Thursday, April 30, 2020


While it is an outstanding vehicle that takes performance to the extreme, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster is not for everyone, and not just because of its six-figure price tag.

This is a vehicle that requires you to give your full attention to matters behind the wheel, which is not all bad but sometimes you just want to relax and cruise along without worrying about running over some unsuspecting ecobox in your path, not to mention an occasional cyclist.

The AMG GT C is not for the timid. You don’t go about putting 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque at your fingertips without at least a tiny bit of trepidation.

And yet at the same time the luxurious cabin is a powerful attraction. Mercedes designers have filled the interior with rich leather and soft touch spots and a whole swatch of technological features to enhance your overall driving/riding experience.

Think Dodge Viper outfitted in formal attire.

Included in the base MSRP of $162,400 for the GT C Roadster are niceties like dual zone climate control, a 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster, COMAND navigation on wide HD display map, power heated AMG performance seats with lumbar support and memory, an AMG performance steering wheel, a power soft top that raises and lowers in 11 seconds and at speeds up to 31 mph, and Mercedes Airscarf system to channel warm air to the back of your neck when driving in cooler conditions with the top down.

Safety features include the usual assortment of airbags and seat belts plus active braking assist, lane-keeping and blind-spot assist, rearview and frontview cameras, and Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system that activates various safety precautions when sensors detect a collision coming.

Other standard features include LED headlamps and taillights, stop/start fuel-saving system (which can be deactivated by pushing a button), AMG adaptive sport suspension, AMG performance exhaust (oh, what a seat song it sings), and rear-wheel steering.

Engineers thought of darn near everything.

Under the hood of the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster is a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine that is mated to an AMG 7-speed double-clutch transmission that can be upgraded to not only to Sport or Sport-Plus modes but Race mode as well. That combination zips you from zero to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds.

About the only thing you don’t get from the drivetrain is fuel economy. The EPA figures of 15 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway, and 17 combined earns the 2020 AMG GT C a $1,000 Gas Guzzler’s Tax. According to DOT ratings you’ll spend about $6,750 more in fuel costs over a 5-year period than the average new vehicle.

That tax and extras like a Burmeister Premium Sound system, an Active Distance Assistance Distronic that automatically keeps you at a set distance from a vehicle in front of you, a couple of other stand-alone options, and a $995 destination and delivery charge ran the total of my test vehicle to $174, 665.

As I said, not a vehicle for everybody.

What I liked about the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster: They had me at “convertible.” The interior is lush with high quality materials as expected from the brand. The performance, of course, is breathtaking and everything you could ask for.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster: Somehow, the Germans keep coming up with ideas to make operation of their plentiful technology even more complicated. Maybe I’m in the minority but I don’t think a touchpad on the console is the way to go for automotive vehicles. You can easily trigger a change if your hand drifts when reaching for the cupholder. The ride can be very noisy even with the top up, but it’s not from the wind. The engine roar tends to drown out normal conversations on the highway.

Would I buy the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster? Certainly not for everyday use, that’s for sure. This is an automotive extravagance that is far beyond even my usual automotive dreams. But if you have a high six-figure budget for a weekend performance car, this certainly is one that should be on your list.

Thursday, April 23, 2020



Even though it is only about 3 years old, the Genesis G90 gets a new look for 2020 plus a redesigned 12.3-inch display monitor that incorporates touchscreen controls and more standard features befitting what the company calls its flagship model sedan.

The extra makeover is so extensive, according to the automaker, that except for the roof and doors, every exterior body panel on the new model has been replaced or changed, starting with a new bolder, mesh grille up front that flies in the face of criticism that the previous models were too bland.

It comes in two well-stocked trims with the G90 Premium and G90 Ultimate each unabashedly taking on the best the large, luxury sedans of the class have to offer.

The G90 Premium, which served as my test vehicle, comes with a twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V6 engine while the Ultimate gets a 5.8-liter V8. Rear-wheel drive is standard on both with all-wheel configuration as an option.

The engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gar selection. The V6 has EPA fuel ratings of 17 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway highway in both RWD and AWD configuration. The V8 is only slightly thirstier with figures of 16/24 RWD and 15/23 AWD.

The V8 gives the Ultimate the advantage in horsepower over the Premium model’s V6 420 hp to 365 hp, but the difference in torque, which provides get-up-and-go throttle responses, is less. The V8 is rated at 383 pound-feet to the V6’s 376.

Those used to looking to Europe for automotive opulence just might find themselves a new option with the Genesis G90 and save a few bucks as well. Though the base MSRP doesn’t look like a huge bargain on the face of it, the G90 includes a long list of standard niceties that you don’t get on its competitors without adding options that run the final total up.

