Friday, December 6, 2019


Shopping for a family SUV with champagne tastes but burdened by a beer budget?

You might want to start by checking out a Hyundai showroom for the Santa Fe. You also might finish there anyway.

Fully redesigned for 2019 with the tag “Sport” removed for five-passenger models (the former three-row Santa Fe now goes by Santa Fe XL), the 2020 Santa Fe comes with about all the amenities you might want in a luxury model except the name cachet of a traditional luxury import brand from Europe or Japan.

The South Korean manufacturer has had the knack of incorporating most-wanted features in a high-quality product for quite some time now, at least since the turn of the century when it apparently decided to get serious in the United States market instead of existing by putting out cheap knockoffs.

In addition to cutting out the third row, Hyundai made the Santa Fe roomier by making it a bit longer and wider than the outgoing two-row model the Santa Fe Sport as well as improving its ride.

For 2020 it added some safety features and packages like a new blind spot monitor on Limited models and making the rear-seat occupant alert standard on SE and SEL models as well. Wireless device charging also is standard on SEL w/Convenience package and Limited models.

A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard in all trims, and a 2.0-liter turbo 4-banger is available on SEL models with Convenience and Premium packages as well as the top-of-the-line Limited. All engines are mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is an efficient 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway, and 22 combined for the turbo.

This review is based on the 2020 Santa Fe Limited with the 2.0-turbo engine. That engine boosts  power to 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque from the 2.4-liter’s 185/178 numbers, respectively, and it is well-worth the extra cost.

The all-wheel-drive Limited with the 2.4-liter engine starts at $38,445 (including destination and delivery and going with the 2.0 turbo revs that up to $40,295. Front-wheel-drive Limited  models knock $1,700 off the MSRP for the AWD models.

Standard equipment on the Limited includes safety features like forward collision avoidance, blind-spot warning, high-beam assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, reverse parking alert, and rear-seat occupant alert.

A panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a hands-free rear lift gate, and LED headlights, fog lights, and taillights also are standard.

Comfort and convenience features covered by the base MSRP include leather seats that are heated front and back and ventilated in the front, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual automatic climate control, a proximity key with push-button start, navigation system with an 8-inch display screen, wireless device charging, Quantum surround sound audio, Bluetooth hands-free communications, and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Services.

In other words, all that you might want in an SUV that tops out in price where luxury SUVs begin.

The only extra to destination and delivery for my test vehicle was $135 for carpeted floor mats.

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited: The short answer: a lot. It looks great inside and out, the interior is classy and roomy, and the driving experience is efficient and   up to standards for daily chores. Storage room behind the third row is listed at 35.9 cubic feet. Technology is plentiful and easy to operate. The enhanced blind spot warning system flashes an image of what is on your left or right when you activate the turn signal in the middle of the instrument panel, giving you a view of what may be coming up alongside you.

What I didn't like about the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited: I would like to see the display monitor more incorporated into the flow of the dash and not sticking up in the middle at the top of the center stack.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited? Yes, most definitely. Fuel efficiency is among the best in its segment, and the interior has quality of a luxury SUV. The Santa Fe certainly has come a long way since the jaunty, smaller SUV it started out as.

Saturday, November 23, 2019



In the interest of full disclosure, I should state at the start that I have been a fan of South Korean automaker Hyundai’s products for close to 20 years now. We had a good experience with the 2003 Santa Fe SUV we bought, and it worked well for my daughter and son as well.

So that could be seen as influencing my opinion of the new Genesis G70 sedan, which is no longer a Hyundai but a stand-alone entity, much like Lexus is Toyota’s luxury outlet, Acura is Honda’s, and Infiniti is Nissan’s. (Interesting that they are all Asian products.)

Except a lot of other reviewers feel the same way I do, and analysis by U.S. News & World Report, which is based on different sources, rates the 2019 Genesis G70 No. 4 among luxury small cars behind a couple of Audi models (A5 and A4) and the BMW 2-Series, which is pretty strong company.

