Sunday, April 25, 2021

2021 HYUNDAI SONATA SEL PLUS


HYUNDAI SONATA SEL PLUS SEDAN A NICE ALTERNATIVE TO N LINE, HYBRID MODELS


About a decade after bringing a hybrid version of its popular Sonata sedan to mark, Hyundai introduced a performance-oriented model with the Sonata N Line. (For my takes on those, see the April and August files in the index to the right.)

But if your automotive budget doesn’t quite stretch as far as $33,300 Sonata N Line or $35,300 for the top of the line Sonata Hybrid Limited, here is some good news.

The non-N Line, non-hybrid Sonata offers a very attractive alternative for those shopping in the “affordable” midsize sedan segment.


The 2021 Hyundai Sonata comes in four trims starting with the base SE at $23,700. With a starting MSRP of $28,800, the SEL gets a little more in the way of standard equipment, and SEL Plus and Limited versions run take that on up $28,300 and $33,300, respectively (not including the destination and delivery charge.

Also offered in SE, SEL, and Limited trim, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus, which this review is based on, is stacked with just about everything you might desire in family vehicle without venturing into full-blown luxury class.

The SEL Plus comes with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 180 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque, giving it a slight advantage over the 2..5L 4-banger in the SE and SEL when it comes to torque get-away power.


All Sonatas all front-wheel drive and come with an 8-speed automatic transmission. They all also offer LED headlights with high-beam assist (which, frankly, I don’t care for) and LED taillights, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and safety features like lane-keeping assist and forward collision avoidance with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Gears are selected via a push-button panel on the console, and SEL Plus and up models also get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Starting with the SEL trim, you get keyless entry and push-button start, Hyundai’s Blue Link connectivity service (think GM’s OnStar here), heated front seats, hands-free trunk opener, and blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert and lane changing assist.


What features put the “plus” in the SEL Plus? Glad you asked. 
 
There’s the turbo engine, of course, and also standard are leatherette seats over cloth, a wireless charging device, leather-wrapped steering wheel (optional on the SEL, Hyundai’s Homelink system to allow you to connect with devices such as garage door or gate openers (also optional on the SEL), and 19-inch alloy wheels over  the SEL's 17s and SE's 16s.

A Tech Package that includes navigation on a 10.25-inch screen and Bose premium sound is an optional offered on the SEL Plus but not available on SEL models.


The SEL Plus also includes standard such features like rear vents, Hyundai Digital key (which allows you to operate your car via your Smartphone instead of a physical key) and Smartphone charging, all in a Convenience Package that costs as an option on SEL models.

Right there you have pretty much made up the difference in the higher MSRP for the SEL Plus over the SEL.

A Tech Package (panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, Bose premium sound system with 12 speakers and a 12-inch woofer, navigation and highway drive assist) and floor mats the bottom line for my test vehicle to $32,174.

That does make for a rather complete package for the Sonata SEL Plus, however, one that you may find as much satisfaction in as you will the Sonata N Line or Sonata Hybrid.

The get-up-and-go in the Sonata SEL Plus doesn’t quite match that of the Sonata N Line, but the difference is not noticeable in every day driving. And when it comes to fuel economy, numbers for the SEL Plus are a very respectable 27 miles-per-gallon city, 37 highway, and 30 combined, not as good as the base Hybrid Blue model (50/54/52) or the 15/51/47 for the other trims offered on the Sonata but still very good.

Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of the Sonata versions. They each have their points.

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus: The exterior styling has the eye-catching look of a coupe and the interior is top-notch and roomy. Infotainment functions are plentiful and very user-friendly. The trunk is very spacious.(16 cubic feet).and pops open at the push of a button on the key fob or the dash.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus:  While audio functions are easy and intuitive to operate (like the rest of the tech features), I still would like a knob to spin through the radio dial. Nit-picking? Very much so, but that is the only thing that really annoys.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus? Yes. The SEL Plus is a nice combination of technological features in an an attractive package. By the time you add in options on the SEL model to match what the SEL Plus offers as standard, you are pretty much at the same price.



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

2021 KIA SORRENTO SX PRESTIGE X-LINE



X-LINE UPGRADES GIVE 2021 KIA SORENTO CROSSOVER SUV MORE OFF-ROAD CHOPS


A hybrid drivetrain was not the only feature Kia added when it gave its Sorento midsize SUV a makeover for this year.