That standard equipment list for the G90 Premium adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for 2020 as well as including Nappa leather seating surfaces, a microfiber suede headliner, 12-way adjustable driver’s and 10-way passenger seat, ventilated front seats and heated rear, 3-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptable cruise control (dubbed Smart), heads-up display, HD navigation for the 12.3-inch display, wireless charging pad, sunroof, hands-free trunk opener, 17-speaker premium sound system, and LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights.

There is the usual array of safety features like blind spot warning and lane-keeping assist and new for 2020 are Lane Following Assist (LFA), Rear Cross-traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA), Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (that can now help detect bicycles and vehicles in front of the vehicle), Safe Exit Assist (SEA) to alert driver and passengers with alerts when an object is approaching an opening door, and Highway Driving Assist (HDA).

The company says that HDA assists the driver to maintain the center of a lane on marked interstate highways and keep a safe distance from a vehicle in front. It can act in conjunction with Highway Auto Speed Slowdown, which adjusts vehicle speed to match posted signs.

As noted, there is no real need for options on the Premium, but the Ultimate edition adds a rear-seat entertainment system and ventilated rear seats. The only real decisions left for buyer is to pick are RWD or AWD and the exterior and exterior colors.

G90 Premium models carry an MSRP of $72,200 for RWD not including the $995 destination charge. The Ultimate checks in at $75,700. AWD adds another $2,500 to each. 

What I liked about the 2020 Genesis G90 Premium: The ride is very smooth, quiet and comfortable, and the twin-turbo V6 has plenty of punch. Infotainment features are very user-friendly and offer buttons as well as a console knob and the touchscreen to operate the various applications. A long list of standard features relieves you of the chore of having to pick through options.

What I did’t like about the 2020 Genesis G90 Premium: It’s a bit on the thirsty side. Not sure I care for the mesh grille.

Would I buy the 2020 Genesis G90 Premium? I love all the Genesis sedans, but probably would opt for the G70 or perhaps the G80 over the G90 if I were shopping. My reasoning has more to do with size than anything else. But if a bigger luxury sedan is what you want, certainly the G90 is a great choice.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


It is a widely accepted idea that an automotive coupe is a two-door vehicle that can seat two or four people (including the driver) or, if among close friends, three in the backseat.

But that concept has been challenged in recent years with the introduction of “four-door coupes” that feature sleeker styling than the typical sedan and other coupe-like touches. I once had a friend who simply wouldn’t accept this, insisting that a four-door car was a sedan, a two-door car a coupe, and that was that!

Mercedes-Benz muddied the waters when it marketed the CLS as a “four-door coupe” when it hit showrooms as a 2004 model. A few years later the 2014 CLA also was introduced as a “four-door” coupe and so it persists today.

By any designation — you say “tomato,” Larry the Cable Guy’s mentally challenged ex-girl friend says “bowling shoes” — the AMG CLA35 serves as a spectacular introduction to the Mercedes-Benz family of luxury vehicles.

Designers and engineers have given it a complete makeover for 2020 after the first generation CLA received a rather tepid reception as an entry-level luxury car with an initial price tag of under $30,000.

It looked the part of a Mercedes, but its cramped backseat, stiff ride, front-wheel drive configuration, and unimaginative performance resulted in a rather lackluster reception.

That’s not the case any more. Though the ride remains on the stiff side, perhaps too taut for some, my only real complaint with the AMG CLA35 that served as my test vehicle recently had to do with the operation of features in the new MBUX infotainment system via a touchpad on the center console.

The theory is that as we are getting so used to using computers and other technology with a touchpad instead of a mouse that this should be a natural transition to our car’s system. It is not. I found it demanded too much attention to change a radio station, for example, by swiping my finger across the pad.

Fortunately, reactions to voice commands are more responsive, but why complicate things to being with? It is also easy to give the system input accidentally if your hand drifts unintentionally across the pad.

The other oddity — but not really annoying — is the gear selection lever. Mounted on the steering column, it sticks out to the right and is no bigger than a popsicle stick.

The CLA is available in three different versions. The base is the CLA 250 that sort of lives up to its “entry-class luxury” designation with a starting MSRP of under $37,000. Two AMG models up that ante there with the AMG CLA35 starting at $45,900 and the bigger AMG CLA45 starting at $54,800.

If you are even vaguely familiar with the AMG designation you know that this is German-speak for “more power and performance,” and indeed the AMG CLA35 lives up to that billing.

The 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the AMG CLA35 (the words “Mercedes-Benz” do not appear on the sticker label heading) is rated at 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which results in an estimated zero-to-60 mph clocking of 4.8 seconds according to the company.

