Thursday, August 24, 2017



It seems like it was just a month ago that I got a red 2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 for review. Actually, of course, it wasn’t that recent. It was back in November.

But this year still has over four months to go, and already now I have had the pleasure of spending a week in the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400.

Time flies, especially when you’re having the fun I did in the two vehicles.

The luxury division of the Japanese automaker Nissan, Infiniti has given its best-selling vehicle some enhancements and new nomenclature for its trim lines. For 2018 it is offered as Q50 2.0t PURE and Q50 2.0t LUXE, Q50 Hybrid LUXE, Q50 3.0t LUXE, Q50 3.0t SPORT and Q50 Red Sport 400.

As was the case when I drove it late last year, my time was spent in the Q50 Red Sport 400, which is the sportiest of the group (natch) with a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine that sends 400 horsepower (hence the 400 designation) and 350 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. (All-wheel drive is also available.)

With a likely zero-to-60 time of well under five seconds (the 2018 clocking wasn’t available and the website caught the 2016 Red Sport in 4.5 seconds), the Q50 Red Sport gets high grades when it comes to performance.

In addition to the tweaks to the trim level names, Infiniti also refreshed both the interior and exterior with some styling tweaks to the front and rear fascias and a new steering wheel. Designers also added another color — Mocha Almond. In plain English, I’d call it light brown, but I don’t know for sure. Both of the Red Sport models I had were, appropriately enough, red. Dynamic Sandstone Red. I like red.

Visually, other than that, there isn’t a lot of difference. And that is a good thing because the Q50 has a rather sexy profile, not coupe-like but close, and the cabin is attractive with high quality materials throughout. Also, it is comfortable and quiet.

Mechanically, a refined electronic power steering is new, and Infiniti’s Directive Adaptive  Steering is available as an option. With either one, the car pretty much goes in the direction you point it, and isn’t that the idea?

Frankly, as I have mentioned before (somewhere in previous blogs), it’s hard to get much in the way of feedback when it comes to steering driving South Florida’s mostly straight roads with 90-degree intersections and the occasional expressway on-ramp.

The Red Sport rides on new, 19-inch aluminum wheels that are slightly wider (9.5 inches) in the rear in RWD models and the same all-around (9.0 inches) with AWD. That’s the same as last year’s Red Sport as are the EPA numbers of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway combined with RWD and 19/26/22 with AWD.

MSRP for the 2018 Q50 starts at $34,200 for the 2.0t PURE (not including destination and delivery) with the 3.0t Red Sport RWD listing at $51,000 or $53,000 for AWD. That’s a slight bump up from the $33.950 for the 2017 2.0t (the base model) and $48,750 for the RWD Red Sport and $50,700 for the 2017 Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD.

I’m thinking that a dealer who is looking to get 2017 models out of his showroom might be willing to haggle, but then what do I know? I may be the only guy who started to pay retail for a golf bag in Mexico.

What I liked about the 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400: Pretty much what I did about the 2017 model, which among other things was its driving performance. I like the idea of a two-screen center stack — one for the navigation map, the other for audio and other systems — and the intuitive way they operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400: I’d like to see a knob for surfing the radio dial instead of pushing a button. Yes, I know you can set presets for local radio but what about when you go out of town? I also had an issue with taking and making calls despite hooking up my cell via Bluetooth. You can blame me for that. A techno-whiz I am not.

Would I buy the 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400? Yes. But if you can get a good price on a 2017, the changes are so subtle you might want to take advantage of that. Frankly, I don’t think that this car, whether 2017 or 2018, gets the respect it deserves.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Having resurrected the Pacifica nameplate in early 2017 with the introduction of a full-fledged minivan replacing the combination wagon/SUV that went out of production after the 2007 model, Chrysler has unveiled a hybrid version of the same for the more fuel-conscious among you.

Both the standard Pacifica and the Pacifica Hybrid are labeled as 2017 models, though the former has been around for well over a year and the latter just hit showrooms this past spring.

They are essentially the same vehicle with the obvious difference in powertrains, plus the popular Stow-’n-Go seats that hide the second row captain's chairs under the floor for more storage are not available on the Hybrid. That's where they put the battery for the electric motor.

Well, there is also a difference in price.

The Pacifica Hybrid Premium (the base trim) carries an MSRP of $43,090 including the $1,095 destination and delivery charge with a $7,500 federal tax credit bringing the effective price down to well under $36,000. (Chrysler says it’s under $35,000 but that doesn’t figure in the destination charge.)

