Wednesday, December 25, 2019


In a trend that we would very much like to see continue, Lincoln apparently is abandoning its “alphabet soup” approach to automotive nomenclature with only two such models, the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid, remaining in its present day lineup.

With the 2019 Nautilus taking over as the company’s entrant in the midsize segment, each of Lincoln’s crossovers/SUVs now has a full name and not a three-letter combination starting with “MK.” Its former incarnation as the MKX is no longer.

That isn’t to say that the Nautilus is “completely new,” however, at least not in the strictest sense. It is built on the same platform as its predecessor, but there is more to it than simply a new name.

Styling has been upgraded starting with a distinctive different front fascia and its “star mesh” grille. A number of driver-assist systems that were once available as stand-alone options such as blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, auto high beams, a lane-keeping system, and a rearview camera are now incorporated into one standard package Lincoln dubs Co-Pilot360.

A new turbocharged 4-cylinder is now the base engine with a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that bumps up power and torque to 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque from the 4-banger’s 250/280, respectively, is also available.

An 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters for manual gear selection is the sole transmission offered. Both engines include an auto stop/start function that can be disabled by the push of a button at the top right of the center stack.

You may adjust the Nautilus to one of three driving modes (Normal, Comfort, Sport), and front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive available. You’ll find it a capable enough cruiser on the highway and with enough punch to get you into the flow of city traffic. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional, though I wouldn’t be taking it out on the trail if I were you.

Fuel economy numbers are 21 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 23 combined for the 4-cylinder engine and 18/27,21 for the V6.

For 2019, the Nautilus comes in four trims starting with the base starting at $41,335 including the $995 destination and delivery charge. The Select trim ($45,540) has been discontinued for 2020 models.

At the top of the line are the Reserve ($49,870) and the Black Label ($59,390) trims. This review is based on the Black Label edition that included options that ran the total to $67,630.

The Black Label upgrades are really felt in interior enhancements like Venetian leather seats, a tech package that includes a 360-degree camera, and an Alcantara headliner. The Sync3 infotainment system includes a voice-activated navigation system, though the screen itself at 8 inches is somewhat on the small side.

Frankly, though, I would sacrifice screen size for simplification of operation.

The Black Label edition also offers you a choice of one of three design themes — Gala (featuring deeper colors), Chalet (with Silverwood appliques), and Thoroughbred (Chilean Maple wood, Alcantara accents, and jet black trim) — to highlight the Nautilus’ overall ambiance.

Interestingly, Black Label buyers also get a 12-month, complimentary CLEAR membership to help you speed through security a participating airports and major arenas nationwide. That’s twice the time that buyers of other trims get.

What I liked about the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label: The Nautilus has a sophisticated interior with infotainment features that are easy to operate. The ride is quiet and comfortable as well. The V6 has enough oomph to get you around in a sprightly manner.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label: The display screen at the top of the center stack is on the small side from what many competitors are offering in their luxury products. Looking over the hood you get the feel it is a much larger vehicle, which is not a comfortable feeling when looking for a spot in a crowded parking lot.

Would I buy the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus Black Label? It most definitely deserves a look if you are shopping in the midsize luxury SUV market.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


At one time, and not all that long ago, the notion of spending $60,000 on a Kia may have been taken as a joke. Three or four Kias, yes, but one?

Well, last month, according to figures announced by the South Korean company, 32 people apparently paid at or near that much for the company’s flagship sedan, the K900, which was 10 more than the previous November and 17 more than October.

A sale a day is minuscule figure by pretty much any automotive measure, of course, but say this about those buyers: They got their money’s worth.

Redesigned and moving into its second generation, the 2019 K900 full-size luxury sedan is very much worth a look for open-minded shoppers who care more about the entire vehicle rather than just what mascot might adorn its hood.

Launched in late 2013 as a 2014 model in conjunction with its 20th anniversary in the U.S. market, the K900 was never seen to be a big seller but instead as a symbol about what Kia could do once it put its mind to it.

