Friday, December 25, 2020

2021 KIA K5



When it came time for Kia to update its Optima sedan after nearly 20 years of production, the South Korean automaker didn’t mess around.

The overhaul was so extensive that the old Optima is completely gone, replaced by a new vehicle, the K5, for 2021 with a major upgrade in both appearance and features from its predecessor.
The 2021Kia K5  already has had a huge impact in sales, taking over the No. 2 spot in Kia’s November report, passing the smaller Forte behind only the company’s popular Telluride SUV after just its fifth month in showrooms.

With an all new platform, the new K5 is longer, wider, lower, and, according to the company, stronger than its predecessor. It is offered in five trim levels — LX, LXS, GT-Line, EX, and GT — with two turbocharged engines depending on the trim and available all-wheel drive instead of the standard front-wheel-drive setup.

Most trims, like the GT-Line that I checked out recently, get a 1.6-liter turbo 4-banger that checks in at 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The top-of-the-food chain GT model gets a 2.5-liter turbo-4 that ups horsepower and torque numbers to 290 and 311, respectively, and is mated to a new “wet” double-clutch transmission.

Fuel mileage numbers for my GT-Line model are a solid 26 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway, and 29 combined which puts it in the middle of the segment.

Numbers for the dual-clutch GT model are slightly less, but you have to pay some price for the 5.8-second zero-to-60 clocking Kia reports for the GT.

The K5 has a coupe-like sleek profile that does cut down on rear headroom to 37.8 inches and requires you duck your head wisely when getting in the backseat, but that also gives the K5 a classier outer appearance.

The impression that there is more to the K5 GT-Line than just a typical run-of-the-mill midsize sedan carries over to the interior, where there is amble legroom (46.1 inches in the front, 35.2 in the back) and cloth and leatherette seat trim (with the GT-Line logo) to accommodate your tush.

Yes, you will find hard plastics in the cabin, but there is also generous use of higher quality materials as well for a near-luxury feel.

The list of creature comforts on the K5 GT-Line is extensive as well. They include a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, front console with armrest and good-size storage bin, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a leather steering wheel with buttons for Bluetooth, audio, and cruise controls.

Standard technological systems include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, second-row USB charge ports, an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment functions, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and push-button start.

Driver assistance technology and safety features include forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and alert, an electronic parking park with an auto-hold function,  and an assortment of airbags that include full-length side-curtain airbags.

LED headlights with auto on/off, LED fog lights, heated outside mirrors with LED turn-signal alert, and LED taillights complete the standard features while also included in the $$28,0 90 starting MSRP are such items as a panoramic sunroof, wireless phon charger, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and Smart cruise control.

That left only a couple of options for my test vehicle with special wolf gray paint and navigation with a 10.25-inch screen running the bottom line to $31,300 including the $965 destination and delivery cost.

What I liked about the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line: The exterior has a sleek profile that gives the K5 the look of a higher class model. The infotainment system comes with a touchscreen that (with one exception noted below) is very user friendly. Most safety features are standard. Trunk capacity is a generous 16 cubic feet, which is usually confined to full-size sedans.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Ki a GT-Line: It’s no more than a slight annoyance in the operation of infotainment features, but I still would like a knob to surf the radio dial instead of using the touchscreen.

Would I buy the 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line? Yes. It faces a lot of tough competition from its Japanese rivals and even its South Korean compadre Hyundai (which owns a 34-percent share of Kia), but it still is worth a look if you are looking for an attractive and value-laden passenger sedan. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020



After a brief run over a decade ago, the Aviator name is back for Lincoln, and it is welcome change from the use of alphanumeric nomenclature among luxury class vehicles, whether they been sedans, coupes, convertibles, or the growing crossover SUV segment.

It is much easier to remember “Aviator” than it is “MKX” or whatever Lincoln’s previous midsize SUV was.

Slotted between the smaller Nautilus and larger Navigator, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a luxury take on the trend-setting Ford Explorer with a classy exterior and a refined, roomy interior packed with lots of easy-to-operate technological features.