The top trim level for the Hybrid, the Platinum edition, checks in at $46,090, which is competitive with the Pacifica Limited with its 3.6-liter V6 (base MSRP of $42,990) when that tax credit is applied. Various options can make a difference when doing comparison shopping, of course.

The Pacifica Hybrid Platinum I had for a week carried a total MSRP of $47,885 with the Customer Preferred Option Package, which included such features as adaptive cruise control, blind spot and cross path warning, and the UConnect Theater Package, was counted in.

The Pacifica Hybrid is a plug-in model that can go up to an estimated 33 miles on electric power only, which may be enough for running the kids to school or making a grocery trip depending upon where you live and shop. Past that, power comes from the V6.

With an electrically variable transmission with dual motor EV drive capability, the Pacifica Hybrid earns a fuel economy rating of 84 miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe), which the company says leads the minivan segment. Keeping that battery charged for the most efficient operating takes up to 14 hours on standard housing 110-volt storage. Get the level 2 charger (240 volts) and that time is cut to just two hours.

That works for routine daily tasks, and for long family trips where public charging stations may not be available, the gasoline-only operation is rated at 32 miles-per-gallon overall.

With the exception of the second-row, Stow-’n-Go seating, the Pacifica Hybrid comes with all the features you are looking for in a minivan, No. 1 being lots of space for seven passengers and all their stuff.

There are all kind of nooks and crannies for storing items throughout the spacious, nicely appointed cabin. There is 32.3 cubic feet of storage area behind the third row, and the Stow-’n-Go system that is missing on the second row still works for the third with the back seats folding neatly into the floor to boost cargo capacity to 87.5 cubic feet.

The Platinum edition in particular comes with a plethora of standard features that make the difference in price worthwhile. They include a hands-free power liftgate, power sliding doors on both sides, keyless operation with push-button start, capless fuel filler (push a button on the driver’s door and a signal in the instrument panel lets you know when it is ready for fueling), three-zone A/C, UConnect 8.4 NAV (which is one of the more intuitive systems to operate), automatic headlamps with LED daytime running lights, fog lights, LED tail lamps, leather seat surfaces, and an 8-way power driver’s seat with 4-way lumbar lumbar support. 

That Customer Referred Package, a $1,795 option, is well worth it. In addition to the features mentioned earlier, it also includes a 360-degree surround view camera and rear-seat entertainment and park assist systems.

So why go for the Hybrid over the standard Pacifica?

The bottom line to me comes down to how many miles you drive in a typical year and if the savings you get from the Hybrid are worth the difference in upfront costs. I’ve seen people crow about the virtues of their hybrid car and then just let it sit in their driveway most of the day/week.

If you do drive the normal amount and keep that battery charged up, you’ll get the full benefits of the Hybrid, and there also may be state and local tax breaks in addition to the federal tax credit that will make a difference in cost as well.

I’ll let you do the math for your potential savings. It gives me a headache.

What I liked about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: Lots of high quality materials are found throughout the interior. The ride (with an exception I’ll note in a minute) is very quiet and comfortable. It cruises nicely on the highway, and power (estimated 260 horsepower) makes for a nice drive around town.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: The whine from the electric motors — which is typical on many hybrids — as you slow to a stop grinds on the nerves. Also, I don’t like fooling around with the extension cords that come with plug-in hybrids. 

Would I buy the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid? Well, no, I wouldn’t at this stage of my life. I’ve been an empty nester for quite some time. But when it comes to family transportation, a minivan is hard to beat, and the Pacifica Hybrid has to be near the top of your list. If price is the determining factor, check out the gasoline-powered Pacifica. You can get the Stow-’n-Go seats with the vacuum cleaner with it!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class often serves as an introduction to the luxury automotive class for many buyers. It is the company’s best-selling model and ranks high in its class in sales overall.

But not this C-Class.

Not the new AMG C43 Coupe.

This is a C-Class in another, well, class.

The AMG should be your tipoff here. Those initials get the juices flowing for any performance enthusiast.

Basically, it means engineers from what used to be a separate company but now is a division of Mercedes-Benz have tuned this vehicle for the ultimate in driving exhilaration with a more powerful engine, a fine-tuned 9-speed automatic transmission, sport-tuned suspension, and a more muscular exterior appearance with special design touches.