It just nudged out its cousin from Kia, the Stinger sedan and was rated ahead of both the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3-Series, generally seen as the standard bearers in the segment. In a comparison test, Car & Driver gave the edge to the Genesis G70 over the BMW 340M in its final analysis, noting that the G70 “does everything nearly as well as the BMW, and it even manages to do a few things better.”

Yes, the report said, the BMW holds the advantage in overall oomph, but the G70 “has more than enough performance and handling for 90 percent of drivers 95 percent of the time.”

The price advantage runs well into five figures in the G70’s favor.

With the 2019 Genesis G70 an all-new model, the new G70 gets only a few modifications for 2020, the more significant being some new brake packages for the middle-of-the-pack 2.0T Sport model and a power-operated trunk lid for the top-of-the-line 3.3T trim.

This review is based on my experience in the 3.3T, which logs in with a starting MSRP of $45,645 or just over $9,000 more than the base 2.0T (but still well under the starting price for its Teutonic competitors).

It comes with a 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine that is rated at 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. The G70 3.3T can cover zero-to-60 in under five seconds and is mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission that can be set to several drive modes starting with Comfort and going on to Sport and Eco.

Mileage figures are about the only shortcoming with the 2020 G70 getting EPA ratings of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway, and 20 combined. According to the EPA, you’ll spend about $4,750 more on fuel over a five-year period compared to the average new vehicle. Annual fuel cost is an estimated $2,450.

Frankly, I’m suspicious of those kinds of numbers, but it’s the government, so we should trust the government, right? (You do? You want to buy some beachfront property in the Florida Everglades, too?)

The G70 3.3T has a long list of standard features. Among the more significant are Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Driver Attention Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Rearview camera with parking guidelines (the guidelines make a difference), Brembo Brakes, Sport-Tuned suspension, Proximity Key with push-button start, LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights, sunroof, leather seating surfaces, l6-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 4-way lumbar support, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, adaptable cruise control (Smart cruise control in Genesis speak), Lexicon 15-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Bluetooth communications.

Optional packages like Elite (rein-sensing wipers, low-beam assist, parking distance control, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and wireless charging port) and Prestige (head-up display, surround-view monitor, Nappa leather seating surfaces, power trunk, and suede headliner) add to the niceties.

Those packages are going to fun the final cost to over $50,000, but the Genesis still remains a top luxury vehicle with economic pricing.

What I liked about the 2020 Genesis G70: It looks great, inside and out, and its ride is comfortable and quiet. It has all the bells and whistles you want in a luxury car, and all the systems are very easy to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Genesis G70: The trunk is a bit on the small side (10.5 cubic feet) and fuel economy is not quite as good as many of its competitors, but it’s not overly thirsty either, though premium fuel is recommended.

Would I buy the 2020 Genesis G70? Most definitely. Genesis also offers slightly larger sedans with the G80 and the all-new for 2020 G90, but for me, the G70 strikes the right chord.

Friday, November 15, 2019



Based on the seventh generation of Volkswagen’s popular Golf hatchback, the 2019 VW Golf GTI 2.0T is the Germans’ answer for those buyers asking for a little more punch from the iconic Golf hatchback.

Using Teutonic terms, the GTI is a “hot hatch” offering a bit more in the way of horsepower over the 2018 GTI and a lot more than the 147 horsepower the standard Golf delivers.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the 2019 is rated at 228 horsepower, 8 more than the 2018 GTI though torque numbers remain the same at 258 pound-feet starting at 1500 rpm. Those power numbers are achieved using premium fuel, but you can use regular unleaded if you aren’t seeking that peak performance.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard with a 6-speed automatic as optional for an extra $1,100. Fuel economy is pretty much the same with either transmission with the manual rated at 24 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway and the automatic 25/31. Combined mpg is the same for either at 27.

The 2019 GTI comes in four trim levels including a limited edition Rabbit Edition that slots in between the S and SE. Sitting at the top of the line is the Autobahn trim on which this review is based.

It is easily the most expensive of the bunch with a starting MSRP of $37,990 including the $895 destination and delivery charge with the automatic transmission. The base S model with the automatic starts at $29,590, which puts it at the high end of the segment (remember, subtract $1,100 for the manual tranny).

