Tuesday, October 19, 2021





The 2021 Miami International Auto Show opened this past weekend in Miami Beach, and though there were considerable no-shows, there also were several interesting vehicles on display on the Miami Beach Convention Center floor.

At the top of that list would be the new 2023 Nissan Z, which earned “Star of the Show” honors from the Southern Automotive Media Association, a Miami-based media group that has recognized top vehicles at the show since the organization’s founding in 2007. (Just for the record, the show dates back to 1971.)

The iconic, seventh-generation Z also was on display (see above) at a special reception at an opening reception at a Miami hotel the night before the show’s Saturday opening (Oct. 16). 

The Z features a twin-turbo V6 engine that is rated at 400 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque from 1600-5200 rpm and mated to either a 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic transmission that features standard and sport modes.

When it goes on sale next spring it will be offered in two grades — Sport and Performance — in the U.S.

The Z — Nissan has dropped the numerical designation from the name —  will hit showrooms as a coupe with a convertible to follow later.

Though the Z received top honors from SAMA, it was not the only vehicle to get attention on the show’s Media Day.

Stellantis, the corporation that emerged when Fiat-Chrysler and the French PSA Group (think Peugeot and Citroen) joined forces, showed the new resurrected Wagoneer SUV and the L version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.

Like Ram’s breakaway from Dodge, the Wagoneer is now a stand alone brand after a long history under the Jeep banner. The 2022 model is available as a standard Wagoneer and the fancier Grand Wagoneer. It may be a separate vehicle now, but it still retains Jeep’s traditional seven-slot grille!

Toyota also previewed the new Corolla Cross, an SUV-version of its best-selling sedan, as well as its full-size Tundra pickup. The Tundra is all-new for 2022 and Toyota East Coast Communications Director Zachary Reed is particularly high on it.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “I can say with supreme confidence that this new Tundra is better in every single way over the outgoing model. It is absolutely a game-changer.”

As for the Corolla Cross, Reed said it is expected in dealerships in the next few weeks. The first ones just rolled out of the new Mazda Toyota plant in Huntsville, Ala., last week, Reed said.

I mentioned “no shows” earlier. The list of manufacturers with vehicles on display included Cadillac and Chevrolet from General Motors, Ford and Lincoln, Hyundai and Genesis, Kia, and Subaru.
In addition to a Toyota display, Lexus is there, and Stellantis leads the way with displays for Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, and Ram in addition to Jeep and Wagoneer.

Notably absent are usual participants Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi from Japan and all the European brands. No Audi. No BMW. No Jaguar. No Land Rovcer. No Mercedes-Benz. No Porsche. No Volkswagen. No Volvo.

No doubt much of that has to do with Covid cautions — even the Miami show’s scheduled February 2021 dates were pushed back to the traditional fall time period because of the pandemic — but also perhaps a change in the way some manufacturers are looking at auto shows as opposed to using other venues to get their products in front of the public.

Detroit even canceled its 2021 North American  International Auto Show in September for a program it called Motor Bella. It was an outdoor event featuring three days of press and industry previews followed by three days for the public. 

The current Miami Show opened to the public last Saturday afternoon and runs through Sunday (Oct. 24). For information on hours and tickets, visit www.miamiautoshows.com.

Thursday, October 14, 2021




Fully redesigned, the 2021 Nissan Rogue looks to continue its role as not only the company’s best seller but also as one of the most popular compact crossover SUVs on the market today.

Through the first three quarters of the year, the Rogue holds a solid third place in U.S. sales as one of three in its class with over the 200,000 mark behind only Toyota’s RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V.

Only one other small SUV, Chevrolet’s Equinox with 151,111, has managed to get over the 150,000 mark for the first nine months.

The Rogue also jumped over 40 percent when compared to last year’s COVID-restricted sales numbers, among the biggest increases in the segment with a total of 234,646 sold from the first of the year through September.

No doubt, the upgrades Nissan gave the Rogue have played a big part in that sales success.The 2021 Nissan Rogue, which went on sale last fall, looks sharp, has a quality interior, and is packed with a myriad of convenience and safety features that make it ideal for families, seniors, and young couples alike.

The Rogue comes in four trim levels starting with base S that is equipped with such standard features as LED headlights with automatic on/off, LED fog lights and taillights, NissanConnect technology with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice recognition, two USB ports up front, Bluetooth hands-free communications, keyless entry, and safety systems like forward collision warning, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.

SV and SL trims keep adding features. At the top of the portfolio, the Platinum trim this review is based on incorporates features from those trims and adds such exclusive features as a 12-inch digital dashboard display, a head-up display that gives the driver speed and cruise setting at a glance, a wireless charging pad, upgraded leather seats with quilted stitching, and heated rear seats.

