Car Reviews – We Talk Cars. Sat, 21 Apr 2018 15:22:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Car Reviews – 32 32 8746165 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Review Mon, 16 Apr 2018 17:04:01 +0000

The Mazda CX-5 is a driver-focused vehicle meant to deliver a different experience than your average small SUV. We think it offers a more satisfying experience than its chief rivals, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester. And if looks have anything to do with it, we think it wins in exterior styling too.

Over the weekend, we drove the top trim, 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring with all-wheel drive.

What’s New For 2018

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 largely carries over from the previous model year, when it received a complete redesign. New for 2018 are standard features like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Also new is cylinder-deactivation to improve fuel efficiency.

Features & Options

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD ($30,945) comes with acoustic front windows, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, an upgraded six-speaker sound system, rear USB ports, and blind-spot monitors. It also features keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The vehicle also receives additional driver assistance features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.

Grand Touring models add leather and 19-inch wheels to the above. The Premium Package on this tester ($1,306) added a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a heads-up display, power front passenger seat, and windshield wiper de-icer. Total MSRP including destination: $34,535.

Interior Highlights

This CX-5 Grand Touring interior takes a step forward over the standard trim with leather seating and stitching on the dash, console, and door panels. The quality of materials is excellent for this price point. The cabin is driver-focused with a new leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the shift-lever location fits the driver’s hand perfectly.

The seven-inch touchscreen resolution is sharp and it sits high atop the stylish dash, but it’s a bit too far away for our liking. There’s also an infotainment controller in the center console with a radio volume control knob that’s easy to find without taking your eyes off the road. The seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustments and support for long-distance driving. The steering wheel also offers a nice range of tilt-and-telescoping positions.

This weekend, we took a couple of six-foot gentlemen to lunch, and they commented on how there seems to be more shoulder room in the rear, likely due to the CX-5’s slightly wider track. The rear doors open wide, so they had no trouble entering and exiting the crossover. And thanks to scalloping in the back of the front seats, there was plenty of legroom for our riders.

If you need to carry cargo, the 40/20/40-split folding backseat reclines. Behind the rear seat, there’s 31 cubic feet of cargo storage, and 60 with the rear folded flat. It’s a bit less than competitors, including the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2.5-liter SKYACTIV 4-cylinder engine produces 187 horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our tester came with Mazda’s all-wheel drive system for all-weather capability, a nice feature for those who live in winter climates. The 2.5-liter engine gets cylinder-deactivation technology which automatically shuts down the two outside cylinders at cruising speeds to maximize efficiency. Fuel mileage has increased 1 mpg over last year’s model.

EPA fuel mileage estimates are 24/30 city/highway and 26 combined with all-wheel drive.

Driving Dynamics

We think the CX-5 is higher on the fun-to-drive meter than any other crossover out there. We took a weekend drive in the mountains west of Denver where this journalist lives, and the small SUV delivered a most satisfying experience. We tossed the CX-5 around the tight curves and it responded like a sports sedan.

The steering is precise, and the suspension is tuned for sporty driving over comfort. Be aware, the CX-5 is not going to win any races. The crossover has enough power for most driving situations, but was fairly tame when we pushed it hard up I-70. The naturally aspirated engine could use a turbo for those traveling up into the high country or hauling extra cargo over a high mountain pass. For normal commuting, you won’t have an issue.

The cabin was quiet when we got underway. It’s not as quiet as a luxury car, but it’s much improved when we pushed the pedal, especially at highway speeds. With the heated seats, steering wheel, and heads-up dispaly, this small SUV feels like a more expensive vehicle. Overall, it’s the most fun we’ve ever had in a compact crossover, having tested the competition. If you live where there’s lots of twisty roads, this is the vehicle for you.


The 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD nails it in driving dynamics, with a comfortable, quiet cabin, driver-focused interior, and strong exterior styling. If you like to drive, this crossover delivers a different, more pleasurable experience than your average small SUV.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Mazda CX-5 Gallery

2018 Mazda CX-5 Official Site.

Photos: Mazda North American Operations – (2017 models also shown).

]]> 0 96136
2018 Dodge Challenger GT AWD Review Sat, 07 Apr 2018 15:55:20 +0000

The 2018 Dodge Challenger GT is a worthy Mopar and its main competition is the Mustang and Camaro. It has handsome good looks, handles well for a muscle car, is both retro and stylish, and quick enough. If you don’t need the performance of a V8, the V6 is a worthy competitor and makes for a good daily commuter.

This week, we got our hands on the new Dodge Challenger GT. 

What’s New For 2018

The Dodge Challenger GT remains unchanged except for a standard rearview camera. It also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

Features & Options

The 2018 Dodge Challenger GT ($33,495) comes standard with automatic headlights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and 60/40-split folding rear seats. Tech features include Bluetooth capability, a rearview camera, two USB ports, and a six-speaker sound system.

The GT employs the V6 and is the only Challenger with all-wheel drive. The GT trim adds 19-inch wheels, foglights, rear parking sensors, upgraded brakes, heated and ventilated front seats, and leather upholstery. GT buyers also get a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel, interior ambient lighting, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, performance-related in-car apps, and satellite and HD radio.

This tester came with the GT interior package ($995) adding a leather steering wheel, Harman/Kardon premium sound ($895), nine-inch speakers with subwoofer, 506-watt amplifier, and Nappa Alcantara performance seats. We also enjoyed the Challenger body stripe ($395) and navigation ($795). Total MSRP including destination: 37,670.

Interior Highlights

We would opt for the GT interior package every time. For just under $1,000 it provides nice upgrades, making the Challenger GT a comfortable place to spend your commuting time. The leather steering wheel and seats make the cabin feel a bit like a luxury coupe. The front seats are outstanding, especially in Nappa leather, for driving enthusiasts. They kept us firmly planted during spirited driving. There’s a high-tech 8.4-inch touchscreen upgrade in the GT model with sharpened resolution and quicker infotainment software.

The Challenger GT cabin is quiet at highway speeds even with winter-rated tires on all four corners. We were glad it was equipped with them when the spring snow hit this week. The premium sound system and nine-speakers filled the coupe’s cabin as we made it through city traffic.

If you need to haul lots of passengers, the rear seat is tight and only acceptable for hauling adults a short distance. Getting into the back is a tight fit and the contortions could cause you to see the chiropractor. The Challenger doesn’t have the best rearward visibility when on the road either, but the new-for-2018 rearview camera solves the backing-up issue.

