Tuesday, July 25, 2017


2017 HYUNDAI ELANTRA LIMITED

OFFERS BEVY OF EXTRA FEATURES 


Last October I spent a week driving a 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco and noted how many features were included as standard in the base MSRP of under $22,000.

They included things that are offered only as options or are not available in the class at all, like a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, cross-traffic detection, blind-spot detection, projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights, etc.

So when it came time to answer my closing question — would I buy this vehicle? — my answer was yes, I would. But I added a caveat. I’d also want to take a look at the Elantra Limited before making a final decision.

Well, I recently got that look at the 2017 Elantra Limited, and much of what I said about the Elantra Eco last fall (you can read my earlier review by clicking on “October” on the list on the right to get to the proper link) holds true for the Elantra Limited.

You get a ton of similar features as standard in both models with the key differences in the powertrain (a 1.4-liter turbo and 7-speed double-clutch transmission on the Eco) and wheels (17-inch alloys on the Limited, 15s on the Eco).


I guess you decision would have to come down to how much gas you want to save. EPA figures for the Elantra Limited are 28 miles-per-gallon city, 37 highway, and 32 combined) and for the Elantra Eco 32/40/35. Not a huge difference, really, considering how real-life results often vary.

On the other hand, the Limited enjoys a power edge with its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder producing 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque to the 128/156, respectively, in the Eco. But thanks to the extra torque in the Eco, there’s not a whole lot of difference when it comes to off-the-line performance.

Both models come down in the category of “adequate” for most situations. If you want better mileage from the Limited, you can always drive it in “Eco” mode and if you want more in the way of response, put it in Sport instead of Normal.


The Limited is mated to a 6-speed automatic Shiftronic transmission, which means that you can select gears manually if you desire, though without paddle shifters, it becomes a bit of a chore to keep changing gears.

It’s when you start adding the extras, however, that the real advantages of the Limited come into play.

With the Limited you can get options like a Tech Package that includes navigation with an 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, premium audio, a power sunroof and heated front and rear seats and an Ultimate Package that includes HID headlights, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, Smart Cruise Control, and lane-keeping assist.

Those two packages (you need the Tech Package to get the features from the Ultimate) are a huge upgrade for and extra $4,400 added to the base MSRP of $22,350.


That, plus a couple of stand-alone options like carpeted floor mats, a cargo net in the trunk, first-aid kit, and rear bumper protection plus the $835 destination and delivery charge ran the total MSRP to $27,860 for the Elantra Limited that I drove for a week.

It wasn’t all that long ago that such a number for an Elantra would have sent shock waves through the showroom, but that falls into the reasonable category now. In fact, even with the options included, that total MSRP falls in the bottom half of the compact car segment.

Also, the base Elantra SE with a 6-speed manual transmission starts at under $18,000.

What I liked about the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited: The front is very room with up to 42.2 inches of legroom, and the back offers 35.7, which isn’t bad. The ride itself is quiet and smooth enough, and the cabin has a nice feel about it. Operation of the infotainment system is very intuitive, and there are plenty of functions to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited: It’s not a requirement, but if you are going to have a shiftable automatic transmission, it’s nice to be able to accomplish that mission via paddle shifters. I don’t use them all that much on South Florida’s flat roads, but if you are one who likes to shift gears even with an automatic, you would want them. The engine overall could have a little more oomph in the performance department.


Would I buy the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited? Yes, I would. I would probably go for the Limited for the Eco, especially if I could swing the options financially. They make a huge difference when compared to the Elantra’s competitors. 


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

AUDI A5 COUPE MOVES INTO SECOND GENERATION WITH REDESIGN FOR 2018


I like coupes.

They’re not my favorite automotive style — that would be convertibles — but there’s just an air about a coupe that appeals to me.


Especially when it’s as stunning as the Audi A5.

Introduced a decade ago as a two-door version of Audi’s A4 sedan, the A5 Coupe is getting its first redesign as a 2018 model. Yes, that’s a rather long time to go between generations, but apparently Audi follows the well-tested philosophy of “it it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”



Still, a new drivetrain, added technology, and several styling tweaks to the exterior are welcome updates. The latter include a new grille and longer lower hood lines, more sweeping lines, a lower stance, and standard 10-spoke 18-inch wheels (19s are available) with special spoke designs, giving the A5 a sexy, alluring profile.