The 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line is designed for those looking for more off-road capability with a slightly higher ground clearance, improved approach/departure angles, and a more capable roof rack than outgoing Sorento models.

It also has more power. The 2.5-liter, turbo 4-cylinder is rated at 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, a jump of 90 hp and 130 lb.ft. over the base Sorento LX model.



It is mated with an 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that comes with paddle shifters and an extra Snow mode to take advantage of the all-wheel drive configuration to go along with Comfort, Sport, Smart, and Eco.

Mileage figures of 21 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 24 combined are competitive for its class.



As befitting a model at the top of the top of the Sorento trim options, the Sorento SX Prestige X-Line offers a long list of features that are covered by the starting MSRP of $42,590, making adding expensive options unnecessary.

Those features included navigation with a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth wireless technology, wireless charger and USB outlets in all three rows, one-touch slide-and-go second row captain’s chairs, dual-zone climate control, heated power front seats, keyless entry and push-button start, and Kia’s UVO suite of connected services.



A panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade, hands-free open and close rear lift gate, and LED projection headlights, tail lamps, and fog lights also are included. 

Lots of safety systems are included, though you, like I, may find the Highway Driving Assist features gives the steering a bit of an unsettling, odd feel. Other safety systems include blind-spot assist, forward collision prevention assist, rear cross-traffic assist, lane keeping and lane following assist.


There’s also an alert that lets you know when a vehicle ahead of you has begun to move after being stopped
an intersection in case you didn’t notice. I often have the same alert function just to my right when I am driving.

Special additions to the SX Prestige X-Line model replacing SX features include 20-inch alloy wheels, X-Line front and rear bumper fascias, matte trim accents, special X-Line roof rails, leather seat trim, Bose premium sound, a surround-view camera, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated steering wheel, parking collision assistance (reverse), and aluminum sport pedals.

The only extras on my test vehicle were an X-Line rush inhibitor package, carpeted floor mats, and carpeted cargo mat with rear seat protection. Those features ran the final bottom line to $44,285 including the $1,170 destination and delivery fee.

What I liked about the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line:
The interior is very classy.. Seats are very comfortable and well-suited for road trips, and fuel efficiency is good for its class. The upgrade to the X-Line from the SX adds many features as standard. Infotainment features — and there are many of the included — are user-friendly. Adaptable cruise control makes highway cruising comfortable, and I like the cameras that display what’s in your blind spot when you activate your turn signal.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line:
Cargo space when the third-row seats are in place is extremely limited. Most of the 12.6 cubic feet capacity is vertical space as there is very little room to put items on the floor. If you need the third row for trips, you’re going to have to store baggage on the roof. Fortunately, upgraded roof rails are included in the X-Line ‘slist of standard features. Some of the driver assist features take some getting used to.

Would I buy the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line? Yes. My son’s young daughters gave this one an enthusiastic endorsement. They hadn’t been in it five minutes climbing in the back, raising and lowering the seats, and checking out the panoramic sunroof when they told me, “You should keep this one!” Even if you don’t have small children (or grandchildren) the 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line is a good crossover SUV for empty-nesters as well. Storage with the back seats folded is a spacious 38.5 cubic feet.



Friday, April 2, 2021

2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line



HYUNDAI GIVES SEDATE SONATA SEDAN MORE GET-UP-AND-GO WITH N LINE MODEL


After giving its longstanding midsize Sonata a makeover for the 2020 model year, Hyundai has upped the performance meter for the spiffy sedan with the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line.

N Line models come out of the South Korean automaker’s performance division with an added kick and extra design touches that give them a sportier appearance and power boost.

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that ups horsepower and torque to  respectively, to 200 hp and 311 pound-feet over the 191/181 produced by the 4-banger in the base SE model and the 180/195 in the 1.5L turbo in SEL Plus and Limited Sonatas.

The N Line comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection, which as far as I concerned gives it a distinct advantage over the continuously variable transmissions found on some competitors.



The N Line also offers the option of four drive modes, including a Custom setting that allows you to vary the gear ratios and steering settings and turn off the Electronic Stability Control to your preference.

Normal, Sport, and Sport-Plus are the other modes.



It might be nice if the Sonata N Line was rear-wheel drive, but, as with other Sonatas, the power goes to the front wheels.

Fuel mileage for the Sonata N Line isn’t all that far off from that of the other Sonatas. EPA figures are 23 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 27 combined for the Sonata N Line and 28/38/32 for the base Sonata SE.