The trunk has 6.2 cubic feet of cargo space and is much larger than the Challenger looks like it would offer, more space than some midsize sedans.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The Challenger GT is powered by Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V6 producing 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated with an eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission. EPA fuel mileage estimates are 18/27 city/highway and 21 combined mpg. 

Driving Dynamics

The GT’s 305 horsepower doesn’t sound like a lot compared with its sibling V8s, but it’s a capable sports coupe able to handle the commute. The V6 won’t eat you alive at the gas pump and it has enough power for any driving situation, short of a drag race from the stop light with a Hellcat or Scat Pack.

The GT with its 3.6-liter V6 is a fun ride with a compliant suspension, yet still firm enough to handle fairly well in the corners. With its paddle-shifting eight-speed automatic, there’s enough power to still feel like a muscle car. The GT isn’t short on acceleration for passing, even in Colorado’s rarefied air. The Challenger GT is an easy car to live with that exudes a lot of style and gets lots of attention from other drivers.

Challenger GT is stable and predictable even on the twisty mountain roads west of Denver. The car offers all-wheel drive for all-weather capability and makes a good daily commuter that won’t break the bank with a purchase price well under $40K. 


The 2018 Dodge Challenger GT offers plenty of fun for the money and performed surprisingly well for a V6. Handling is impressive on two-lane mountain roads due largely to the all-wheel drive. In terms of drivability, the Challenger GT is an acceptable, if not enjoyable daily commuter.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Dodge Challenger GT Gallery

2018 Dodge Challenger Official Site.

Photos: FCA US LLC.

]]> 0 95621
2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Review Mon, 02 Apr 2018 16:12:31 +0000

If you need a full-size SUV, built on a truck chassis, ready to tow a trailer, and haul large amounts of cargo with nine-passengers, there aren’t many choices. The GMC Yukon XL will fill your order and can even take the abuse of rough, unpaved roads on a regular basis, something car-based crossovers won’t handle. Add the Denali trim and you’ve got a rugged SUV with the style and trimmings of a luxury vehicle.

This weekend, we drove the top-of-the-line, 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD.

What’s New For 2018

The Yukon Denali, the top GMC trim, adopts a sophisticated 10-speed automatic transmission. There’s also a new Denali Ultimate Package with 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, and a large helping of safety tech add-ons.

Features & Options

The 2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD ($71,865) comes loaded with features including tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, and 60/40-split folding second- and third-row seats. Also included is a 110-volt power outlet, an eight-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, and OnStar communications (with a 4G LTE connection and Wi-Fi hotspot). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compliments a nine-speaker Bose audio system, which includes a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and a USB input.

Other features include foglights, side steps, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, and a trailer hitch receiver with a wiring harness. GM’s Teen Driver monitoring system, which limits certain vehicle settings for young drivers, also comes standard.

The top-of-the-line Denali trim adds 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, adaptive suspension dampers, a trailer brake controller, a heads-up instrument display, active noise cancellation, second-row bucket seats, navigation, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

The new-for-2018 Denali Ultimate package ($8,030) adds 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, power side steps, adaptive cruise control, a rear seat entertainment system with DVD player, an extended satellite radio and traffic information subscription, and enhanced security features. The Ultimate package also adds forward collision alert with automatic low-speed emergency braking, a vibrating safety-alert driver’s seat, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning and intervention systems.

Total MSRP on this Denali tester including destination: $80,190.

Interior Highlights

The GMC Yukon XL is just that: it’s super-sized for extra cargo and passenger-carrying abilities. Yukon XL is 20.5 inches longer than the normal Yukon, on a wheelbase that’s 14 inches longer. Yukon XL offers a lot more third-row legroom, making the XL ideal for hauling large numbers of passengers. Stepping inside, the Denali proves handsome and luxurious, reminiscent of a high-end luxury vehicle.

The Yukon XL is absolutely cavernous inside were six-footers will feel comfortable for long trips. An eight-inch touchscreen sits high above logically-laid-out controls that are easy and quick to use. The front seats are especially comfortable with plenty of adjustments and power-adjust pedals to help find the perfect position for any size driver. The second row captain’s chairs are just as comfy, giving passengers extra elbow room. The XL provides ample stretch-out space for taller passengers and even the third row can handle adults without an issue. 

With the third row deployed, it offers up a generous 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold down the second and third rows, and you’ve got a whopping 121 cubic feet of maximum cargo space at your disposal. Loading cargo can be a bit of a chore, however, because of the relatively high rear tailgate floor.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Yukon Denali gets GMC’s 6.2-liter EcoTech3 V8 engine, sending 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft. of torque to the wheels via a new 10-speed automatic. Our Yukon XL came with 4WD, a locking rear differential, two-speed transfer case, rear load leveling, and was equipped to tow 7,500 lbs.

The EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 14/21 city/highway and 16 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

When we pushed the gas pedal to the floor, the big 6.2-liter came alive quickly and delivered a remarkably eye-opening response. Of course, the price is a big drop in fuel mileage, but the demographic that will buy the Yukon XL aren’t all that concerned with the price of gas. Although the V8 can run on half its cylinders during light-load usage to help reduce fuel consumption.

The ride is comfortable in spite of the bigger wheels and thanks in part to the Denali’s Magnetic Ride Control. The SUV smoothed out the bumps on the dirt roads with ruts. We experienced a spring snow storm in Denver and the 4WD system allowed us to cut through the ice and snow. Denali comes with a 2WD mode, 4-wheel automatic, 4-High, and 4-Low for unpaved roads and trails.

The cabin is quiet even when we stood on the gas. The new 10-speed automatic was smooth and we never felt it hunting for the right gear, even at altitude going up the steep I-70 incline heading out of town. The GMC Yukon Denali can haul a boat-load of people without an issue and the only problem we had was slower traffic getting in our way. The big vehicle gives the driver a feeling of power and authority on the road.

If you are doing high-traffic city driving, the Yukon XL is a challenge trying to navigate tight parking lots and narrow streets. It requires a rubber neck and paying attention to how you park. Denali does come with an array of parking sensors, rearview camera, and a vibrating safety-alert driver’s seat, which we thought was a bit over the top.


The GMC Yukon XL Denali offers a rugged SUV with the style and trimmings of a luxury vehicle. It will handle all your people and cargo-hauling needs with room to spare. The Denali is luxury grade. Add in the 4×4 capability and you’ve got a big family hauler that will go anywhere you point it.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 GMC Yukon XL Denali Gallery

GMC Yukon XL Denali Official Site.

Photos: GMC.

]]> 0 95615
2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL R-Line Review Mon, 26 Mar 2018 12:47:35 +0000

Volkswagen has moved into the three-row family vehicle category with its all-new Atlas SUV. It offers a spacious cabin, V6 power, room for seven passengers, and an R-Line appearance package setting it apart from the standard model.

