Friday, May 31, 2019


Introduced just a couple of years ago, the Atlas SUV is the largest vehicle in Volkswagen’s lineup and has become the German automaker’s third-best seller behind only the smaller Tiguan crossover and Jetta compact sedan.

VW sold nearly 60,000 Atlas SUVs in 2018, the first full year of production, and is well on pace to top that this year with just over 22,000 sold the first four months, an increase of 7.3 percent over the same period last year.

It’s no surprise. The Atlas offers lots of space for cargo and passengers with three rows of seating and a maximum of just over 96 cubic feet of storage space in an attractive package that drives more like a compact than a mid-size SUV. Even my passenger for the week commented that it seemed smaller than it actually is.

There’s even good rear cargo space with the third-row seats in place, which is not always the case in seven-passenger SUVs. The third row in many SUVs often is suitable only for children and not very big ones at that, but such is not the case with the Atlas.

Not sure how they would fare on a day-long trip, but the third-row riders have nearly 34 inches of legroom, and with the way the second-row seats tilt and slide forward, they don’t have to be contortionists to get back there.

VW said at the time of its launching that the Atlas was going at the sweet spot of the core of the market. It was “designed for the American family” and is built at the company’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Seems right to me.

Though it is too soon for major changes in only its second year, the 2019 Atlas now gets as standard across the line such safety features as Front Assist (which alerts the driver to a potential collision), Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Traffic Alert.

Even the base S trim gets automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and heated side mirrors as standard. Other trims are the SE, the SE w/Technology, SE w/Technology R-Line, SEL, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium with additional niceties as standard.

The SE w/Technology that served as my ride for the week included 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, three-zone climate control, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support (4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat), leatherette seating surfaces, roll-up manual second-row sunshades, and a front console with USB data and charging port and 12V and USB charging ports in the first and second rows.

Technology in the SE w/Technology includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, push-button start, remote power liftgate, Bluetooth connectivity, and an 8-inch touchscreen for audio.

SEL and SEL Premium models also get upgraded features like VW’s Digital Cockpit with a fully-digital instrument cluster offering a customizable presentation of important vehicle information on a 10-inch display.

The Atlas comes with the choice of two engines, both mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. A 2.0 turbocharged 4-cylinder is rated at 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque kicking in a 1600 rpm. It is available with front-wheel drive only.

A 3.6-liter V6 is rated at a maximum 276 hp and 266 lb.-ft. of torque and is available with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive configuration as well as front-wheel drive.

Both engines feature stop/start technology, but that annoying feature can be turned off with the push of a button at the bottom of the center stack. Fuel consumption for the 4-banger is at the rate of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway and 22 combined and for the V6 17/24/19 with FWD and 17/23/19 with AWD.

That’s not the most fuel-efficient in its class, but is not the thirstiest either. You won’t be winning many drag races with the Atlas (of course, you don’t do things like that), but you won’t be left idling at the light either.

With an optional trailer package ($550), towing capacity is generous 5,000 pounds.

MSRP for the Atlas starts at $32,890 for the S FWD with the 4-cylinder engine and runs up to $49,390 for the top-of-the-line, AWD V6 SEL Premium trim

The SE w/Technology carries a price of $38,840 with FWD and the trailer package.

For more about the Atlas, you can check out my coverage of the 2017 media preview at

What I liked about the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology: The ride is comfortable and quiet, and the cabin is especially spacious, though it drives like a much smaller vehicle. Too many three-row SUVs don’t have the space at the back to handle the staff that often comes along with seven passengers, but the Atlas gives you a nice area (20.6 cubic feet) behind the last row. You get 55.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 96.8 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. Technology is plentiful and user-friendly.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology: Though there’s something to be said for simplicity, the interior styling could use a bit of upgrading and a bit less plastic.

Would I buy the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SE w/Technology? As I have mentioned before (several times, actually) I personally have no need for a three-row SUV, but this one could make me change my mind. It’s particularly good if you’re looking for German engineering but don’t want to pay luxury prices to get it.

Monday, May 27, 2019


The Lincoln MKC has been on sale only about five years after hitting showrooms as a 2015 model in the summer of 2014, but already a replacement is coming.

For 2020, the Corsair will be the company’s nameplate in in the compact, premium crossover segment as Lincoln goes with the more traditional automotive nomenclature in place of the alpha-numeric codes so popular in the the luxury segment.

But don’t give up on the MKC just because of the name change.