It was the company’s first rear-wheel drive sedan and came complete with a long list of standard equipment and features that put it apart from other Kia products.

“It demonstrates what Kia is capable of and will help redefine what the Kia brand stands for,” Michael Sprague, executive vice president, marketing & communications for Kia North America, said in a release at the time.

Redesigned and moving into its second generation, the 2019 K900 is sold in only one trim dubbed “Luxury” — which to me seems a bit overkill in terminology — with only one engine option.

With a V8 option no longer available, a 3.3-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 becomes the only power choice. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and with 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, it has enough punch to handle most driving situations without pressing.

You can adjust driving mode from Comfort to Eco, Sport, and Smart (which adjusts to your driving style) or configure your on mode for the Custom setting. Paddle shifters are standard for manual gear selection.

Timers for clocked the 2019 K900 at 5.1 seconds from zero to 60 mph, which is isn’t the quickest in its class but respectable for a vehicle of its size (201.6 inches long with a curb weight of 4,662 pounds.

The power is delivered smoothly to all corners with standard all-wheel drive. Fuel mileage (premium fuel recommended) is 18 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 21 combined.

Though only one trim is offered, it comes with a long list of standard equipment for the base MSRP of $60,895 (including $995 destination and delivery) that includes a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a navigation system with a wide, 12.3-inch screen, a cool analog clock, genuine wood interior accents, Nappa leather seating surfaces with a 20-way power adjustable seat for the driver and 16-way power adjustable for the front passenger with 4-way lumbar support for each.

LED headlights, a surround-view camera, Smart key with push-button start, adaptable cruise control, forward collision alert, and lane-keeping assist also are included.

A blind-spot view monitor that pops up when turn signals are activated gives you a look at what may be coming up beside you via an image projected from either side mirror to the either the tach or speedometer gauges.

To further upgrade the K900, a single option package is offered for an extra $4,000 and focuses more on the comfort of the rear-seat riders. It includes tri-zone climate control, power adjustable rear seats, ventilated rear outboard seats, a premium headliner, and a wireless charging pad for the rear seats. 

Those in the back already get 38 inches of legroom, so unless they are often riding along and art particularly demanding, you can probably get along with those extras.

What I liked about the 2019 Kia K900: There are plenty of infotainment features that are very user friendly. The map on the large display screen easily can be zoomed in or out, and it is easy to  see at a glance. A plethora of safety features are included as standard, including the blind-spot review monitor gives you a clear indication of what traffic may be coming up at you in the direction you are about to turn.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Kia K900: Not a whole lot to mention here. The trunk could be bigger considering its class, but at 15.4 cubic feet it’s not exactly what you would call small either. The lane-keeping system is a bit overly aggressive.

Would I buy the 2019 Kia K900? Yes. Like its “cousin” the Genesis, the K900 offers all the luxury features you want in an attractive package that lets you save several thousand dollars off the cost of a traditional luxury car.

Friday, December 6, 2019


Shopping for a family SUV with champagne tastes but burdened by a beer budget?

You might want to start by checking out a Hyundai showroom for the Santa Fe. You also might finish there anyway.

Fully redesigned for 2019 with the tag “Sport” removed for five-passenger models (the former three-row Santa Fe now goes by Santa Fe XL), the 2020 Santa Fe comes with about all the amenities you might want in a luxury model except the name cachet of a traditional luxury import brand from Europe or Japan.

The South Korean manufacturer has had the knack of incorporating most-wanted features in a high-quality product for quite some time now, at least since the turn of the century when it apparently decided to get serious in the United States market instead of existing by putting out cheap knockoffs.

In addition to cutting out the third row, Hyundai made the Santa Fe roomier by making it a bit longer and wider than the outgoing two-row model the Santa Fe Sport as well as improving its ride.

For 2020 it added some safety features and packages like a new blind spot monitor on Limited models and making the rear-seat occupant alert standard on SE and SEL models as well. Wireless device charging also is standard on SEL w/Convenience package and Limited models.