All the features in the optional SL Premium package also are standard on the Platinum. That adds Bose Premium Audio and Nissan's ProPilot Assist with Navi-link to the features.

By the way, "assist" is the key word on the word on the ProPilot Assist system. It is not a hands-free system but allows the driver to cruise even in heavy traffic with its adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist systems.

Cargo space across the lineup is good with 36.5 cubic feet with the Divide-N-Hide setup in the Rogue Platinum lowered, an extra 5.5 cubic feet over the rest of the lineup. With the second-row seats folded, max cargo space is 74.1 cubic feet.

Passengers in the front enjoy up to 41.5 inches of legroom. Those in the second row get up to 38.5.

All Rogues come with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission, and there is about the only rub. The engine could use a bit more punch. It is rated at 181 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 181 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm, resulting on less-than-inspiring performance. The website zeroto60times.com reports the Rogue Platinum takes 8.1 seconds to get from zero to 60 mph.

The good news is that fuel economy is good (25 miles-per-gallon city, 32 mpg highway, and 28 combined for all-wheel-drive Platinum models and 26/34/29 for those with front-wheel drive).  Numbers for other trims vary slightly with the FWD S model topping the chart at a combined 30 mpg.

Further good news: the engine uses regular octane fuel, the CVT offers a manual shift mode via paddle shifters, and adjusting the transmission setting to Sport mode keeps the revs at a slightly higher level for more performance. 

There are also settings for Off-Road, Eco, Snow., and Automatic, each adjustable via a handy dial on the console.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue starts at $27,225for the FWD S trim including the $1,175 destination and delivery charge. The FWD SV starts at $28,915. The FWD SL starts at $33,575, and the FWD Platinum carries a starting price of $37,005.

AWD adds $1,400 to the bottom, line, which brought my test vehicle, which included a handful of stand-alone options, to $39,685.

What I liked about the 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum:
 The redesign really upgraded the exterior appeal, giving it a sexier look.The cabin is roomy and has an upscale, even premium, feel about it. Techno features are plentiful and easy to operate. Cargo space is excellent.

What I didn’t like abut the 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum: Not looking for a dragster here, but the 181-horsepow
er engine hooked up to a CVT doesn’t offer much in the way of performance. It somewhat makes up for that with decent fuel economy even in all-wheel-drive configuration.

Would I buy the 2021 Nisan Rogue Platinum? A definite yes here. The Rogue offers comfort and convenience with a full suite of techno features, especially in the Platinum trim. Still, you might find everything you want in one of the less-expensive SV or SL trims. Even the base S model is well-equipped and boasts a lot of safety features.

Friday, October 8, 2021

2021 KIA K5 GT


The 2021 Kia K5 GT isn’t billed as a “sports sedan,” but with a 290-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 314 pound-feet of torque it does a pretty good impersonation of one, especially when dialed into Sport mode for city environs.

The GT is the third version of the car that replaced the Optima in Kia’s lineup that I have had the pleasure of driving since last December, and I must say it just keeps getting better.

Yes, it sits at the top of the price list for the K5, but not by much. Not including the optional GT1 Package of features, my test K5 came to $31,705 including the $985 destination and delivery charge.

That is roughly about $1,600 more than the K5 GT-Line model that comes with a 1.4-liter turbo-4 instead of the 2.5-liter 4-banger in the GT. 

The optional GT1 Package is well worth the extra $4,000 if you can stretch your budget, stretching the final bottom line to $35,705.

Features in the package include a10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation (replacing the standard 8-inch screen), Bose premium sound, ventilated front seats, memory driver’s seat and power passenger seat with lumbar support, adaptable cruise control, rear parking assist, forward collision avoidance assist, and trial subscriptions to Kia’s UVO link (one-year) and Sirius-XM satellite radio (three months).

If you do much highway/city expressway driving, the adaptive cruise control (Kia calls is Smart) alone is worth the extra money.

Standard equipment included in the GT’s base MSRP ($30,490) includes the aforementioned 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, panoramic sunroof, dual zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, power trunk release, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel (with controls for cruise, audio, and Bluetooth), and LED headlights, fog lights and taillights.

Safety features include blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, leading vehicle departure alert (never get honked at at an intersection again!) and an assortment of air bags that includes full length side bags. There’s also Driver Attention Warning system to keep you alert.