The new engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque and is mated with either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters for manual gear selection.

With the automatic, you get from zero-to-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, according to the company, and consume premium fuel at the rate of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway, and 27 combined. With the manual, the zero-to-60 clocking is a tick slower (5.7 seconds) and fuel numbers are virtually identical, according to the government. (We can always trust the government, right?)



There is no difference in pricing when it comes to the transmission. The A5 Premium starts at $42,800 with either the automatic or manual, the A5 Premium Plus at $45,800, and the A5 Prestige at $50,400 plus the $975 destination and delivery fee.

I spent my week in the A5 with the automatic and the Prestige package, which includes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, an alarm system with motion sensors, 10-way power adjustable heated front seats, full LED headlights, a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, a parking system with top view camera, head-up display, Audi MMI Navigation package and a couple of other niceties.


The Virtual Cockpit is a fascinating features that was introduced a couple of years ago on the Audi TT. Drivers can adjust the instrument panel in front of them to display whatever information they want, including a high-resolution map for navigation.

The size of the tach and speedometer readout also can be adjusted via a small knob on the steering wheel to provide the driver with a larger or smaller map. It means you don’t have to divert your eyes to the monitor at the top of the center stack but can see navigation features with a quick glance through the steering wheel.

Adding other options like the driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control and high-beam assistant and traffic sign recognition), glacier white color, adaptive damping suspension, and high gloss dark brown walnut wood inlays ran the total MSRP to $55,300 for my A5, which, quite frankly, as a bit lower than what I guessed before I looked at the spec sheet.



In addition to the technological and convenience functions in the Prestige Package, standard features on the A5 include LED interior lighting, HID headlamps, a panoramic power sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and numerous other safety features. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive also is standard.

Operating that technology is accomplished via a knob on the center console which, depending on what function has been selected (navigation, radio, media, vehicle setting, etc.), also can put you in one of four driving modes — comfort, dynamic, auto, or individual.



Obviously, the dynamic mode provides a more spirited performance, but even in comfort mode the A5’s acceleration will get your attention. Yet it never intrudes on the ride the passenger is experiencing. It’s just fun. Which is just like a coupe!

What I liked about the 2018 Audi A5 Coupe: There is a lot to like, frankly. Even some of the issues inherent with the genre, like getting to the backseat and lack of cargo space, are not as intrusive. The front seats slide forward to give fairly easy access to the back, and cargo space is 11.6 cubic feet, fairly comparable to a small sedan.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Audi A5 Coupe: The electromechanical steering had a kind of odd feel about it. At higher speeds, it seemed to be nudging me to one side or the other as I went through turns, kind of like some lane-keeping assist systems do. But it wasn’t that. When traffic was clear, I tried to see what would happen if I changed a lane without signaling, and it didn’t kick in. Maybe it just takes some getting used to.


Would I buy the 2018 Audi A5? Yes, though I might take a serious look at the S5 with its V6 power if my budget could afford it. It starts in the mid-$50,000 range. The good news: the A5/S5 is also available as a convertible that starts around $50,000 (A5) and $60,000 range (S5). Also new this year is the Sportback, an A5/S5 hatchback that boosts cargo capacity to 21.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 35.01 with the rear seats folded. It also seats five passengers instead of four like the Coupe. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017



TOYOTA STEPS UP ITS GAME WITH 2018 CAMRY


With the upcoming 2018 Camry, Toyota takes a big step up in giving a little pizzaz to what is a seriously high-quality sedan that more often than not leads its segment in sales but nevertheless is often derided as, well, boring. 

Somebody obviously was paying attention when Toyota president Akio Toyoda’s issued a companywide edict that “no more boring cars” should roll off his factories’ assembly lines.

Gone is the middle-of-the-road styling that offended no one but left you wondering, “Does this come in beige?”

The new, completely redesigned Camry has a more aggressive exterior with a front fascia that has an angry look about it and a cockpit that oozes the ambiance of its luxury Lexus cousins. Different models get different grille and wheel designs, and the sportier SE and XSE trims get standard a standard rear spoiler. XSE models get dual exhaust with quad-chrome tips.

It comes with either a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (32 miles-per-gallon combined) or a 301-hp 3.5-liter V6 (26 mpg combined) mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Is there a hybrid version? Of course. This is Toyota.


