Tuesday, January 31, 2023



The Kia Soul generally gets good marks from reviewers — U.S. News & World Report places it No. 2 in its class in its analysis/ratings of subcompact SUVs — but you have to wonder if boxy little hatchback-stye vehicle has jumped the shark.

Sales reports show a decline of nearly 25 percent in 2022 numbers, the third straight year of under 100,000 in sales after a solid seven-year, six-figure run that hit a high of 154,768 in 2016.

According to numbers from goodcarbadcar.net, 56,740 Kia Souls went out showroom doors last year, down from 75,136 in 2021. Beginning in 2011, when the number of Souls sold (say “Souls sold” three times real fast) hit 102,267, the Soul surpassed the 100,000 mark every year until 2019, when it just missed at 97,814.

Looks like the hamsters who bopped and danced their way into the hearts of many consumers in a memorable television ad campaign have some work to do.

The 2023 Kia Soul is offered in six trims with the LX serving as the base model and coming in at just under $20,000 before any options and delivery charges are added. Even the top-of-the-portfolio GT-Line that this review is based on comes in at under $25,000, making the Kia Soul one of the more competitive models in its class budget-wise.

With the turbo option discontinued, all 2023 Kia Souls come with a 2,0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That combination doesn’t offer much in the way of performance, but it feels peppy enough around town. The 4-banger is rated at only 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque.

Gas mileage is ordinary for its class at 28 miles-per-gallon around town and 33 mpg on the highway for a final combined EPA rating of 30 mpg.

The list of standard equipment in the 2023 Kia Soul GT Line is fairly impressive.

Driver Assist Technology features include forward collision avoidance assist,  blind-spot warning, rear-cross traffic collision-avoidance assist, lane-keeping and lane-following assist, high beam assist, and a driver attention alert.

Inside, the base LX model gets an 8-inch color touchscreen but other trims get a larger, 10.25-inch screen that includes satellite radio capability and navigation.

Also standard in the 2023 Kia Soul GT-Line are dual zone climate control, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support, a GT-Line leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, Smart key and push-button start, cloth and Syn-Tex seating surfaces, wireless charging, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

The hamsters do like their tunes, and the GT-Line model includes an upgraded Harman Kardon premium sound system as an option not offered on other trims.

With a length of 165.2 inches, all 2023 Kia Souls offer 41.1 inches of legroom up front, 38.8 inches in the rear, and cargo room of up to 24.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 62.1 cubic feet with those seats folded. 

The 2023 Kia Soul GT-Line rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, gets special GT-Line styling cues, and comes with a sunroof with a power shade. (LX and S models get 16-inch wheels, EX 17s.)

My test 2023 Kia Soul GT-Line came with only one option ($135 for carpeted floor mats). That and a freight charge of $1,295 added to the starting MSRP of $23,390 brought the final bottom line to $24,820.

What I liked about the 2023 Kia Soul GT Line: The abundant infotainment features are user-friendly. The radio function even has knobs to surf the dial and adjust volume instead of buttons. Sport mode helps provide for a livelier performance. The ride is comfortable. The boxy design doesn’t have a lot of eye appeal but makes for a roomy interior.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Kia Soul GT Line: With the elimination of the turbo option, only one engine choice is offered, and all-wheel drive is not available. In addition to the meager horsepower from the 2.0L engine, the CVT detracts from the potential performance. Rear storage isn’t bad for the class, but the hamster family would be advised to travel light if there are five of them on the trip.

Would I buy the 2023 Kia Soul GT Line? Sorry, hamsters, but there are more appealing choices in the subcompact SUV segment to those who can’t think outside the box (pun intended). Pricing, however, is strong in the Soul’s favor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023



With electric cars the wave of the future, it comes as no surprise that the Muscle Car era that hit its peak in the 1960s and early 1970s and was revived in the early 2000s seems to be coming to a close.

Dodge last August announced production of its gas-powered Challenger coupes and Charger sedans will cease after the 2023 models and though there has been few other formal announcements, other manufacturers are likely to begin following suit. GM, of course, already has pledged to be all-electric by 2035.

Oh the names may survive — Dodge may want to take advantage of the Challenger name to take advantage of its status as the top-selling Muscle Car of the last two years — but to get a Challenger with the big, loud, gas-guzzling V8 HEMI engine starting next year you’re going be shopping at vintage car auctions put on by the likes of Mecum and Barrett-Jackson.

Can an electrified Challenger or Charger still be a Muscle Car is a question for future debate, though by strict definition the answer would be a resounding no.

A V8 engine has been the one constant when defining the class, though some prefer to go by performance and throttle response instead of engine size and certainly an EV is not lacking in getaway punch. The torque from an electric motor will match or surpass that offered in the original Muscle Cars and their successors of recent years.