All Sonatas have the same length (192.9 inches), wheelbase (111.8 inches) and passenger space (46.1 and 34.8 inches of legroom front and rear) and trunk capacity (16.0 cubic feet), but N Line models have a little more heft (3,552-pound curb weight to 3,120 for SE trim) and ride on standard 19-inch wheels to the 16-, 17-, and 18-inchers on other trims.

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line comes with a long list of standard appearance, comfort and convenience features to make adding numerous option packages unnecessary.



They include a panoramic sunroof, Smart cruise control with Stop-and-Go function (which can be turned off), LED headlights, rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a unique front and rear fascia with twin exhaust outlets, keyless entry and push-button start, dual automatic temperature control, hands-free trunk release, unique N leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bose premium audio, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 10.25-inch display featuring navigation and operation of other infotainment features.

Safety systems include blind  spot and collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert, lane follow and lane keeping assist, the usual assortment of air bags, and a “safe exit” warning.

The MSRP of $34,305 (including destination and delivery) covers all that. Summer tires and carpeted floor mats ran the bottom line on my Sonata N Line for the week to $34,674, which, sad to say, is becoming an “affordable” cost these days.

What I liked about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: It comes with a lot of standard technology and pretty much all of it is user-friendly with one tiny exception (see below). It is not overpowering, but it is fun to drive. The cabin is pretty roomy, and
the seats are comfortable. Mileage is still pretty good for what you get in way of performance.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: I don’t know why Hyundai saw fit to do away with a knob to use to spin through the radio dial. It’s much easier to control than pushing the seek or scan button on the touchscreen.

Would I buy the 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line? Yes. If you are thinking “outside the box” in considering a sedan, the Sonata N Line has to be on your list, preferably at the top. The redesign gave it a classy look, and the N Line ups the fun-to-drive quotient without sacrificing much in fuel efficiency.



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

BLINK OFFERS CHARGING OPTIONS






SOUTH FLORIDA COMPANY WORKING

TO ALLEVIATE RANGE ANXIETY FOR PEVS


A big worry, probably the biggest, that most owners have with electric vehicles is a fear that they will run out of juice when they are far from charging outlet.

A South Florida company is taking on that issue and more with products that will allow you to charge up your plugin electric vehicle at home, at a commercial charging station, or virtually anywhere on the road via a gas-generated 240-volt mobile charger that will provide enough charge to get you home or to the closest fast-charging station.

The company is Blink Charging. It was founded in 2009 and has headquarters in Miami Beach.

It offers a wide-range of products for home use as well as a network of over 23,000 charging stations nationwide covering 40 states and eight countries.

The company also is in the process of creating infrastructure that will make finding an outlet to charge up your PEV no more of a challenge than gassing up your fossil-fuel car or truck at the corner gas station.

According to Blink Vice President for Grants David Soens, who was one of the speakers at a recent Zoom session for the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA), the federal government has designated certain highly traveled corridors around the United States for  a network of fast-charging stations.

Blink offers investment opportunities for companies to establish outlets as well as working with federal, state, and in some cases municipal grants to build the infrastructure. In Florida, Soens said, owners of charging stations will work with the state on evacuation plans to make sure that EV drivers have a designated path to safety in the case of a an approaching storms.

Blink prefers to operate under the owner-operator model with the company maintaining ownership of the fast chargers and charging stations to maintain of potential future income possibilities and also be assured that if something does go wrong the company can step right in and fix it, Rebecca Gutierrez, VP for Marketing, said during the session.

That separates it from most other companies that make fast chargers and sell them outright.



Outlets may be installed at all kinds of locations, said Rock Henderson, CEO of Ghost Space, which works with Blink to secure those locations.

Henderson said having a charging station outside a store or shop can actually help a business’  bottom line as 89 percent of EV drivers who plug in at a location then enter that business to shop, and 43 percent become regular customers.

In addition to apartment and condo complexes and business offices (charge your car while you work!), other potential sites for charging outlets include fast-foot restaurants, strip malls, and virtually any business that caters to the public.

“It’s a perfect match. You get your ‘charge’  inside while you’re getting your charge outside,” Henderon said. “It works at all levels of private industry.”



Even a gas station can can offer a fast-charging service.

