Friday, July 30, 2021

2021 KIA K5 EX



If the family sedan is a shrinking segment, at least the Kia K5 is evidence that reports of its impending doom may be premature.

Through June, the 2021 K5 five-passenger sedan remains the South Korean’s third-biggest seller behind only the less expensive Kia Forte economy car and its compact Sportage SUV, and the margin between the K5 and the Sportage for the first six months of the year is just a little over 2,000 vehicles.

The numbers: 62,159 for the Forte, 53,374 for the Sportage, 51,104 for the K5.

Consider that sales of the Kia Optima, the car the K5 replaced in the company’s lineup, were at 38,825 for the first half of 2020. It finished the year at 48,484, a drop of 50 percent from its 2019 numbers and less than what the K5 has posted for the first six months this year.

It’s easy to see why the K5 has proved to be a success. It looks very much like a premium-level sedan, and the inside is has a premium feel about it as well. It also is packed with all sorts of standard technological features that a high on the user-friendly scale.

It is not a sports sedan, but the 1.6-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that is standard in four of the five trims.provides enough acceleration for everyday commutes. Jacking it up to Sport mode gets more out of the 180 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque. The top of the line GT trim has a 2.5L turbo that puts out 290 hp and 311 lb./ft., respectively.

In addition to GT, the K5 is offered in base LX, LSX, GT-Line, and EX trim. My review of the GT-Line is available in my December 2020 files. This review is based on the 2021 Kia K5 EX, which is very close to offering the same standard equipment as the GT-Line at a slightly less expensive starting MSRP.

The GT-Line with all-wheel drive starts $29,090. (not including the $965 destinatin and delivery fee). The FWD EX opens at $27,990. The base LX and LXS start at under $25,000 while the GT trim with its performance upgrades starts at under $31,000.

Both the EX and GT-Line include such features as an 8-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a power sunroof, rearview camera with guidelines, dual zone climate control, Smart key with push-button start and power trunk opener, steering wheel controls for Bluetooth, audio, and cruise control, remote start, power windows, and rear-seat occupant alert.

The GT-Line gets some extra design touches to give it a slightly sportier appearance, and Smart (i.e., adaptive) cruise control is in optional packages for both. Both the GT-Line and the EX get standard driver assist features like blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and driver attention alert.

Both vehicles also alert you when a stopped vehicle ahead of you leaves the intersection via a “ping” and message that appears in the instrument panel. Front-wheel drive is standard on both the EX and GT-Line, and AWD is available on the GT-Line.

A deal-maker in favor of the EX is the optional EX Premium suite of features. It includes navigation with a 10.25-inch screen  (same as with the GT-Line package), Bose premium audio, power front seats with lumbar for drive and passenger, a heated steering wheel, Forward Collision Avoidance, the Smart cruise control, Highway Driving Assist memory driver’s seat, and rear parking assist.

That is by definition a “well-equipped” vehicle.

Because of the $3,400 cost of the EX Premium  package, the final bottom line for my test EX came to $32,355 to $31,300 for the GT-Line, a negligible difference in the overall scheme of things.

What I liked about the 2021 Kia K5 EX:
The K5 has good power, delivers immediate throttle response (especially in Sport mode), and the ride is smooth as well. Infotainment features are easily operated through the touchscreen or via voice for some functions. The EX Premium Package adds to the bottom line, but heated and ventilated power front seats, leatherette seats, and panoramic sunroof are included in the starting MSRP. All K5s have an exterior look of more expensive sedans and generous trunk capacity.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Kia K5 EX: 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 EX: Yes. It’s a tough call between the GT-Line trim and the EX, but the EX has a slightly lower starting price before the EX Premium Package is added on, and that package is worth the extra cost. The K5 EX is a very good value buy with many features not usually found in this price range.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021




If the $141,000 price tag for the AMG E 63 S wagon reviewed on this site back in February was just a bit out of your financial reach, Mercedes-Benz has another wagon (though it doesn’t all it that) that doesn’t go into six figures but is quite stunning in its own right.

The 2021 E450 4MATIC All-Terrain model is a real beauty and features all the bells and whistles you expect from the company with a stunning two-tone interior and a new mild hybrid powertrain that provides both power and pretty decent fuel numbers for its class.

The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine is paired with a 48-volt hybrid system and replaces the previous twin-turbocharged V6, matching the horsepower and torque while delivering a slightly better fuel number of 24 miles-per-gallon combined city-highway to 22 for the 2020 V6.

The EQ Boost system also gives the 2021 E450 All-Terrain up to an extra 21 horsepower. As you may have deduced from the 4MATIC designation, all-wheel drive is standard.

The engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission with settings for Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco modes and sprints from zero-to-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, according to the website That’s just a little over second off the time for the AMG-tuned E 63 S.

Mercedes has given the E450 All-Terrain some styling tweaks that, it hopes, make it more appealing to SUV devotees. Redesigned headlights and taillights and a new front grille were among notable changes. The front skid plate now has a mirror chrome finish and the radiator grille is more in the style of the company’s SUV fleet.

