Monday, August 31, 2020


With automatic transmissions coming with Sport and Sport+ modes and manual gear selection via paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel or, in some cases, the steering wheel column, vehicles equipped with manual transmissions continue to fade from the market.

According to various sources such as and, just over 40 vehicles for 2020 come with the capability of the traditional clutch and shift operation, which sounds like a decent number of options.

That is, at least until you consider that a study late last year showed that sales of electric cars nearly doubled those for vehicles with manual transmissions. Just over 1.1 percent of buyers went for a manual model compared to just under 2 percent for an electric car.

Not even the new Chevrolet Corvette, long recognized as America’s Sports Car, is offered with a manual transmission. The C8 model not only is the first mid-engine Corvette but also the first to be offered with an automatic only.

Part of that has to do with the design elements of accommodating the new powertrain, but the rest is because of slow sales of manually equipped C7 versions in recent years. A report in Car & Driver quoted chief engineer chief engineer Ed Piatek as saying that sales of the C7 Corvette with a manual gear box had dwindled from 50 percent in 2014 to less than 20 percent in 2019.

We’ll see if enough Corvette purists demand Chevy reconsider its decision, but the fact that the C8 Corvette is zipping from zero-to-60 mph in under three seconds with its double-clutch automatic likely will stifle momentum for the manual.

I am not a purist, and I do like most of the responses I get when driving in Sport mode, but I get my most enjoyment when the test vehicle that shows up in my driveway on a weekly basis is a manual, usually a 6-speed these days. (I harbor strong memories of a 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint convertible with “4 on the floor” I had back in the day.)

Regrettably, it doesn’t happen often, but it did recently when I was delivered a new Genesis G70 sedan.

The G70 comes with a choice of two turbocharged engines, a 3.3-liter V6 and a 2.0-liter inline 4 with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.

While an 8-speed automatic is the more common transmission, a 6-speed manual also is available with the 2.0T 4-cylinder G70 with RWD. The manual model also comes with a performance package that gives horsepower a slight boost to 255 (torque remains at 260 pound-feet) and adds a sport exhaust and Brembo brakes with enhanced performance pads.

Interestingly, the listed MSRP of $38,500 for the 2.0T Sport model with the manual is more than even the $37,450 base for the AWD 2.0T with an automatic, which is the reverse of what is usually the case.

Automatic transmissions used to pretty much always come with a premium over manuals and offer slightly less than in the way of fuel mileage, but with the G70 it’s just the opposite. The 2.0T the automatic has EPA numbers of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway and the manual 16/28 mpg.

I’ll sacrifice that.

Standard equipment in the 2.0T Sport RWD includes proximity key and push-button start, LED headlights and taillights, LED daytime running lights, leatherette seating surfaces, 16-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 4-way lumbar, 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, aluminum interior trim, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8-inch display screen for audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Lexicon premium sound, Bluetooth hands-free communications, three USB ports, and hands-free trunk with auto open.

Safety features include Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot and Rear Cross-TrafficWarning, lane-keeping assist, rearview camera with parking guidelines, Hill Start Assist control, and a Driver Attention Warning.

The Driver Attention Warning may come in handy on long road trips, but I think that manual models by their nature demand your attention more than automatics. Just another benefit over the automatics!

(For my earlier review of the 2020 Genesis G70, see my reviews from November 2019 using the index on the right.)

What I liked about the 2020 Genesis G70 2.0T Sport R/T: In addition to its great-looking exterior and classy cabin, I loved it coming with a 6-speed manual transmission. It has a high-class premium feel, and the infotainment features are very intuitive to operate.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Genesis G70 2.0T Sport R/T: A small point, but the manual takes extra care to get into reverse. As with all G70s, the trunk is on the small side (10.5 cubic feet).

Would I buy the 2020 Genesis G70 2.0T Sport R/T: Most definitely. The G70 is the only Genesis offering with a manual transmission, and I love it! You’ll pay a little extra for it over the G70 2.0T with the automatic, but it is worth it.

Monday, August 24, 2020



If you still cling to the notion that a gas-electric powertrain has to be a boring vehicle that is no fun to drive, you need to check out the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. You will likely change your mind.

The Sonata offers a different kind of hybrid performance. Though it wouldn’t be your first choice for a drag race, it is a peppy performer around town and a steady cruiser on the highway.

Part of the eighth generation Sonata the South Korean automaker introduced for 2020, the Sonata Hybrid comes in three trims, starting with the base Blue and continuing with the upgraded SEL and Limited models. A plug-in Hybrid was dropped from the lineup.

The Limited that served as my test vehicle for the week comes with a long list of standard equipment.