“We think it’s a great incentive for our customers to provide that at our shopping locations,” said Matthew Bingham, an acquisition specialist for Florida-based Bingham Realty. “They can charge their car while shopping or getting a coffee or a sub sandwich or any of the above.

“We see a great potential in it. We think it would be a great resource to have at our locations.”

Some day, and maybe sooner than you think, there will be facilities with multiple hookups like the typical food-store-fast-food-fuel-rest stop along today’s Florida’s Turnpike. There’ already is one such large charging facility in England.



And more good news: Equipment updates also are continually cutting the length of time it takes to get an electric vehicle fully charged.

“We were doing 50-kilowatt chargers six, seven, eight years ago and now we are evolving to 150-kilowatt plus and then moving to 350-kilowatt chargers,” Soens said. “That’s going to reduce your charge time at a location from 30 to 40 minutes to 15 minutes and in some cases even under 10-minute charge events in the near future.”

Speaking of charges, Soens says the average cost to get an EV up to speed is $10, though that can vary according to what vehicle you are charging and its battery capacity.

For more information on Blink, visit www.blinkcharging.com.

Friday, March 26, 2021

2021 CADILLAC CT5 V-SERIES



V-SERIES UPGRADES ADD FUN TO DRIVING EXPERIENCE OF CADILLAC CT5 SEDAN


A replacement for the aging CTS when it debuted as a 2020 model, Cadillac’s CT5 sedan previewed at the 2019 New York Auto Show as a 2020 model and made a rather impressive debut by earning the No. 1 ranking for midsize sedans in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. 

 

For 2021, it is offered in five trims, but this review will concentrate on the 2021 Cadillac CT5 V-Series edition that tops the portfolio at a starting MSRP of $48,700 when the $905 destination and delivery charge is tacked on.


Cadillac’s V-Series gets tuning upgrades from the company’s Performance Division to compete with AMG and M models from luxury competitors Mercedes-Benz and BMW, respectively, in catering to those buyers seeking a little more “go” in their driving experience.



Appropriately enough, the first vehicle to get the V treatment was the 2004 CTS-V, which no doubt help spark the best sales year ever for the CTS with 61,512 in sales for in 2005, according to figures at goodcarbadcar.net.


By comparison, only 6,936 CTS sedans were reported sold in 2019, hence the need for a replacement.



The 2021 Cadillac CT5 V-Series comes with a 3.0-liter, biturbo V6 engine that sends its drive force (360 horsepower, 405 pound-feet of torque) to its rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. (All-wheel drive also is available).


The zero-to-60 mph time for the CTS5 V-Series is 4.3 seconds, according to carindigo.com, which is good enough so that if even it won’t win a drag race with one of the Teutonic performance sedans at least it won’t embarrass itself.



If you are interested in a V-Series, fuel mileage may not be high in your priorities, but for the record, the government tabs the CT5 V-Series at 18 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, and 21 combined. (I guess that means we should be doing more road trips instead of doodling around town!)


For 2021, the V-Series gets a revised leather-wrapped steering wheel with a new leather horn pad and some suspension upgrades to ensure a smooth, confident ride.



All CT5 models get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard along with a new Buckle-to-Drive safety features that prevents the driver from shifting out of Park for 20 seconds if the engine is started if the driver’s seat belt is not fastened. Fastening the seat belt allows an immediate shift.


The system can be disabled via vehicle settings on the infotainment system.


Standard features on the CT5 V-Series include 18-way, power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, leatherette seating surfaces, leather-wrapped performance steering wheel with paddle shifters, LED headlight and tail lights, rain-sensitive wipers, keyless entry and push-button start, Bluetooth communications, wireless phone charging, Brembo front brakes, a rear spoiler, and dual quad exhaust tips.


In addition to the Buckle-to-Drive system, other safety features include blind-spot alert, lane-change alert, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection braking, and rear cross-traffic alert.


While that list of standard features is pretty extensive, the really good stuff comes in optional packages that can run the price tag from the mid-$40,000 range to well over $60,000.


Extras on my 2021 CT5 V-Series for the week included a $6,290 Platinum Package (sunroof, semi-Aniline seats, and parking assist), a $5,290 Premium Package (navigation and Bose Premium sound, and climate and lighting packages), a $1,950 Driver Assist Package (adaptive cruise control, locking fuel door and lug nuts, reverse automatic braking), and other stand-alone items that ran the total to $63,445.