Still, there is no question about the first impression. The 2021 E450 4MATˆC All-Terrain is very much a station wagon.

There is even a rear-facing back seat (suitable for children) as once was found in station wagons of old. It folds up flat to provide a generous 35 cubic feet of space.

As expected, the E450 All-Terrain comes with a long list of standard features covered by the starting MSRP of $67,600. They include multi-color interior lighting, Bluetooth connectivity, Mercedes “me connect” services (subscription required after a trial period), a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation and 12.3-inch instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power rear liftgate, power sunroof, a a removable cargo cover, roof rails, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated power adjustable front seats with lumbar support, and LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights.

Safety features include Mercedes emergency call service, active brake assist, blind spot assist, and Mercedes Attention Assist system that, among other functions, alerts the driver to signs of fatigue and weariness.

Extras can run the final tab to over $80,000. On my test vehicle they included the cardinal red exterior, AMG Twin 5-spoke wheels with black accents, multicontour front seats with massage, wireless charging, a Premium Package that included a park assist system and surround view camera, a Driver Assist Package that among other features added active lane change and active blind spot assist, and ventilated front seat and heated rear seats.

What I liked about the 2021 Mercedes-Benz 4E50 4MATIC All-Terrain: The exterior is sleek, not like a boxy wagon of old, and the interior is exquisite. With Sport and Sport+ modes to go to, performance is smooth and powerful and surprisingly efficient. The ride is comfortable and quiet as well. Good storage room in the back as long as the rear-facing back seats are not engaged.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain:
The Mercedes MBUX infotainment system offers lots of features, but operating it all, either on the touchscreen or the touch pad on the console, demands a lot of attention. Even the simplest of operations, like changing a radio station, can take your eyes off the road for too long. Buttons on the steering wheel for various functions seemed to be designed for fingers of 5-year-olds they are so small. 

Would I buy the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain? Yes. I would hope someday designers figure out a better way to make it easier to operate all that technology, but the overall quality and panache of the E450 easily overcome that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021




The big news for the Dodge Durango this year is the introduction of the SRT Hellcat model at the top of the SUV’s portfolio for 2021.

Yes, for a limited time (more on that later), Dodge is offering the mid-size Durango with the 710-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine under the hood. With its 645 pound-feet of torque, it zips from zero-to-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, according to the company, and has recorded a time of 11.5 seconds for the quarter-mile as certified by the National Hot Rod Association.

Top speed is 180 mph.

The company bills is as a “Muscle Car for families” with three rows of seating to go with all the power, though seating is not the seven or eight capacity as often with three-row vehicles, but six (2+2+2). 

And it’s a workhorse with up to 85.1 cubic feet of stowage pace behind the front seats with the second and third rows folded and a best-in-class towing capacity of 8.700 pounds. Capacity with the third row seats folded is 43.3 cubic feet and 17.2 with those seats upright.

Mostly, though, the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is an attention-getter just sitting still with special logos bedecking the exterior and the booming exhaust announcing its presence with authority.

The Hellcat also has some other features that distinguish it from the other trims (SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, and SRT 392).

These include SRT Red Brembo brakes with two-piece front rotors, a high performance exhaust, adaptive suspension, a unique spoiler, and Sports seats with upgraded leather. An SRT package also includes a full day of instruction at the Bondurant High Performance Driving School in Chandler, Arizona.

Standard features on the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat include UConnect 5 navigation with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, proximity key with push-button start, remote start, power liftgate, 4G WiFi hotspot, heated and ventilated front seats, special settings for selectable drive modes (including one for Track), LED headlights with automatic assist, LED fog lights, and a “performance” hood.

All-wheel drive is standard on the SRT Hellcat and SRT 392 models.

The Durango SRT Hellcat is not without its flaws, however, starting with the price tag. Base MSRP is $80,995, and safety features like blind spot warning with cross-path detection come in option packages that add to that.

My test vehicle added high-performance Laguna leather seats, a Customer Preferred Package that included a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-Ray video screens, a Trailer Tow Group, Premium Interior Group (suede headliner, premium instrument panel, and carbon-fiber accents), red seatbelts, the aforementioned second-row console, and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system ran the final total to $92,040 including the $1,495 destination delivcry fee.

Earlier there was a mention about “limited production.” Dodge limited output to 2,000 units, started taking orders in November,, and sold out in late January, though some dealerships also were allotted a limited number. Perhaps you’ll be the  “lucky” one.

What I liked about the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat:
Obviously, the  performance is impressive. Infotainment features are plentiful and very user-friendly. The interior is nicely appointed and comfortable. Rear stowage space is pretty good even with third-row seats in place. An optional console gives backseat passengers armrests, extra storage, and cupholders.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat: The engine, not surprisingly, is very loud and the supercharging whine can be annoying as it is spooling up. Not surprisingly, it also drinks premium fuel (91 octane required) at an alarming rate. EPA ratings are 12 miles-per-gallon city, 17 highway, and 13 combined, though the computer tagged my test vehicle for the week at less than 10 miles to the gallon in mostly urban driving. It is listed as a mid-size SUV, but it’s big enough that it is a tight squeeze in some mall lots. The grab handles on the passenger side would be better placed on the A-pillar than overhead. Much of the space in the storage bin on the front console is taken up by the DVD slots for the rear-seat entertainment system.

