Wednesday, November 28, 2018



When Ram designers and engineers sat down four years ago or so to create the next generation half-ton 1500 pickup, they were given a blank sheet of paper and the goal of producing a no-compromise truck that, according to Brad Pinter, 1500 brand manager, would be the strongest and most technologically advanced Ram the company had ever built.

One week in it pretty much convinced me they had more than accomplished their goals with the 2019 Ram 1500.

This is a full-size pickup that even a non-truck guy like myself can appreciate — stunning in looks, powerful in performance, and packed with easy-to-use techno features. It's big, but handles more nimbly than you might think as well.

Apparently, consumers like it. Ram 1500 sales were up over 20 percent for October, accounting for more than half of  total Ram sales in what was a record for the brand that month.

The Ram 1500 comes in several trims for 2019 starting with the base Tradesman and continuing on up the line with HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited.

As has become customary with pickup trucks, you can get the trims in different cab, bed length, and powertrain combinations. The Quad Cab with a 6-foot, 4-inch bed is standard in Tradesman, HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, and Laramie models, and a Crew Cab with a 5-7 box is standard on the Longhorn and Limited trims. The Crew Cab with a 6-4 bed is optional on some trims as well.

Also, 4X2 configuration is standard across the line with 4X4 as an option on all but HFE trim.

The V6 Pentastar engine mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission and feature what Ram calls “eTorque” mild hybrid system is standard with the V6, but yes, the Ram 1500 also has a HEMI.

The 5.7-liter V8 that pumps horsepower up to 395 and torque to 410 pound-feet from the 305/269 on the V6 is available on all but HFE models. It also comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The eTorque system, which Ram says “combines belt-drive motor generator unit with 48-volt battery pack to enable start/stop function, short-term torque assist and brake energy regeneration,” also is available on the HEMI, adding 130 pound-feet of torque for even more pulling power.

The Ram 1500 I had for the week was the Limited Crew Cab 4X4 which with a base of $56,195 starts at the top of the food chain when it comes to price. But there are 10 models offered with a starting price at under $40,000.

Naturally, the Limited comes with a lot of bells and whistles as standard, including the UConnect 4C Nav system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, 9-speaker audio system, wood/leather wrapped and heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, rear under-the-seat storage (actually, there are tons of places to store items, including a huge console bin), heated second-row seats, SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year subscription, 20-inch wheels, power running boards, LED bed lighting, and automatic high beam headlamp control.

If that's not enough, this one came with optional packages that took the 1500 Limited to even greater heights. The Level 1 Equipment Group (Harman Kardon Premium sound system, adaptive cruise control, advance brake assist and full-speed forward collision warning, ventilated rear seats, parking assist, and surround-view camera added $2,695 to the starting MSRP, but the HEMI engine was the only other option over $1,000. The off-road package adds $795.

All that and the $1,695 destination and delivery cost ran the total to $64,800, which  is another indication of how far pickups have advanced since the day when they were essentially mechanized workhorses with maybe three riders crowded into the front bench seat.

With generous use of leather trim on the inside, including the bucket seats, the Ram 1500 is right at home sashaying up any country club drive.

Passengers will find it spacious and comfortable. Legroom is a generous 40.9 inches up front in both the Quad and Crew Cab and 39.2/39.8 in the back for the Quad and Crew Cab, respectively.

There are also little touches like an adjustable air suspension, keyless go and remote start, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning, and a remote release for the tailgate. The tailgate, by the way, is one of the areas where aluminum was used in construction in place of high-strength steel to shave about 225 pounds off the previous Ram 1500.

Overall, the time those designers and engineers spent filling up that "clean sheet” handed them has paid off in one fine truck, and I am not alone in thinking so.

Most recently, Motor Trend recognized it as its 2019 Truck of the Year. Earlier, Green Car Journal named it its 2019 Green Truck of the Year, and Texas auto writers chose the Ram 1500 as Texas Truck of the Year.

And last summer, the Southern Automotive Media Association even recognized it for one of its awards at its annual Topless in Miami convertible competition for its dual-pane, panoramic sunroof (standard on Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited editions).

What I liked about the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4: The infotainment display is, in a word, spectacular. The best thing about the double-screen display is that it is very user friendly. The only issue I had was finding the clock, and that was because somebody had turned it off. The power running boards (standard on Limited trim) are a must, and the power liftgate (also standard on the Limited trim) is a nice feature.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4: Frankly, there’s nothing not to like here when it comes to a pickup truck.

Would I buy the about the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4? I have no real need for a pickup truck, especially a full-size one, but if you need one, you’re making a mistake if you don’t stop by a Ram showroom and take one out for a test drive. It is a remarkable truck.

Friday, November 9, 2018


Jaguar is going all-in with electric cars with plans to to put electric power into all of its models by 2020.

To help familiarize consumers who may have some qualms about the future of these vehicles (range angst, anyone?), the company is staging a nationwide tour billed as “Jaguar Electrifies Experience” that showcases its products with an emphasis on its first electric-power vehicle, the I-Pace SUV.

Well, it’s “nationwide” in that the debut was in San Francisco, and this weekend’s edition was in Miami. Next venues are in Los Angles in mid-December and New York early next year, which leaves a lot of the nation uncovered. But maybe some will be added later.

The Jaguar Electrifies Experience gives consumers not only the time to get a close-up look at all the new vehicles without a salesperson hovering over them but also the opportunity to see how the I-Pace handles on a “SmartCone” closed course and to take it out for short spin on city streets. There’s also see an exhibit from Wired magazine to learn how an electric vehicle can fit into their future.