Scheduled for late availability is Super Cruise, a hands-free driver assist system that comes with automated lane changing system that allowis a driver to tap the turn signal for high-speed lane changes.


What I liked about the 2021 Cadillac CT5 V-Series: Cadillac’s V-Series is about performance, and the 2021 CT5 V-Series lives up to that mission as a fun luxury car to drive. Infotainment features also are much more user friendly than some previous Cadillac models and the 12-inch touchscreen is a nice feature.


What I didn’t like about the 2021 Cadillac CT5 V-Series:.Despite solid horsepower and torque numbers, the engine has a rather tinny exhaust tone that can be off-putting. The side mirrors need to be just a tad bigger to give the driver a better view.


Would I buy the 2021 Cadillac CT5 V-Series? Without a doubt, yes.You’ll pay extra to get the V-Series treatment over the standard CT5, but you’ll get more bang per buck.



Friday, March 19, 2021

2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye



HOLD ON TIGHT! DODGE CHARGER HELLCAT GETS MORE POWER WITH REDEYE EDITION

Probably the last thing you might think the Hellcat version of the Dodge Charger sedan needs is a power boost.

As if the 707 horsepower in the debut 2015 Hellcat wasn’t enough, Dodge has upped the number for this year’s base Hellcat to 717.

Still hungry for more?

Dodge has come out with a Redeye version that takes horsepower to just short of the 800 mark at 797. That’s 47 more ponies than what NASCAR engines are allowed for road courses and short tracks for this year and far more than the 550 the stock cars are permitted on the larger tracks like Homestead-Miami and super speedways like Daytona and Talladega (https://nas.cr/38UiIDk).



That engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Torque is rated at 707 pound-feet and moves the 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds.

Dodge timers clocked it at 10.6 seconds for the quarter-mile. Top speed for what the automaker hails as the world’s most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan is 203 mph.

That’ll spice up your daily commute!



Actually, though, I’m not sure you will want to use the Dodge SRT Hellcat for getting back and forth to work (after first impressing your co-workers, of course). Mileage ratings of 12 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway, and 15 combined are not exactly suited for such tasks.

Saving the Charger for weekends would be my recommendation, especially considering how thirsty it is and that premium fuel (91 octane) is required to keep the engine going. Keep in mind, too, that the SRT stands for Street & Racing Technology, so take the hint.



The 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye comes in Widebody form only  boosting width to 78.3 inches (without mirrors), or 3.5 inches wider than the standard Hellcat, to accommodate the wider wheel wells.

At 201 inches, the SRT Hellcat Redeye is slightly longer than the other Charger trims, though not by much. With a curb weight of 4,610 pounds, the SRT Hellcat Redeye also is a bit heftier than its Charger stablemates, including the regular Hellcat (4,595 pounds). 



Charger is classed as a large sedan and offers passengers the luxury of 41.8 inches of legroom up front and 40.1 in the back. Truck space, too, is generous at 16.5 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold to accommodate larger items.

Ventilated Laguna leather seats are standard on the Redeye, and, as with other Charger models, they are power adjustable eight ways with lumbar support for both front seat occupants.

Plenty of infotainment features are offered in the UConnect 4C system, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth communications and streaming audio, and satellite radio all operating off an 8.4 -inch screen. The system can be upgraded to include navigation as well.

The good thing about that technology is that none of the functions require an engineering degree to operate. And the ride is surprisingly comfortable.

Standard safety features on the 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye include a parking assist system, blind-spot monitoring with cross-path detection, and numerous air bags.

The MSRP of $69,595 covers all that. Options like a Customer Preferred Package that included special Redeye design touches and a 220 mph speedometer, a Suede Package that included a suede headliner and carbon-fiber interior accents, and navigation ran the total for my week’s vehicle to $86,865 including the $2,000 gas guzzler’s tax and $1,695 destination charge.

What I liked about the 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat RedEye Widebody: The performance is exactly as advertised. Unlike the original Charger, which was a two-door coupe, it has four doors, but it still is very much a Muscle Car. Technology is plentiful and easy to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody: The interior isn’t as spartan as the early Muscle Cars but still could use an upgrade. Those shopping in this price range generally expect more refinement. Gas mileage is about you would expect from a beast like this beast.

Would I buy the 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody? Let’s face it. Unless you are going to take it to the track, there really is no need for all that horsepower for daily drives. It is fun for a while, lots of fun really, I wonder how long the thrill will last.