It is offered in trims designated Standard, Reserve, Black Label, Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label and available with either a standard gasoline V6 engine or a plug-in hybrid gas-electric powertrain (available in Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label models).

The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and is rated at a healthy 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. Those are decent enough numbers for a competent driving experience, though for a real punch the hybrid offers a combined 495 hp and 630 lb.-ft. Those numbers are based on premium fuel, but the Aviator also accepts regular.

Rear-wheel drive is standard on the Aviator with all-wheel available. Black Label models come only with AWD.

The Reserve trim served for my test drive and with the available AWD offered fuel mileage figures of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway, and 20 combined. According to the government, that will cost you an extra $2,500 in fuel costs over a five-year period.

The Aviator can seat seven in synthetic leather seats (genuine leather is available) though as is typical in a midsize SUV the third row can become a bit snug. With captain’s chairs in the second row, capacity is reduced to six.

Third-row passengers get only 29.2 inches of legroom and cargo capacity is just 18.2 cubic feet with the third row seats in place. Lower the third row and cargo capacity is 41.8 cubic feet.

Standard features on the Aviator Reserve include a 360-degree camera, push-button start, lane-keeping system, Lincoln Connect with 4G modem and WiFi capability, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual zone climate control, hands-free liftgate, full LED headlights, a chrome-mesh grille, intelligent (adaptable) cruise control, and drive modes that allow you to select from Normal, Conserve, Excite, Slippery and Deep Conditions.

Standard safety items on the Aviator Reserve in addition to the usual collection of airbags and seatbelts  included blind-spot warning, auto high beams, and a pre-collision assist system.

All that is covered by the Reserve’s starting MSRP of $59,700.

Adding extras like Lincoln’s Co-Pilot Plus system (evasive steering assist, reverse brake assist, and active park assist), a luxury package that adds a massage function to front seats, a convenience package that provides a head-up display for the driver to monitor speed and also allows you to use your smart phone as a key, a panoramic sunroof, 23-inch wheels, and a dynamic handling package ran the total up to $75,815 with the $1,995 destination and delivery charge included.

You can add a towing package for your boat. Or a camper trailer for that matter, but I’m thinking if you are shopping in this class you’re probably more likely to have a boat than a camper.

What I liked about the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD:
The exterior styling is exquisite and the interior is very classy. Technological features, including a standard surround view camera, are plentiful and very user friendly. The adaptable cruise control works very smoothly and efficiently. I also liked the way the Aviator lights up as you approach it with the key fob in your possession. 

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD: I only inputted one destination on the navigation system, and it didn’t quite take me all the way to where I wanted to go. Could have been operator error, I suppose, but not sure about that since it did get me close and my phone had it right.

Would I buy the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve AWD? Definitely. This is a roomy SUV with all the features you would want in a luxury vehicle, and it is very easy to maneuver through tight parking lots.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020




The 2020 Land Rover Defender is a new SUV sporting an old name.

First introduced in 1983 as the Land Rover 110 with a Land Rover 90 coming a year later — the designations were based on the vehicle’s wheelbase, not engine size — the name was altered to Defender in 1990, but it wasn’t too survive very long in the U.S. market.

Land Rover ceased selling the Defender in the U.S. after the 1997 model because the sporty off-roader did not meet U.S. safety requirements, and  the company ceased production period overall in early 2016 only to bring back the name on a much different — and presumably safer — vehicle for 2020.

The Defender is offered in six trim levels (base Defender, Defender S, Defender SE, Defender HSE, Defender X and Defender First Edition.) and two body styles, a two-door Defender 90 and four-door Defender 110.

Four distinct accessory packs including one (Explorer) that adds even more features to expand the Defender’s abundant off-roading capability) gives buyers the opportunity to trim their vehicle to their specific tastes and needs.

Five-passenger seating is standard, though a jump seat may be added between the front bucket seats and third-row seating is available on the four-door 110 models.

A 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is standard with a 3.6-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder available in upper trims. The engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is standard, of course, with a 2-speed transfer box.