In addition GT features at no extra cost include an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, 19-inch alloy sport wheels, sport-tuned suspension, quad dual exhaust, Syn-Tex covered sport seats, GT designed steering wheel with paddle shifters, heated front seats, and a wireless phone charger.

With its 2.5L engine, the GT is offered in front-wheel drive only. AWD is available only with the 1.6L engine. EPA fuel mileage numbers are 24 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway, and 27 combined using regular octane fuel. Zero-to-60 mph is in the 5-second range.

All in all, the K5 is an alluring choice for those who haven’t given up on sedans just yet.

What I liked about the 2021 Kia K5 GT: The GT model has a little more moxie than the EX reviewed here in late July and GT-Line reviewed last December. The  GT Premium Package adds to a already plentiful list of standard features. The infotainment system is user friendly (with one exception noted below). All K5s have an exterior look of more expensive sedans and generous trunk capacity.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Kia K5 GT:
As user-friendly as the infotainment system is, I still would like a knob to use to surf the radio dial. 

Would I buy the 2021 Kia K5 GT: Yes. It’s a tough call between the GT and EX and GT-Line trims. No matter the trim, the K5 is a very good buy with many features not usually found in this price range.

Thursday, September 30, 2021



If you are thinking about buying a pickup truck but don’t want, or need, a full-size model, the Ford Ranger may be just vehicle for you.

Though it has grown a bit since its debut as a compact pickup nearly four decades ago, the Ranger is not so big that it is going to cause concerns as you encounter tight spaces but still is up to handling the light hauling that comes with those weekend do-it-yourself chores.

The 2021 Ford Ranger is the third in this generation since it was re-introduced to the U.S. market. Ford took the Ranger out of the U.S. after the 2011 model but kept selling it in markets throughout the rest of the world so it wasn’t like the company had to start all over with the 2019 model.

It continues to be offered in three trim levels starting with the base XL and continuing with the upgraded XLT and top-of-the-line Lariat. This review is based on the Lariat with the five-capacity Supercrew cab and Tremor off-road package that was added to the lineup this year.

Included in the Tremor package are Magnetic-painted alloy wheels, Magnetic-painted grille with black cross bars and red inserts, rear recovery hooks, hoop style steps to help you get in and out, and an upgraded suspension system.

That’s on the outside. On the inside the Tremor package adds a little more class with exclusive seats with suede inserts and distinctive Tremor stitching and accents throughout the comfortable, spacious cabin.

There’s also a plethora of standard features starting with the Ford Sync3 infotainment system. All Rangers get A/C and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard on the Lariat are an auto stop-start system (it can be turned off via a button the console, keyless entry and push-button start, heated front seats and dual climate control, leather-wrapped shift knob, lane-keeping, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

Headlamps and taillights are LED, and the five-foot box features a lockable tailgate. 

The Lariat’s 501A technology package includes navigation, a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, and adaptive cruise control and adds $2,005 to the starting $38,785 MSRP.

A turbocharged, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine powers all Rangers. It is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and is offered in rear- or all-wheel drive configuration.

That Ecoboost engine is rated at  270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque that results in an impressive towing capacity of 7,500 pounds. Fuel efficiency is good as well with EPA ratings of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway, and 22 combined with all-wheel drive and using regular fuel.

It’s not a sporty performer, but is well up to the norm for its class. I never felt shortchanged in any respects when it came to throttle response.

With the Tremor package, Lariat Equipment Group 501A, and a couple of other options (Cyber Orange color, spray-on bedliner, trailer tow package, keyless entry keypad), the final bottom line came to $47,995 including the $1,195 destination and delivery charge.

If you don’t need the off-road capability offered in the Tremor package, that takes $4,290 off of that. 

What I liked about the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat:
Technology is plentiful and the Sync3 infotainment system is easy enough to use. The Ecoboost engine delivers good gas mileage and power, and the ride is firm but pretty comfortable, especially for a pickup truck. The bed liner is well worth the extra $495.

What I didn't like about the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat: The touchscreen can be difficult to see with its white background. Fortunately, setting the display in “night” mode remedies the issue, making the navigation map and other features easier to read. The cabin could use more places to put stuff, like a larger bin in the console.

Would I buy the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat? Yes. It has enough size to be a good worker yet is not too big, making maneuvering through tight quarters such as mall parking lots much easier than a full-size pickup. The Supercrew cabin isn’t fancy, but is functional and roomy.

Thursday, September 16, 2021



Putting aside the fact that it looks about as much like a Mustang as the late Ford C-Max Hybrid, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E stands tall on its own as the company’s first all-electric vehicle.

