Monday, April 23, 2018


The Hyundai Accent moves into its fifth generation with the introduction of the 2018 model with the big change being the elimination of the hatchback version of this well-equipped and under-appreciated economy car.

The Accent is now available only in sedan form, but that should serve the market well.

Though Hyundai vehicles like the Sonata sedan, Veloster coupe, and Santa Fe SUV are splashier, there possibly is no better example of just how far the South Korean automaker has come over the last 30-plus years since its debut in the U.S. than the Accent.

It wasn’t the first model the company brought here. That would be the Excel, which got off to an impressive start with nearly 169,000 sold in its first year here (1986) but soon faded when its flaws and weaknesses in quality made it the butt of jokes.

The Accent made its debut nearly a decade later and soon after began a product resurgence that continues today for the company’s output. Results of J.D Power’s Initial Quality Study for 2017 motor vehicles showed Hyundai ranking in the Top 10 and well above the industry average, trailing its countryman and No. 1 Kia but finishing ahead of its Asian rivals Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, and Nissan/Infiniti.

Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury offshoot, ranked second with only 77 problems per 100 vehicles to Kia’s 72 and parent Hyundai’s 88 score. The industry average for 2017 was 97 within the first 90 days of ownership covering such areas as seats, engine/transmission, features and controls, exterior and interior, heating and air conditioning, and audio/communication/entertainment/navigation.

To get back to the Accent, Hyundai made the 2018 version slightly larger, 172.6 inches long and 68.1 wide to the 2017 model’s 172.0/66.9 numbers to give it more interior volume. Its 103.9 cubic feet actually puts it into the compact rather than the subcompact class, according to the federal government standards.

But more important, designers gave the cabin a classier feel despite the generous use of hard plastic materials, and they filled it with a plethora of features not usually found as standard in the segment.

The top-of-the-line Limited trim gets touches like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, 7-inch touchscreen audio display, satellite radio (with 90-day trial subscription), Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Hyundai’s Blue Link connective services, push-button start, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, automatic climate control, and more included in the base MSRP of $18,895.

That price also includes safety features like brake assist, rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, forward collision avoidance, and blind-spot as well as items like projection headlamps and LED taillights, power sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Hyundai’s well-known 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

Getting its 2,679 pounds moving is a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine that is rated at 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. No, that’s not a lot of punch, but that is somewhat mitigated by fuel mileage figures of 28 miles-per-gallon city, 38 highway, and 32 overall. That’s not the best in its class, but it puts the Accent among the leaders.

The standard transmission on the Limited and SEL trims is a 6-speed automatic that has manual gear selection capability. The base SE model has a 6-speed manual as standard with the automatic as an option. Fuel numbers for the manual are 28/37.

Though the Accent isn’t likely to win many drag races (if you’re into that sort of thing), it’s not a bad driver, and the ride is smooth and quiet. It’s far from being boring on city streets, and you won’t be intimated in expressway traffic.

Getting as much out of a less-than-$20,000 car as you do with the Accent is a reward in itself. And the SE starts at under $15,000 with the manual and under $16,000 with the automatic. The SEL has a starting price of $17,295.

What I liked about the 2018 Hyundai Accent Limited: It has a nice array of technological features that are easy to operate. The front seats offer up to 42.1 inches of legroom, and the trunk is 13.7 cubic feet, good for a sedan in its segment.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Hyundai Accent Limited: The backseat is snug, as you might expect, with 33.5 inches of legroom. I’d like to see a little more out of the performance, but then, that wouldn’t be what you’re looking for in this segment.

Would I buy the 2018 Hyundai Accent Limited? Yes. It’s tough to beat what the Accent has to offer in an economical package. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Chrysler may have pulled the plug on its midsize 200 sedan after the 2017 production run because of lagging sales, but the company’s full-size 300 sedan remains a viable competitor in its class.

Though sales of the 300 were off just under 14 percent for the first quarter of 2018 compared to a year earlier, March numbers showed a significant jump of 25 percent over the same month in 2017, making it only one of 10 in its segment to show an increase for the month.

