Monday, December 10, 2018



Manufacturers of luxury SUVs tend to lean toward the performance side when it comes to the engineering and the design of their products, but aside from some issues with available stowage space behind the third row, Audi’s Q7 hits the sweet spot between get-up-and-go and comfort/functionality.

The 2007 Q7 debuted as Audi’s first SUV, got a refreshing for 2010, and moved into its second generation as a 2017, where it is the company’s No. 2 seller for 2018 behind the smaller Q5 SUV just ahead of the A4 sedan.

Aside from a few niceties like keyless entry and start on all models, a premium Bose sound system on Premium Plus trims, and power-closing doors on the top-of-the-line Prestige model, it remains virtually unchanged for 2018.

One of two engine choices, a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder or a 3.0-liter turbo V6, power the Q7. Each is mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection.

The 2.0L is rated at a max 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, the V6 at 333/325, respectively, and mileage figures with Audi’e all-wheel-drive quattro system (standard across the line) are the same with either engine -- 19 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 21 combined.

Pricing starts at $49,900 for the base model. V6 models start at $56,400.

Optional items like a Premium-Plus package (Audi MMI Navigation, LED interior lighting, Audi Connect PRIME and CARE systems, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bose 3D Surround Sound); a Driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, active lane assist and high beam assist); and a vision package (including a surround-view camera and Audi’s virtual cockpit) ran the total to my vehicle for the week to $62,100 including $975 for destination and delivery.

A word here about the virtual cockpit. It allows the driver to reduce the size of the round display of the speedometer and tachometer to accommodate a pretty large map for navigation. It helps keeps your eyes directly on the road in front of you instead of having to sneak a peek to the right. You can keep the speedometer and tach in its usual size if a smaller map is all you need.

Standard features on my Q7 included roof rails, 8-way power adjustable front seats, leather seating surfaces, power folding third-row seats, power liftgate, three-zone automatic climate control, LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, and a multitude of safety features like low-speed collision assist and electronic stabilization with off-road mode.

The Q7 offers a very comfortable, quiet riding experience with occupants coddled with high quality materials throughout the cabin. Audi’s MMI infotainment system is fairly easy to get the hang off, and the overall cabin ambiance shows Audi’s great attention to detail.

Seating for seven is standard on all models. The the third row is on the small side for adults, but first- and second-row seating is roomy and comfortable. A standard panoramic sunroof offers both tilt and sliding features along with a power sunshade.

The Q7 is very much an international vehicle. Most of the parts (39 percent) and the transmission come not surprisingly from Germany, but a healthy 33 percent are from Slovakia, which also is the final assembly point. The engine comes from Hungary.

Just thought I’d throw that out.

What I liked about the 2018 Audi Q7: I love the “virtual cockpit” concept and frankly wonder why other automakers haven’t come up with a version of their own. (Caveat here: Maybe somebody has and I just haven't seen it.) It puts everything that you as a driver might want right in front of your eyes. The Q7’s entire cabin is flush with luxury and high quality materials, and the ride is comfortable and quiet.

What I didn't like about the 2018 Audi Q7: The seating in vehicles vehicles with three rows is pretty much always limited in the last row and that is the case with the Q7, which offers occupants less than 30 inches of legroom in the far back. Cargo space is decent behind that third row (14.8 cubic feet) but less than 38 cubic feet with the third-row seats folded.

Would I buy the 2018  Audi Q7? Yes. It’s hard to go wrong with any offering in this class, and the Q7 is one of best and competitively priced.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Having debuted as a 2009 model as Volkswagen’s first compact crossover SUV, the Tiguan moves into its second generation as a 2018 model, which is bit longer than usual between redesigns.

But it was well worth the wait.

The new Tiguan is bigger than its predecessor with 57 percent more cargo capacity, an 8-speed automatic transmission (replacing a 6-speed), an engine that can run on regular fuel, and more available safety features that include adaptive cruise control, forward collision and lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, and blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert.

There’s also third-row seating that is standard on front-wheel-drive models and optional on models featuring VW’s four-wheel-drive, 4MOTION system. (If you don’t need that third row for little kiddies, stick to two-row models and you’ll get over 37 cubic feet of stowage capacity in the back.) 

All that makes the Tiguan a more attractive option for buyers, especially those “looking for something different.”

The 2018 Tiguan comes in S, SE, and SEL trims. The former R-Line model is now a package of exterior and interior design features offered on SEL and SEL Premium trims. It replaces standard 18-inch wheels with 19-inchers and adds Park Distance Control (ParkPilot) at a cost of $1,795 for SEL and $1,495 for SEL Premium models, which already include the larger wheels and ParkPilot as standard.

All Tiguan models come with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. That’s less horsepower and a bit more torque than its predecessor, and if not neck-jerking numbers, they are at least adequate enough to provide a comfortable ride around town or on the highway.