Not your standard C-Class, for sure.

The C43 is a new designation for 2017, replacing what was last year’s AMG C450 with a new biturbo V6 engine rated at 362 horsepower and sending 384 pound-feet of peak torque to all four wheels via Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system (69 percent to the rear wheels).

You can select gears yourself via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or switch modes from C (Comfort) to S (Sport) or S+ (Sport Plus) and let the 9G-Tronic transmission do the work for you. Sport and Sport-plus ups the performance level with Sport-plus adjusting exhaust flaps for a sweet-sounding throaty growl.

A company release defined Sport-plus this way: partial cylinder suppression during full-throttle gear changes by means of a precisely defined delay in both ignition timing and fuel injection allows for faster and more audible gear changes.

In short, more bang for your buck.

The AMG C43 Coupe also features an ECO mode and an automatic stop/start function for the fuel-conscious. EPA figures are 20 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway for a respectable 23 mpg combined considering all that power.

The interior of the AMG C43 Coupe is exquisite. The sport seats give plenty of lateral support, and the red stitching around the seats and doors and across the dash is an eye-pleasing touch. Even the floor mats get a border of red stitching.

Standard equipment covered on the $55,500 base MSRP for the 2017 AMG C43 includes the paddle shifters, a trunk spoiler, heated power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, automatic LED headlamps with twilight sensor and locator lighting, front seat belt presenters (a thoughtful touch that means you don’t have to twist around awkwardly to secure them), a rearview camera, and blind sport and collision prevention systems.

LED daytime running and taillights also are standard.

Optional packages, like high-performance tires and exhaust system, a head-up display giving the driver his speed, rpm level, and gear (assuming the driver is not wearing polarized sunglasses), COMAND navigation and voice control, parking assist, and surround-view camera, plus other AMG design touches and the $995 destination and delivery charge, ran my test vehicle up to $66,496.

That’s a pretty hefty hike over the C300 Coupe with its starting price of $42,650.

The AMG C43 also comes as a Cabriolet starting at $60,400.

That’s just another sign the AMR C43 is no ordinary C-Class.

What I liked about the AMG C43 Coupe: The styling is beautiful, and the performance matches. A manual transmission might add to the fun, but running in Sport-Plus is not a bad substitute. Access to the backseat isn’t bad as the front seats slide forward to provide a bigger gap. Of course, there’s not a lot of room once you get back there — only 32 inches of legroom, but that’s not unusual for its genre.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 AMG C43 Coupe: You might think that with as many engineers and designers that they have at their disposal that Mercedes might come up with a better way of incorporating the display screen for the COMAND system into the dash. As it is, it sticks up like (as I’ve said somewhere before) somebody just stuck an iPad above the center stack. I’ve gotten the hang of operating the COMAND system using the knob on the center console to select various functions on the screen, but I still think it needs to be dumbed down a bit. Sometimes you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you are getting to the right place.

Would I buy the 2017 AMG C43 Coupe? For sure! South Florida Media members judging convertibles at this year’s annual Topless in Miami Presented by Haartz convertible competition liked the AMG C63 S, which comes with a Biturbo V8 (503 hp, 516 lb.-ft. of torque) well enough to score it the winner in its class. It starts at almost $81,000, so you can save a lot with the C43 Coupe or Convertible if you’re willing to give up a half-second on your zero-to-60 time (4.6 seconds with the AMG C43).

Wednesday, August 2, 2017



A recently released list of the world’s Top 100 most valuable brands from BrandZ, an international firm that complies such lists from a database of information, contains the usual automotive suspects.

Toyota checks in at No. 30, BMW at 35, Mercedes-Benz at 40, Ford at 83, and Honda at 91 on the ranking of most valuable global brands.

Not making the Top 100 overall companies but checking in at spots 6-8 on a side list of the Top 10 automotive brands are Nissan, Audi, and Tesla.

No real surprises there. 

But No. 9 among automotive brands might catch you off guard.

Remember, we’re talking globally here, and Land Rover checks in at No. 9 just ahead of No. 10 Porsche in the listing of the Top 10 most valuable automotive brands.

Yes, Land Rover may rank only 27th overall in U.S. sales with less than half a percent market share, but thinking globally, the famed British marque has been on a rise since the Indian conglomerate Tata purchased it and Jaguar from Ford in 2008. According to BrandZ, Land Rover has a net worth of $5.534 billion.