My vehicle for the week was the Defender 110 X, the top-of-the-line trim with a starting MSRP of $80,900, a good-size leap over the $48,900 for the base model with the 4-banger.

The 6-cylinder pumps out 395 horsepower and provides 405 pound-feet of torque compared to the 296/295, respectively, for the 4-banger while still providing fuel  economy of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 22 highway and 19 combined. The government reports figures of 18/21/19 for the 4-cylinder. All figures are based on use of premium fuel.

Land Rover reports a zero-to-60 mph clocking for the 6-cylinder compared to 7.7 for the 4-cylinder, but both deliver a maximum towing capacity of 8,210 pounds.

The Defender 110’s cabin is spacious with up to 39.1 inches of legroom for those in the second row on five-passenger models and 38.5 when a third row is added.

Standard features include LED headlights, fog lights, panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing front and rear wipers, rear privacy glass, hill descent control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, two-zone climate control, a camera-based interior rear-view mirror, keyless entry and push-button start, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and adaptive cruise control.

Among standard safetyfeatures are a 3-D surround view camera, blind-spot and lane-keep assist, and a rear traffic monitor.

Extras on my test vehicle included a cold climate pack (heated windscreen, heated washer jets, headlight power wash, and heated steering wheel), three-zone climate control with rear controls, off-road tires ounted on 20-inch wheels, and more that, along with the $1,350 destination and deliery fee, ran the final total to $85,750.

What I liked about the 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 X:
The turbo-6 engine provides plenty of power, and even with all of its off-road ability, the Defender is a very comfortable highway cruiser and around town as well. Standard safety features on the Defender 110 X include a 3D surround view camera. That’s always a welcome addition on larger vehicles. Having climate controls for second-row riders can eliminate some potential disputes.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 X: Infotainment functions, including the radio, can be tricky to operate. Cargo space is pretty good unless you add a third row, and then you get cramped seating and hardly any room for storage. 

Would I buy the 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 X? Yes. If you are looking for a luxury SUV with some extra oomph for off-road activities, this has to be on your shopping list.


Monday, November 30, 2020

2020 GMC SIERRA 1500



I don’t know when pickup trucks started coming with price tags that used to be found only on top-end luxury sedans, but there is no question you can spend just as much on a workhorse vehicle these days as you can on a thoroughbred.

Not saying you have to, of course, because manufacturers tend to start with lower-end pricing, but they certainly can work their way up rather quickly.

All you have to do is start with their top-of-the-line models and start adding options and available packages and pretty soon you have a truck in the $60,000 to $70,000 range or even more.

A neighbor of mine who drives a very nice pickup for work can only shake his head and wryly smile when he looks at the bottom line pricing for trucks like the Denali edition of the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 that recently assumed temporary residence in my driveway.

Starting MSRP for the Denali is $58,200, which is a pretty big hunk of change in itself and soon balloons out to $71,850 when options like the CarbonPro Edition (carbon fiber box, HD surround vision, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and much, much more), a 6.2-liter V8 engine (in place of the standard 5.3-liter and available exclusivcely on 4-wheel drive Denalis ), and a special paint job (white frost tricoat) are added on.

The 6.2L V8 offers 420 horsepower, max torque of 460 pound-feet, and fuel economy ratings of 15 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway, and 17 combined. The torque number equals that of the diesel engine. It is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Of course, you don’t have to go spend $70,000. Starting MSRP for the base 2020 Sierra 1500 is $31,195, but even that might stretch what used to be a typical budget for a pickup.

The Sierra 1500 is offered in six trims (Sierra, SLE, , SLT, AT4, and Denali) and is a slightly upgraded version the more popular Chevrolet Silverado, which, by the way, carries an MSRP that starts at just a tad under $30,000.

They both have the same engine options, which includes the previously mentioned V8s (5.3L and 6.2L) along
with a turbocharged 4-cylinder and V6 and a 3.0L turbo diesel, and they both offer configurations that include Regular Cab, Double Cab and Crew Cab body styles.

The Denali comes exclusively with the Crew Cab, which provided lots of room and creature comforts that created a more SUV-like ambiance.