But you don’t get the rumble from an electric motor that a throaty V8 delivers, and that’s a big part of the Muscle Car appeal, too.

With the production halt coming, Dodge has announced several special editions for 2023 Challenger and Charger models and is taking orders in a campaign dubbed “Last Call.” 

But if you can’t wait, the 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak has everything you expect in a Muscle Car.

And, yes, it has a HEMI. Also available with a V6 engine and a couple of smaller V8s, the 2022 Dodge Challenge SRT Jailbreak trim comes with a 6.2-liter, supercharged V8 that tops out at 807 horsepower. No, that’s not a typo. That’s a leap of 100 hp over the 707 hp offered on the original Hellcat version in 2015.

That horsepower gets to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. No manual transmission is offered, though you’re not likely to miss it.

In addition to the High Output supercharged V8 engine, the Challenger comes with other V8s rated at 717 hp and 797 hp. Whichever of the three you go for, you get a vehicle with sub 4-second zero-to-60 mph times.

Early Muscle Cars features somewhat spartan styling, but that isn’t the case with modern versions. Though short of luxury standards, the roomy cabin is filled with plenty of user-friendly infotainment systems and trunk space is a generous 16.4 cubic feet.

The Challenger cruises comfortably enough on expressways, though its sports-tuned suspension is on the firm side when it comes to handling bumps in the road.

The starting MSRP of $66,045 covers the usual items like keyless entry and push-button start, dual zone climate control, leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel, tire-pressure monitoring, launch control and launch assist, and Brembo brakes.

It is the options that really add to the appeal of the 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak, allowing you to “personalize” your vehicle with styling tweaks. The available Jailbreak 27D package gives you the choice of up to 20 different features,

Extras and packages on on my test Challenger included ventilated Laguna leather front seats with the SRT Hellcat logo, premium stitched door panels, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Widebody fender flares, Harmon Kardon premium audio system, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, orange brake calipers and Dodge’s UConnect4 tech features with navigation and an 8.4-inch touchscreen,.

With an engine that gulps fuel at the rate of 13 mpg city, 21 highway, and 15 combined, the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak has been tagged with a gas guzzler tax of $2,100. That plus the $1,595 destination and deliver fee ran the final bottom line to $104,480. No, that’s not a typo either.

What I liked about the 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak:
Obviously, the power gives you a real adrenaline surge. There’s much more here than you would reasonably expect to use in a non-competitive situation. Tech features are user friendly. The interior overall is pretty refined for a traditional Muscle Car and despite a sometimes bumpy ride is comfortable as well. The engine roar at acceleration is not overwhelming when cruising. The tire monitor indicates pressure in each of the four wheels, not just a blanket warning that you have a low tire somewhere among the four wheels.

What I didn’t like about the 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak: Fuel consumption is an issue, of course, so it isn’t very practical for every day use. The backseat while fairly simply to get to is very snug. Rear vision is somewhat restricted. The overall size — the hood looks to be half-an-acre — detracts from its agility and handling. Blind-spot warning is in a package of options.

Would I buy the 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak? Once upon a time I would have loved to have this (though six-figure cars have never been in my budget) to take to the track. That’s past me now, but if that’s something that appeals to you, I say go for it! And hurry up!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023




I’ve changed my mind.

About a year ago, I reviewed the 2022 Hyundai Tucson with a standard hybrid power train and answered the question “Would I buy it?” with a firm yes. Then I added I would not recommend the plug-in version because of the hassle of recharging it.

But after a week in the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-in (PHEV) I have a change of heart. The extra mileage gained by the Plug-in’s capability of up to 33 miles of all-electric range makes plugging it in at night a minor inconvenience.

In addition to the all-electric range to serve you on many of your daily commutes (most of your destinations are within a 16-mile drive), the 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV offers a very friendly 35-miles-per-gallon fuel consumption operating only on power provided by the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas engine, giving the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-in a healthy 80 MPGe rating.

You can charge the battery by plugging the 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV into your standard household outing, but a Level 2 charger you can set up at home is the way to go. Hyundai says recharging to full capacity can ake less than two hours with the Level 2 charger.

In addition to the increased fuel mileage, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV also is has the biggest punch of all Tucson models, including those powered by the 2.5-liter gas engine.

Combined horsepower for the Plug-in is 261 ponies compared to 187 in the 2.5L gas-powered version and 236 in the standard hybrid (HEV). Torque is 258 pound-feet in both the Plug-in and standard hybrid and 178 lb.-ft. in the 2.5L gas models.

The Plug-in gets a 6-speed automatic transmission instead of the CVT that seems to be common among plug-in vehicles, which adds to the driving experience.

It’s not a sports car-like performance, but the zero-to-60 mph clocking for the Plug-in is 7.1 seconds for Limited trim and 8.1 with for SEL (source www.carindigo.com), which is quicker than other Tucsons..