That’s a 17 percent jump over 2016 and places it right between Tesla ($5.876 billion) and Porsche ($5.141 billion). Land Rover actually was one of only three automotive brands that saw an increase in value over the past year, the others being Mercedes-Benz (4 percent) and Porsche (16 percent). (Ford remained the same.)

You don’t do that unless you are doing something right.

Actually, a lot of things right, and that includes sprucing up the product line. In recent years, it introduced a more performance-driven SUV with the Range Rover Sport and a more urban-oriented vehicle in the Range Rover Evoque. It even came out with a convertible version of the Evoque for 2016.

That refining process continues with the Land Rover Discovery.

Possibly not as familiar to the casual shopper as the Range Rover or Evoque, the Discovery gets its name back as it enters its fifth generation. Over the last 12 years it carried first the LR3 badge, then LR4 in the U.S. Land Rover claimed the name change was due to the “negative” association shoppers had with the Discovery label, but I think it was done by the same people who like to tinker with website designs. A curse on them!

For 2017, the Discovery has been redesigned inside and out, with the exterior getting more rounded lines to alleviate the Land Rover’s usual boxiness, which givesthe rear end a somewhat bulbous butt, and the interior coddling up to seven passengers with lots of room and soft, high quality materials.

It comes in three trims — base SE, HSE, and HSE Luxury — with a fourth, Launch Edition, offered in a limited production run of 500 vehicles so you probably can’t find one now. A 3.0-liter supercharged V6 is standard, though diesel models also are offered on the two higher trims.

The V6 provides plenty of punch with 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission resulting in fuel figures of 16 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway, and 18 combined. Four-wheel drive is standard on all models.

The Discovery may be a beast, but with the transmission set in Sport mode, it is an agile one. And it has plenty of muscle with a towing capacity of just over 8,200 pounds.

Of course, being a Land Rover, it also has exceptional off-road capability, which being in South Florida and its flat terrain, I did not get an opportunity to test out. Alas. Couldn’t really challenge it on any curvy road either.

I spent the week in the top-of-the-line HSE Luxury model, which has a third-row as standard as well as air-suspension that allows you to lower the vehicle for easier in-and-out as well as for cargo loading. The back- and second-row seats lower and raise at the push of a button just to the inside of the rear and can be configured in up to four different ways.

Standard equipment on the HSE Luxury includes (but is not limited to) a gesture-operated tailgate (a wave of the foot at the corner of the rear bumper opens and closes it), electronic air suspension, 16-way power adjustable driver and front-passenger seats, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, beaucoup Bluetooth and USB connectivity (up to nine USB charging points when the rear-seat entertainment package is included), front and rear parking aids, rear-view camera, and LED automatic headlights and fog lights.

That all is included in the base MSRP of $63,950.

The vehicle I had also included optional packages that included adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot warning, reverse traffic detection, chrome paddle shifters, towing package, a Dynamic body kit, brushed aluminum console, Terrain Response 2 with settings for automatic, grass/gravel/snow, mud ruts, sand, and rock crawl, upgraded Windsor leather seats, 21-inch wheels, rear-seat entertainment system, a head-up display,  roof rails, and a 360-degree camera.

All that plus the $995 destination and delivery charge ran the total MSRP to $82,300. The base SE starts at $50,985, the gas HSE at $57,945 (including destination and delivery).

What I liked about the 2017 Land Rover Discovery: It’s a big vehicle (nearly 196 inches long and just under 79 inches wide), which means you have to be aware of its size when in tight places, but it doesn’t particularly drive like one. It is smooth and quiet on the highway with little-to-no road or wind noise.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Land Rover Discovery: It’s packed with a lot of technology, but isn’t very intuitive to operate. I get that the idea of “pinching” the touchscreen is the new way to adjust scale for the navigation system, but I’m just as content tapping the plus or minus sign on the screen. My main peccadillo would be the lack of storage space when the third row is upright. It’s only 9.1 cubic feet. With the third-row seats folded, it jumps to 45 feet, then to 82.7 to 85 with the second-row down.

Would I buy the 2017 Land Rover Discovery? I have no need for a vehicle of this size or off-road capability, but that shouldn’t hold you back if that’s what you want/need. I think sometimes reviewers tend to be overly critical of the Land Rover, but I find it to be an interesting combination of luxury and functionality in the SUV world.