A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard in all trims, and a 2.0-liter turbo 4-banger is available on SEL models with Convenience and Premium packages as well as the top-of-the-line Limited. All engines are mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is an efficient 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway, and 22 combined for the turbo.

This review is based on the 2020 Santa Fe Limited with the 2.0-turbo engine. That engine boosts  power to 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque from the 2.4-liter’s 185/178 numbers, respectively, and it is well-worth the extra cost.

The all-wheel-drive Limited with the 2.4-liter engine starts at $38,445 (including destination and delivery and going with the 2.0 turbo revs that up to $40,295. Front-wheel-drive Limited  models knock $1,700 off the MSRP for the AWD models.

Standard equipment on the Limited includes safety features like forward collision avoidance, blind-spot warning, high-beam assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, reverse parking alert, and rear-seat occupant alert.

A panoramic sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a hands-free rear lift gate, and LED headlights, fog lights, and taillights also are standard.

Comfort and convenience features covered by the base MSRP include leather seats that are heated front and back and ventilated in the front, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual automatic climate control, a proximity key with push-button start, navigation system with an 8-inch display screen, wireless device charging, Quantum surround sound audio, Bluetooth hands-free communications, and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Services.

In other words, all that you might want in an SUV that tops out in price where luxury SUVs begin.

The only extra to destination and delivery for my test vehicle was $135 for carpeted floor mats.

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited: The short answer: a lot. It looks great inside and out, the interior is classy and roomy, and the driving experience is efficient and   up to standards for daily chores. Storage room behind the third row is listed at 35.9 cubic feet. Technology is plentiful and easy to operate. The enhanced blind spot warning system flashes an image of what is on your left or right when you activate the turn signal in the middle of the instrument panel, giving you a view of what may be coming up alongside you.

What I didn't like about the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited: I would like to see the display monitor more incorporated into the flow of the dash and not sticking up in the middle at the top of the center stack.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited? Yes, most definitely. Fuel efficiency is among the best in its segment, and the interior has quality of a luxury SUV. The Santa Fe certainly has come a long way since the jaunty, smaller SUV it started out as.

Saturday, November 23, 2019



In the interest of full disclosure, I should state at the start that I have been a fan of South Korean automaker Hyundai’s products for close to 20 years now. We had a good experience with the 2003 Santa Fe SUV we bought, and it worked well for my daughter and son as well.

So that could be seen as influencing my opinion of the new Genesis G70 sedan, which is no longer a Hyundai but a stand-alone entity, much like Lexus is Toyota’s luxury outlet, Acura is Honda’s, and Infiniti is Nissan’s. (Interesting that they are all Asian products.)

Except a lot of other reviewers feel the same way I do, and analysis by U.S. News & World Report, which is based on different sources, rates the 2019 Genesis G70 No. 4 among luxury small cars behind a couple of Audi models (A5 and A4) and the BMW 2-Series, which is pretty strong company.

It just nudged out its cousin from Kia, the Stinger sedan and was rated ahead of both the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3-Series, generally seen as the standard bearers in the segment. In a comparison test, Car & Driver gave the edge to the Genesis G70 over the BMW 340M in its final analysis, noting that the G70 “does everything nearly as well as the BMW, and it even manages to do a few things better.”

Yes, the report said, the BMW holds the advantage in overall oomph, but the G70 “has more than enough performance and handling for 90 percent of drivers 95 percent of the time.”

The price advantage runs well into five figures in the G70’s favor.

With the 2019 Genesis G70 an all-new model, the new G70 gets only a few modifications for 2020, the more significant being some new brake packages for the middle-of-the-pack 2.0T Sport model and a power-operated trunk lid for the top-of-the-line 3.3T trim.

This review is based on my experience in the 3.3T, which logs in with a starting MSRP of $45,645 or just over $9,000 more than the base 2.0T (but still well under the starting price for its Teutonic competitors).

It comes with a 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine that is rated at 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. The G70 3.3T can cover zero-to-60 in under five seconds and is mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission that can be set to several drive modes starting with Comfort and going on to Sport and Eco.