With 6,223 sold, the 300 trailed only the Dodge Charger (8,504) and Chevrolet Impala (7,581) for the month.

Maybe it’s that history is on its side.

Use of “300” in Chrysler automotive nomenclature dates back to the 1950s and the company’s “letter series,” but the current rendition dates back just over a decade when automotive media bestowed North American Car of the Year honors on the 2005 Chrysler 300 that Ralph Gilles designed.

Now Head of Design for the company making him — according to the company releases — responsible for “shaping and directing design across the Company's entire brand portfolio,” Gilles was dubbed the “King of Bling” for the aggressive approach he took with the 300’s design.

Some corners considered its styling polarizing. You either loved it or hated it, but one thing was certain: You couldn’t ignore it.

“The 300 was one of Ralph’s great designs because it has almost an Africa-American, urban presence to it,” comedian and automotive enthusiast/collector Jay Leno says in a Netflix series, Abstract: The Art of Design, that delves into the art and science of design. “It’s got street cred. It looks cool.”

It also may have been a life saver for Chrysler or at least instrumental in helping navigate the company through some dark financial times.

In 2011, Chrysler modified the 300 but just a bit, cutting back on what a New York Times reviewer called the gangsta-chic styling elements with a more refined look with rounder lines and slightly bigger windows.

But come to this year, the 13th since its introduction, there is no mistaking the 2018 Chrysler 300 for any of its competitors. If the styling is a bit less polarizing, it still remains very much distinctive.

The 300 lineup for 2018 gets a new Touring model as the base, but I spent my week in the 300S, the sportier of the group that falls at the midpoint of the trim line between the Touring and Touring L models and the Limited and 300C.

It had the optional 5.8-liter HEMI V8 under the hood in place of the standard V6, which upped horsepower and torque to 363 hp and 395 pound-feet from the smaller engine’s 260/264, respectively. I’d have to say if you want to get the full benefits of the sportier performance the 300S offers over its stablemates, the V8 is the way to go, but it does cost $3,000 more.

The engine is mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission that features paddle shifters and sport mode to further enliven responses. With rear-wheel drive, fuel economy for the V8 is rated at 16 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway using recommended mid-grade (89 octane) fuel. Figures are 19/30 for the V6 with RWD, 18/27 with AWD with regular 87 octane recommended.

Apparently, nobody at the company put a stop watch on the 300S to get a zero-to-60 time, but previous models had it in the six-second range and the website caught the 300C SRT8 at 4.3 seconds a few years ago. Sad to say, the SRT8 model is no longer offered.

Considering you’re going to be spending most of your time inside, it’s worth noting that the interior of the 300S has kept up with the times. The seats are comfortable, the ride is quiet and fairly smooth, and the entire cabin has been opened up with the slightly larger windows from those of the first generation improving vision overall. It’s still slightly restricted out the back, though.

Features such as Keyless Go, remote start, ParkView rear backup camera, UConnect 4C with 8.4-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and integrate voice command with Bluetooth are included in the $35,795 base MSRP.

Adding optional features such as the 300S Premium Group (navigation, dual panel, panoramic sunroof, etc.), 300S Premium Group 2 (HID headlights, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, memory for driver’s seat, radio, and mirrors, parking assist system, blind-spot warning, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats, and ventilated front seats, among other features), Beats Premium sound system, the HEMI V8, and safety features like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control can run the total to over $48,000 including the $1,095 destination and delivery charge.

Price range for the 300 lineup runs from under $30,000 to just under $41,000 before extras are added in.

What I liked about the 2018 Chrysler 300S: Like the car itself, the color grew on me. Chrysler called it “ceramic grey clear coat” but it looked a lot like “battleship gray” to me. It took me back to my Navy days and I felt like an admiral when I got in, though if I were an admiral, I probably would be in the back seat being chauffeured and not behind the wheel. I also find the UConnect system being one of the most user-friendly around, if not the most friendly, and the 8.4-inch screen is easy on the eyes. I also liked the V8’s power and throttle response.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Chrysler 300S: The trunk is big enough at 16.3 cubic feet (typical for the class), but the rear wheel wells may impact how you can use that space.