All models are front-wheel drive with a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder gas engine (150 horsepower, 139 pound-feet of torque) paired with an electric motor (51 hp, 151 lb.-ft) for a net 192 horsepower at 6000 rpm.

Rather than a continuously variable transmission (CVT) often found in hybrid drivetrains, the Sonata gets a 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode. It also includes a Sport mode, which adds to the driving experience.

The Blue earns the top EPA mileage figures of 50 miles-per-gallon city, 54 highway, and 52 combined. The slightly heavier SEL and Limited’s numbers are 45/51/47, all an increase over the previous model’s 41/42 figures.

Included in the Limited’s base MSRP of $35,300 are such niceties as LED headlights and taillights, proximity key entry and push-button start, adaptable cruise control, hands-free trunk release, leather seating surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, power front seat with memory settings for the driver, Bose premium sound system, dual automatic climate control, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Hyundai’s Blue Link system, and a solar panel roof that feeds the lithium-ion battery.

Safety features include a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, parking assist, and around-view monitor. A lane-keeping assist system can be a bit on the sensitive side with its annoying beeps, but it can be turned off.

Also included is Hyundai’s Blind Spot View Monitor that shows any traffic that may be in your blindspot via an image projected in the tach or speedometer gauges’ spot in the instrument cluster when the corresponding turn signal is activated. It’s a nice touch that seemingly has limited appeal, but I find a nice addition.

The only extra on my test Sonata was $135 for carpeted floor mats, making the final total $36,430.

The Limited’s interior has a nice, comfortable feel about it with good legroom both front (46.1 inches) and back (34.8). Truck space is a very generous 16 cubic feet, which matches that of the gas-only Sonata.

The Limited’s overall cabin ambiance has a premium feel about it, and the exterior appearance rivals that of luxury models costing thousands of dollars more. It’s an eye-catcher, for sure.

A friend of mine and fellow reviewer, someone who gets a new vehicle in his driveway every week, summed up the whole package.

“This,” he said, “is what I would buy if I needed a personal car for my family.”

What I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited: In addition to the performance, the ride is quiet and comfortable, and the cabin is roomy and nicely appointed. Fuel economy is excellent, and I love that you don’t have to plug it in to recharge. It has lots of technology that is intuitive to operate, and the annoying whine that is typical to hybrids when they are coming to a stop is absent.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited: Although the infotainment system is very user friendly, I missed having a knob to surf the radio dial. There is one to control volume. Why get rid of the one to change stations? I just hope it is not an indication that designers are going to follow competitors with unnecessary “updates” to infotainment features.

Would I buy the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited: Without a doubt, yes. If you haven’t been completely taken in by the trend to crossover SUVs and are open to a sedan, this one should be on your list. The only drawback would be that the Hybrid Limited is at the top of the Sonata’s price range. But the base Blue trim starts at under $28,000, and the SEL under $30,000 (not including destination and delivery). The 2020 Sonata Hybrid carries over to 2021.

Thursday, August 13, 2020


Pickup trucks, especially full-size pickup trucks, have never been high on my list of favorites. In fact, if I had to list automotive vehicles by segment, the behemoths of today would rank at or very near the bottom among my desires, perhaps ahead of only all-electric vehicles with less than 100 miles of range.

It’s not that pickups aren’t great vehicles, because they are. The pickup truck of today is far ahead of the utilitarian haulers of the past when they drove slow, rode rough, and shook, rattled and rolled on their way around town.

But I don’t do a lot of hauling so I really can’t appreciate their capacity, and their overhaul size make them a pain to maneuver in narrow streets and tight parking lots of urban environs.

Nor am I called on to bring along a boat or trailer so towing capacity is a non-seller with me as well.

Plus they are just getting too darn big.

The hood expanse before me when I recently was behind the wheel of a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup merited its own zip code it was so high and wide, which is not unlike its main competitors and fellow top sellers, the Ford F-Series and Ram Pickup.

Depending on the cab (regular, double cab, or crew) the Silverado is either 229.5 or 231.8 inches long and 81.2 inches wide. Overall height varies from 75.5 to 78.5 inches tall depending on the trim, which makes for a pretty big step up or down, especially without a running board to ease the way.

As is common in the truck segment, it comes in a myriad of engine choices, trim, and box capacity and other features. My test Silverado was the RST trim equipped with a 3.0-liter Duramax in-line 6-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and Crew Cab configuration. It also was rear-wheel drive, which should come with a warning for those about to launch a boat: Beware of wet boat ramps.

The 3.0 Duramax is new on LT, RST, LTZ and High Country models for 2020 and is mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission. A new 2.7L diesel also is available on Work Truck and Custom models and is paired with an 8-speed automatic.