To separate the Sierra from its sibling Silverado, GMC trims it with some upgraded interior materials and some other features, like a six-function tailgate that can serve as a work bench or provide easier access for loading stuff, are available only on the Sierra. That MultiPro tailgate is standard on the Denali, but the carbon-fiber bed is available in optional CarbonPro package.

Other standard features on the Sierra Denali include a Driver Alert Package (front and rear park assist, lane-change alert with blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert), a 2-speed transfer case for 4WD models, adaptive ride control, a trailering package, premium infotainment system with an 8-inch touchdown and navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth communications, Bose Premium Sound system, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front bucket seats, a huge front storage bin, ventilated front seats, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, OnStar services, keyless open and start, wireless and USB charging, power outlet in the bed, 12 cargo tie-downs, LED headlamps and fog lamps, and dual exhaust with chrome tips.

One pretty neat feature is an available camera-based rear-view mirror that provides high-def images. It is included in the CarbonPro Edition suite of features.

What I liked about the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali: The rear camera mirror is really cool. You don’t have to worry about adjusting the mirror and the image is very sharp.The infotainment system controls are very user friendly as well. Hooray!

What I didn’t like about the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali: Not sure the extra cost over the Chevy Silverado is worth it when the main difference between the two seems to be the multi-purpose tailgate on the Sierra, but the tailgate is kind of neat. A full-size pickup (231.7 inches long with a 5-foot-8 box, 241.2 with the longer 6-6 box, and 81.2 inches wide), the Sierra is a bear to maneuver in mall parking lots.

Would I buy the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali? As I have mentioned many times, I don’t have a need for a full-size pickup, but if I did, I would be shopping this one. It is really difficult to separate the top models in the segment. It would come down to what the dealer offered.

Sunday, November 8, 2020



After spending a week in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris van, I have a new respect for drivers of commercial vehicles with enclosed rear cargo areas, and I intend to give them plenty of room when driving.

How they manage with just side mirrors letting them know what is going on behind them is beyond me. I never did get comfortable in the Metris without the typical interior mirror mounted above the windshield.

You might be surprised to learn just how much information you can gather from that little reflecting device that Ray Harroun mounted above his dash to allay fears from his fellw competitors in the 1911 Indianapolis 500 that he would be driving blind without a mechanic at his side as the other 39 drivers had. (Yes, 40 cars ran in the inaugural 500.)

You would think I would have gotten used to it when I owned a full-size conversion van that pretty much blocked my view out the back, but that had been long ago.

At least the Metris has a rearview camera that engages when the vehicle is put in reverse, which my van back in the mid-1980s and ’90s didn’t, so maybe I eventually would have gotten used to being without the interior mirror.

But at least for now I am not comfortable without it.

Mercedes-Benz introduced the Metris to a U.S. audience in October 2015 as a 2016 model with the Germans' marketing side billing it as a right-size mid-sized hauler.

Slightly smaller than the Mercedes full-size Sprinter, the cargo version of the Metris (it also can be had with seats to accommodate up to eight passengers) still offers up to a minimum 183 cubic feet of cargo space for the base Worker model.

The long wheel-base version that served as my test vehicle for the week is 211.4 inches long or 9.0 inches longer than the Metris Worker and offers 199 cubic feet of space in the back for cargo. It also can serve as a changing room for trips to the beach, as I discovered!

Both Metris models come with gasoline engine rather than the diesel version sold in Europe as the Vito with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

It is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles for manual gear selection. Equipped with rear-wheel drive, the Metris has a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

Standard features on the long wheelbase Metris include sliding doors on each side in addition to rear doors with a wide, 270-degree opening, adjustable (slightly) driver and front passenger seats, 4 cupholders, a 5-speaker audio system, air-conditioning, wood floor, and safety features that include crosswind and hill-start assist. Halogen headlights have an automatic setting as well.

Starting MSRP is $31,500 for the long wheel-base Metris. The Worker starts at $26,570.

