Tuesday, October 16, 2018


CHEVY HONORS MUSCLE CAR TRADITION WITH 2018 CAMARO CONVERTIBLE


The glory days for Muscle Cars may go back four or five decades, but even though there are fewer of them around today, you can still learn what they were all about without having to shop the collector's car market.

Take the Chevrolet Camaro, launched in 1967 as a competitor to Ford's Mustang.

Once seemingly destined for the same scrap heap where Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Plymouths now reside, the Camaro got new life when Chevy resurrected it for 2010 after ceasing production in 2002 because of lagging sales.

Let’s hope a similar fate doesn’t await the latest edition. The Camaro, especially in convertible form, deserves much better.

The Camaro, most notably with the standard 6.2-liter V8 engine that is standard in 1SS or 2SS trim, is ever bit a Muscle Car in the true tradition of the 1960s and early ’70s, only a bit more refined. It is available in coupe or convertible form, and I was fortunate to have the latter recently.

“Spartan” is what may come to mind with the interiors of Muscle Cars of the past, but that doesn’t hold true with the Camaro 2SS. If not up to full luxury standards, the upgrades made to the cabin are immediately noticeable.

Materials are of a higher quality, and such conveniences as dual zone climate control, 8-way adjustable driver’s and 6-way passenger’s seats, premium Bose sound system, Chevy MyLink with 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming and phone, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and  4G LET Wi-Fi are included among standard features under the $40,000 MSRP.


Outside, the Camaro 2SS convertible gets HID headlights with LED signature lighting, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps, and a power convertible top that can be lowered by pushing a button on the key fob. It also can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 30 mph, handy if caught in a surprise shower.

The base transmission to go with the V8 (455 horsepower, 455 pound-feet of torque) is a 6-speed automatic, but, alas, my vehicle for the week had the optional 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. It tacks $1,495 on to the price. Other niceties, like a navigation system, dual mode performance exhaust, 20-inch 5-split spoke wheels, and more ran the bottom line to $52,820.


Given my druthers, I’d stick with the manual tranny, but that’s not the trend these days.

Of course, the Camaro is not without its drawbacks.

With the top up, visibility all around is somewhat restricted. Fortunately, blind spot monitoring, lane-change alert, and a rearview camera with cross-traffic monitoring are among standard items. Rear-park assist also is included.

Leg room in the front of the convertible is a roomy 43.9 inches, but the back offers less than 30 inches. It’s the same in coupe form as well.


Forget cargo space. It’s only 9.1 cubic feet for the coupe and much less than that with the convertible, especially with the top lowered. I question even the 7.1 cubic feet Chevy claims for it.

And then there is the gas mileage. The spec sheet put the figures at 17 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, 20 combined, which is not as bad as one might expect. You've got to sacrifice something to get that power.

The government claims that will have you paying about $3,750 more on fuel over a 5-year period over the average new vehicle, but one must consider that the Camaro Convertible is far from an average vehicle.

What I liked about the 2018 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: They had me at “convertible.” But to add more, it looks, and with a 6.2-liter V8 under the hood, it also acts the part of a true Muscle Car, but with a more refined interior. Top operation is simple enough as long as you have the trunk set right, and the infotainment system is user-friendly.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: Yes, you have to sacrifice something with the top folding into the trunk, but cargo space virtually disappears when the top is lowered. The backseat doesn’t offer much in the way of space. Maybe small children can fit back there, emphasis on the word “small.” Visibility is restricted to the rear with the top raised.

Would I buy the 2018 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible? Yes. I still kind of lean toward the Mustang, but the Camaro has become a worthy competitor. Glad Chevy had the good sense to bring it back after an eight-year hiatus.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018


JEEP CHEROKEE GETS A WELCOME

MID-CYCLE REFRESHING FOR 2019


Jeep has given its Cherokee a mid-cycle refreshing, and the result makes it a competitor in the compact SUV segment, especially for those who are looking for something they can take off-road from time to time.

Among styling updates new to the 2019 model are the front fascia and hood with LED headlamps, daytime running lamps and fog lamps, a handsfree power rear liftgate, dual panel sunroof, and a more refined interior that includes more cargo space than its predecessor.

