something (like a radio station) simply by brushing your fingers near its flat surface when reaching across the console. Yes, the longer you use it the more likely you are to adapt to it. Even I got used to using the touchpad on my laptop rather than a mouse. But why all this rush to change something (like knobs or even push buttons) that works just fine? Just because you can is not a very good reason to do it.

Would I buy the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4MATIC? I would if I could get an older version of the COMAND system (which, by the way, I was just getting used to). Other than that, it’s hard to find much fault in this luxury SUV!

Saturday, April 6, 2019


The name “Blazer” has long been part of the Chevrolet family, but the resurrected Blazer SUV for 2019 bears little resemblance to its forebears, which have a history that goes back to 1969 when Chevy launched the K5 Blazer to compete with Ford’s Bronco, among others.

The latest edition is no longer a two-door truck with body-on-frame construction but a mid-size crossover SUV, refined and more suited to what consumers are looking for today. Seating five, it slots in between the compact Equinox crossover and the full-size Traverse in Chevy’s stable of SUVs.

The new Blazer is offered in four trims with a starting MSRP of just over $30,000 for the base L (including the destination and delivery charges). Blazer (or LT) trim adds more features, and a sporty RS model and Premier trim top are at the top of the line.

This review is based on the RS that carries a base MSRP of $44,695 (including the hefty $1,195 destination charge) with options running the total to $50,765.

The base engine in the Blazer RS is a 3.6-liter V6 featuring stop/start technology and mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 308 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque at a negligible cost in fuel mileage over the 4-cylinder that is standard in lower trims.

V6 fuel consumption figures are 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway in V6s with front-wheel drive and 18/25 for those with the available all-wheel drive. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is rated at 22/27 but delivers only 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque.

I’d sacrifice the mpg figures for the extra power that the V6 delivers. No, the Blazer RS doesn’t reach Camaro-like performance but it’s not bad for a vehicle that is 191.4 inches long and carries a curb weight of 4,246 pounds (with AWD).

The Blazer’s interior is nice enough for its class, not luxurious but not bare bones either. RS models get heated front seats with perforated leather trim as standard, and the red-trimmed adjustable rings on the adjustable front air vents give the RS a sporty feel.

Designers have done an excellent job incorporating the 8-inch touchscreen into the flow of the dash, and the various functions are all user-friendly. Well, at least on the screen they are. There is a row of black buttons between the touchscreen and the round vents to operate the A/C manually that are on the small side, and finding the even smaller buttons between the two vents on the center stack to adjust the blower can be distracting for the driver.

Rarely in South Florida does one have to wear gloves inside a vehicle, but heavy winter gloves I would think would make adjusting the climate control fans somewhat difficult.

Standard equipment on the Blazer RS includes navigation, keyless open and start, rear park assist and cross-traffic alert, lane-change alert with blind spot warning, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors with turn-signal indicators, 20-inch wheels (with 21-inchers available), leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth streaming audio and connectivity, dual-zone climate control, 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Not overlooking one of the reasons people go for an SUV, the Blazer offers 30.5 cubic feet of storage behind the second row with a maximum of 64.2 feet with those seats folded flat.

Wireless charging, heated outboard second-row seats, ventilated driver and front-seat passenger seats, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel column, adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and forward pedestrian braking, and a power sunroof are available in packages.

All in all, this Blazer certainly is a much-more civilized version of its predecessors with attractive exterior styling, a comfortable interior, and a quiet, confident ride.

What I liked about the 2019 Chevy Blazer RS: The infotainment functions are very forthright and user-friendly. The adjustable divider in the cargo area is a nice touch. It helps keep a full load of items from shifting around. Performance is good for its genre, at least with the V6 engine.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Chevy Blazer RS: I would like a handy button to turn off the stop/start function. You can defeat it by lightening your touch on the brake pedal, but a switch would simplify things.

Would I buy the 2019 Chevy Blazer RS? I’d give it consideration. But it faces some very stiff competition in its class, and it likely would come down to whatever kind of deal I could make. Unfortunately, I am not a very sharp negotiator.

Friday, March 29, 2019


This goes back far too many years that I care to acknowledge, but once upon a time my friends from high school and I got together with our families for an informal reunion about 20 years or so after our graduation.