Extras like the Premium Safety Package with Parktronic, a Premium Exterior Package, Driver Efficiency and Comfort packages and more ran the final bottom line for my test Metris to $41,161 including a $1,195 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van:
It is will equipped and not any more difficult to drive than a full-size SUV or a family minivan (though with one caveat noted below). It has a huge cargo area, and it is available in passenger configuration as well. The side doors open and shut effortlessly, gliding open or closed with a gentle tug. There is nothing sluggish about the drive, and the overall ride is comfortable enough. It’s seemed easier to get through urban parking lots easier than many full-size pickup trucks.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van:
I simply could not get used to being without an interior rearview mirror. It was an uncomfortable feeling to look up above the enter of the windshield and see just a blank space. A hi-def camera-based mirror would be a welcome addition. That’s a feature seems to be a coming thing. Premium fuel also is required.

Would I buy the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van? Obviously, I personally have no need for a cargo van, but if I were running a business and wanted to impress clientele with the prestige and panache of a luxury vehicle manufacturer with the Mercedes star up front, it certainly is something I would consider.

Sunday, November 1, 2020



While Ford has given its redesigned Escape crossover an advertising push recently, the Ford Edge remains a nice option for car shoppers looking for something just a tad bigger but don’t care about three-row seating.

Around since its debut as a 2007 model, the 2020 Edge slots in between the Escape and familiar Ford Explorer in the company’s SUV fleet and though it would seem a third-row could be squeezed in, thankfully the company has avoided that temptation and provided pretty good cargo space behind the second row.

The 2020 Edge is part of the second generation introduced in 2015. The top-of-the-line ST trim that this review is based on replaced the Sport trim in 2019 and gets some new appearance options for this year.

Ford boasts that the turbocharged Ecoboost V6 engine is the most powerful in its segment with figures of 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque when the tank is filled with  93-octane fuel (91 is recommended with 87 as a minimum).

An aide here: filling a tank with premium fuel when regular octane (87) is all that is needed is a waste of money, but I’ve never figured out why if 91 or 93 octane is either recommended or required for the best performance from your vehicle that you would skimp to save a few bucks.

But I digress.

The V6 not only delivers more power, it isn’t all that thirsty either with ratings of 19 miles-per-gallon city, 26 highway.  A 2.0-liter 4-banger is standard on other Edge trims (SE, SEL, Titanium) with fuel milage at 21 mpg city, 29 highway.

Both engines come with an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection via steering wheel paddle shifters, and the ST gets all-wheel drive as standard.

With the top position in the Edge’s pecking order, the Edge ST packs lots of standard feature in its starting $43,265 MSRP. Those include dual zone climate control, auto stop-start tech, a 12-speaker sound system, blind spot detection, a performance-tuned suspension (which some might find a bit too stiff), lane-keeping assist, push-button start, hotspot telematics modem, Ford Sync3 telematics, a rotary dial for gear selection, bolstered leather sport seats with suede inserts, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a Class II trailer towing package.

My test Edge ST came with extras that added to the whole image.

They came in two packages.

One that included a wireless charging pad (for youechies), evasive steering assist, panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, heated back seats and cool front seats, voice-activated navigation, hands-free voice activated liftgate, and remote start.

That package added $4,840 to the bottom line. The ST Performance Brake Package added another $2,695.

All in all, the total for this 2020 Ford Edge ST came to $51,195 with the $1,245 destination and delivery charge included.

What I liked about the 2020 Ford Edge ST: There is tons of space for both passengers and cargo. There is probably room to squeeze in a third row, but I’m glad Ford didn’t put one in. I prefer the 39.3 cubic feet of room for cargo. The infotainment system offers much in the way of the latest technology with an 8-inch touchscreen, and it is user-friendly. The V6 Ecoboost engine in the ST trim provides good punch and fuel economy.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Ford Edge ST: There is a very sharp edge along the bottom of the front doors that actually can break skin if you happen to strike it with some force.

Would I buy the 2020 Ford Edge ST? Yes. Even with the interior room, the Edge is not all that difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. The interior is nicely trimmed out, and five-passenger seating fits all I need.