Would I buy the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat? Probably not. I appreciate its performance, but not at a plus-$80,000 starting price. That’s a big jump over the available V8 in the R/T and SRT 392  trims, but, of course, with 8,700 pounds, the Hellcat has more than twice the 3,500-pound towing capacity of those two trims. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021



If you are in the market for a compact luxury crossover SUV and are in a “buy American” mood, you’re going to find your choices somewhat limited. Imports from Germany and Japan pretty much have taken over the segment.

Fortunately, however, one of the best — a couple of sources even rate it No. 1 — choices among the compact luxury crossover SUVs is as American as complaining about election results.

It also carries a well-known American name.

I am referring here, of course, to the 2021 Lincoln Corsair.

You may not be as familiar with the Corsair as the company’s flagship SUV, the Navigator, or perhaps the Nautilus, which debuted a few years before the Corsair,  which replaced Lincoln’s MKC crossover for the 2020 model year.

The name “Corsair” has been used before for several other Ford Company products, including a version of the ill-fated Edsel in the late 1950s. World War II history buffs also will recognize it as the name for a Navy-Marine Corps fighter plane known for its reverse-gull wings and glamorized in the ’70s TV show Black Sheep Squadron starring Robert Conrad as squad leader Pappy Boyington.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Lincoln execs had pirates in mind when they picked the name Corsair, but I could be wrong. I’m just thankful they have gotten away from the alphabet soup nomenclature when it comes to labeling their products.

The 2020 Corsair made its debut in the fall of 2019 and does have the same Ford Escape platform, but the Corsair has much more in common with its upscale cousin Aviator when it comes to luxury and comfort.

The Corsair beats out its MKC predecessor when it comes to those two qualities as well. Designers did much more than just ripping off the MKC nameplate and retagging as Corsair.

The Corsair comes in three versions with a new Grand Touring plug-in hybrid joining the portfolio for 2021. This review is based on the 2021 Lincoln Corsair Reserve trim that gets such niceties aa panoramic sunroof and real leather seats instead of the faux leather on the base Corsair.

The base engine for the Corvair is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, but a 2.3-liter 4-banger is available in Reserve models. It is gives a little extra horsepower (295) and torque (310 pound-feet) at a cost of very little in fuel consumption.

EPA ratings for the 2.0L are 22 miles-per-gallon city, 29 mpg highway with standard front-wheel drive and 21/29 with available all-wheel drive. The 2.3L that comes with AWD is rated at 21/28.

The engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and several drive modes are available. Lincoln has its own set of unique names for the modes with Excite for more lively performance instead of the customary Sport term and Conserve in place of Eco for more frugal driving. Other modes are Normal, Slippery (slick or icy road surfaces), and Deep Conditions (snow, mud, or sand).

This review is based on the  AWD Reserve trim with the 2.3L engine.

Standard equipment covered by the starting MSRP of $45,090 includes security approach lamps (activated as you are near the vehicle with the key fob), LED fog lamps and taillights, a hands-free liftgate, dual exhaust with chrome tips, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, power tilt and telescoping steering column, 10-way power adjustable heated and ventilated front seats with settings for massage functions, an 8-inch touchscreen for infotainment functions (some competitors have larger screens but the 8-inch seems adequate), blind-spot detection, a reverse parking aid, and keyless entry with push-button start.

An Equipment Group 201A Package added several features, among them Lincoln’s Co-Pilot Assist System that includes adaptive cruise control, evasive steer assist, reverse brake assist, and active Park Assist. That and other options ran the final total to $57,680 including the $995 destination and delivery fee.

Considering the base Corsair starts at under $40,000, you do pay a premium for the Reserve model. You don’t have to use all the options that came with my test vehicle, but the Lincoln Co-Pilot system does add some very worthwhile features.

What I liked about the 2021 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve:
It is one of the best-looking SUVs around. The interior is spacious and comfortable and the ride is smooth and quiet. Infotainment features are plentiful and very user-friendly. The 2.3-liter turbocharged engine delivers a pretty good punch, especially in “Excite” mode. Second-row seats have plenty of legroom (38.6 inches) and rear stowage is spacious (27.6 cubic feet behind the second row, 57.6 with those seats folded.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve: The button to activate the voice command system is on the steering wheel right above where your left thumb is placed when your hands are in the recommended 3 o’clock/9 o’clock positions. It can be easily pressed by accident. It also might be nice if the car would stay in the same drive mode you had selected previously when you restart it instead of reverting back to Normal.

Would I buy the 2021 Lincoln Corsair AWD Reserve? Definitely, yes. Generous space for people and their stuff in a great-looking package makes the Lincoln Corsair a winner.