It really doesn’t need whatever tenuous boost in prestige it might get from association with the company’s iconic Pony Car. The Mach-E, which strikes me as the name Ford could easily have labeled it, isn’t a coupe or convertible, doesn’t have the sweet tunes of even the 4-cylinder Mustang emerging from the exhaust pipes (of course, it doesn’t even have exhaust pipes to begin with), and it has two more doors than the Mustang.

It does share some styling cues, most notably the “pony” image up front and on the rear deck lid, and the swept roofline hints at the fastback profile while not intruding on rear headroom.

The 2021 Mustang Mach-E comes in six trim levels starting with the base Select and continuing with the Premium, California Route 1, First Edition, GT, and GT Performance Edition. This review is based on the First Edition trim, which already is sold out, by the way.

Rear-wheel or all-wheel drive is available, and range extends from 230 miles for the RWD Select all the way up to 305 miles for the RWD California Route 1. The Premium model comes with either a Standard Range (230 miles with RWD, 211 AWD) or Extended 
Range (300 RWD, 270 AWD) battery.

Ford estimates range for the First Edition and GT trims at 270 miles and the GT Performance at 260 miles.

Finally, an electric vehicle with reasonable ranges, though charging times do detract from that advantage.

One way in which the Mach-E earns its Mustang stripes is when it comes to performance. Select and Premium trims are rated at 266 horsepower with peak torque of 317 pound-feet with RWD and 428 lb.-ft. with AWD. The Extended Range setup on the Premium boosts those numbers to 290 RWD and 346 AWD. The First Edition model (AWD only) checks in at 346 hp, and California Route 1 (RWD only) at 290 hp.

GT and GT Performance models up those numbers to 480 horsepower and torque of 600 and 634 lb.-ft., respectively.

What those numbers mean is that you are not going to be lagging behind at the intersection when the light changes.
Zero-to-60 mph times, Ford says, range from 4.8 seconds to 6.1 for Select, Premium, First Edition,, and California Route 1 models and very quick 3.8 and 3.5 seconds for GT and GT Performance, respectively.

That should clear out any misconception that an all-electric vehicle can’t pack a punch.

The Mustang Mach-E also is a very functional vehicle. It is essentially a hatchback offering 29.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 59.7 cubic feet with those seats folded. There’s also a smaller area in the front  where the engine would usually be with 4.7 cubic feet of space.

Passengers don’t get cheated either. Legroom in back is 38.1 inches. Front riders get 43.5 inches.

The cabin is impressive with high quality materials giving it a premium feel. Seats have synthetic leather surfaces, and heated front seats are available.

Distinguishing features for the cabin include a panoramic fixed-glass roof and a huge touchscreen to operate features on Ford’s Sync4-A infotainment. You also use the screen for such functions as selecting the driving mode.

The instrument panel provides at a quick glance the driver with his driving range (both in miles and percentage of battery available), an image of any potential obstacles surrounding the vehicle, and the car’s speed in big, digital numbers.

When it comes to drive modes, Ford eschews traditional terms such as Comfort, Eco, and Sport with settings marked Whisper, Engage, and Unbridled. With such a smooth throttle response, I really didn’t notice a huge difference in any of the settings and ended up spending most of my time in Whisper (i.e., comfort). The single-speed transmission provides seamless, quick acceleration in any setting. Engage and Unbridled add some artificial sound effects.

There also is the one-pedal operation as often come with electric vehicles. Press the accelerator and you, well, accelerate. Ease off and and the car will brake, not coast, so it takes some getting used to avoid undesired full stops.

Other standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push-button start, navigation system, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision mitigation, blind-spot warning with rear-cross traffic alert, and lane-center system.

The 2021 Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895 (before destination and delivery charges), which translates to the mid-$30,000 range if you qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

MSRP for the Premium starts at $47,600, for the California Route 1 $50,400, and $59,900 for the GT. As noted earlier, the First Edition is sold out. 

What I liked about the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: This is the first all-electric/plugin hybrid exclusive car I have come across with an interior worthy of the price tag. It goes far enough on a full charge to alleviate the usual range anxiety for all-electric vehicles. It is quick no matter what driving mode you select. Cargo space is good.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: Charging times are slow. You definitely need a high voltage, in-home charging outlet because using a traditional household outlet takes forever. Fast-charging outlets at malls, businesses, or other locations are options, of course. Operation of the Sync4-A infotainment system takes some getting used to. Some functions (cancel navigation for one) are not where you might logically expect them to be.

Would I buy the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E? This is the first all-electric vehicle I have experienced that I would consider buying. It has excellent range and is fun to drive. You have the feeling of gliding along in a rather responsive vehicle.