This weekend, we drove the near top-of-the-lineup, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL with the R-Line trim.

What’s New For 2018

The Volkswagen Atlas is entirely new for 2018 as a midsize, three-row crossover aimed at families. Built in Tennessee, alongside the Passat, the Atlas focuses on the American market, competing with the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and new Subaru Ascent.

Features & Options

The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL ($40,890) comes standard with simulated leather upholstery, push-button start, automatic headlights, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, rear sunshades, a blind-spot monitoring system, a larger eight-inch touchscreen interface, and the option for captain’s chairs in the second row. Tech features include remote start, automatic three-zone climate control, a power rear liftgate, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking.

The SEL trim adds a panoramic sunroof, power-adjustable front passenger seats, and park distance control. This SEL tester came with the optional R-Line appearance package ($1,960) featuring 20-inch alloy wheels, R-Line bumpers, badging and trim, and stainless steel pedal cluster. Total MSRP including destination: $43,775. 

Interior Highlights

The cabin of the new Atlas is spacious up front with lots of leg and headroom for drivers and passengers. The all-black leatherette interior is in sharp contrast to the all-white exterior of this three-row SUV. The cabin design is conservative with clean lines, and was well thought out with its logical controls and easy to understand displays.

The quality of materials lags behind the competition, but there’s still enough soft-touch materials to give an up-class feeling. In the back, there’s more hard plastic, but that’s a good thing with the kids spilling things, offering easier cleanup for parents on the go.

The second row also offers stretch-out space and taller adults won’t feel cramped on long trips. The second-row bench splits 60/40 and slides forward to grant access to the rear compartment. The third row is exceptionally roomy and we think it wins best-in-class honors. It’s even capable of transporting average-size adults. With the second and third rows folded flat, the Atlas offers 96.8 cubic feet of cargo carrying ability.

Overall, the Atlas cabin is impressively spacious and versatile, functional and easy to use, and cargo space excels.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

This Atlas tester came with the optional 3.6-liter V6 engine, generating 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft. of torque. It’s mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission with Triptronic. This particular Atlas came with front-wheel drive, but Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive ($1,800) is an option for V6 models.

The Stop/Start system is standard and shuts off the engine at traffic lights to save fuel and reduce emissions. EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 18/25 city/highway and 20 combined.

Driving Dynamics

While the raw numbers of the optional V6 would suggest this three-row family hauler would be underpowered, we found it to have more than enough grunt for most driving situations. The new Atlas has a composed attitude with smooth acceleration, solid stability at high speeds, a comfortable ride on the highway, and responsive handling in the corners.

On the road, the new Atlas feels lighter than expected for a vehicle of its size and weight. Even with the optional R-Line 20-inch wheels, our rear passengers over the weekend said it was a smooth, comfortable ride. Even on dirt roads, the fully independent suspension absorbed the bumps capably and confidently.

We pushed the Atlas hard around the tight mountain corners west of Denver, and it remained composed with little body lean. When pushed uphill at altitude, we found it had enough power and the eight-speed automatic wasn’t hunting for the right gear.

However, the V6 isn’t as frugal by today’s fuel efficiency standards as some of the competition, even without all-wheel drive.


The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is especially spacious inside and offers lots of flexibility for your cargo-carrying needs. There’s room for seven passengers, and adults can even ride in the back for more than a few blocks.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Volkswagen Atlas R-Line Gallery

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Official Site.

Photos: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

]]> 0 95263
2018 Honda Fit Sport Review Thu, 15 Mar 2018 14:28:55 +0000

The Honda Fit gets a mild redo and a new Sport trim, which we have been driving this week. The Fit gets a few upgrades but keeps its best attributes of reliability, economy, performance, and interior versatility. It’s a good choice for city dwellers and a nice place to spend time commuting.

This week we drove the new Honda Fit Sport to see how it stacks up. 

What’s New For 2018

The Honda Fit features updated styling and a new, mid-tier 5-Door Sport model. It also comes with more active safety technology and driver aids, an updated infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, re-tuned suspension and steering, and added sound insulation for a quieter ride.

Features & Options

The 2018 Honda Fit Sport ($17,500) comes standard with a rearview camera, remote entry, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and driver-seat height adjustment.

The new-for-2018 Sport trim adds some “sporty” styling highlights, as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Sport’s infotainment system is a seven-inch touchscreen interface that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also includes a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. Total MSRP including destination: $18,390.

Interior Highlights

Stepping inside the 2018 Honda Fit Sport reveals a cabin that feels bigger than a subcompact should. Most subcompacts feel tight and leave you with a feeling of claustrophobia. It features attractive cloth seats, some hard plastics, but still plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Controls are logically positioned and you don’t get the sense it’s an economy hatch. The fit and finish is good and the quality of materials is above average for this price point.

Fit is still a small car, but there’s a surprising amount of room in the front and back. We adjusted the steering wheel and height-adjustable driver’s seat and found the ideal driving position.

In the back, we were again surprised at how much legroom rear passengers are afforded, although headroom will be tight for 6-footers. The Fit comes with a 60/40-split folding rear seat Honda calls a Magic Seat. The rear seat can be positioned in a number of configurations, making the subcompact car able to handle more types of cargo than other typical hatchbacks. There’s also a handy hidden cargo tray for valuables under the rear deck. The rear hatch features a low-load height and it’s wider than others in this class, making it easy to pack larger items.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2018 Honda Fit Sport is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection, producing 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft. of torque. Our Sport tester came with a smooth-shifting standard six-speed manual gearbox. EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 29/36 city/highway and 31 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

We noticed two things about the Fit Sport after we got underway. Visibility is very good for a subcompact, and Honda’s engineers added more sound insulation which translates to a quieter ride on the highway. We also noticed the 1.5-liter engine is not particularly high-revving, and it takes awhile to get up to highway speed. We tested the Fit at altitude, however, so it will develop a bit more power at sea level.

The Honda Fit Sport is nimble around the tight mountain curves, staying relatively flat when we took them fast, and is generally fun to drive. At highway speeds, the Fit is stable and composed. If you want a hot hatch, you will need to move up to the Civic, but the Fit is a capable commuter that’s easy to live with. It won’t leave you tired after a longer commute in traffic either. 

The six-speed manual is a smooth-shifting gearbox for those who like to drive. Once you get used to the clutch uptake, shifts are precise and one of the better subcompact manual rowers we’ve driven.