With South Florida’s flat terrain, it wasn’t possible to get a feel for what the Tiguan might  be like driving in hill country.

AWD models offer a selection of driving modes that include sport, eco, comfort, and personal as well as off-road. You can select gears manually, but without paddle shifters, that is kind of a waste. The only advantage for that would be to set the transmission in second or third gear for extra pulling power or going up steep inclines. Towing capacity on the 2018 Tiguan is only 1,500 pounds so it could use some help there.

Usually, with low power numbers, you are compensated with better fuel mileage numbers, but the Tiguan checks in at only 21 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway with AWD and 22/27 with FWD. But, as mentioned earlier, at least you aren’t required to use premium fuel for top performance as with the 2017 Tiguan.

The SEL trim gets features like Halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, silver roof rails, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 40/20/40 split folding second-row, rear-view camera, Bluetooth communications, push-button start, and navigation along with many of the safety features that are optional on lower trims as standard. MSRP starts at $32,390 for the SEL.

My Tiguan SEL for the week came with the R-Line package and a special orange metallic interior which, along with a $995 destination and delivery fee, ran the total price to $35,325.

But the Tiguan S starts at $25,345, not including destination and delivery, and the SE starts at just over $30,000. SEL Premium models start at $36,250.

An aside here: Volkswagen is selling a 2018 Tiguan Limited that essentially is a carryover from the  2017 Tiguan. With it starting at just over $23,000, it will save you some money over even the 2018 Tiguan S, but it won’t have the updated features the new models feature.

Consider yourself forewarned.

What I liked about the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL: The 8-speed automatic is one of the smoothest-shifting transmissions you can experience. It almost feels like a CVT. There is nice stowage room in the back for five-passenger versions, and the radio and A/C are adjustable with easy-to-use knobs. 

What I didn't like about the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL: Fuel economy is only so-so.

Would I buy the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEC? Yes. It could use a little more power, but it’s fine for navigating urban streets. It offers a nice alternative choice for those who want an SUV but don’t need one the size of VW’s Atlas.

Monday, December 3, 2018


If you are among those who think the rising popularity of SUVs/crossovers and the decline of the family sedan is the coming of the end of the world, I have some bad news for you.

In what could be interpreted as confirmation of the impending apocalypse, Rolls-Royce has brought an SUV to the market.

Yes, Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of the ultimate luxury sedan, has heard the wishes of its loyal followers and brought forth an all-wheel-drive, off-road capable, five-passenger  ... SUV.

South Florida automotive media members, of which I am one, got a look at this creation last week at the monthly luncheon of the Southern Automotive Media Association.

Gerry Spahn, head of communications for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, was here to preview it, appropriately enough, at the Acqualina Resort and Spa, a South Florida luxury oceanside resort in Sunny Isles Beach just north of Miami Beach.

The vehicle is branded the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. with the name taken from the Cullinan Diamond, the world’s largest, gem-quality diamond ever found. It was discovered in 1905 at a mine in Cullinan, South Africa, and named after the mine’s chairman, Thomas Cullinan.

I’ll resist the temptation here to call the Rolls-Royce Cullinan a “gem” of an SUV, but apparently Spahn couldn’t, referring to it as a “dynamic, moveable gem” during introductions. Spahn noted that the Cullinan sits atop of the food chain when it comes to luxury SUVs, and it’s hard to argue with that.

About the only thing it doesn’t have is three-row seating because, well, Rolls-Royce customers didn’t want it and Rolls-Royce customers get what they want. Or, in this case, don’t want.

Based on architecture of the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan, the Cullinan comes with a 6.75-liter V12 engine rated at 563 horsepower with 627 pound-feet of torque kicking in at 1600 rpm. That kind of power is needed when you have nearly three tons of bulk to haul around,. (Alas, we could only look and touch the Cullinan, not drive it!)

Though shorter than the Phantom, the Cullinan is larger than what could be considered its only competitor, Bentley’s Bentayga, which has been around for a couple of years.

A very much a refined vehicle that features such niceties a “rear viewing suite” on the split tailgate featuring a small table (for holding champagne glasses) and jump seats for two (the better for viewing polo matches), the Cullinan is no pretender when it comes to off-road treks.

Pushing the button on the console marked “off-road” makes all the adjustments necessary for the Cullinan to take on the most-challenging tests. At the global premier a few weeks back in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, journalists had the opportunity to take the Cullinan to the summit of the 7,800-foot Snow King Mountain (and presumably back down).

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine taking such a beautiful vehicle into such conditions, and I doubt if many Rolls owners actually will. But they can do so if they want.

The Cullinan starts with a base MSRP of $325,000 but extras can take the Cullinan much higher.

But I have a tip that can get you one free.

Simply buy the move-in-ready “Palazzo del Cielo” Penthouse suite at the Acqualina Resort. The Cullinan is included in the suite’s $38 million price tag, and a full garage will be available right across Collins Avenue.