Wednesday, February 21, 2018


A staple in the Hyundai lineup going on three decades, the Elantra ranks as the South Korean automaker’s best seller and, in fact, is one of the top sellers in the U.S., checking in at the No. 20 spot for 2017 despite a slight dip of 4.9 percent over 2016 numbers.

It was first introduced as an economy sedan and since 2013 also has been offered in hatchback form under the label Elantra GT.

For 2018, the Elantra GT comes in two flavors, a base model and the far more attractive Elantra GT Sport. With a 201 horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo-4 under the hood, the Elantra GT Sport offers a bit of fun behind the wheel as well as providing even better fuel economy than the base model.

The base Elantra GT with its 2.0-liter normally aspirated 4-banger is rated at only 161 hp and 150 pound-feet of torque (to the Sport’s 195 lb.-ft.). With a 6-speed automatic transmission, it earns EPA figures of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway, and 27 combined.

Even with its power advantage, EPA figures for the GT Sport with its 7-speed dual clutch transmission are 26/32/28.

OK. That’s not a huge difference, and the numbers when equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission slightly favor the base over the GT Sport, but with such a power advantage you would expect the GT Sport to be a bit thirstier.

My impression of my week in the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport may have been influenced a bit by the fact that I had been driving some large pickups and SUVs in the preceding weeks, but I found the GT Sport a lively performer even with the double-clutch tranny (essentially an automatic). I can only imagine that manual models are even more fun.

Paddle shifters are included as standard so that’s a plus, though I must confess that driving on South Florida’s mostly flat terrain I find little use for them. Driving in “sport” mode is more convenient and adds performance. 

The cabin is nicely appointed for its class and roomy as well. In fact, cabin capacity is a generous 96.5 cubic feet, resulting in legroom of over 42 inches in the front and just under 35 in the back and a cargo area of nearly 25 cubic feet behind the back seats.

Fold those back seats and the Elantra GT Sport enjoys a big advantage over its competitors with a maximum 55.1 cubic feet of storage space. According to Hyundai, the only competitor that comes close to that is the Volkswagen Golf with a max 52.7 cubic feet. Others offer from 16 to 25 percent less max cargo availability.

So you’re getting both performance and functionality — and technology and features to enhance the overall driving experience.

Standard features in the Elantra GT Sport include an 8-inch display for the 8-speaker audio system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual automatic temperature control, push-button start, electronic parking brake with auto hold (it’s a mystery to me why more manufacturers don’t offer this feature), leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone, 18-inch wheels, full LED headlights and taillights, blinds-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear window wiper and spoiler.

All that is included in a starting price of $24,350 with the double-clutch tranny, which is $4,000 more than the base Elantra GT’s MSRP of $20,350.

Adding options like a Sport Tech package that includes a navigation system and Hyundai’s Blue-Link services plus the $885 destination and delivery charge and the total of my test Elantra GT Sport came to $28,210.

That’s a good jump up from the base Elantra GT starting MSRP of under $20,000 with a manual tranny and just over $20,000 for the base equipped with the 6-speed automatic, but it’s competitive in its class when you take into consideration all the features the GT Sport has to offer.

What I liked about the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport: The GT Sport has quite a bit of technological features for its class, and they are easy to operate. Hyundai has a knack for making life simple. 

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport: Not a lot to complain about here. Designers might want to sacrifice a bit of the spacious cargo area to add an inch or so of legroom in for occupants in the second-row seats.

Would I buy the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport? Yes. The extra features of the GT Sport make it worth your consideration in the compact segment.

Friday, February 16, 2018


At a time when every manufacturer seems to be adding hybrid drivetrains to about every model they put out, electric cars are seen as the future, and self-driving vehicles (ugh) are getting closer and closer to practicality, it’s refreshing, even encouraging, to see that some automakers have yet to drop out of the horsepower wars.

They continue to up the ante when it comes to performance, and I’m not speaking here of strictly sports cars or so-called “sports” sedans and coupes.

Dodge, which gave us the 707-horsepower, Hellcat versions of its Charger and Challenger sedan and coupe, has given the SRT treatment to its Durango SUV for 2018, a 475-horsepower behemoth that the company bills as the most power three-row SUV on the market today.

Equipped with a 6.4-liter HEMI V8, the Durango SRT 392 is rated at 470 pound-feet of torque at 4300 rpm that moves its 5,550 pounds from zero to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, according to company clockers. It is mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a sport mode that increases shift times and delivers up to 65 percent of the power in the all-wheel-drive configuration to the rear wheels.