Mileage figures are about the only shortcoming with the 2020 G70 getting EPA ratings of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway, and 20 combined. According to the EPA, you’ll spend about $4,750 more on fuel over a five-year period compared to the average new vehicle. Annual fuel cost is an estimated $2,450.

Frankly, I’m suspicious of those kinds of numbers, but it’s the government, so we should trust the government, right? (You do? You want to buy some beachfront property in the Florida Everglades, too?)

The G70 3.3T has a long list of standard features. Among the more significant are Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Driver Attention Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Rearview camera with parking guidelines (the guidelines make a difference), Brembo Brakes, Sport-Tuned suspension, Proximity Key with push-button start, LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights, sunroof, leather seating surfaces, l6-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 4-way lumbar support, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, adaptable cruise control (Smart cruise control in Genesis speak), Lexicon 15-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Bluetooth communications.

Optional packages like Elite (rein-sensing wipers, low-beam assist, parking distance control, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and wireless charging port) and Prestige (head-up display, surround-view monitor, Nappa leather seating surfaces, power trunk, and suede headliner) add to the niceties.

Those packages are going to fun the final cost to over $50,000, but the Genesis still remains a top luxury vehicle with economic pricing.

What I liked about the 2020 Genesis G70: It looks great, inside and out, and its ride is comfortable and quiet. It has all the bells and whistles you want in a luxury car, and all the systems are very easy to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Genesis G70: The trunk is a bit on the small side (10.5 cubic feet) and fuel economy is not quite as good as many of its competitors, but it’s not overly thirsty either, though premium fuel is recommended.

Would I buy the 2020 Genesis G70? Most definitely. Genesis also offers slightly larger sedans with the G80 and the all-new for 2020 G90, but for me, the G70 strikes the right chord.

Friday, November 15, 2019



Based on the seventh generation of Volkswagen’s popular Golf hatchback, the 2019 VW Golf GTI 2.0T is the Germans’ answer for those buyers asking for a little more punch from the iconic Golf hatchback.

Using Teutonic terms, the GTI is a “hot hatch” offering a bit more in the way of horsepower over the 2018 GTI and a lot more than the 147 horsepower the standard Golf delivers.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the 2019 is rated at 228 horsepower, 8 more than the 2018 GTI though torque numbers remain the same at 258 pound-feet starting at 1500 rpm. Those power numbers are achieved using premium fuel, but you can use regular unleaded if you aren’t seeking that peak performance.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard with a 6-speed automatic as optional for an extra $1,100. Fuel economy is pretty much the same with either transmission with the manual rated at 24 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway and the automatic 25/31. Combined mpg is the same for either at 27.

The 2019 GTI comes in four trim levels including a limited edition Rabbit Edition that slots in between the S and SE. Sitting at the top of the line is the Autobahn trim on which this review is based.

It is easily the most expensive of the bunch with a starting MSRP of $37,990 including the $895 destination and delivery charge with the automatic transmission. The base S model with the automatic starts at $29,590, which puts it at the high end of the segment (remember, subtract $1,100 for the manual tranny).

Additional features you get as standard in the Autobahn over the other trims include a 12-way power sport driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Fender premium audio, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, VW’s Car-Net system for enhanced connectivity, active blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, park distance control, and park steering assistant.

Leather seating surfaces and Sirius/XM satellite radio are standard on both the Autobahn and SE trims. S and Rabbit models get cloth seats with “Clark” plaid inserts (Google it).

Special safety features like forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and rear traffic alert come on the upper three trims and are optional on the base S trim.

The interior is nicely done with techno features easy enough to operate. Both the radio and climate control systems are operated with knobs doing the volume and tuning on the former and temperature and blower on the latter. Of course, there are duplicate controls for the radio on the steering wheel.

The GTI is pretty roomy for a compact with 41.2 inches of legroom up front, 35.6 in the back, and cargo capacity of 22.8 cubic feet. The ride is solid but not overly stiff under normal conditions, and, like most smaller cars, it gives the illusion of higher speed when whipping through the streets and roads.