Our meeting place was a park in our hometown, and it became somewhat of a running joke as the afternoon wore on that each of us showed up in a station wagon.

At the time this was the ultimate in automotive domestication, part of the “full catastrophe” cited by Zorba the Greek in the movie of the same name. I’ll pause now while you look it up on Youtube.

Back? OK. Let us continue.

My point here now is that if that gathering were held today and we were still of that age and with the same brood of young children, chances are that we would be showing up in SUVs/crossovers.

For though we didn’t know it then, our station wagons were about to experience a popularity decline that seemingly had them headed for the edge of extinction.

Minivans struck the first blow in the mid-1980s with the aforementioned SUVs and crossovers continuing to inflict blows. (Ironically, minivans now carry much the same stigma that ran station wagons off the road, that is being the nerd’s vehicle of choice.)

Domestic manufacturers pretty much bailed on the segment. Ford even billed its boxy, Flex, which has the profile and look of a station wagon if there ever was one, as a “crossover” when it introduced it a decade ago.

But thanks mostly to European automakers, the wagon never completely disappeared, and now it apparently is on a bit of a resurgence.

Citing data from, Bloomberg Business reported that station wagons enjoyed an increase in sales of 29 percent in 2018, trailing SUVs and midsize pickups in growth rate but far ahead of tradition segments like compact cars, midsize cars, luxury cars, etc., which were all in negative numbers for the year.

Admittedly, the station wagon’s market share is still small. The volume of 229,000 vehicles sold is less than 2 percent of the U.S. market, but it apparently is getting off its death bed. Buick (TourX) and Lincoln (MKT) are even back with domestic offerings in the segment.

The modern wagon is far from the lumbering Wagon Queen Family Truckster that Clark Griswold packed his family into for their cross-country trek to Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

I’d say the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad is among the most striking vehicles I have had the pleasure of driving in recent months. Not surprisingly, combined with its performance and luxurious interior, the A4 Allroad is ranked 1 or 2 among available wagons by such sources as and U.S. News & World Report.

Fully redesigned for the 2017 model year, the 2018 A4 Allroad is pretty much the same vehicle but with heated front seats as standard and some other changes to features in the higher trims. No major changes were made for the 2019 model either, so it may be to do some looking in the used car market if you’re interested in one.

The Allroad is offered in Premium (base), Premium Plus, and Prestige trims with a starting MSRP of $44,500. The Premium Plus package adds another $2,700 to that and is well worth it with features such as an upgraded Ban & Olufsen 3D sound system, 8-way power front seats with driver memory, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, Audi’s side assist system with pre-sense rear systems that react in the event of collisions from the side or rear, and SiriusXM satellite radio with 3-month trial subscription.

A Navigation and Telematics package adds another $3,000 and includes Audi’s MMI touch telematics system and Audi’s virtual cockpit. Those two packages and a couple of other extras ran the total of my vehicle for the week to $52,750 including destination and delivery, so no, this likely isn’t your grandfather’s station wagon.

All A4 Allroads get a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and puts out a healthy 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Set in dynamic mode, it delivers credible throttle response with fuel mileage figures of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 25 combined.

Audi clockers caught the Allroad getting from zero-to-60 mph at 5.9 seconds, which is not your grandfather’s station wagon either.

Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system is standard and though you won’t be traversing the kind of terrain that vehicles like Jeeps and Land Rovers typically take on, you will find the Allroad up to navigating dirt and muddy and snow-covered surfaces and other unpaved roads quite well.

Lest we forget that certain functions are expected of a wagon, the Allroad also delivers there as well. It seats five comfortably, and rear stowage capacity is 24.2 cubic feet with the second-row seats in place and 58.5 with them folded.

What I liked about the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad: The Allroad handles so well you can forget that you are in a wagon. I love the virtual cockpit and the ability to change settings by flicking your thumb on the “view” button on the steering wheel spoke.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad: The display screen to show settings for Audi’s MMI infotainment system looks like an iPad stuck at the top of the center stack. It’s not a deal killer, of course, but there has to be a better way of incorporating it into the flow of the dash. In fact, I have actually seen better ways in other makes!

Would I buy the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad? Sure would. It is one of the more expensive wagons on the market today, but it is well worth a look, even if you are looking at a luxury SUV.