A new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine has been added to the Pentastar V6 and base 2.4-liter Tigershark as engine options, and the 9-speed automatic transmission mated to the 2.0 turbo has been enhanced to match its performance.


Four-wheel-drive systems also have been enhanced for even more off-road capability, which already sets the standard in the class.

It comes in five trims — Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and the trail-rated Trailhawk — and has been in showrooms since the first quarter of this year. (You have to be old to remember when October was the “magic” month for the next year’s new cars to arrive!)

The Overland trim with the 2.0 turbo and 4X4 configuration served as my vehicle for the week. With 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, it virtually matches the horsepower in the V6 (271) and has a bigger punch than the 239 pound-feet of torque the V6 delivers.

It is no contest with the 2.4L Tigershark, which with 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet is somewhat underpowered. The 2.4L isn’t all that more fuel efficient either with mileage figures of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway in 4X2 configuration and 21/29 with the Jeep Active Drive I 4X4 setup.


With the turbo, the numbers are 23/31 as a 4X2. The 4X4 versions depend on which system is installed — 21/29 with Jeep Active Drive I, 20/27 with Active Drive II, and 20/26 with Active Drive Lock.

Mileage for the V6 vary from 20/29 as a 4X2 to 18/24 with Active Drive Lock.


One key difference: the 2.0 turbo is the only one of the three engines that has premium fuel recommended, though Jeep says that regular 87 octane is acceptable.

I tend to go with what is recommended, but it’s nice to know that you can get by with less expensive fuel.

The Drive I system is standard in Overland 4X4 models and is a full-time system that requires no driver input. It essentially monitors what the front axle is doing and shifts some power to the rear when the front gets moving faster. You also have a choice of settings to specific conditions like snow, rain, and mud.


Drive II adds a low-range gear for light off-roading, and Drive Lock is for more serious off-roading, including rock crawling. You’ll have to get the Trailhawk trim for the rock crawling.

Chances are you aren’t interested in doing anything like that. Like a majority of 4WD vehicle owners, you probably aren’t going to take your SUV onto any terrain more serious than that of a gravel road, dirt parking lot, or maybe the beach.

A few years back, a study showed only 5 percent of SUV owners actually go off-roading. The percentage may have changed a bit since then, but probably not by much.


That isn’t to say that 4X4s are a waste if you are among the 95 percent. Even on flat terrain and warm climates, you may find the sure-footedness of all-wheel power a bonus in rainy conditions and slick roads, and if you live or drive in the snow belt in winter, that is especially true. And you certainly want the assurance of all-wheel power if you do any boat towing and face the task of dealing with slippery boat ramps.

The new Cherokee almost looks too sharp to risk the scathes, dents, and general mayhem that can come with treks through the woods.

Though the front fascia features the traditional Jeep seven-slot grille, the design cues contribute to a more flowing line from front to back. There are five wheel designs to choose from, and the Cherokee comes with capless fuel filling so you don’t have to grapple with the issue of smelly hands after filling up.

Inside, designers gave the Cherokee a more premium feel with lots of padded spaces about and quality materials. It’s easy to get in and out of, and the seats are comfortable and the ride quiet once you do. Legroom in the second row is a generous 40.3 inches, less than a inch short of what front-seat riders get.

Even expanded a bit for 2019 over the 2018 model, cargo a space is a bit on the short side, only 25.8 cubic feet with the second row seats in place. That expands to 54.7 cubic feet with them folded, and there is a small area underneath the false floor for discreet storage of a few items.

The Cherokee starts at an MSRP of $24,195 for the Latitude edition. My Overland model had a starting price of $37,775. With the optional Technology Group package (adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, full-speed collision warning, lane departure warning, etc.) and a hefty $1,445 destination and delivery charge thrown in, the total came to $40,715.

What I liked about the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland: The standard UConnect 4C system with navigation and 8.4-inch monitor was very user-friendly. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also are standard for you tech geeks.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland: It’s hard to find fault with the Overland model and its upgraded interior. Cargo space is a bit on the stingy side for an SUV, even for the “compact” class. Some user reviews I found on the Internet mentioned an issue with stalling, but that was with the base 2.4L engine. Didn’t seem to be a problem with the 2.0L turbo.