Additional features you get as standard in the Autobahn over the other trims include a 12-way power sport driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Fender premium audio, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, VW’s Car-Net system for enhanced connectivity, active blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, park distance control, and park steering assistant.

Leather seating surfaces and Sirius/XM satellite radio are standard on both the Autobahn and SE trims. S and Rabbit models get cloth seats with “Clark” plaid inserts (Google it).

Special safety features like forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and rear traffic alert come on the upper three trims and are optional on the base S trim.

The interior is nicely done with techno features easy enough to operate. Both the radio and climate control systems are operated with knobs doing the volume and tuning on the former and temperature and blower on the latter. Of course, there are duplicate controls for the radio on the steering wheel.

The GTI is pretty roomy for a compact with 41.2 inches of legroom up front, 35.6 in the back, and cargo capacity of 22.8 cubic feet. The ride is solid but not overly stiff under normal conditions, and, like most smaller cars, it gives the illusion of higher speed when whipping through the streets and roads.

Little wonder that, according to research by J.D. Power, more than half of GTI buyers identify themselves as “performance” buyers. And they are not kids either. J.D. Power describes the average GTI buy as a male, with a median age of 46 years and median yearly household income of nearly $114,000.

What I liked about the 2019 Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn: Technology is user friendly, though the navigation system map was not updated so I didn’t get a chance to test it, but audio and climate control were fine. You can turn off the automatic stop/start function with the push of a button. Performance was pretty lively. Red accents on the exterior are a nice touch. The interior is roomy for its class.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn: The price tag is pretty steep for a compact hatchback.

Would I buy the 2019 Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn? I no longer fit in this demographic, but if I did a lot of driving on crowded urban with scant parking, I would consider it for sure. It’s a good vehicle for daily commutes.

Friday, November 8, 2019


If you’re looking for a reason for the rise in popularity of SUVs/crossovers and the corresponding slumps in sedan sales, you need look no further than the 2019 Audi Q3, a compact SUV that drives and rides like a traditional car while offering the roominess and hauling capacity that today’s buyers appreciate in an SUV.

Redesigned for this year, the Q3 has it all.

It has two rows of seating to accommodate five passengers comfortably, and its 23.7 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row is 7-10 more cubic feet than you usually get from the traditional sedan trunk. Fold the second row and there is up to 48 cubic feet behind the front row. Even sedans that allow you to fold the back seat can’t match that.

Legroom for second-row occupants is 36.1 inches, which is more than your usual sedan offers. Those in the front get a healthy 40 inches.

Yet you can squire the Q3 with ease through mall parking lots and slide it comfortably into the tightest of spaces without fear of door dings (unless occupants of the adjacent cars are exceedingly careless or rude or both).

Behind the wheel, you get the feel of driving a midsize sedan, whether in urban environs or on the highway. In either case, the ride is smooth and quiet.

The new 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and delivers 228 horsepower from 5000-7500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque from 1700-4400 rpm.

The zero-to-60 mph clocking is 7.0 seconds, not neck-snapping but certainly not sluggish. With Audi’s all-wheel drive quattro system, fuel mileage is 19 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, and 22 combined.

Those are not particularly impressive numbers for the class, especially with some of its luxury competitors boasting highway numbers into the low 30 mpg. But if you’re shopping in this segment, I doubt that would be a deal-killer.

The 2019 Audi Q3 comes in two models with three different trims.

The base Q3 starts at $35,695 (including destination and delivery) with Premium trim and $38,795 with Premium Plus.

The Q3 S Line runs $36,995 in Premium mode, $40,095 in Premium Plus, and $43,995 with Prestige Plus trim.

The S Line rides on 19-inch wheels with 20-inchers as optional, while the base Q3 gets 18-inchers.

In addition to differences in standard equipment, some option packages are also offered only on the upper trim levels on S Line models. A Sport Interior Package available on S Line Premium Plus and Prestige trims includes S line sport seats in black or gray leather with contrast stitching, steering wheel shift paddles and brushed aluminum, matte inlays.