That’s not quite as quick as the CLA45 (382 hp, 354 lb.-ft., 4.0 seconds) but is a significant boost over the numbers for the base CLA250 (221 hp, 258 lb.-ft., 6.3 seconds).

A 7-speed automatic transmission with manual mode is standard on the CLA250 and CLA35 while the CLA45 gets an 8-speed. AMG models also get the company’s 4MATC all-wheel-drive system as standard.

EPA figures on the AMG CLA35 are not great, but it is probably not as thirsty as you might think. Even with all that performance, the AMG CLA35 drinks premium fuel at the rate of 23 miles-per-gallon city, 29 highway, and 25 combined.

The cabin is high class and resplendent with leather and comfort features.

Standard equipment on the CLA35 includes a panoramic sunroof, 10.25-inch touchscreen display, 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless start, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Mercedes UConnect services, LED headlamps and taillights, active brake assist and stop/start technology that can be turned off by pushing a button

Options on my test car included a Driver Assistance Package, Multimedia Package (navigation and speed limit assist), an AMG Performance Seat Package, and numerous options that ran the final tab to $62,855 with the $995 destination and deliver charge included.

That pretty much takes the AMG CLA35 out of the “entry-level” discussion, but it is oh so much fun!

Now, I wonder what car maker is going to bring back a two-door sedan?

What I liked about the 2020 AMG CLA35 4MATIC: It is a visually stunning vehicle, especially in red, and the interior oozes the sophistication and quality you have come to expect from Mercedes-Benz. The performance, too, is what you expect from AMG. This may be considered “entry level” for the marque, but it is still a high class vehicle. 

What I didn’t like about the 2020 AMG CLA35 4MATIC: The touchpad on the console is extremely sensitive. You can change radio station by accidentally hitting it when you are reaching for loose change in the cupholder. Guess you can get used to it, but to me it is another example of German engineers overthinking technology. The backseat is on the crowded size. The sweeping roofline that gives the CLA its coupe-like profile infringes on headroom back there.

Would I buy the 2020 AMG CLA35 4MATIC? Probably, but that touchpad is nearly a deal breaker for me. But the looks and overall performance of the 2020 AMG CLA35 4MATIC are breathtaking.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Chevrolet was an early player in the plug-in hybrid game of post-2000 with the 2011 Chevy Volt, which at the time was considered revolutionary with an extended range of driving on electric power only for everyday commutes paired with the convenience of a gas engine for longer treks.

Early reaction was mixed.

Environmental groups pretty much loved it for obvious reasons and the panel of judges for Detroit’s North American Auto Show awarded it North American Car of the Year honors for 2011.

But while most automotive reviewers seemed to get what the Volt was all-about, some others in the news media did not. Part of that was because they thought of the Volt as an “electric” vehicle when it really was more of an updated version of the gas-electric hybrid models that had been introduced about a decade before. They pooh-poohed its all-electric range of about 40 miles while ignoring the range anxiety relief the gas engine provided all together.

One cable show host laughed about how his Volt’s battery ran out of charge when he was halfway through the Lincoln Tunnel, giving his co-host the impression that he had been left stranded in a vehicle without power.

Of course, he hadn’t been. What occurred when he used up the battery was that the Volt had seamlessly shifted over to the 4-cylinder gas engine so he could complete his trip.

Frankly, I thought the system was a good way to ease the problem of range anxiety that comes with driving an all-electric car for an extended time. But apparently, I was in the minority.

Chevy ceased production of the Volt over a year ago and is now all-in on its all-electric Bolt EV, which it introduced as a 2017 model. There is no gas engine to extend a trip, but it does have an much-increased electric range of up 259 miles when fully charged, an increase of 21 miles over previous Bolts.

That’s almost five times the 53 miles that was promised for the 2019 Volt when it went out of production.

Classed as a “small wagon,” the Bolt still comes in only two trim levels for 2020. The base LT carries a base MSRP of $37,495 while the upgraded Premier that served as my test vehicle starts at $41,020.

That does not figure in any tax credits the Bolt may earn.

Both trims get the same powertrain with the electric motor putting out 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, which are darn good numbers of a car of this size (3,563 pounds, 69.5 wide, and 164 inches long with a wheelbase of 102.4 inches).

That power is delivered to the front wheels via what Chevy calls an electronic precision shift system that operates like a traditional continuously variable transmission and results in a zero-to-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds, according to company clockers.

The Bolt also offers one-pedal driving. When in Low mode, it lets you speed up or slow down using only the accelerator pedal. Press it and you go. Lift your foot and you slow down (and capture some of the power from the moving vehicle to store a bit of electrical energy in the lithium-ion battery pack).

Frankly, it takes a bit of getting used to, which I must confess I didn’t.