Would I buy the 2018 Chrysler 300S? Yes, and I would go for the S over the other models if you want more in the way of driving fun.

Saturday, April 7, 2018



Mercedes-Benz has added a new, V6-powered base model to its S-Class portfolio with the S450 making its debut for 2018, and I’m sure it’s a great car as is typical of just about anything and everything that comes off the German automaker’s assembly line.

But if you really want to get a feel for what the S-Class is all about, you need to check it out after the engineers in the AMG department get their hands on it.

The S-Class nomenclature has been used since 1972 and is short for Sonderklasse, which is German for “special class,” or cut to “S-Klasse.”

When it comes to the 2018 Mercedes-AMG S65 sedan, I have another word for the S-Class:


Stunning also fits.

The opulent interior enmeshes you with unrestrained luxury with Nappa leather seats that caress your tush while their side bolsters gently hug you as you go around a corner. They’re heated and ventilated, of course, and offer massage capability and lumbar support to ease those long drives.

The 12.3-inch display screen is nicely integrated into the flow of the dash, which is accented by a soft, quilted leather panel on the passenger side for an eye-pleasing effect.

The flat-bottom steering wheel has a solid yet soft feel to the fingertips, and it comes with extra-size paddle shifters for selecting gears manually in the seven-speed automatic transmission, though if it’s performance you’re seeking, you will find the Sport+ setting delivers pleasing results.

Backseat passengers get 41 inches of legroom and just over 39 inches of headroom and also get their own fold-down console when only two are riding in the rear.

Convenience features like keyless ignition with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, a 26-speaker Burmeister High-End surround sound system, COMAND system with navigation, electronic trunk closer and self-close doors, Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, and a bevy of safety features are standard.

The latter includes adaptive cruise control, head-up display, lane keeping/change assist, Pre-Safe Plus system with rear collision protection, a surround view system, active park assist, and the usual collection of air bags, include side-impact protection. It’s also going to monitor you as the driver to make sure you aren’t getting drowsy on a long trip.

Oh, heck. Let’s cut to the chase here. If a feature can be found in today’s automotive world, you can find it in the AMG S65.

About the only thing it’s not is self-drive and, frankly, with a bi-turbo V12 power plant at your disposal, why would you want that?

That engine sends 612 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels that moves its nearly 5,000 pounds from zero-to-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, according to the company.

That result is a surprisingly nimble performance for a car of this class and size, and one that is equally smooth and quiet over the roughest of road surfaces.

(Sierra Club members might want to skip the next next sentence.) The AMG S65 drinks premium fuel at the rate of about 16 miles-per-gallon (13 city, 22 highway) or 6.3 gallons per 100 miles, according to the federal government. You were expecting more?

So now the kicker.

As a super luxury sedan, it the AMG S65 carries a super luxury price tag. Starting MSRP is $229,500 with destination and delivery charge ($995) and options like a carbon braking system ($8,950) running the final total to over $240,000. That’s Super Luxury, all right.

Depending on where you live, you probably could get a nice, comfortable condo for that price, but remember this: You can sleep in your car (and there is plenty of room in the S65 for that), but you can’t drive your house.

What I liked about the 2018 Mercedes-AMG S65: Let’s make it quick. Darn near everything. Unlike a competitor, it also offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Mercedes-AMG S65: I’m getting more and more used to it, but the COMAND system for infotainment systems still can be distracting to operate.

Would I buy the 2018 Mercedes-AMG S65? Of course, I would, right after I win a multi-million dollar lottery. If you haven’t had any luck with Power Ball, note that opting for the V8-powered AMG S63 instead will save you around $82,000. It’s also slightly quicker with a 3.6-second zero-to-60 mph time, which may be one factor that eventually will lead to the end of the V12 in Mercedes models.