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV is offered in just two trims, SEL and Limited, both with all-wheel drive. This review is based on the top-of-the-line Limited that carries a starting MSRP of $44,295 with the $1,245 destination and deliver fee included.

As the top of the portfolio, the Limited gets a long list of features included in that price. In addition to the drive-train specs mentioned earlier, among items included in the base MSRP are keyless entry and push-button start, a panoramic sunroof, leather-trimmed seats, dual automatic climate control, 19-incb alloy wheels, power driver’s seat with lumbar and power passenger front seat, heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, hands-free power liftgate, a 10.25-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless device charging, and Bose Premium Sound system.

Safety systems include Smart (adaptable) cruise control, a surround-view camera, forward collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, rear-view monitor with parking guidelines, blind-spot and lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention warning.

With all that, the only “option” on my test 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited PHEV was $195 for carpeted floor mats, bringing the final total to $44,640. That’s over $1,000 less than what the 2023 Hyundai Tucson Limited PHEV lists for, and there are no major differences between the two.

What I liked about the 2022 Tucson Limited PHEV:
No range anxiety with a gas engine, and the transition from electric power to gas is seamless. The cabin is roomy and nicely done. The ride is comfortable and quiet. Rear storage space is compromised by the placement of the battery pack, but at 31.9 cubic feet is still pretty roomy. The 6-speed automatic transmission no doubt gives it an edge in quickness over the CVTs common in the segment. Finally, this year’s redesign gives the Tucson a sporty exterior.

What I didn’t like about the 2022 Tucson Limited PHEV: Tech features overall are pretty user-friendly, but I would prefer knobs to adjust audio volume and changing radio stations instead of push buttons.

Would I buy the 2022 Tucson Limited PHEV? Definitely, yes. One of the reasons I am not enamored of EVs is range anxiety. I don’t like the hassle of having to keep them charged up. With a plug-in, you can opt to drivce on gasoline power until you can plug in the vehicle at your leisure at home even without a Level 2 charger. If the Limited’s price tag makes you hesitate, the SEL comes in at nearly $8,000 less.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023




Buick got into the small SUV segment a decade ago when it launched the 2013 Encore. Apparently, it wasn’t all that long when it dawned on designers that perhaps it was “too small” and they decided a slightly larger “small” vehicle was needed.

Instead of simply enlarging the Encore, however, somebody — presumably presumably somebody in marketing — came up with the idea of labeling the new subcompact SUV the Encore GX, and so now we have both the Buick Encore and Buick Encore GX to deal with.

However confusing that might have been to some who might think the GX is simply another trim in the Encore lineup, the decision to produce a slightly larger subcompact has paid off.

The Buick Encore GX has become the best-seller in the company's all-SUV lineup while the Encore has joined the company’s sedans and coupes/convertibles on the sidelines soon to be replaced by the Buick Envista. The Envista went on sale in China last fall and should reach the U.S. later this year.

Saying the Encore GX is Buick’s top-seller, however, is kind of like being the “Most Valuable Player” on a last-place team. According to numbers available on the website goodcarbadcar.net, last year’s sales of the Buick Encore GX were down 54 percent over 2021 as the company experienced a dip of 43.2 percent for all its models.

Perhaps a savvy shopper can make use of that information and get a good deal, and it could be worth the effort because the 2023 Buick Encore GX has some things working for it.

The 2023 Buick Encore GX comes in  three trim levels with the Preferred and Select models carrying starting MSRPs of under $30,000 and the top-of-the-line Essence, which this review is based on, starting at $30,195 including the $1,195 destination and delivery fee.

Preferred and Select trims get a 1.2-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine but the 2023 Buick Encore Essense is equipped with a slightly larger 1.3L 3-cylinder that boosts horsepower and torque to 155 hp and 174 pound-feet over the 137/162 in the smaller engine.

A CVT (continuously variable transmission) is standard for both engines on front-wheel-drive models while those with available all-wheel drive get a 9-speed automatic.

The performance in my test Essence trim with the larger engine was fairly peppy around town, but I would suspect that isn’t the case with the smaller engine. Either way, you’re probably not going to be taking it out for drag racing contests as the local race strip.

As mentioned, one of the benefits of the Encore GX models over the standard Encore is increased roominess. The 2023 Buick Encore GX is 171.4 inches long and provides second-row passengers with a bit more legroom at 36.0 inches and an extra 4.7 cubic feet of cargo space over the standard Encore. Stowage behind the back seat is a generous 23.5 cubic feet in the Encore GX.