Would I buy the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland? Yes. This is a much underrated vehicle that doesn’t take a backseat to any other vehicle in its class.







Friday, September 28, 2018

FUN IN A HYUNDAI: 2019 VELOSTER R-SPEC ADDS TO THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE


As good as Hyundai vehicles have become, “fun to drive” is not usually something you associate with them.

Functional, yes, and attractive both inside and out as well. The Sonata is a great midsize sedan, and the Genesis, now broken off as a separate brand, is one of the more underrated sedans in the luxury segment.

They are not sluggards by any means, but still more tuned to efficiency, daily commutes and family trips than performance.

Even the Veloster, when it was launched as a 2012 model, lacked the kind of peppiness often found in the compact segment.

Some early reviews of the first-year Veloster used terms like “lackluster” or “sluggish”  acceleration, “wimpy engine” and even “feels sluggish from stoplight” to describe what otherwise was considered a praiseworthy new car. That’s what 1.6-liter, 138 horsepower engine is going to get you.

Hyundai remedied this by adding a turbo version for 2013 that boosted horsepower to 201 with 195 pound-feet of torque while infringing only modestly on fuel mileage figures, which remained over 30 miles-per-gallon highway with either a manual or automatic transmission.


The South Korean automaker skipped production of the Veloster for a year before displaying it as a 2019 model at the annual North American Auto Show in Detroit last January. Full production began in Korea in March, and it went to showrooms during the second quarter of this year.

The 2019 Veloster got a complete redesign, though it retained the odd, asymmetrical three-door configuration with two doors on the passenger side but only one slightly larger one on the driver’s side.

The R-Spec model that served as my recent test vehicle features the 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine mated with a short-throw, six-speed manual transmission. The combination delivered not only a nifty experience behind the wheel but excellent fuel economy of 26 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 29 combined.

It should be noted that an even higher performance Veloster N model is new for 2019 and it features a 2.0-liter turbo 4-banger that boosts power figures to 275 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. But the R-Spec kind of hits the sweet spot between the base 2.0 model with its normally aspirated engine (147 hp and 132 lb.-ft.) and the new N.


The Veloster’s interior also got an  upgrade for 2019, and there is ample room — at least for front-seat riders. They get to ride in comfortable, uniquely designed cloth seats with up to 42.9 inches of legroom. Not that the seats in the back are uncomfortable, but only 34.1 inches of legroom is offered and headroom is cut back to 35.9 inches because of the slanted roof.

At least it’s easy enough to get into the back from the proper side, but the three-door configuration remains somewhat of a puzzler.

There is a long list of safety features, though blind-spot warning is not included (another reason to keep those mirrors adjusted correctly), and if you aren’t comfortable with the 6-speed manual transmission, you can get the R-Spec with a 6-speed automatic or 7-speed double-clutch transmission with paddle shifters.


Tech functions include an 8-inch display for the audio system (AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio), Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, push-button start, Hyundai’s Blue Link services, Bluetooth connectivity (linking a cell phone is a snap), steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise control, Bluetooth, and audio systems, and dual USB charging points.

Don’t like the way your Veloster sounds? Simply adjust the Active Engine Sound system and a synthesizer will amplify or quiet it to your liking. It’s not actual engine sound but kind of an artificial way of adding to the sportiness of the engine tone.

All in all, it's a nifty little ride.

The base Veloster starts at $19,385 with the destination and delivery charges included. The R-Spec checks in at $23,785.


What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec: It packs plenty of punch, and the standard 6-speed manual transmission simply adds to the fun. Why waste money going for the automatic?

What I didn't like about the 2019 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec: Sorry, Hyundai designers, I simply don't “get” the three-door design. If you’re going to have access to the backseats on one side (the right), why not have it on the other? Rear visibility is restricted, so keep those side mirrors adjusted properly.

Would I buy the 2109 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec? For a second car in the family, yes. It’s a bit on the small side and access to the back isn’t all that convenient. But simplly approach it like a two-passenger vehicle and it’s a good choice among spunky compacts.