In addition to the extended range, two new colors (Oasis Blue and Cayenne Orange Metallic) are available for 2020, and the rear-vision camera and surrounded vision system has been upgrade with high-definition cameras.

Heated front and rear seats are available on the Premier with heated front seats available on the LT with the Comfort and Convenience Package. Leather seats also are standard on the Premier, which gets many of the features from optional packages offered on the LT.

My test 2020 Chevy Bolt Premier came with a $750 Fast-charging option that would seriously cut the charging time you have to contend with using a regular household outlet.

Also, an Infotainment Package includes a wireless charging device, Bose Premium Sound, rear USB charging ports, and a Driver Confidence II Package offers automatic high-beam headlights, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian braking.

Those options and the $875 destination and delivery charge ran the final tab to $43,735.

What I liked about the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier: It’s kind of a fun car to drive. Throttle response is very quick, and unless you want to take a 260-mile trip, the range is good for everyday driving. The interior also very roomy, and the Premier gets a surround-view camera system included as standard.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier: While designers avoided giving the Bolt’s interior a dorky look in what could have been a vain attempt to make it look “futuristic,” it still has a cheap feel about it. Not expecting luxury here, but an upgrade in some materials would be nice.

Would I buy the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt Bolt EV Premier? Probably not at this time, mostly because I’m not a big fan of all-electric vehicles. I don’t have an advanced charger and have to rely on my household for charging, which can take forever. The Bolt is priced competitively in its segment but still strikes me as a $20,000-plus car that is double the price because of the electric powertrain.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020



Since the SRX became Cadillac’s best-selling vehicle during its 13-year run, it isn’t surprising that its successor, the XT5 crossover SUV, would assume the same role, and it has.

Though it has yet to match the sales popularity of the SRX, which hit a model sales high of 68,850 for 2015, the next-to-last year of production, the XT5 still outpaced every other Cadillac model with a reported 49,878 sold in the U.S. in 2019. That tops the iconic Escalade (35,424) and its XT4 (31,987) and XT6 (11,560) siblings and easily outpaces the top-selling Cadillac sedans, the XTS (11,306) and CT6 (7,952).

To keep the XT5 on pace with a challenging field of competitors, Cadillac has updated the 2020 model with numerous changes that include new interior color schemes, a revised   infotainment system, and a new base engine.

Available only with a V6 at its 2017 debut, the XT5 now comes standard with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine on Luxury and Premium Luxury trims. It is rated at 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. of torque compared to the 310/271, respectively, in the V6 while offering respectable fuel mileage of 21 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 24 combined.

The V6 is standard on the top-of-the-line Sport trim and also is available on Luxury and Premium Luxury models. Each engine gets its own version of a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The other major change is with the infotainment system. The company’s CUE system (Cadillac User Experience) that was introduced some years back came under heavy criticism for its problems and annoyances and actually was the target of a class action lawsuit last year.

The new system still can take some getting used to, but is a step up from its predecessor, which was overly sensitive, susceptible to sun glare issues, and often slow to respond. It gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

This review is based on the Premium Luxury trim that carries a base MSRP of $46,795.

Standard equipment on Premium Luxury models includes the 4-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive (AWD is available), 18-inch wheels, SiriusXM satellite radio capability,  Bose premium audio, automatic dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, LED headlights and taillights, LED daytime running lights, leather seating surfaces, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat and 6-way adjustable front passenger seat with lumbar support, heated steering wheel, sunroof, wireless charging and a bevy of safety features that include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, and front and rear parking assist.

An optional Platinum Package upgrades the leather seats for all rows and adds a suede headliner among other things for an extra $4,850.

Other options on my test XT5 were a technology package that features a surround-view camera; a driver assistance package that includes lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control; a comfort package that includes tri-zone climate control and ventilated front and rear seats, and navigation with the CUE infotainment system.

It also came with 20-inch wheels over the standard 18s.

The issue there, of course, is that all those options and packages added nearly $14,000 to the base MSRP before the $995 destination and delivery charge was added.

What I liked about the 2020 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury: The turbo-4 engine delivers adequate power in a fuel efficient manner. The overall ride is quiet and comfortable and well up to what you expect from a Cadillac. The XT5 also comes in at the right size — not too big and not too small. Cadillac added a button to deactivate the stop/start system.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury: The console storage compartment is too small, especially considering what you typically have with an SUV. The 8-inch touchscreen also is a bit on the small side by today’s standards.

Would I buy the 2020 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury? Not sure, but I’d definitely give it a look if I were shopping in the segment. Like many others, I really liked the SRX, much more than the Escalade. Desirable options oquickly drive the final cost up and take away from the XT5’s price advantage, however. The bottom line for my test XT5 was $63,715.