A handful of South Florida automotive media members had the opportunity for a preview before doors were opened to the public. (Yes, we’re an overprivileged group, sometimes undeservedly so!)

In only a matter of minutes I learned a couple of things:

—Thanks to the location of the 90 kWh lithium-ion battery stretching across under the front floorboards, the I-Pace handled the closed-cone course with ease. There is no vehicle sway with the sharp changes of direction.

—The throttle response is amazing. I was in the back for the spin around a few blocks and when my driving partner hit the accelerator (can’t call it a “gas” pedal now, can we?) I was pushed back significantly in the seat.

That’s because the I-Pace is powered by two 197-horsepower motors, one operating the front wheels, the other the rear, for a combined 394 hp and a whopping 512 lb.-ft. of torque. The zero-to-60 mph clocking is 4.5 seconds!

Jaguar says the I-Pace has a range of up to 243 miles on a full charge, but the rep who rode with us said that there have been reports of a range of up to 290 miles. Heating or cooling the vehicle while it is plugged in and recharging also helps to get to maximum range by reducing the draw on the car’s battery to reach desired temperatures.

Charging time, always an issue with the electric vehicles I have had the opportunity to drive, also is reduced. Jaguar says that owners will be able to achieve a zero-to-80 percent charge in about 40 minutes using 100kW DC fast charging or just over 10 hours using home charging with a 230V/32AMP AC wall box (7kW).

I won’t get into the overall looks of the I-Pace here save to say it meets or even exceeds Jaguars models’ typical, distinctive good looks inside and out. Jaguar also has been doing a lot of catching up with competitors in the area of operation of technological features, though the short time in the I-Pace didn’t allow for much opportunity to check that out.

Assuming you live in either in South Florida or will be in the LA or New York metro areas when the Jaguar Electrifies Experience arrives there, you will have the opportunity to see for yourself. Just keep an eye out for the advertising and social media sources promoting the event for details!

Friday, November 2, 2018


Disposed of the Hyundai label and launched as a separate brand from the South Korean manufacturer three years ago, Genesis continues to expand its portfolio with the introduction of its G70 luxury sedan for 2019.

As you might deduce from the alpha-numeric naming system, it is the smallest of the three sedans now under the Genesis banner following the G90 and G80 sedans that have been around for a couple of years.

Genesis also says it is the third and last sedan of the six new models the company plans to have out by 2020. It should be noted, however, that “smallest” does not necessarily mean “subcompact” or “too small” for comfort.

In fact, at 184.4 inches long and with a wheelbase of 111.6 inches, the G70 virtually matches in size the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (184.5/111.8) and BMW’s 3-Series sedans (182.5/110.6).

For many, the G70 might be “just right.”

The G70 comes in five trim levels (Advanced, Elite, Prestige, Dynamic, and Sport) with either a 3.3-liter, turbocharged V6 or a 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel also available on some trims.

Prefer a manual instead of paddle shifters? The 2.0T-6M/T Sport (RWD only) comes with a 6-speed manual transmission.

Pricing starts at $34,900 for 2.0T RWD models and $36,900 for 2.0T AWD with the various packages adding to the base cost as the trim levels go up. The Elite package adds $5,000 to the base MSRP, and the Prestige, which includes the Elite features, adds another $3,000 to the cost of the Elite and on up the line.

The 3.3T models run from $43,750 for RWD models to $52,250 for the AWD, Dynamic Edition.

Oh. Add another $995 for destination and delivery.

My time was spent in the RWD 2.0T with the Elite, Prestige, and Dynamic packages running the final total to $44,895.

With those packages, in addition to standard features like 18-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, LED daytime running lights, dual climate control, lane-keeping assist and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, you get such niceties as a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (replacing the standard manual), 19-inch wheels (replacing the 18s), a navigation system, full LED headlights, parking warnings, heated and ventilated front seats, a sunroof, premium Lexicon 15-speaker sound system, leather seating surfaces (replacing leatherette), head-up display, surround view camera system, microfiber suede headliner and heated rear seats.

Actually, the list of both standard and optional features is a bit longer, but you get the idea. As I wrote in March about the G90 and again last May about the G80, Genesis is a true luxury vehicle with all the trimmings you expect of the segment.

The ride is smooth and quiet, and you may set the G70 in one of five driving modes by  twisting a knob on the console to select Sport, Comfort, Smart, Eco or Custom to match your mood.

When it comes to comfort and convenience, the G70 ranks among the best of them for the passenger, too. Well, at least the rider in the front seat. Adults, especially taller ones, may find the back a bit confining when it comes to legroom.

Genesis may not have the brand cachet of some of the traditional luxury marques, but it has everything else. You’ll be doing yourself a disfavor if you don’t check it out if you’re shopping in the segment.

What I liked about the 2019 Genesis G70: Infotainment functions are very user friendly — thanks in a large part to the use of traditional knob and button controls — and there is plenty of them. The 8-inch display screen is much-appreciated. As I have noted in many reviews of Genesis and parent-company Hyundai’s products, the South Koreans have a knack for taking technology and simplifying it so even techno newbies can understand and operate it. It’s like Mac vs. PC. Finally, the fun-to-drive quotient is high.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Genesis G70: Trunk capacity is stingy (10.5 cubic feet), which makes it impractical as a family vehicle (but fine for empty-nesters). As with its competitors in the luxury small sedan segment, the backseat is on the tight side. Fuel mileage is ordinary in the 2.0T (22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, 25 combined).

Would I buy the 2019 Genesis G70? In a heartbeat. Your only qualm should be the overall size (including trunk capacity). If you need more room for you and your stuff, prepare to step up to the G80.