Monday, September 17, 2018

CHEVY MOVES TRAVERSE INTO SECOND GENERATION WITH REDESIGN FOR 2018


Chevrolet apparently has been busy lately in updating its fleet of crossovers and SUVs.

The 2018 Traverse is the fourth SUV/crossover that the manufacturer has updated within a year, joining the Equinox, Trax, and Bolt EV in that category.

Introduced as a 2009 model to replace the truck-based Trailblazer, the Traverse moved into its second generation as a 2018 model with new, bolder styling, more safety features, two new trim levels, and other updates that make it a very viable option in its class, especially for growing families who need lots of room for both passengers and their stuff.

Modifications to second-row seating accommodations (either a folding bench seat or captain's chairs, depending on the trim level) provide easy access to what is a roomy third row (33.5 inches of legroom, 38.2 for headroom) that still leaves a nice cargo space (23 cubic feet and over 98 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded).

The Traverse is offered in several trim levels that start at $30,875 for the base L trim (including $945 destination and delivery) running to over $54,000 for the new High Country edition.

The all-wheel-drive Premier model that served as my test vehicle for a recent week started with a base MSRP of $47,350 and finished at $50,140 with Redline Edition features and the destination charge added on.


Other trim models are LS, LT, and RS with the LT ($37,040 with cloth seating, $43,640 with leather) expected to be the best seller.

Leather is standard on the Premier along with such features as keyless entry and push-button start, remote start, LED headlamps and taillights, fog lights, power hands-free lift gate, roof rails, trailering equipment, heated second-row seats, 8-way power driver's seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, tri-zone climate control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.


Safety equipment includes rear park assist, teen driver technology, rear cross traffic alert, lane change and blind spot alert, lane-keeping assist and departure warning, forward collision alert, low-speed forward auto braking, and surround vision camera, the latter an especially nice feature for vehicles of this size.

Finally, techno features include Chevrolet MyLink system with navigation, Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto access, OnStar capability, and satellite radio (3-month trial).

Chevy has been very aggressive in the tech area so naturally the Traverse gets a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot to keep you in touch with the world outside.

A 3.6-liter, V6 engine that produces 310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque is standard across the line. It is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, and that combination produces ratings of 18 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway with front-wheel drive and 17/26 with available all-wheel drive. A 2.0-liter turbo available on RS models is earns numbers of 20/26.

That's a bit more horsepower and slightly better fuel mileage than what was offered by its predecessor and results in a performance that should satisfy all but the most power-hungry drivers. I never felt that I needed more in the situations I encountered.

What I liked about the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse Premier: Technological features are plentiful and operate off a user-friendly, 8-inch touchscreen. That touchscreen can be raised with the push of a button, giving access to a small storage space. Its spacious cabin gives the feel of a full-size SUV with lots of room for passengers and cargo. Captain's chairs provide easy to the third row.

What I didn't like about the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse Premier: You can't turn off the stop-start system, though you can override it by gently -- and slightly -- releasing brake pressure once you come to a complete stop. Some of the more exotic options, like adaptive cruise control, are not available on lower trim levels.

Would I buy the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse Premier? Though classed as a midsize, the Traverse is a bit too big for my needs and tastes, but it could be just right for a couple with a growing family. It is functional in an attractive package.



Friday, September 7, 2018

FORD OUT WITH NEW SMALL CROSSOVER WITH ECOSPORT’S INTRODUCTION TO U.S. 

Ford may be getting out of the sedan market, but that doesn’t mean the company is getting out of the car business.

In fact, the Detroit News last month reported in an interview with Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's executive vice president of product development and purchasing, that the company actually expects to have three more new vehicles in its lineup by 2023 as it puts its emphasis on trucks and SUVs/crossovers.

That would give the company 23 vehicles in all, which would include the Mustang but not the familiar Fusion or Taurus sedans.

"This is not us shrinking and reducing our size in the marketplace,” the article quotes Thai-Tang. “It’s all about reallocating resources and capital where we can win, also consistent with some of the consumer trends we're seeing.”