With that Sport Interior Package, you can also add an Alcantara® Interior package which enhances the interior with orange Alcantara accents on the dash and door armrests.

What I liked about the 2019 Audi Q3 S Line quattro: It's a great looking car and the inside is packed with high quality materials. The ride is firm but not not too firm, and performance lively for the segment. A wealth of technological features are very user friendly. Audi's “virtual cockpit” gives you the option of having the navigation map projected into the instrument panel right in front of the driver’s eyes. Setting it to Google Earth view over the standard map also enhances the feature view. Standard all-wheel drive is nice, too.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Audi Q3 S Line quattro: Fuel efficiency could be improved. It seemed like I blinked and the gauge was down to half a tank.

Would I buy the 2019 Audi Q3 S line quattro? Yes. If are wary of giving up your sedan to get an SUV, don’t be. The Q3 will ease that transition for you.

Thursday, October 31, 2019



The good reception that Hyundai’s earlier ventures into the three-row SUV segment (Santa Fe XL, Veracruz) received never really translated into much of the way of overall success in the market, but that may be changing, and soon.

There's no guarantee of that, of course, but the 2020 Hyundai Palisade’s combination of good looks and functionality will even appeal to those who customarily browse luxury showrooms. It’s a high-class vehicle!

Hyundai touts its newest flagship SUV as the “ultimate family vehicle for practical, comfortable daily use” as well as the more adventurous road trips. It replaces the Santa Fe XL (2012 was the last model year for the  Veracruz) as the company’s offering in three-row segment with more space for both passengers and cargo.

The Palisade’s wheelbase has greater length and a longer wheelbase than the 2019 Santa Fe XL, checking in at 196.1 inches and 114.2 inches, respectively, to the outgoing Santa Fe’s 193.1 and 110.2.

Thus passengers in the third row get more leg and shoulder room in the Palisade over the Santa Fe XL, and riders in all three rows get more head, leg and shoulder room.

The Palisade also excels when it comes to cargo space, offering a generous 18.0 cubic feet behind the third row, 45.8 behind the second, and 86.4 being the front row.

That solves the dilemma common to many three-row SUVs of having to decide what stuff you will have to leave behind to accommodate a vacation-bound seven- or eight-passenger load.

The Palisade is offered in three trim levels (SE, SEL, and Limited) with a 3.8-liter V6 engine under the hood that offers 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque.

That engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection and four driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Smart) with a fifth (Snow) offered in all-wheel drive models.

Fuel economy numbers are average for the class at 19 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway, with all-wheel drive and 19/26 with front-wheel drive. Overall performance is more than up to everyday demands, and never in the week that I drove it did I find myself thinking, “I wish this had more power.”

The ride is firm, but comfortable and relatively quiet, and the Palisade handled our neighborhood’s speed bumps with ease and confidence.

The Palisade also is strong in creature comforts with a wealth of safety and technological features like forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, rear parking distance warning, trailer sway control (towing capacity with trailer brakes is 5,000 pounds), projector headlamps with LED accents, LED daytime running lights, high beam assist, rear spoiler, privacy glass, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, keyless entry, lane-following assist, Bluetooth hands-free phone with wireless audio system, rear-view parking monitor with guidelines, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all trims.

The top-of-the-line Limited trim (the preferred model in the lineup) is especially loaded with goodies like Nappa leather seating surfaces, heated and ventilated front and second-row seats limiting capacity to 7 instead of 8), power-folding third-row seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation and traffic flow, a Harman Kardon premium audio system, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar, blind spot monitor, surround view monitor, heads-up display, wireless charging, and Hyunda’s Blue Link system.

Captain’s chairs in the second row (standard on the Limited, optional on the SEL) reduce capacity to seven passengers instead of eight. 

All that runs the Limited’s MSRP up to $47,605 including $1,045 for destination and delivery and $160 for carpeted floor mats. That’s a pretty good jump over the starting price for the SE ($32,595) and SEL ($34,545).