Where the Honda Fit shines is in tight city streets and parking spaces. Thanks to the car’s small footprint, we were able to zip right into a small parking sport on the street without parallel parking. The Fit offers up nimble handling and a tight turning radius, allowing us to make a 180-degree turn around in the middle of the street. Overall, the Fit offers a fun and satisfying drive for urban dwellers.


The 2018 Honda Fit Sport is a very capable subcompact offering hatchback utility, sporty driving dynamics, smart packaging, excellent rear passenger and cargo carrying ability, good looks, and fuel efficiency. Add in Honda’s reputation for reliability and longevity, and you’ve got all the qualities needed.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Honda Fit Orange Fury Gallery

2018 Honda Fit Crystal Black Pearl Gallery

2018 Honda Fit Official Site.

Photos: Honda North America (other trim levels also shown).

]]> 0 94315
2018 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium Review Sat, 10 Mar 2018 16:45:46 +0000

If you haven’t heard of the Kia Niro, it’s a new subcompact wagon/hatchback with a hybrid gas-electric powertrain that was introduced last year. Kia says it’s a crossover, but since it isn’t offered with all-wheel drive, we’ll classify it in the hatch and wagon category. Either way, it’s a smart new entry with a lower stance than a typical crossover. It offers five-door utility and the vertical liftgate makes it feel like a wagon.

This week we drove the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium.

What’s New For 2018

The new Niro Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) adds lane keeping assist, replacing the previous lane departure warning system. It’s included in the Advanced Technology package available on LX and EX trims, and it’s standard on the top Touring trim.

Features & Options

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV EX trim ($34,500) comes standard with power-folding and heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear air conditioning vents, an additional USB charge port, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.

The EX Premium trim adds a 10-way power driver’s seat, xenon headlights, a gloss black front grille with chrome trim, ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory function, and a heated steering wheel. There’s also an eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation, and an eight-speaker premium Harmon Kardon sound system. LED map lights, the front and rear parking system, wireless phone charging, and a 110-volt power outlet round out the list of add-ons. 

Safety features include Kia’s Forward Collision Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems. Total MSRP including destination: $35,575.

Interior Highlights

Stepping inside the cabin of the Niro EX Premium reveals an all-black interior with light colored stitching on the door panels, seats, and center console. The quality of the materials is good and most of the surfaces soft. There are no real clues to it being a hybrid inside, except for an Eco badge on the dash and the EV mode gauge showing battery usage.

This tester came with soft leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated and ventilated front seats for all-weather comfort. The front seats were comfortable and well bolstered for our more spirited driving this week. The back seats are canted backward offering plenty of room for taller adults making headroom generous.

The new Niro offers a fair amount of cargo space, but not as much as a Toyota Prius. It comes with 19.4 cubic feet with the rear seat up, and 54.5 cubic feet with the seats down. The rear hatch offers greater utility with a charging cord included, along with a handy storage compartment below the rear deck.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The new Kia Niro PHEV is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, making 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft. of torque. It’s coupled with an AC Synchronous Permanent Magnet Motor that creates another 60 horsepower and 125 lb-ft. of torque. Kia says total system output is 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. 

Both are mated to a Kia-built six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The electric motor acts as a generator, getting its energy from braking and deceleration, and charging a 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. The Niro can run on electric power for 26 miles of all-electric driving range.

EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 105 MPGe combined (city/highway) mpg. Overall, the Niro PHEV offers an estimated 560 miles of total range with a 48/44/46 rating (city/highway/combined). 

Driving Dynamics

The Kia Niro hybrid is one of the best we’ve tested, partly because it offers a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, rather than a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Once we got underway, the Niro hybrid felt like a typical gas-only vehicle, mainly because it doesn’t have the annoying characteristics of the CVTs usually found in hybrids like the Toyota Prius.

As we drove the Niro this week, it was fun to see how much electric battery power we could generate by using the regenerative braking technology. Because we tested the vehicle in the mountains west of Denver, we had plenty of steep declines to help get more battery power. The Eco EV mode gauge showed us when we were charging the battery and when it was draining. We never had to use the cord to recharge because we had recharged with our driving alone. We were able to drive all week commuting to Denver on just slightly more than 1/2 tank of gas.

The shift from all-electric to the gas engine is seamless and virtually unnoticeable. The only thing that allows you to tell it’s a hybrid is the slight whine of the brakes when it’s recharging the battery. For those wanting a sporty driving experience, the dual-clutch transmission can be manually shifted in Sport mode. It offers a more dynamic driving experience, but fuel mileage suffers. Eco mode is where we got the best mileage, but power is much less too. If you do need extra power, you just slide the gear shifter to the left for Sport, and the small hatchback comes alive, and easily keeps up with traffic on the freeway.

The Kia Niro offers a smooth and comfortable ride on the highway. It’s light with a low center of gravity largely giving it excellent handling. It stayed flat in the tight mountain curves for us.


The 2018 Kia Niro is a new hybrid that could change the way we view fuel-efficient technology. We think it’s better than the Toyota Prius with its six-speed transmission and superior handling and driving dynamics. You even get a Sport mode if you are a driving enthusiast.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

Kia Niro Gallery

2018 Kia Niro Official Site.

Photos: Kia Motors America (2017 and non-PHEV models also shown).

]]> 0 94096
2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure Review Sat, 03 Mar 2018 17:17:52 +0000

Toyota wants to capture the outdoor enthusiast market and the new RAV4 Adventure is for those wanting to get away from the city. This new RAV4 looks the part, but is it ready to tackle serious off-road trails? Or perhaps those  unexpected winter snowstorms? We wanted to find out, so this week we drove the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure with all-wheel drive. 

What’s New For 2018

Toyota’s RAV4 gets a special-edition trim called the Adventure. It features a tow prep package, a higher ride height, 18-inch alloy wheels, lower body guards, black headlight bezels, and fog light surrounds. A 120V power outlet in the cargo area, all-weather floor mats, special interior trim panels, and a leather-wrapped shift knob are also included.

The main differences between the standard RAV4 and the Adventure trim are the tow prep package, household-style power outlet in the cargo area, and lower body cladding.

Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD ($28,400), in addition to the Adventure upgrades, comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, a power/tilt sliding sunroof, 60/40 split-folding reclining rear seats, LED headlights, a 4.2-inch multi-information display in between the gauges, and cloth upholstery.

Every RAV4 comes with a rearview camera and Toyota Safety Sense P, which consists of a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.

Additional options for our 2018 RAV4 tester included the Cold Weather Package ($1,060), offering a heated leather steering wheel, heated and power operated front seats, and windshield wiper deicer. Total MSRP including destination: $30,980.