This is not just a gussied up Ford Escape, which provides the underpinnings for the MKC, but a distinctly different vehicle on a separate mission.

The 2019 model gets a refreshed front end for a more luxurious impression and new safety features such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian collision avoidance for a more confident ride. 

A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission serves as the base engine for the MKC pumping out 240 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque while drinking fuel at the rate of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway with premium 93-octane fuel.

An optional 2.3-liter turbo-4 available with all-wheel drive only is rated at 285 hp and 305 lb.-ft. of torque but with fuel numbers of 18/25.

Though it may not match the zero-to-60 mph times of its Teutonic rivals, the MKC has enough power for ordinary tasks. With the optional towing package, it can tow up to 3,000 pounds.

Comfort is the biggest plus. The seats are soft but still supportive, and the second-row seats recline. The ride is on the cushy side, and the cabin is quiet even when pushed. The vertical, push-button arrangement for shifting gears located along the centerstack creates an open space between the front seats for storage.

The MKC rides at a height that makes it easy to get in and out of, and there is nice legroom (42.8 inches) up front, though the second-row occupants get a snug 36.8 inches.

Cargo space is adequate enough for every-day chores, though its 25.2 cubic feet behind the second row pales in comparison to its Escape cousin’s 34 cubic feet. With the second row lowered, capacity is more than doubled to 53.1 cubic feet.

Standard features on the Black Label trim that served as my test vehicle include 19-inch wheels, a hands-free liftgate, upgraded leather upholstery (replacing leatherette), a simulated suede headliner, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cargo cover, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, a navigation system, LED headlights, and rear parking sensors.

The Sync3 infotainment system features and 8-inch touchscreen and is very user-friendly. The MKC is awash in technology that includes Bluetooth communications, Lincoln Connect with 4G LET and a wi-fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Pricing is competitive with the base model starting at $33,995 (including the $995 destination and delivery charge. Upgrading to the Select trim costs $36,750, and the top-of-the-line Reserve and Black Label models top the $40,000 mark at $40,625 and $47,200, respectively.

Considering many of its competitors start at over $40,000, that makes the MKC a bargain.

What I liked about the 2019 Lincoln MKC Black Label: The interior doesn’t follow the usual emphasis on dark color schemes often found in the luxury segment and the result is a sophisticated, less-imposing ambiance. The ride is very comfortable and quiet.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Lincoln MKC Black Label: I’m still not completely sold on the push-button system used to select gears. The buttons are lined up in a vertical row alongside the center stack with the starter button at the very top. The MKC’s successor model, the Corsair, is due to have those buttons in a horizontal arrangement at the bottom of the stack as on the Navigator.

Would I buy the 2019 Lincoln MKC Black Label? Definitely worth a look if you want to get away from the usual run of luxury imports and aren’t looking to break speed records in the segment.

Friday, May 17, 2019


While hybrid drivetrains are offered in many so-called mainstream vehicles these days, Hyundai created the Ioniq hatchback as a conventional gas-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and electric powertrain, but with no gasoline-only engine option and without some of the quirks that often come with the hybrid segment.

In fact, driving the Ioniq Hybrid can make you forget you’re being the wheel of a traditional hybrid.

Not that you’d confuse it with a high-performance sports car or anything, but shifting on the go from Eco to Sport mode gives you a hybrid that actually is fun to drive.

As noted, the Ioniq comes with the choice of three drivetrains, with the Hybrid and Plug-in mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the Electric to a single-speed reduction gear set.

This review is limited to the standard Hybrid in Limited trim with a base MSRP of $29,435 including the destination and delivery charge ($885). The base model for the hybrid is the Blue model with a starting price of $23,285. The SEL is a step up at $25,835.

Both the standard Hybrid and the Plug-in get a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine that is rated at 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque and matched with an electric motor that gets its power from a lithium-ion battery (located under the rear seat) to produce 125 pound-feet of torque. Combined horsepower is 139 hp.

The motor in the all-electric version is rated at only 118 hp but puts out a significant 218 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Blue trim Hybrid is rated at a segment-leading 57 miles-per-gallon city, 59 highway while  the Limited and SEL come in at 55/54 (assuming you haven’t spent all your time driving in Sport mode).

As the top dog in the lineup, the 2019 Ioniq Limited gets as standard such features as HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, power tilt-and-slide moonroof, proximity key entry and push-button start, leather seating surfaces with heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual automatic temperature control, 7-inch color touchscreen audio display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link system with a complimentary 3-year trial.