One interesting feature I should mention. New this year is a Blind Spot Avoidance Assist system that projects side views of adjacent lanes in the instrument panel in the spots for the speedometer and tachometer when the corresponding turn signal is activated.

Some reviewers have found the system a bit distracting, but it’s a great feature when used correctly.

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited: This could be a very long list because there is a lot to like here, starting with the user-friendly infotainment system. Hyundai long ago made that a trademark for its products. The Blind Spot Avoidance System is an interesting innovation. It gives you another look for potential vehicles riding in your blind spot.

What I didn't like about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited: I had to think long and hard on this one, and probably the one thing I could come up with is that the buttons in the middle of the center stack to select radio, navigation, etc. can be hard to read depending on the lighting. I’m also not sure I like the push buttons for selecting gears for the transmission. They seem to require a bit more pressure than expected and at times it can be easy to leave your vehicle in drive when you think you have punched in reverse.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited? In a heartbeat. The Limited version can be rather expensive, but it is worth everything you pay for. But the SEL version seems well-equipped and starts at $11,200 less than the Limited giving you some leeway with options.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


The GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4 is a big truck.

It’s also a beautiful truck and a very utilitarian vehicle, but your first impression is pretty much going to be, “Wow. This is a big truck.”

This is not the kind of truck you likely would want for runs to the local home improvement store to pick up a load of sod. This one you’d use for bringing back a load of trees for your landscaping project. Big trees.

Yes, the 2020 GMC 2500HD AT4 is for serious trucksters. GMC even touts it as “the most capable heavy-duty truck” that it has ever offered.

Standard features for AT4 models include a ProGrade Trailering system with an available 15 camera views, keyless open and start, remote start, dual zone climate control, heated front and rear outer seats, ventilated front seats, driver seat and mirror memory, folding exterior mirrors that can be extended with the push of a button, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED reflector headlamps, a tailgate that flips down with the push of a button, a spray-on bedliner, a dozen cargo tie-downs, and side and corner steps for easy access to the bed.

An AT4 Premium Package ($4,215) adds such items as a rear sliding power window, a premium entertainment system with navigation, 8-inch HD touchscreen, voice recognition, Bluetooth audio streaming, Apple CarPlan and Android Auto, Bose premium sound system, wireless charging, LED roof marker lamps, front and rear park assist, lane-change alert with blind side alert, and rear cross traffic alert.

A new 6.0-liter V8 gasoline engine has increased power for 2020 (401 horsepower, 464 pound-feet of torque), but a 6.6-liter Duramax V8 turbo diesel engine is the real big boy. Mated with a new 10-speed automatic transmission, it pumps out 445 horsepower and a whopping 910 pound-feet of torque, giving this behemoth a towing capacity in excess of 30,000 pounds. It runs surprisingly quiet, too.

The AT4 model (as opposed to the upscale Denali) is designed for more off-road use with a 2-speed automatic transfer case as standard.

An off-road suspension, skid plates, a locking differential, and special shocks are included. Hill descent control, hill start assist, and a traction select system with a specific off-road (and tow) mode also are part of the package.

All this comes at a price, of course, and one that matches its size in bigness. Starting MSRP for the Sierra 2500HD AT4 is $57,700 plus a hefty $1,595 destination and delivery charge.

My well-equipped vehicle for the week had enough options to run the bottom line to $77,555 after a $750 AT4 Premium Package discount was taken off.

 What I liked about the 2020 GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4 Crew Cab: This is a great looking truck that is up go about anything you might ask of a full-size pickup. The infotainment features are numerous and very user friendly. The surround-view camera is a real plus. The running board makes the climb up into the Crew Cab much less of a task. You can go a long way between fill-ups with the turbo diesel.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 GMC Sierra 2500HT HT4 Crew cab: Maneuvering in a mall parking lot is a task, a huge task. Even fitting into many marked places is difficult. The backend hangs out into the street in some lots where perpendicular parking is required. The interior could use an upgrading.

Would I buy the 2020 GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4 Crew Cab? I am not a truck guy, especially a big truck guy, so no, I would not. But it is really a great option for those who need such a big vehicle and can afford it.