Interior Highlights

The interior of the RAV4 Adventure is set up with outdoor enthusiasts in mind with its cloth interior and all-weather floor mats. It has a fair amount of harder plastic surfaces too, making it easier to clean after a day in the high country. There’s seating for four adults with its two rows with comfy reclining seats in the back.

We took advantage of the Cold Weather package this week as an Arctic blast hit the Denver area. We cranked up the heated front seats and heated steering wheel, and used the windshield de-icer when the CDOT trucks sprayed Mag Chloride all over the interstate to keep it clear of ice. The Adventure trim also features a handy 120V outlet in the cargo area, making it ideal for a power cooler to keep your food and beverages cold on those excursions away from the city.

Where the RAV4 really shines is in the cargo area. Cargo space is massive with 38.4 cubic feet behind the split-folding rear seats and 73.4 cubic feet behind the front seats with the rear seats folded flat. It’s ideal for carrying your camping, hiking, and fishing gear.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

All RAV4s are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft. of torque. The inline-4 comes mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 22/28 city/highway and 25 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

This 176 horsepower small SUV has no trouble cruising down the highway or navigating city streets, but we found it needing a bit more power for Colorado’s high altitudes. If it’s loaded with people and cargo heading up the mountain pass for a fun getaway, it might struggle. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic is the only powertrain available.

Toyota says in the Adventure trim, the small SUV has enough grunt to pull up to 3,500 lbs. Our tester came with mud and snow tires which made it ideal for getting through the wet snow that fell this week. We had no trouble getting onto the snow-covered dirt roads leading to our house.

Other than the mud guards, body cladding, and slightly higher ride height, the RAV4 Adventure gets the same all-wheel drive system as the standard model. For more serious off-road excursions, the RAV4 Adventure looks the part, but lacks the hardware to get you too far away from civilization. For a weekend getaway vehicle, however, it will accomplish what you need.


The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure offers lots of room for passengers and cargo. It makes for an excellent family hauler as well, with excellent safety credentials. It offers Toyota’s well-established reputation for reliability, and it is a practical and appealing choice for families or adults with an active lifestyle.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure Gallery

2018 Toyota RAV4 Official Site.

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

]]> 0 93861
2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: Sport Hatchback Manual Review Tue, 27 Feb 2018 00:48:46 +0000

With the Winter Olympics held in South Korea, we’ve seen how much progress they’ve made in the world of sports. They’ve also made huge leaps in the automotive field. The Hyundai Elantra is a serious competitor among compacts, with a sporty design, roomy cabin, and abundant features. Following a 2017 revamp of the Elantra lineup, the compact car gets a sporty new hatchback model. The new Elantra hatch offers greater cabin space, more premium-looking finishes, and the GT Sport’s suspension offers improved driving dynamics.

This weekend, we drove the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Hatchback with a manual gearbox.

What’s New For 2018

Hyundai introduced the Elantra GT Sport Hatchback for the 2018 model year. A new SEL trim level takes the place of the previous SE with a Popular Equipment Package.

Standard Features

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Hatchback ($23,250) comes standard with LED headlights, an electronic parking brake, upgraded gauges, leather upholstery, an eight-inch display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a rearview camera. It also features 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth. Blind-spot detection is also standard. Hyundai’s Elantra GT includes a sunroof and heated front seats, along with a multi-link rear suspension and bigger brakes. Total MSRP including destination: $24,260.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Hatchback

Interior Highlights

Stepping inside, Elantra GT feels bigger than a compact car should with interior dimensions approaching that of a mid-size vehicle. The fit and finish is better in the GT trim, and it gets heated leather seats for extra comfort. Little things like a push-button start and the larger, eight-inch display make a difference in giving it a more upscale feel. 

The leather-trimmed front seats in the GT are comfortable, with better bolstering on the cushions. This Sport model features deeper bucket seats that kept us planted during more spirited driving this weekend. Most controls and the touchscreen angle toward the driver for easier use when on the road.

There’s plenty of legroom in the back of this compact hatch, but of course, seats aren’t as comfortable as up front. Passengers will ride a bit lower for extra headroom, but you might feel too closed in for those long-distance jaunts. Rear legroom is an inch tighter in a GT Hatchback versus the Elantra sedan. Cargo space in the Hatchback has grown to 24.9 cubic feet, expanding to 55.4 cubic feet with the 60/40 seatbacks folded flat.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Hatchback is powered by a peppy, 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder, producing 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to a sweet 6-speed manual gearbox. Hatchbacks with the six-speed manual are EPA-rated at 22/29 city/highway and 25 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

You wouldn’t think 201 horsepower would get any driving enthusiast excited, but the Elantra GT offers up an experience that’s high on the fun-to-drive meter. When the turbo kicked in, even at altitude, we were able to power up the mountain roads west of Denver with little concern for wanting more “oomph.”

On the open road, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra Hatchback felt composed, relatively quiet, solid, and refined for a compact car priced under $25,000. Only on seriously rough surfaces does the suspension reveal its limitations. But for the curves, the GT Sport gets a multi-link independent rear suspension, providing greater body-motion control for the tight mountain corners. With its light, yet precise steering, the GT Hatchback kept us firmly planted on the pavement.

Driving enthusiasts will want the six-speed manual. It fits well with the 1.6-liter turbo powerplant and is most enjoyable to drive. As an alternative to the manual shifter, the turbo can mate with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. With the automatic transmission, the Elantra GT Sport Hatchback would be a good commuter for urban dwellers.


The 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Hatchback delivers a good value for a sporty compact. The cabin features more luxury than the lower trims, greater utility, and an enjoyable driving experience overall. Hyundai’s impressive warranty makes it even more competitive in this segment too. 

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport Gallery

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Official Site.

Photos: Hyundai Motor America.

]]> 0 93802
2018 Chevy Cruze LT Diesel Hatch Review Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:27:32 +0000 There are other affordable high-mileage compact cars out there, but how does a diesel-powered model fit in your plans? It competes in Toyota Prius territory, making it one of the most fuel-efficient compacts on the planet. This week we found the Chevy Cruze diesel variant to be easy-going, surprisingly quiet, comfortable, and composed on the road. The Cruze comes as a sedan or hatchback, with an automatic or manual, and as either a diesel or gas.

This week, we drove the 2018 Chevy Cruze LT Diesel Hatch.

What’s New For 2018

Both the 2018 Cruze Hatch and sedan are now available with the 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine. The vehicle was unveiled in 2016 at the North American International Auto Show.