The consumer trend Ford is seeing is a reduction in sales numbers for traditional passenger cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic in decline and those for crossovers and SUVs on the rise.


Of the top 10 sedans, eight are showing sales declines for the year of over 20 percent in some cases. Even the leading seller for the segment, the Toyota Camry, was down 18.65 percent for August over the same month for 2017 and off 5 percent for the year.

Perhaps in reaction to last spring’s news about the oncoming end of production, Ford Fusion sales are down over 21 percent and Ford’s Focus numbers are down 16.33 percent for the year. For August, the Fusion was off over 35 percent, the Focus 30 percent.

Taurus sales also are down, but not nearly as much. Meanwhile, the Mustang’s were up over 35 percent for the month and are up just under 1 percent for the year-to-date.


On the other hand, six of the top 10 selling SUVs and crossovers are experiencing sales increases for the year, and of the four that aren’t, two are off by less than 9 percent over their 2017 numbers and two others are down by less than 2 percent.

Given that, Ford’s decision, while certainly attention-grabbing, is a reasonable one. (Nice of me to say that considering the guys who made it are making the big bucks.)


Thus, it’s not surprising that a new vehicle added to the Ford Fleet is a crossover dubbed EcoSport, which for some reason is pronounced as “Echo Sport.” It was introduced in Brazil for 2004 and launched globally in 2012, but didn’t arrive in the U.S. until last year as a 2018 model.

It is aimed at the rather competitive compact crossover/SUV segment. (Think Kia Soul, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, and Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport here) and comes in four trim levels: S, SE, SES, and Titanium.


At 161.3 inches long with a wheelbase of under 100 inches, the Ecosport is about 17 inches shorter and with a wheelbase that is 6.7 inches shorter than the Escape, which in itself is 10 inches shorter than the Edge and 20 shorter than the Explorer.

The base engine on S, SE, and Titantium models is a 1.0-liter, Ecoboost 3-cylinder (123 horsepower, 125 pound-feet of torque) that is enough to get its 3,021 pounds moving but not at much of a pace. A 2.0-liter 4-banger is standard on the SES, and it boosts horsepower to 166 and torque to 149 pound-feet.

Neither engine is all that great on fuel numbers. The government rates 3-cylinder models at 27 miles-per-gallon city, 29 highway, and 28 overall and the AWD models at 23/29/25.

The only transmission offered is a 6-speed SelectShift automatic, which is a bummer but also pretty much the way life is these days. The S, SE, and Titanium are all front-wheel drive, the SES all-wheel. You can opt for both the bigger engine and AWD on the S, SE, and Titanium, which, frankly, I would recommend.

The Titanium (with the standard 3-cylinder engine and FWD) served as our test model for the week. Though it sits at the top of the EcoSport lineup, at $25,880 the FWD Titanium comes in just under the $26,880 for the SES with its larger engine and AWD, but the AWD Titanium tops the price list at $27,330.

The cabin features lots of hard plastics and doesn’t have the upscale feeling of some of its competitors, but it’s not what you would call spartan either.


With the Titanium, you get such standard feature as an easy fill capless fuel filter, fog lamps, LED signature lighting and automatic Halogen headlamps, power moonroof, second-row fold flat (by adjusting the cargo floor) seats, leather-trimmed heat front seats, leather-wrapped shift knob, Smart charging USB port, auto start/stop technology (which you can switch off), keylesss entry and push-button start, and Sync3 with 8-inch touchscreen.

Oh, yes. One kind of unusual thing. Instead of the usual lift gate, the back door swings open horizontally to provide access to 20.9 cubic feet with the second-row seats up and 50.9 with them folded.

Frankly, that “fifth door” may be its most distinctive feature.

What I liked about the 2018 Ford Ecosport Titanium: Ford's Sync system for operation of infotainment functions came under some criticism when it was introduced a few years ago, but now Sync3 is one of the most user-friendly around. The side mirrors also are of a nice size to give you a good view of vehicles coming up on your blind spots (assuming you have set them correctly.

What I didn't like about the 2018 Ford Ecosport Titanium: The base engine lacks punch. With no manual transmission offered, there is no opportunity to make up for that with your driving style.