As the top-of-the-line trim, the 2023 Buick Encore GX comes with a handful of extra standard features over other models. They include leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, memory positions for the driver’s seat, and a power adjustable front seat for the passenger, 

Other standard features include a stop/start system (which can be turned off with the press of a button), keyless entry and push-button start, a wifi hotspot,   Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlights and taillights, capless fuel fill, a roof rack with side rails.

Among standard safety systems are a following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist with lane departure warning, blind spot alert, automatic emergency braking, and front pedestrian braking.

My test vehicle came with options that included an Advanced Technology Package (HD surround vision, adaptive cruise control, Buick’s infotainment system with navigation), a Convenience Package (automatic parking assist with braking, wireless charging, rear camera mirror with washer, rain-sensing windshield wipers), a hands-freee liftgate, and Bose Premium sound system.

All that with the delivery fee added ran the final bottom line to $34,615. I should point out that there are no major differences between the newest Encore GX and the last two models so there’s that as well for bargain hunters to mull over.

What I liked about the 2023 Buick Encore GX Essence:
Infotainment features are plentiful and user-friendly. The nicely appointed cabin is fairly spacious, especially for a subcompact, and stowage space behind the second row is generous. The numbers on the head-up display don’t disappear when you are wearing polarized sunglasses as they do on many such displays. 

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Buick Encore GX Essence: The ride is quiet but could be firmer. It seems bouncy at times. Storage bins on the front console are on the wee side, though items like larger water bottles can be placed in door spaces.

Would I buy the 2023 Buick Encore GX Essence? The Encore GX takes on lots of quality competition in its segment and likely wouldn’t be my first choice, but does have some underrated features that make it worth a look.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023




Introduced as a 2020 model at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, it didn’t take long for the Kia Telluride to make a good first impression.

Within a year of its launch, a panel of 50 judges for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year competition named the Telluride its Utility Vehicle of the Year; MotorTrend selected it as its SUV of the Year; and Car and Driver put it among its 10 Best Vehicles of the Year, a veritable Triple Crown of automotive awards.

In its first full-year on the market, the 2020 Telluride became the South Korean automaker’s third-best selling vehicle behind only two of its budget-minded offerings, the Kia Forte compact sedan and Sportage compact SUV.

The success has continued. The Telluride just missed the six-figure mark in sales with 99,891 sold in 2022. (Kia reported 125,245 for the Sportage and 108,424 for the Forte.)

Though the basics remain the same for all Tellurides (i.e., a 3.8-liter V6 engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and seating capacity is 7 or 8 in three rows), Kia has added styling touches the last couple of years to keep the Telluride looking fresh. The new Kia logo and grille are just two tweaks.

The 2023 Kia Telluride adds X-Line and X-Pro versions in its lineup as well as an SX-Prestige trim to its traditional portfolio of LX, S, SX, and EX models. This review is based on the 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line which is packaged with all-wheel drive as standard. AWD is optional on other trims, FWD is standard.

Standard features for the 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line include a new 12.3-inch display screen with navigation, a digital rearview mirror, dual sunroofs, Smart key with push-button start, Harman/Kardon sound system, Nappa leather seat trim, heated and ventilated power front seats, a heated steering wheel, power liftgate, 20-inch wheels, and roof rails.

Safety features include Forward Collision Avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning, adaptable cruise control, lane-departure warning, and parking assist. The 2.0 version of the standard Highway Driving Assist and Safe Exit systems also are included.

The X-Line features add black alloy wheels, a self-leveling rear suspension system, tow mode, and distinctive styling tweaks.

With 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, the 3.8L V6 engine provides enough punch for a suitable driving experience. Five drive modes — Smart, Sport, Comfort, Eco, and Snow — are featured.

Fuel mileage is so-so at best with EPA ratings of 18 miles-per-gallon city, 24 highway, and 21 combined, though it does run on regular 87 octane fuel.

The 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line carries a considerably high starting MSRP of $51,785 compared with over lower Telluride trim levels that start under $40,000.

But the break comes with the news that few options are required to enjoy all that the Telluride has to offer. My test version totaled out at $54,129 with the bulk of that the $1,335 for destination and delivery. The only options were the exterior paint that Kia calls Wolf Gray but will remind veterans familiar with Naval vehicles of Battleship Gray, the terracotta interior, and carpeted floor mats.

What I liked about the 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line: The interior is roomy with an upscale appearance. The abundant infotainment features are user-friendly, and the 12.3-inch screen for navigation covers a lot of territory. There’s even a knob to surf the radio dial. The V6, standard on all trims, provides a lively driving experience.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line:
Storage room behind the third row is tight, which is a common lament among 3-row SUVs. The alerts on safety functions can be a bit on the aggressive side and sometimes you may wonder exactly what that annoying bing could be for.

Would I buy the 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line? I’m not looking for a 3-row SUV, but if you are, it definitely belongs on your shopping list. And high up, too.