And all of the features of Toyota’s Safety Sense P (TSS-P) technology are standard on all models, not just the high-end Camry. That system includes Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Automatic High Beams.

Yet what really caught my attention, and those of several of my automotive journalistic colleagues who were given a preview of the new Camry this week courtesy of Southeast Toyota Distributors, was the sound from the Entune 3.0 suite that included JBL Premium Audio with Clari-Fi.

I remember the first time I ever heard stereo sound in a car. It was a long time ago when I was in a cab in Honolulu, and it overwhelmed me. Through the years, though, I have gotten rather used to the systems of today, even the premium setups offered in high-end luxury cars.

The JBL system, however, brought me back to those early days.

When Pete Wendy, Senior Manager, Sales Toyota/Lexus, turned up the volume, it was like sitting in the front row of a concert. You could even discern the crowd noise and applause.

The V6 XLE and XSE models get the JBL upgrade as standard, and it’s available in option packages in the 4-cylinder XLE and XSEs as well as the hybrid.

Get it. You’ll thank me later.

The new Camry will be arriving in showrooms next week.



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ALTITUDE ONE OF TWO NEW ‘MODELS’
IN JEEP RENEGADE LINEUP FOR 2017


Jeep entered the Renegade in the subcompact SUV market to a generally good reception for the 2015 model year, and for 2017 adds a couple of new versions to the portfolio, one of which is the Renegade Altitude that serves as the subject for this review.

Though the company referred to two new “models” when it previewed them at last fall’s Los Angeles Auto Show, but they are really more like enhanced variants of a couple of familiar trim levels.

The Altitude is based on the Latitude and the Deserthawk on the Trailhawk, making the Deserthawk suited to more adventurous off-road expeditions than the Altitude.


Not that the Altitude isn’t capable of hitting the dirt, because it is. It wouldn’t be a Jeep if it wasn’t. It’s just that the Altitude is more urban-oriented, if there is such a phrase.

But that doesn’t mean it lacks boldness.

In fact, rather than Altitude, Jeep just as well could have labeled it “Attitude” with its 18-inch gloss black wheels and gloss black exterior accents like front and rear badges, grille rings and tail lamp rings giving it a more aggressive look.

The interior, too, gets black design touches, including black cloth seats.

Thus even though it may linger near the “cute-ute” genre, there’s nothing timid about the Altitude, which, by the way, comes out of the FCA assembly plant in Melfi, Italy. It is built alongside the Fiat 500X with 62 percent of its parts coming from Italy and only 22 percent from the U.S. and Canada. The engine and transmission come from the U.S.

With a starting MSRP of $22,390, about $4,500 more than the starting price for the base Renegade Sport, the Altitude is competitive when it comes to pricing in the segment.

Standard equipment for the Altitude includes a backup camera, keyless go with push button start, an electric parking brake, Selec-Terrain System with Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud modes, Hill Start Assist, capless fuel fill, U-Connect 5.0 telematics, and integrated voice command with Bluetooth capability.

A 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed manual transmission is the base power train, and it is offered in both front-wheel drive and 4X4 configuration.


The optional 2.4-liter, 4-banger that is rated at 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque (compared to the 1.4L’s 160/184, respectively) added $1,530 to the base MSRP of $23,495 for my recent drive. It’s mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The engines are not neck-snappers but are up to handling ordinary driving tasks.

Other options like the Advance Technology Package (lane departure warning, rear park assist, etc.), remote start, Safety and Security Group (blind spot warning, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, etc.), navigation with a 6.5-inch screen, and a My Sky Retractable Roof with Removable Panels ran the total for my ride to $32,195. That’s getting up there pretty good in the class.

Of course, you can skimp on the removable roof panels and save yourself $1,495.

What I liked about the 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude: Overall, it’s a very capable and versatile vehicle. Cargo capacity is 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats in place but 50.5 cubic feet when they’re folded. There’s also a false floor that can be used to conceal items or removed to give the rear space more depth.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude: Road noise seemed a bit excessive, and fuel mileage (21 miles-per-gallon city, 29 highway, 24 combined) is disappointing. The computer showed I was getting on the low end of that despite the majority of my miles coming on the interstate.