Little wonder that, according to research by J.D. Power, more than half of GTI buyers identify themselves as “performance” buyers. And they are not kids either. J.D. Power describes the average GTI buy as a male, with a median age of 46 years and median yearly household income of nearly $114,000.

What I liked about the 2019 Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn: Technology is user friendly, though the navigation system map was not updated so I didn’t get a chance to test it, but audio and climate control were fine. You can turn off the automatic stop/start function with the push of a button. Performance was pretty lively. Red accents on the exterior are a nice touch. The interior is roomy for its class.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn: The price tag is pretty steep for a compact hatchback.

Would I buy the 2019 Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn? I no longer fit in this demographic, but if I did a lot of driving on crowded urban with scant parking, I would consider it for sure. It’s a good vehicle for daily commutes.

Friday, November 8, 2019


If you’re looking for a reason for the rise in popularity of SUVs/crossovers and the corresponding slumps in sedan sales, you need look no further than the 2019 Audi Q3, a compact SUV that drives and rides like a traditional car while offering the roominess and hauling capacity that today’s buyers appreciate in an SUV.

Redesigned for this year, the Q3 has it all.

It has two rows of seating to accommodate five passengers comfortably, and its 23.7 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row is 7-10 more cubic feet than you usually get from the traditional sedan trunk. Fold the second row and there is up to 48 cubic feet behind the front row. Even sedans that allow you to fold the back seat can’t match that.

Legroom for second-row occupants is 36.1 inches, which is more than your usual sedan offers. Those in the front get a healthy 40 inches.

Yet you can squire the Q3 with ease through mall parking lots and slide it comfortably into the tightest of spaces without fear of door dings (unless occupants of the adjacent cars are exceedingly careless or rude or both).

Behind the wheel, you get the feel of driving a midsize sedan, whether in urban environs or on the highway. In either case, the ride is smooth and quiet.

The new 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and delivers 228 horsepower from 5000-7500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque from 1700-4400 rpm.

The zero-to-60 mph clocking is 7.0 seconds, not neck-snapping but certainly not sluggish. With Audi’s all-wheel drive quattro system, fuel mileage is 19 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, and 22 combined.

Those are not particularly impressive numbers for the class, especially with some of its luxury competitors boasting highway numbers into the low 30 mpg. But if you’re shopping in this segment, I doubt that would be a deal-killer.

The 2019 Audi Q3 comes in two models with three different trims.

The base Q3 starts at $35,695 (including destination and delivery) with Premium trim and $38,795 with Premium Plus.

The Q3 S Line runs $36,995 in Premium mode, $40,095 in Premium Plus, and $43,995 with Prestige Plus trim.

The S Line rides on 19-inch wheels with 20-inchers as optional, while the base Q3 gets 18-inchers.

In addition to differences in standard equipment, some option packages are also offered only on the upper trim levels on S Line models. A Sport Interior Package available on S Line Premium Plus and Prestige trims includes S line sport seats in black or gray leather with contrast stitching, steering wheel shift paddles and brushed aluminum, matte inlays.

With that Sport Interior Package, you can also add an Alcantara® Interior package which enhances the interior with orange Alcantara accents on the dash and door armrests.

What I liked about the 2019 Audi Q3 S Line quattro: It's a great looking car and the inside is packed with high quality materials. The ride is firm but not not too firm, and performance lively for the segment. A wealth of technological features are very user friendly. Audi's “virtual cockpit” gives you the option of having the navigation map projected into the instrument panel right in front of the driver’s eyes. Setting it to Google Earth view over the standard map also enhances the feature view. Standard all-wheel drive is nice, too.

What I didn't like about the 2019 Audi Q3 S Line quattro: Fuel efficiency could be improved. It seemed like I blinked and the gauge was down to half a tank.

Would I buy the 2019 Audi Q3 S line quattro? Yes. If are wary of giving up your sedan to get an SUV, don’t be. The Q3 will ease that transition for you.