Features & Options

The 2018 Chevy Cruze LT Diesel Hatch ($25,865) comes standard with cloth upholstery, a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 60/40 split folding rear seat, and a rearview camera. Cruze LT Hatch adds a six-speaker sound system with available satellite radio, steering wheel controls, 16-inch wheels, fog lamps, and a space-saver spare tire rather than a tire repair kit.

It also features upgraded headlights with LED running lights, heated mirrors, and a rear center armrest with cupholders. Hatchback models also get a cargo cover and rear spoiler. A charge-only USB port is added to models equipped with the automatic transmission.

This Cruze LT tester came with the optional Driver Confidence and Sun and Sound package ($2,260), adding rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. It also came with a sunroof, a color driver information center, ambient interior lighting, a larger eight-inch center touchscreen display, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system. It also came with the Leather package ($1,125). That gave us a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, and a height-adjustable front passenger seat.

Total MSRP including destination: $30,125.

Interior Highlights

The cabin is modern, clean, and sharp, featuring an all-black layout with light contrast stitching. The soft-touch materials nicely offset some of the hard plastic. There’s simple instrumentation in a pod, outlined in chrome, and the controls are intuitive. In the center of the dash, our tester had the larger, easier-to-read eight-inch touchscreen. The leather front seats are comfortable, with additional bolstering for extra support.

For a compact car, we think the Cruze Hatch is spacious, and it felt bigger inside than its size would dictate. It will carry four adults comfortably, with a surprising amount of leg and hip room in the rear, more than rivals like the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra have. 

The Cruze Hatch offers up 23.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, not as much as the Honda Civic or Ford Focus hatchbacks. However, with the rear seat folded flat, the hatch has a competitive 47 cubic feet of cargo carrying ability.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Our Cruze LT tester came with the new 1.6-liter turbodiesel, producing 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission. The turbodiesel fuel mileage competes with the stingy Toyota Prius with an EPA rating of 30/45 city/highway and 35 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

The Cruze Hatch is quiet on the road – you can’t tell it’s a diesel – and it rides comfortably on the highway with excellent stability. We were surprised at the way the Cruze rode in fact. It offers one of the most comfortable rides for a compact car.

So how does the 1.6-liter diesel perform? It’s a strong point for the Cruze. If you don’t mind wearing a plastic glove while filling it at the pump, the engine is worth the small discomfort. When Volkswagen left the compact diesel market because of their their emissions fiasco, it left a void now filled by the Cruze.

We thought the 137 horsepower would be woefully inadequate, especially in the mountains of Colorado, but when you add in that massive 240 lb-ft. of torque, it turns into a race car. If you are worried about hearing a noisy diesel sound, or black smoke belching from the tailpipe, both are non-existent.

The nine-speed automatic shifts with little hesitation and pairs well with the small diesel powerplant. In the city, the Cruze is an ideal size for commuting. It also fits into small parking spaces with ease.


In a crowded compact hatch class, there’s lots of choices, but only one with a diesel engine. It stands out for its excellent power and fuel economy. The interior will carry four adults comfortably, while the Hatchback with its rear seat folded offers good utility and cargo space.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Chevy Cruze Hatchback Gallery

2018 Chevy Cruze Official Site.

Photos & Source: Chevrolet. (2017 models and Redline Edition also shown).

]]> 0 93244
2018 Toyota Corolla XSE Review Mon, 05 Feb 2018 18:45:31 +0000  

Those wanting a compact car with attitude should take a look at the new Toyota Corolla. If you want a safe compact car, the Corolla gets a suite of safety features not typically found in this segment. Add in a dash of Corolla’s excellent fuel economy along with its high resale value, and you have all the ingredients for a car that will please budget-conscious consumers.

This weekend, we drove the top-of-the-line, 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE.

What’s New For 2018

The 50th Anniversary Edition trim has been dropped. Otherwise, the Toyota Corolla goes forward unchanged.

Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE gets you a lot of features for the money ($22,730). It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a black mesh grille, heated color-keyed side mirrors with turn signal indicators, a rear spoiler, and a chrome-tipped exhaust. Inside, we were treated to a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, sport front seats, power moonroof, and the upgraded Entune audio system. The XSE also comes standard with heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Standard safety features include Toyota’s Safety Sense with pre-collision warnings, pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and auto high beams. Our XSE tester came with the optional Entune Premium Audio ($525) with an integrated navigation system and the Entune App Suite. The TRD Performance exhaust ($649) was a nice touch. Total MSRP including destination: $25,337.

Interior Highlights

We slid into the XSE and saw the most up-to-date cabin yet for Toyota’s compact car. It features a stylish dashboard, a sporty steering wheel, and an automatic gear shifter that fit perfectly into our hands. We particularly liked the traditional audio and climate controls unlike some that are put in difficult-to-use touchscreen menus. When we did need to use the seven-inch touchscreen, it offered up large buttons, clear graphics, and quick responses. It could be one of the easier infotainment systems to operate in this class.

Various connectivity features came courtesy of the Entune App Suite with services like Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Pandora, and real-time traffic data.

The Corolla’s front seats hugged us from behind and provided adequate comfort, particularly with the firmer bolstering found in the XSE. We adjusted the telescoping steering wheel, came up with a comfortable driving position, and were able to see the gauges perfectly. Out back, there’s more legroom than most small compact sedans and headroom is a plus for taller passengers. Trunk capacity is average at 13 cubic feet, but the wider opening makes it fairly easy to load and unload any items you might need to transport. 

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE comes powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft. of torque. It’s mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission which benefits the Corolla in terms of gas mileage. With the larger 17-inch wheels, the Corolla gets an EPA estimated 28/35 city/highway and 31 combined mpg using regular unleaded fuel. 

Driving Dynamics

When we hit the push button start and powered up the Corolla, we could hear the louder growl from the optional TRD Performance Exhaust. When we pressed on the gas, it gave off a distinct exhaust note younger buyers will appreciate. Many go for this in aftermarket shops, but Toyota was wise to offer it from the factory.

The Corolla’s four-cylinder engine is bulletproof when it comes to reliability but it does lack in the performance department. We pushed it hard at altitude but were asking for more power as we tried to pass slower traffic. The CVT automatic gearbox has a distinct rpm drone and the TRD exhaust accentuates the sound even more. We tossed the compact car around the tight mountain curves too, but it’s really designed more for city commuting. On the upside, it handles city streets with ease and it won’t leave you tired after a long commute. 