Friday, September 10, 2021



When it comes to distinguishing a car as a sedan or a coupe, most people simply count the doors. Four doors, it’s a sedan. Two it’s a coupe.

But it wasn’t always that way. You go back far enough in history and you likely can find references to a “two-door sedan” and a “four-door coupe,” especially when watching old crime movies — and by that I mean from the 1940s and ’50s or earlier, not the Clint Eastwood era.

More often that not, the movies back then used those generic terms rather than specific brand names when it came to broadcasting BOLO (Be On the Look Out) bulletins for police to run down suspects.

But beginning in the 1960s it became the custom to identify a passenger car with two doors as a “coupe” and with four as a “sedan.”

Coupes also were slightly smaller and sportier looking than your typical family sedan, but the two doors made things simple, clear, clean cut. No need to eye-ball interior volume or check for missing B-pillars.

At least it was easy until the early 2000s when Mercedes-Benz muddied the waters by marking its new CLS Class as a “four-door” coupe.

And thus even though such authoritative automotive sources as Edmunds.com declared "the four-door coupe category doesn't really exist,” that has not stopped Mercedes.

While it goes with two doors for its E Class and C Class coupes, the German automaker still refers to the CLS and CLA Class models as “coupes” despite their four doors. But it doesn’t stop there.

After a year’s production hiatus, the company has now brought back the GLE Coupe and given it — need you risk a guess here? — four doors. Which doesn’t exist, remember? It kind of makes you wonder how the Germans feel about unicorns.

The GLE Coupe s available in two forms, both getting AMG upgrades. The 2021 AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, which this review is based on, comes with a biturbo 4.0-liter V8 engine that revs up 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. The  6-cylinder version, the AMG GLE 53 S, is rated at 429 hp and 384 lb.ft. — a relative lightweight.

The V8’s power figures don’t do much for gas mileage (15 miles-per-gallon, 19 highway, and 16 combined, says the government) but they will scoot you from zero-to-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, according to Mercedes clockers.

In addition to the extra doors, the 2021 AMG GLE 63 S also has other features that distinguish it from your typical coupe, its size for one thing. It is 195.3 inches long with a wheel base of 115.6 inches and height of 67.6 inches. The 2021 AMG GLE 63 S has a curb weight of 5,633 pounds and rides on 22-inch wheels.

Storage capacity is 27.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seats and 63.2 with them folded. That’s pretty much SUV-like, which is appropriate since the “GLE” nomenclature follows the company’s protocol for its SUV fleet since “GL” replaced the “M-Class” designation.

Yes, of course, the GLE is available in SUV configuration, which is probably more common than the GLE Coupe. To me, the GLE 63 S Coupe is a hatchback.

As it moves into its second generation, the 2021 AMG GLE 63 S Coupe features a laundry list of AMG upgrades like a Speedshift 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, AMG Performance all-wheel drive, and AMG Active Ride Control.

Navigation is standard, and the 12.3-inch touchscreen display provides a nice, clear map for the driver to get a clean picture at a glance.

Infotainment functions are numerous, as one might expect, and the MBUX system operates off either the touchscreen or touchpad on the console, You scroll though the display much like on a laptop computer, which would seem to be instinctive for today’s computer-savvy user but can be a bit distractive when trying to keep your eyes on the road.
ECO, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes offer you choices to adjust to your driving mood at the time.

Among other standard features are Apple Carplay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and safety features like blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, and a clear surround-view camera system.

Those features and more are included in the $116,000 starting MSRP (not including $1,100 for destination and delivery). Options and packages that include AMG cross-spoke alloy wheels, a driver’s assistance package (active steering assist, active brake assist, and much more), and a comfort package (massage function for front seats) ran the final total of my test vehicle to $128,500.

I guess if you can pay that, you also have the right to call it a coupe!

What I liked about the 2021 Mercedes AMG GLE 63 S Coupe:
As with any AMG model, performance is the big thing. By “performance,” I mean get-up-and-go, certainly not fuel efficiency. The ride is comfortable and quiet, and the interior is very high class.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Mercedes AMG GLE 63 S Coupe: The Germans apparently are sold on the touchscreen/touchpad operation for the infotainment system, but it is very distracting to operate. Brushing the touchpad on the console can accidentally change a setting such as a radio station. You lose headroom in the back because of the slanted roofline.

Would I buy the 23021 Mercedes AMG GLE 63 S Coupe? It’s a really great performer and has a high class interior, but I just don’t like the way it looks. To me, styling-wise, it works much better as an SUV. If you are OK with the appearance, however have at it!