Diesel provides a couple of advantages over gas engines, most notably in power and fuel economy. With a modest 277 horsepower, the 3.0 Duramax is rated at 460 pound-feet of torque, which is a lot of pulling power, while producing class-leading fuel mileage figures of 23 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, and 27 combined with two-wheel drive, pretty impressive figures for a vehicle of this size.

It takes the 6.2L V8 version of the gas models to match the 3.0L diesel’s torque, and fuel economy for the 4WD 6.2L V8 is 16/20/17 mpg according to

Starting MSRP for the RST trim is $41,200. The Duramax diesel engine adds $3,850 and other optional packages that add such features as bucket front seats separated by a huge storage console, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth streaming audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bose Premium Sound, and a leather package that included front leather appointed seats and and rear folding bench with under-seat storage ran the bottom line to $54,385, including $1,595 for destination and delivery.

What I liked about the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado RST Duramax: The diesel engine provides plenty of power and is a comparative fuel-sipper. No typical diesel engine noise either. The cabin is spacious and quiet, making highway cruising very comfortable. There is plenty of legroom in the back. The tailgate can be lowered via a button on the key fob, and it is light enough that raising it back in place is a snap.

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado RST Duramax: It is difficult to maneuver through the tight squeezes of a mall parking lot. Getting into a tight parking spot is a tedious operation. While infotainment functions are easy to operate, the touchscreen is on the small side. A running board would be nice to ease getting in and out of the cabin.

Would I buy the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado RST Duramax? I have no need or desire for a full-size pickup truck, but there’s no doubt the Silverado would be a quality buy. With the diesel engine, it is a real workhorse, and the interior gives you the ambiance of a high-end SUV.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Introduced as a 2017 model, the Alfa Romeo Giulia gets technology updates for 2020 that make it an even more attractive option for those looking for “something different” in the compact luxury sedan segment.

Its Italian styling and lively handling made it an immediate hit among critics, and now such new features as a new 8.8-inch touchscreen display for infotainment functions and connectivity features like a wi-fi hotspot and SOS call add to its appeal.

The Giulia comes in six flavors starting with the base model and continuing through the top-of-the-line Quadrifoglio trim with its 505-horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine. The Giulia Ti Sport Carbon trim with all-wheel drive that served as my test vehicle hits a sweet spot around the middle.

The 2020 Giulia Ti Sport Carbon model comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine that is rated a 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque as opposed to the 505 hp, 443 lb.-ft. in the Quadrifoglio’s V6.

Premium fuel is required for both engines with the 4-banger earning EPA ratings of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway and 27 combined with rear-wheel drive and 23/31/26 with AWD.

With the extra power, the Quadrifoglio much thirstier with figures of 17/25/20.

Zero-to-60 mph times, according to the company, are 5.1 seconds for the 4-cylinder and 3.8 for the Quadrifoglio, if you’re in a bigger hurry and aren’t put off by the $70,000-plus price tag.

Included as standard features on all Giulia trims are leather seating, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM Radio with complimentary 12-month subscription, keyless entry and push-button start, remote start, bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, backup camera with rear parking sensors, and Forward Collision Warning-Plus.

In addition, all models also get a Drive Mode selector that lets you fit your driving experience according to your mood. Settings for the 8-speed automatic transmission are Dynamic, Natural, and All-Weather. Quadrifoglio models also get a Race mode, and, yes, you can select gears via paddle shifters that are mounted to the steering column.

My Giulia Ti Sport Carbon model also included in the base MSRP of $43,345 a carbon-interior carbon fiber trim, carbon-fiber draft shaft, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and a sport suspension that some may find to be a bit too firm, but adds to the driving performance.

Extras ran that included the Sports package and a driver-assist package for such items as traffic jam and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control, and more ran the final total to $59,640 including $1,295 for destination and delivery.

What I liked about the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport Carbon AWD: It’s fun to drive, both from a power and handling standpoint, and the 4-cylinder engine isn’t all that thirsty. Sport seats are supportive and comfortable, and the cabin interior is impeccable with premium material aplenty. 

What I didn’t like about the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport Carbon AWD:
The trunk is a bit on the small side for its class (13 cubic feet), and the backseat offers only 35.1 inches of legroom. But for me, the biggest negative is the operation of the infotainment system. Having touchscreen capability in addition to the dial on the console does make it easier to make adjustments, but it still doesn’t match the simplicity of the UConnect system of its Chrysler cousin.

Would I buy the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport Carbon AWD? Yes. Though I would prefer a friendlier infotainment system, the positives far outweigh that particular negative.