Would I buy the 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude? Yes. It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you want something in the class that stands out. The Renegade’s taillight design is very distinctive. One caveat: If you are planning on doing some towing, you are pretty much limited to 4X4 models with the 2.4-liter engine and the limit is 2,000 pounds. Towing is not recommended with the smaller engine.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017





2017 ROGUE SPORT A SMALLER VERSION OF NISSAN’S POPULAR ROGUE CROSSOVER

Perhaps in an effort to capitalize on the popularity of the Rogue, which was the company’s No. 1 seller in 2016, Nissan has come out with a slightly smaller version of the compact crossover that it has dubbed the Rogue Sport.

It shares the same platform as its big brother and offers several of the same convenience and safety features — like Nissan’s Intelligent Cruise Control, Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure and blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert — as the Rogue.



LED headlights, a power sliding moonroof, Apple’s Siri Eyes-Free system, heated front seats, remote start, and Nissan’s Around-View monitor system are available on the Rogue Sport, just like on the full-size Rogue, and you also have a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

But this is no knockoff. The interior has a nice ambiance about it. There was no skimping on the Rogue Sport when it comes to styling or cabin comfort.

So what are the differences?



The most obvious, of course, is the size.

At 172.4 inches long, the Rogue Sport is about a foot shorter than the Rogue. This results in slightly less legroom in the second row for the Rogue Sport (33.4 inches to the Rogue’s 37.9), though the front legroom is virtually the same (42.8 in the Rogue Sport, 43.0 in the Rogue). At 104.2 inches, the Sport’s wheelbase is just over two inches shorter. 

The rear cargo area in the Rogue Sport is smaller, but actual capacity depends on the model.


The Rogue Sport S trim offers up to 22.9 cubic feet with the second row of seats upright and 61.1 with it folded compared to the Rogue’s 32.0/70.0, respectively.


The Divide-and-Hide stowage system, which gives you an area underneath the rear cargo floor to store items, is standard on SV and SL trims and trims storage capacity to 19.9 and 53.3 cubic feet overall.

The Sport’s width is virtually the same as the Rogue (72.3 and 72.4 inches), but the Rogue is about six inches taller than the 62.5-inch Rogue Sport.

All that said, you’d probably have a hard time singling out the Rogue Sport in the parking lot were it not for the “Rogue Sport” labeling at the left rear.

Even the wheels are close enough in size. The Rogue Sport S gets 16-inch steel wheels and the SV and SL get 17- and 19-inch alloy wheels. The Rogue offers 17s and 18s depending on the trim wth 19s as an option on the top-of-the-line SL.

Under the hood, the 2017 Rogue Sport comes with a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that is rated at 141 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 147 pound-feet of torque at 4400. Numbers for the 2.5-liter 4-banger in the Rogue are 170/175, respectively, so yes, you’re going to get less of a kick from the Rogue Sport.



Mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) with sport mode, fuel economy for the Rogue Sport is 25 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway and 28 combined with FWD, 24/30/37 for AWD. Those are nearly the same numbers as the Rogue (which with the mid-year enhancements it received is listed as a 2017.5 model).

As you might expect, the Rogue Sport does have an advantage when it comes to MSRP.


The Rogue Sport S with FWD starts at $21,420, and the most expensive Rogue Sport is the SL with AWD that opens at $27,420 before the $960 destination and delivery charge and options are added on.

MSRP for the full-size 2017.5 Rogue starts at $24,420 for the S FWD and runs on up to $31,710 for the SL AWD. Hybrid versions of the Rogue in all three trims run from $26,640 to $32,910.


What I liked about the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: The Rogue Sport shares its bigger brother’s attractive looks both inside and out. The front cabin is roomy, and operation of the NissanConnect system with navigation is easy enough, though responses to voice commands sometimes faltered. (No, I don’t want SXM 70s on 7. I want my Blue Collar guys on Channel 97!)

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: It’s nice to have simulated manual gear shift points to provide a Sport mode with the CVT, but without paddle shifters, it’s somewhat of a wasted feature. A larger screen for the navigation monitor also would be nice.