The 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE offers up a lot for the money. Add in Toyota’s reliability, excellent fuel economy, and the compact’s styling, and you’ve got a good commuter that should last for years. If you are looking for safety, the standard rearview camera, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control are as good as most luxury sedans.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Toyota Corolla XSE Gallery

2018 Toyota Corolla Official Site.

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

]]> 0 92650
2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4 Review Sat, 03 Feb 2018 15:54:16 +0000

If you are looking for a cute urban commuter that’s still capable for weekend excursions to the high country, the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4 could be the ticket. Renegade is unmistakably a Jeep with its tall, vertical sides, round headlights, and signature grille. What sets it apart is its compact size and wide stance.

Our tester came with the Trailhawk 4×4 package. It just wouldn’t be a Jeep without it, right? This week, we drove the 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4. One thing is for sure: it’s ready to take you away from civilization.

What’s New For 2017 & 2018

The 2017 and 2018 Jeep Renegade essentially carried over from 2016 with the Trailhawk as the top trim. Xenon headlights, automatic high beams, and keyless ignition and entry are new features. 

Features & Options

The 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4 ($26,895) gets the full off-road package that includes hill descent control, a raised suspension, tow hooks, and underbody skid plates. It features 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires, unique exterior accents, a full-size spare, an upgraded driver information display, and a 115-volt power outlet. Our tester came complete with premium cloth upholstery, red interior stitching, a leather-wrapped shift knob, and a removable cargo floor panel.

We also had the optional navigation ($1,245) featuring a 6.5-inch touchscreen, HD radio, and Uconnect (includes extra safety features, a WiFi hotspot, and voice texting). A Cold Weather package ($545) included heated front seats, windshield wiper deicer, and a heated steering wheel. The Safety group ($645) included blind spot/cross path detection, a security alarm, and rear tonneau cover. It also came with remote start ($205).

Total MSRP including destination: $30,630.

Interior Highlights

The cabin of the Renegade is surprisingly roomy and comes with plenty of head, shoulder, and legroom. The shape of the Renegade helps give it an open feeling with good outward visibility for a compact vehicle. The front seats are comfortable and nicely bolstered. Renegade is wider than many small SUVs too.

The interior of the Trailhawk features some unique nods to Jeep’s past. This includes things like a Jeep grille on the speaker housing, a mud splash for the redline on the tach, and a Moab topography map on the storage tray ahead of the gearshift. The heated seats and steering wheel will be especially welcomed on cold winter mornings or when hitting the trails in the back country on a ski trip. There is some hard plastic inside but many surfaces are soft-touch vinyl.

The back seats leave a little to be desired when it comes to room for adults, but this is a compact vehicle and not a full-size SUV. Storage capacity measures 18.5 cubic feet and cargo room is sizable behind the rear seat, which folds flat.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, two-speed transfer case, and off-road equipment. The 2.4-liter plant produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels. The Renegade Trailhawk 4×4 comes in at 21/29 city/highway and 24 combined mpg according to EPA estimates.

Fuel economy rates middle of the pack for a compact SUV.

Driving Dynamics

In the city, Renegade drives like a small SUV and is particularly easy to maneuver in traffic or when navigating tight parking lots. Take it out on the highway and it offers a smooth ride with enough power for most driving situations. We tested the Trailhawk at high altitudes, going up steep mountain roads, and felt the small Jeep was underpowered when we needed it most. The 2.4-liter could use a bit more torque for pulling up steep inclines – it has to rev high to achieve its peak torque.

For city driving, most commuters will have sufficient power to get around urban streets and highways, however. The nine-speed transmission is better than a CVT, but wanted to hunt for the right gear as we pushed it hard up I-70 at altitude. The small SUV handled the two-lane mountain roads comfortably, coping with the curves as we went. There was some body lean due to the higher profile, however. 

The Trailhawk is designed for rugged terrain, and it can go off-road easily with its 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Though mostly quiet on paved roads, the off-road tires do contribute to a noisier ride at higher speeds. Heavy snow hit the Denver area this week but with a flip of the switch to 4-wheel high, we plowed through 8-inches of snow without issue. We felt confident in the vehicle’s ability to get us anywhere we need to go.


Those wanting a capable urban commuter, with ample cargo room, flexibility, and off-road capability, will find the Renegade Trailhawk is good entry-level Jeep. It’s sufficiently refined as well as pleasantly capable for urban living. For the occasional weekend warrior, the Trailhawk offers plenty to keep you comfortable and warm in the back country.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

Jeep Renegade Trailhawk Gallery

Jeep Renegade Official Site.

Photos: FCA US LLC. (2018 models also shown).

]]> 2 92426
2018 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 1794 Edition Review Thu, 25 Jan 2018 19:59:28 +0000

In a very competitive environment with the top-selling Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, and Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra makes headway in catching the competition. Introduced for 2007, the current generation Tundra was revised for 2014, and gets some refreshing for 2018. While it needs a major overhaul, the Tundra still offers plenty of grunt and the luxury many truck buyers are looking for.

This week we drove the top-of-the-line, 2018 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 1794 Edition.

What’s New For 2018

The 2018 Tundra gets refreshed styling and Toyota’s Safety Sense driver assist package. The safety technology includes forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning, auto high-beam control, and adaptive cruise control.

Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota Tundra Crewmax 1794 Edition ($50,130) comes loaded with standard features like foglights, variable intermittent windshield wipers, and an upgraded tech interface that includes a 7-inch touchscreen, HD and satellite radio, traffic information, and navigation. The CrewMax adds a power-opening rear window and an overhead console.

Up front it gets bucket seats, leather upholstery, an upgraded power driver’s seat, a power-adjustable passenger seat, a center console (with storage and console shifter), and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Our tester came with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 20-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, movable tie-down cleats, and dual-zone climate control.

1794 Edition Features

At the top of the heap, the 1794 Edition comes with distinctive styling elements, LED daytime running lights, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory functions, and a 12-speaker JBL sound system.

Our 1794 Edition tester came with the optional TRD Off-Road package adding 18-inch TRD wheels, off-road tires, trail-tuned shock absorbers, skid plates, and tow hooks (included with 1794 Edition). Other features included the power moonroof ($850), TRD performance exhaust ($1,100), and TRD rear sway bar ($299). Total MSRP including destination: $54,892.

Interior Highlights

Tundra’s seats are big and roomy, but we thought they could use a bit more cushioning. Controls are large, logically arranged, and easy to figure out. We could even change the radio station without the owner’s manual. The center console is huge and perfect for working in the field because it can easily hold a laptop. A laptop computer will fit perfectly on the console as well. 

This 1794 Edition came with brown leather seats with cream-colored stitching, and wood trim on the dash, door panels, steering wheel, and gear shifter. It also featured special 1794 floor mats front and back.