New as standard this year is safety equipment that includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane-keeping assist, Smart Cruise Control, High-Beam Assist, and Driver Attention Warning.

Other safety features include blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, vehicle stability management with traction control, a rearview camera, and the usual collection of airbags (front, front-side impact, side curtain, and driver’s knees).

At 176 inches long, the Limited Hybrid offers more stowage capacity (26.3 cubic feet) than its Plug-in and Electric brethren (23 cubic feet) with front legroom of 42.2 inches. Rear legroom in all Ioniqs is 35.7 inches, which isn’t cramped but not particularly generous either.

The ambiance of the interior isn’t luxury, but nice enough for the its class. There is some road noise, but it isn’t excessive.

Options like an Ultimate Package and carpeted floor mats runs the total tab to $31,760, which may produce sticker shock for those who haven’t been car-shopping in the last decade, but is in line with other current hybrid and electric models.

The Ultimate Package includes navigation that operates off the touchscreen, Infinity premium sound, and rear parking sensors for an extra $2,200.

All in all, the Ioniq is a hybrid you should find very comfortable to live with.

What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Limited: With the Ioniq, Hyundai has eliminated the annoying whine that often is heard when a hybrid slows to a stop by going with a traditional transmission instead of a CVT. Operation of infotainment features is very user-friendly, as is usually the case with vehicles out of the South Korean’s stable. Fuel efficiency is excellent, though if you want a better driving experience you have to go into Sport mode and sacrifice some of that advantage.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Limited: The backseat is on the small side, but what is more distressing at the rear is the annoying crossbar that splits the large rear window. It is a feature that first popped up with Toyota’s Prius and impacts the rear view. 

Would I buy the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Limited? Of all the compact hybrids on the market, this is one I would seriously consider. A well-equipped Limited model would be my choice, but SEL trim also can be fitted with key options as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


For over four decades, Ford’s F-Series has been America’s top-selling pickup truck, and it doesn’t appear that it will give up that title any time soon.

Numbers for the first quarter of 2019 show the F-Series holding a hefty margin over its top two competitors, falling just short of matching the sales numbers for the Ram pickup and Chevrolet Silverado combined.

Ford reported sales of 214,611 F-Series pickups in 2018, a slight increase of 0.2 percent over numbers for the same period in 2017 with the Ram showing a significant, 15.4 percent increase for this past quarter with 120,026 sold and the Silverado showing a decline of 15.7 percent to 114,313.

The three domestic manufacturers hold a comfortable lead over their import competition with No. 4 Toyota selling 54,183 Tacomas in the period from January through March.

The bell-cow in the Ford F-Series is the F-150, which began life when the company introduced Ford “Bonus-Built trucks” to replace the car-based pickups it had previously been manufacturing. The half-ton model became the F-1.

In 1953 when it moved into its second generation, the half-ton pickup got the label F-100,  and it served as the base truck through the 1984, though the F-150 had been launched in 1975.

Just two years later the F-Series became the best-selling pick up on the market and the remake the company gave it in 1987 when it moved into its eighth generation would eventually lead it to become the best-selling vehicle in America period. It still is that.

No doubt, those who designed the early F-Series models would be dazzled as to what the truck has become in 2019. The new F-150 is stunning in looks, more than capable in performance, and packed with a full-menu of technological features in the higher trim levels.

This review is based on the Limited edition, which is near the top of the food chain and carries a base MSRP of $67,135. A couple of options ran the final price tag for my test vehicle to $71,350 including the $1,495 destination and delivery charge, which is approaching Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV company.

MSRPs start at just over $28,000 for the base XL model with King Ranch, Lariat, Platinum, and Limited going up the scale. (The Raptor is pretty much in a class by itself.)

The Limited gets as standard the Supercrew cab with a 5-foot, 5-inch box and such features as LED quad-beam headlamps, power sliding rear window, remote tailgate release, power deployed running boards, twin-panel moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats (with 43.6 inches of max legroom), adjustable pedals with memory, memory driver’s seat, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, 8-inch center stack touchscreen, active park assist, push-button start, lane-keeping assist, voice-activated navigation (which could use some updating with changes in some key road configurations in South Florida), and pre-collision assist with automatic braking.

The 3.5-liter, Ecoboost high output V6 engine feature auto stop-start technology, but it can be turned off by pushing a button at the top of the center stack. The engine is rated at 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection via a button on the shifter. Mileage figures are 17 miles-per-ballon city, 22 highway, and 19 combined, and towing capacity is 7,000 pounds.