Would I buy the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport? Probably. I realize that’s a rather flimsy endorsement, but it’s not because the Rogue Sport isn’t a quality vehicle. It’s just that the subcompact SUV segment features some pretty stiff competition. There’s enough storage and room for five passengers, all right, especially for an empty nester, which is what the genre is all about, but I’d like a little more in the way of performance. It did seem to labor when I pushed it a bit. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 FORD ESCAPE A SOLID ENTRY IN COMPETITIVE COMPACT SUV SEGMENT


You probably are well aware that Ford’s F-Series pickup truck is the America’s top-selling vehicle. The company rarely misses the opportunity to pass on that information through print and over-the-air ads.

But what do you think is the company’s No. 2 seller?

The Fusion sedan?

Explorer?

Focus?

Edge?

Mustang?

No. No. No. No. And definitely no.

Nope, Ford’s No. 2 seller is the Escape, which is still going strong since the company introduced it into the small SUV segment for the 2001 model year. In 2016, Ford reported sales of 307,069 Escapes, up slightly from 306,492 for the year before. That’s well behind the 820,799 F-Series trucks reported sold last year, but also comfortably ahead of the Fusion (265,840), Explorer (216,294), Focus (168,789), Edge (134,588), and Mustang (105,932).


And the trend is continuing in 2017. The company recently announced it was cutting its usual summer two-week production layoff at its Louisville, Kentucky, plant to just one week because of stronger demand.

Escape sales through May were at 129,805, an increase of nearly 3 percent for the same time period last year and the strongest start yet for the versatile vehicle that provides nice room for both passengers and cargo alike, especially for its class.


Ford has significantly updated the Escape for 2017, adding a new 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder to the engine choices, giving the 2.0-liter turbo a power boost, and adding a stop-start feature for the fuel-conscious on both Ecoboost engines. (It’s not as intrusive as some others, and it can be turned off with the push of a button on the lower end of the center stack.)

Designers gave the roomy cabin a somewhat classier look with a push-button electronic parking brake replacing the large hand brake that rested alongside the center console. (It’s just back of the gearshift lever.) They also moved the gearshift back a bit to open up access to the climate controls.

Other refinements include redesigned cupholders, a spot on the center console for a USB port and power outlet and controls on the steering wheel for operation of the phone, audio, cruise control, and information systems.

The Escape is available in three trims, S, SE, and Titanium with SE likely hitting the sweet spot for most buyers. It offers more niceties than the base S, including the 1.5-liter turbo that boosts horsepower and torque to 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet over the 168/170, respectively, of the S’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-banger. The optional 2.0-liter turbo takes the power figures up to 245/275, respectively. A six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift capability is standard in all trims.

Other standard features on the SE include dual exhaust tips, fog lamps, LED taillights, 60/40 split fold rear seat, dual zone automatic climate control, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters (imagine that!), rearview camera, roof rails, and more.


The Titanium edition picks up where the SE leaves off and among other things adds a foot sensor to operate the power lift gate (after all, pushing a button on the key fob is so demanding), keyless entry and ignition, a 10-speaker Sony sound system, and memory settings for the driver’s seat.

My vehicle for the week was the Escape SE which came with option packages that included such features as blind spot warning, a power lift gate, panoramic moonroof, and a voice-activated navigation system. That added $5,475 to the base MSRP of $25,100 for a total of $30,575 (including destination and delivery). That’s pretty much in line with others in the genre.

Overall, it was a pleasant time. Operating the 1.5-liter turbo-4 in Sport (S) mode added noticeable punch to the driving performance, but even in Drive (D) the throttle responses were quick enough to assure safe entry into heavy traffic lanes.

The 1.5L Ecoboost engine also offers decent enough fuel economy. EPA ratings are 23 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 26 combined with front-wheel drive compared to 21/29/24 with the base 2.5L and 22/29/25 for the more powerful 2.0L Ecoboost. That’s using regular fuel. AWD knocks off a couple of miles-per-gallon, of course.

The cabin is very quiet — you can hardly notice with the stop/start kicks on and off — and roomy. Up to 43.1 inches of legroom is available up front, and the three backseat riders get 36.8 inches. Cloth seats are standard with leather optional.

SYNC Connect is available as part of a technology package on SE models and is standard on the Titanium edition. It’s easy enough to operate and responds quickly and accurately to voice commands.

If you want to dress up your Escape a bit, for an extra $1,295 a Sport Appearance package adds 19-inch ebony black aluminum wheels, black headlamp and taillamp bezels, and black upper grille and side vents.