It has up to seven driving modes, including a Track Mode that favors the rear wheels with 70 percent of the available torque.

Yet it still retains the things you buy an SUV for, which is seating capacity (6), towing power (a best-in-class 8,700 pounds with a special package), and 17.2 cubic feet of storage space behind the third row, 47.7 behind the second.

In a news release, Tim Kuniskis, head of Passenger Cars Brands, Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT – FCA North America, says “This is what you get when you take everything great about the Durango and combine it with the performance of the Charger SRT: a 12-second quarter mile, 8,700-pound-toy hauling, three-row muscle car.”

He might have meant “tow,” not “toy,” but either works I guess.

What Dodge has done with the Durango SRT 392 (392 refers to the engine displacement of 392 cubic inches, SRT for Fiat Chrysler’s Street & Racing Technology division) allows you to have your automotive cake and eat it, too. It’s a fully functional family vehicle that also gives you a thrilling driving performance.

It gave me the feeling behind the wheel that not only could I crush anything in front of me, I could outrun it as well.

About the only thing it lacks is the fuel economy you might like for your family vacation. It is rated at 13 miles-per-gallon city, 19 highway, and 15 combined with premium 91 octane fuel recommended.

Dodge hasn’t forgotten the amenities. Leather front seats are power-adjustable eight ways and are ventilated as well as heated. A Beats premium sound system is standard as well as both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The UConnect 4C Nav system features an 8.4-inch display screen, always a welcome feature for those who like to see everything at a glance. Second-row captain’s chairs are heated. The standard 20-inch wheels are shod with run-flat Pirelli tires.

That and more is included in the past MSRP of $62.995. Adding in options like special Laguna leather seats, an optional package that includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and cross-traffic detection, and full-speed forward collision warning, special SRT interior appearance touches, a second-row console, a power sunroof and the $1,095 delivery charge ran my test Durango SRT up to $75,550, which is a lot more than I ever thought I would see on a Durango widow sticker in my lifetime.

But the availability of three-row SUVs with anything approaching the performance the Durango SRT 392 delivers could run you into the six figures so in that the Durango SRT could be considered a bargain.

What I liked about the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392: Obviously, the power is a big draw, and the interior is classy as well with lots of soft-touch and nicely textured materials. Spartan was the adjective that used to come to mind to the interiors of many previous Dodge models, but not so much any more. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there. The UConnect infotainment systems remains one of the most pleasant to use.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392: Fuel economy leaves a lot to be desired, but then you’ve got to sacrifice something to get all that power.

Would I buy the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT 392? Let’s face it. It’s out of range for my personal budget and I don’t need a three-row SUV. But if that’s not the case with you, I’d say go for it. 

Friday, February 9, 2018


Buick takes its Enclave mid-size crossover SUV to a new level in comfort, functionality, and luxury touches with the debut of its 2018 Enclave Avenir.

This is an SUV that should be on your “look at” list even if you are used to shopping in the luxury class. Make that “especially” if you are used to shopping luxury midsize crossovers. The Buick Enclave Avenir is that good and could save you money as well.

Designers gave the Enclave Avenir a distinct mesh grille, 20-inch six-spoke wheels, special inside touches, a wood-accented steering wheel, five premium exterior colors, and Avenir-scripted sill plates in addition to making standard such features as forward collision and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist and warning, a rear camera that mirror that can function as a traditional mirror or camera to eliminate rear-seat obstructions (like people or headrests), low-speed auto braking, blind-spot warning, leather-appointed seating, LED headlamps, hands-free liftgate, wi-fi hotspot, a dual moonroof, and navigation with an 8-inch display screen.

Think GMC and its Denali trim pickups and SUVs here.

The cabin has an upscale air about it and lots of room for seven passengers, even offering up to 33.5 inches of legroom in the third row. The second row gets 38.9, the front up to 41.2. This makes the Enclave Avenir an ideal vehicle for road trips with friends.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 310 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 266 pound-feet of torque at 2800 and is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission that is smooth as a CVT. It’s not going to give you neck-snapping takeoffs, but it’s enough for daily driving.

Start-stop technology supposedly helps the fuel mileage, which is rated at 18 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway, and 21 combined with front-wheel drive. That seems to fall about in the middle of its class competitors.

It is offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations.

With a optional trailering package installed, towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, which Buick publicists note is more than enough to tow a 21-foot boat.

All this in an attractive vehicle that just might draw the envy of your neighbors.

MSRP for the Enclave Avenir with front-wheel drive is $54,390 including the $975 destination and delivery cost. Adding options like an advance technology package that includes adaptive cruise control, forward automatic braking in place of low-speed forward automatic braking, and premium suspension), a trailering package, and other features can run the final total to $57,175.