Would I buy the 2018 Ford Ecosport Titanium? Probably not. Frankly there are better choices in this segment that provide more in the way a fun experience behind the wheel as well as being functional. Its ordinary fuel economy numbers don’t make up for that shortcoming.


Friday, August 31, 2018

2018 NISSAN ROGUE CROSSOVER GETS PROPILOT TECHNOLOGY FOR SL MODELS 


Nissan followed up its redesign of its popular Rogue crossover with several midyear enhancements 2017, and the updates keep coming for 2018 with added technology that represents a step — albeit a baby one — to self-driving capability.

The system, dubbed ProPilot, is available on the top trim Rogue SL model as part of a $790 Platinum Package suite of features that also includes 19-inch wheels (replacing standard 18-inchers) and an electronic parking brake.

To activate ProPilot assist technology, you simply push a button on the right side of the steering wheel spoke, then set the desired speed for the adaptive cruise control for the system to kick in.

In addition to keeping your Rogue at a proper distance from the vehicle in front of you, ProPilot also gently helps keep you in your proper lane via a camera-based system that works in a variety of conditions.


Frankly, the technology isn’t all that ground-breaking. I have driven many vehicles that give you a warning, either by an annoying buzzer or by gently vibrating the driver’s seat, to let you know if you are drifting out of your lane, and even been in some will give your steering wheel a nudge to keep you aligned properly.

Those, however, were a bit too aggressive, and even ProPilot takes a bit of getting used to.


Probably the most important thing to note about the ProPilot Assist is the the word "assist." It does not turn the Rogue (or the Leaf) into a self-driving car.

You still must perform basic functions, like keeping your hands on the steering wheel and keeping track of traffic around you. You can’t haul out your cell phone and start dialing calls (though you can I guess if you have synced your phone through the Bluetooth system).

Frankly, other than the adaptive cruise control, I’m not sure I would opt to include ProPilot among the options I would pay extra for, especially with adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning now standard on the SL, but it's not like the cost runs into four figures.


It’s kind of like off-road capability. Even if you don’t use it, it’s nice to know it’s there.

Other changes to the Rogue for 2018 are NissanConnect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an additional USB port to all trim levels (S, SV, and SL) and standard Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection for the SL grade.


S and SV trims also get some revised features and colors.

All three are powered by a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that is rated at 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque and mated with — dare we say it? — a continuously variable transmission.

Three driving modes are offered with Sport to enhance (a little) performance and Eco to save (a little) fuel along with standard or normal mode that earns mileage ratings of 25 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway, and 27 combined.

Those are good figures and, according to the government, you will spend zero, yes zero, more dollars on fuel costs over a five-year period for the Rogue over other compact crossovers/SUVs.

But, thanks to that CVT, the fun driving quotient is very low.

The Rogue’s other qualities, however, weigh heavily in its favor.


The cabin design is very pleasing to the eye and the materials first-rate. Put an analog clock in the middle of the center stack and slap on Infiniti badging and it very easily could match up to offerings from its upscale siblings.

Price for the Rogue starts at $25,395 (including $975 destination and delivery) for front-wheel-drive S models. The SL with all-wheel drive starts at $33,385, and the SV trims sit in between. Hybrid models start at $27,615 for FWD and go up to $38,885 for SL models with AWD.

What I liked about the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL: The well-trimmed cabin is roomy and comfortable, and there's nice storage space (32 cubic feet) in the back with the elimination of the third row seating. The technology is plentiful and user friendly, especially for us non-geeks. And the exterior appearance doesn't take a backseat to any other vehicle.

What I didn't like about the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL: Nissan has refined the CVT to a fine point, but there is one thing it can't get away from. It's still a CVT. Whatever the engine might deliver in the way of performance, the CVT takes away from it.

Would I buy the 2018 Nissan Rogue SL? I basically have struck two vehicle types off my list of potential purchases: Plugin hybrids and vehicles with CVTs. Thankfully, this isn’t a plugin. If those features don't bother you, and you don't care about sporty performance in a crossover, then yes, the Rogue is a good choice. I might even overlook that it has a CVT next time I go vehicle shopping.