What I liked about the 2017 Ford Escape SE: Storage space is excellent. There’s 34.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row. Fold those seats and it increases to 67.8 cubic feet. The overall driving experience was excellent.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Ford Escape SE: I know the dash looks cleaner with a minimum number of knobs, but I still like to have one to surf the radio dial. There is a knob to adjust volume, but not change stations.

Would I buy the 2017 Ford Escape? Sure (but not this color). It’s a competitive segment with some really nice choices these days, and the Escape is among them. 


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

INFINITI Q60 RED SPORT 400 DELIVERS WHEN IT COMES TO FUN DRIVING EXPERIENCE


According to Shakespeare, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Maybe that works in cases of love — the quote is from Romeo and Juliet, in case you missed that lit class — but maybe not so much when it comes to automobiles.

Consider, for example, the Infiniti Q60.


When introduced as a G35 replacing the outdated G20 in the company’s lineup, it played to generally good reviews. Car & Driver’s Aaron Robinson wrote: “The G35 coupe is the most appealing article to slide down the Infiniti chute since the original Q.”

When it morphed into the G37 because of its slightly bigger engine, the G37 coupe still carried a lot of verve. The anonymous reviewer for Edmunds.com called the 2008 G37 coupe “a hoot to drive” while praising the interior for its abundance of quality materials and high-tech features offered.

Then a couple of years ago, when the company announced its policy of labeling its cars with a “Q” designation and its SUVs “QX” followed by a number corresponding to the vehicle’s place in the overall lineup, the G37 coupe became the Q60 and the G37 sedan the Q50.

So what do we hear about the redesigned 2017 Q60?

Well, the U.S. News & World Report’s usual analysis of reviews of luxury small cars rates the Q60 no better than tied for 18th with the Acura ILX and Buick Cascada in a field of 20 luxury small cars. Not that it is a bad car, the magazine notes. Just that in such high class competition, it rates as merely “OK.”

When it comes to performance, Autoblog says the Q60 “underwhelms,” and the New York Daily News groans that “despite its performance-oriented specifications, gorgeous body, and promise of a relaxed driving experience, it’s still tough to get excited about the new 2017 Infiniti Q60.”


At least Automobile Magazine had good things to say about the “clean and elegant finish” of the interior.

So what happened? Did Nissan engineers and designers take a dose of stupid pills along with the name change?

I don’t think so.

After spending a week in the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with 17 cars to put ahead of it in its class.


First, it has the inherent sexiness of a coupe’s profile. You can even see a familial resemblance to parent company Nissan’s 370Z sports coupe in its profile.

Next, inside it has the requisite luxury leather and niceties for its segment, like some carbon fiber trim touches. Door handles are placed at a convenient spot, and the steering wheel and shift lever get the full leather treatment.

Riders in front get up to 43.1 inches of legroom while the two in the back, who are separated by a mini-console featuring two small cupholders and a small flat space for, um, well I’m not really sure that it would be for, get 35.1 inches of legroom and, despite the sloping roofline, 34.5 inches of headroom.

Infiniti calls the overall theme for the cabin “driver-centric” and “passenger-minded.” I call it elegant and comfortable.

The center stack features two screens for operation of Infiniti’s In-Touch infotainment system. This cleans up the dash from an excessive number of buttons and knobs, but it doesn’t make for the most intuitive of operating systems. Also, without the available navigation system, the top screen has a rather bland look about it that takes away from the overall appeal of the flowing dash design.

The powertrain is where the Q60 really delivers.

The Red Sport 400 that served as my test vehicle came with a new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine tuned to 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, which folks running the website zeroto60times.com clocked at 4.5 seconds from zero to 60 mph.

With that engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, the Red Sport’s fuel mileage ratings are 20 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, and 22 combined, though the computer showed that I was getting closer to 24 in mostly around-town driving.


A 300-hp V6 and 2.0-liter 4-banger rated at 208 horsepower are the other engine choices in the Q60 portfolio.

Starting MSRP for the 2017 Q60 is $39,855 (including destination and delivery) for the Q60 2.0t with rear-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line Q60 Red Sport 400 checks in at $52,205. All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the MSRP.