That’s a good bit more than the base Enclave, which starts at just under $45,000, but is still a good chunk of change under what similarly equipped luxury imports may run.

What I liked about the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir: Most three-row crossovers skimp on cargo area, but the the Enclave Avenir offers 23.6 cubic feet behind the third row with an underfloor hidden storage bin offering 3.1 cubic feet. Fold the third row (by pressing handy buttons in the rear area) and cargo volume increases to 58 cubic feet. Folding the second row results in  maximum 97.6 cubic feet. The infotainment system is easy enough to operate (though I would like a separate knob to surf the radio dial), and there are lots of soft materials covering touch points.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir: I looked and looked and could find no way to turn off the Start/Stop technology that is standard. The only way I could find to defeat it was to gently ease off the brake just enough to engage the engine without allowing the vehicle inching forward at the intersection. Also, this is getting real nit-picky, but to get into Reverse, you must mover the lever on the center console up and to the left. Not sure I see the point of that little detour. Is there really a problem with people accidentally putting the transmission in Reverse? You get to Park by pressing a button at the top of the knob, which is fine.

Would I buy the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir? Yes, definitely. Unless you love luxury imports so much you like to spend thousands extra for, this could be the crossover for you.

Thursday, February 1, 2018



Zero-to-60 mph times are not usually something to be concerned about when dealing with pickup trucks.

Towing and hauling capacity, endurance, technology, maybe fuel mileage and/or range mostly come ahead of getting from one spot to another as quickly as possible.

But then the 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor is not your usual pickup truck.

Added to the popular F-150 portfolio for 2010 joining other “special trim” models like the Harley-Davidson, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum, the second-generation 2018 F-150 Raptor takes truck performance to a new level with zero-to-60 clockings of 5.1 and/or 5.3 seconds depending on who is handling the stopwatch.

That’s at least a second or two quicker than any other pickup and challenging sport sedans for the honors.

The surprising thing is that the Raptor is putting out this kind of performance not with the largest engine in the Ford F-150 fleet — that would a 5.0-liter V8 — but a 3.5-liter, high-output Ecoboost V6, a turbocharged beauty rated at 450 horsepower at 5000 rpm and a whooping 510 pound-feet of torque at 3500.

That’s roughly 55 hp and 110 lb.-ft. more than the V8 and a boost of 40/80, respectively, over the previous Raptor.

You should check your pulse if you’re not impressed with the get-up-and-go the new Raptor delivers.

That power gets to the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission that is shiftable via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, resulting in EPA mileage figures of 15 mpg city, 18 highway, and 16 combined. Not impressive but hey! You’ve got to sacrifice something to get that power. Towing capacity is listed as 13,200 pounds.

Wrapped around this drivetrain is a really nice truck, bold and aggressive in appearance, starting with the unique front grille, but with a sense of decorum on the inside. You can enjoy the muscle car-like sound that emits from the dual exhausts, or you can be slightly less vigorous in pushing the gas pedal and relish the more quiet, dignified response and ride.

It is more than off-road capable with its 4X4, shift-on-fly system and hill descent control, yet comfortable on city streets and highways as well. There aren’t the bumpy ride you can experience in many pickups.

Standard equipment on the Raptor includes Ford’s Boxlink system to aid in cargo handling, a unique Raptor front bumper, auto LED headlamps, running boards, trailer sway control and trailer tow package, manual climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a unique Raptor center stack, paddle shifters, and 17-inch wheels. You get that with the base MSRP of $49,520 (including the $1,195 destination and delivery charge).

Add such available items as an equipment group package that includes a 360-surround view camera (well worth it considering the size of the vehicle), SYNC Connect, and remote start plus a technology package that adds adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, and lane-keeping assist and the total cost comes to $61,685.

Yes, that’s a lot for a Ford F-150, but the Raptor is a special vehicle.

What I liked about the 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor: The power at your disposal is impressive and makes for a great driving experience when cruising on the highway. The looks are impressive as well, and the cabin is roomy and comfortable. It’s not luxury, but it’s not spartan either. The Sync 3 system is great for operating infotainment functions

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor: Driving in city settings — i.e., parking lots — is not easy. The Raptor is wide, almost 97 inches including the mirrors and still 83.5 inches with them folded, and it can get uncomfortable in tight situations.

Would I buy the 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor? Well, $60,000 is a lot for a pickup, and even the base price is close to touching $50,000. If I had the opportunity to do a lot of off-roading (and the budget), I’d give it a close look.