The F-150’s ride is remarkably smooth, quiet, and comfortable, especially considering the vehicle’s size. At 231.9 inches long and 96.8 inches wide including standard mirrors, the F-150 Limited is no shrinking violet. But then, why should it be?

What I liked about the 2019 Ford F150 Limited: The cabin is spacious with lots of legroom in the second row and very comfortable. The ride is not as rough as you might expect of a full-size workhorse like this. The retracting running boards also makes getting into the cabin a snap, and the fold-out step in the tailgate (a $375 option) eases the climb into the rear bed. The 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 provides plenty of punch for a pleasant driving experience. Oh, yes. Infotainment features are user-friendly. Let’s hear for big knobs to operate audio and climate control functions!

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Ford F150 Limited: Some areas of the cabin could use an upgrade but my main complaint would be about the segment itself. The size of a full-size pickup like the F150 is not conducive to many mall parking lots. 

Would I buy the 2019 Ford F150 Limited? For $70K-plus? That’s a pretty high figure for a pickup, but you can get an F150 for under $30K so unless you just like to show off, that may be the spot to start looking. Several other nice trims are available as well.

Friday, May 3, 2019


With the demise of brands like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and, earlier, Hudson and AMC, the number of Muscle Car makes on the market today falls considerably short from their hey day of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Fortunately, Chevrolet resurrected a charter member of the genre when it brought back its Camaro for 2010 after ending production following the 2002 model year.

The present Camaro represents the sixth generation of the renown coupe/convertible with the 2019 model getting a mid-cycle refreshing that includes new front-end styling, new rear fascia that features LED taillamps, a new 20-inch wheel design, a 10-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous 8-speed, an updated infotainment system with an 8-inch screen, and revised ambient lighting.

Chevy offers it in several trims and either a turbo 4-cylinder, V6 or V8 power starting at just under $26,000 and running into the $60,000 bracket for the top ZL1 performance model.

This review is limited to the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible that carries a base price of $48,995 (including destination and delivery) plus another $1,595 for the automatic transmission for a bottom line of $50, 590.

That puts the 2SS version at the high end of the portfolio, but it carries a lot of nice features that come as standard. About the only thing missing was a navigation system, but with Waze and other apps available on Smart phones, factory-installed navigation is becoming less and less worth the extra cost.

Powering the Camaro 2SS Convertible is a 6.2-liter, V8 engine rated at 455 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 455 pound-feet of torque at 4400. The automatic transmission drinks recommended premium fuel at the rate of 16 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway which is very close to the manual numbers of 16/25.

An official zero-to-60 time from Chevy isn’t available, but Motor Trend reported a clocking of 4.1 seconds, or about a half-second or so slower than the top ZL1 model.

Standard features for the 2SS  include the 20-inch, bright silver painted aluminum wheels, performance suspension, drive mode selection (tour, sport, track, snow/ice), Brembo performance brakes, HID headlights with LED signature lighting, keyless open and start, dual zone climate control, premium Bose sound system, memory seating, illuminated sill plates, and safety equipment that includes rear park assist and rear cross-traffic alert, HD rear vision camera, and lane change and blind spot warning.

Lowering and raising the top is basically a one-finger operation. You do have to have the trunk divider in place before lowering, but it automatically latches in place when closing.

Connectivity systems on the 2SS model include Chevy’s 3-Plus infotainment system with 8-inch diagonal screen, 4G LTE hotspot, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and, as is customary on GM products, OnStar services.

SiriusXM Satellite radio capability also is included with a subscription fee after 12 months.

Driving the Camaro 2SS Convertible with that V8 power under the hood is a kick, and the ride is unusually civilized for its segment. Even when in Sport mode, it is comfortable and not unbearingly stiff, even for picky riders.

What I liked about the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: Being able to lower the top by pressing a button on the key fob is a nice feature. It allows you to air out the interior on a hot day. I like it much better than being able to start the engine by pushing another button. Also, this is the first vehicle that I have been able to see the “head-up” display while wearing polarized sunglasses. Infotainment features are plentiful and intuitive to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: The backseat is pretty much useless, and the trunk is small even by convertible standards. When the top is down, the available storage is more like a glove box than a trunk. The interior has a lot of hard surfaces and could use some upgrading. Visibility with the top up is restricted.

Would I buy the 2019 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible? Yes! And I would stick for the V8 version. If you are going to get a Muscle Car, you need to get a vehicle that matches the description.