What I liked about the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400: Set in Sport-Plus (one of six driving modes along with Standard, Sport, Personal, Snow, and Eco) it delivers a fun driving experience. Some reviews criticize it for poor steering feedback, but I have found that’s not uncommon for steer-by-wire systems. I experienced no issues.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400: Though the system responded quickly and accurately with voice commands, the operation of the In Touch system overall could use some fine-tuning. I happen to like the two-screen approach (some don’t) but the steps for the various functions need a review to make it more intuitive.


Would I buy the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400? Yes. The small luxury segment is a competitive one with lots of good choices, but the Q60 needs to be on your list if you are shopping in the segment.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

CHEVY CAMARO MARKS 50TH ANNIVERSARY WITH SPECIAL PACKAGE FOR 2017


The Camaro is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the 2017 model, though Chevy folks got the jump on the occasion by giving it a full redesign for 2016 that included a new turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine that probably caused conniption fits among Muscle Car purists.

Now, as it moves into the second year of its sixth generation, the Camaro features special “Fifty” badging on the steering wheel of all trims, a teen driving package that allows parents to set limits and review driving habits of the new drivers in the family, and a new exterior color, Arctic Blue Metallic.


Also available for an extra $2,695 is a 50th Anniversary package that adds, among other things, special “Fifty” exterior markings, hood stripes and illuminated sill plates, unique 20-inch 50th wheels, special front grille, and orange front brake calipers to give the car a special look.

Like its No. 1 rival the Ford Mustang — the Camaro was introduced three years after the Mustang debuted, the Camaro is available as a coupe or convertible, each in several different trims and with three engine choices.


The base trim, designated 1LS, and the next two up the ladder, the 1LT and 2LT trims, get the 4-banger as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission with a V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission as an option. The upper three trims get V8 power with the 1SS and 2SS getting a 6.2-liter, 455 horsepower version and the ZL1 getting a supercharged, 6.2-liter V8 rated at 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.


My vehicle for the week was the 2LT convertible with the available V6 engine and 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque, the engine provides plenty of power for daily drives and with three driving modes — Tour, Sport, and Snow/Ice — to choose from, you can enhance performance to your liking. (A fourth mode, Track, is offered on V8 Camaros.)

Fuel mileage is decent enough. The V6 Camaro earns ratings of 19 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 22 combined drinking regular 87 octane fuel. (Premium is recommended for best performance with the turbo 4 or V8.)

Like the coupe, the convertible seats four passengers, though those in the back don’t get a heckuva lot of room (less than 30 inches of legroom) and the driver’s rear visibility is restricted with the roof raised. Thank goodness for the standard rearview camera! Blind spot warning, available in the Convenience and Lighting Package, is a nice feature to have, though setting the side mirrors properly can alleviate the situation.

Other than that, the Camaro is comfortable enough for a Muscle Car. There’s a bit more refinement than in the earlier models, of course, but you’re not going to confuse it with the interior of a German luxury car. A lot of hard surfaces abound in the interior.

Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system with a 8-inch diagonal screen is not as complicated to operate as some other manufacturers have made their systems, and response to voice commands is accurate and quick. MyLink Audio is standard while MyLink with Navigation and the 8-inch touchscreen adds another $495 to the $35,605 MSRP.

The convertible top operates with the push of a button at the top of the windshield and can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 30 mph, which is nice if you get caught in an unexpected shower. Lowering the roof cuts an already tight trunk space to less than half the available 7.3 cubic feet. You’ll likely going to have to place a second golf bag in the back seat.

Standard equipment includes a couple of service visits, capless refueling, the usual safety features as regards to seat belts and air bags, halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual exhaust tips, rear spoiler, push-button start, 8-way driver and 6-way passenger power adjustable front seats, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, Bose premium sound system, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

With the options, my test vehicle came to a total of $45,480 including the $995 destination and delivery charge.


What I liked about the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro convertible: The retro styling, introduced when Chevy resurrected the Camaro in 2010 after an eight-year production hiatus, is eye-catching. Adjusting the temperature for the A/C and heater is accomplished by turning large rings around the large blower outlets on the center stack, kind of a neat touch.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro convertible: Getting in the backseat is a chore with the roof raised. But you can say that about just about any convertible (or coupe, for that matter). Visibility also is restricted with the roof raised as well, not just out the back but on the sides as well because of the shallow side windows.

Would I buy the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro convertible: Sure would. I’d get the manual transmission, though. Paddle shifters just aren’t the same.