The big CrewMax offers seating for five with leg space for taller riders in every seat. The backseats fold up easily with one pull of the handle, opening up to a large cargo area that’s ready to carry those bigger work items. Toyota listened and opted for the folding seats over the tilt and recline feature. Now you can carry tools or other valuable items you’d prefer to have inside and not leave exposed in the open bed.

Engine, Towing, & Fuel Mileage Specs

A 5.7-liter V8 engine developing 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft. of torque is standard on the Limited, Platinum, 1794, and TRD Pro trims. All Tundras equipped with the 5.7-liter V8 come with a standard tow package and a larger 38-gallon gas tank. It was more than ready to tow up to its rated 10,500 lbs. This tester also came equipped with a 4:30 axle ratio, engine and transmission coolers, and an HD battery and alternator.

EPA fuel economy estimates are 13/17 city/highway and 14 combined with 4WD.

Driving Dynamics

The first thing we noticed after getting behind the wheel was the throaty exhaust note. The optional TRD performance dual exhaust system brings the 5.7-liter V8 to life. We found ourselves jumping hard on the accelerator this week just to hear the sound inside the cabin. The 5.7-liter V8 impresses, thanks its generous torque output and smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.

We had a snow storm hit the mountains this week and shifted from 2H to 4H with the knob on the Tundra’s dash. The 4W Demand 4WD system instantly shifted into action and we never lost traction as we moved from dry pavement to a snow-covered highway in less than a few miles. On the open road, Tundra gives the driver a feeling of confidence and security in the extreme elements with its size, commanding view of the road, and all-terrain winter tires. We had no problem passing slower traffic that was having more difficulty with the slick roads.

Ride quality is reasonably comfortable, though rough pavement and the dirt roads leading to our house produced impacts beyond the normal range. During our urban driving, the Tundra handled well in heavy city traffic. The rear backup camera came in handy as we parked the long CrewMax in a tight parking space.


The 2018 Toyota Tundra CrewMax is a capable full-size pickup, and when equipped with the TRD Off-Road package, can deliver in a big way for those using it for hunting, camping, and boating trips. The 1794 Edition adds an extra level of comfort beyond the ordinary and the new safety tech gives greater security on the road.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Toyota Tundra Gallery

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Tundra Limited also shown (red photos).

]]> 1 92258
2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4X4 Review Sat, 20 Jan 2018 19:22:59 +0000  

Adventure seekers will want to take a look at the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk. It’s a less expensive way to get something with the more expensive looks of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, plus it comes trail-ready with lots of off-road capability. Jeep says the Compass Trailhawk has 30-degree approach, 24-degree breaker, and 34-degree departure angles. It even has the ability to ford up to 19 inches of water without drowning.

This week, we drove the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4X4.

What’s New For 2017 & 2018

The Jeep Compass was all-new for 2017. The vehicle’s redesign included new powertrains and transmissions, updates to the Uconnect system, and the use of FCA’s “small wide 4×4 architecture.” 2018 Jeep Compass Limited models now offer a 4×2 driveline configuration.

Features & Options

The 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4X4 ($28,595) comes standard with foglights, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt/telscoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB port and auxiliary audio jack. It also comes with push button start, rear backup camera, and power outside mirrors. It comes fitted with an off-road suspension, rear tow hooks, Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, and front and rear skid plates for better off-road performance.

This tester came with options like the Cold Weather Group ($645), complete with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel; Lighting Group ($895), Safety Group ($795), Navigation ($895), power 8-way driver’s seat ($645), and power liftgate ($495). Total MSRP including destination: $34,060.

Interior Highlights

The front seats are comfortable and adequately supportive for longer drives into the high country for weekend excursions. The contrasting back/red leather interior combo looked good on our Compass tester. There’s enough room up front for taller adults, but rear legroom is tight for this class, although perfect for kids. In terms of infotainment, the 8.4-inch Uconnect interface found in most Jeep and other FCA models is user-friendly.

This Compass Trailhawk came with cold-weather extras like heated seats, heated steering wheel, and windshield de-icer to keep things clear for those winter trips. With the sloped cabin design, visibility is fairly good in all directions and the rear park assist feature, rear view camera, and blind spot alerts are definitely helpful.

You’ll find enough cargo space in the back for carrying a big cooler, sleeping bags, and other camping gear with the rear seats up. The 27.2 cubic feet of cargo room is more horizontal, so you won’t block the rear window. It’s dog-friendly too, if you want to take your four-legged friends along

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The Jeep Compass Trailhawk is powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder Tigershark engine that pumps out 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque. This off-road model comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission. It works in concert with the vehicle’s Active Drive Low 4X4 system (20:1 crawl ratio) and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system. The Selec-Terrain modes include Snow, Sand, Mud, and exclusive to the Trailhawk, a Rock mode. The Compass Trailhawk has an EPA-estimated fuel mileage rating of 22/30 city/highway and 25 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

All of our driving in the Jeep Compass Trailhawk was done at altitude, so factor that in if you live below 5,280 feet. In fact, most our driving was done between 6,500 and 8,500 feet. The Trailhawk is good for commuting in nasty weather and has the ability to get you out of sticky situations when winter strikes. The Trailhawk also comes with Hill-Descent Control and 17-inch Falken all-terrain tires.

In the city, the shorter wheelbase makes for easy maneuvering on tight streets and when parking. The safety aids helped keep us from any mishaps. Even with the Trailhawak’s off-road suspension, it offers a relatively smooth ride on the highway, thanks to its more aerodynamic shape.

We took it up a twisting canyon road west of Denver and felt confident in the vehicle’s ability to remain fairly composed at the posted speed limit. There seemed to be enough power, but we were not carrying cargo or gear. Coming up I-70, we found the 2.4-liter powerplant lacking as we tried to pass slower traffic. We pushed hard on the gas and it took time to build up speed. 


The 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4X4 is designed for adventure seekers who want to get away and enjoy the outdoors. And if you don’t load up on all the available options, it’s a less expensive way to have your cake and eat it too. Overall, the Trailhawk’s best attributes are used off-road where it will take you just about anywhere you want to go.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

Jeep Compass Trailhawk Gallery

Jeep Compass Official Site.

Photos: FCA US LLC.

]]> 0 92058
2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD Review Fri, 12 Jan 2018 16:16:41 +0000  

Buick’s largest premium crossover gets new upgrades for 2018. The second-generation Enclave raises the bar in the styling and technology departments, and is slightly longer than last year with additional legroom for rear passengers. We’ll see why it’s an appealing choice for a luxury three-row crossover SUV.

This week, we’ve been driving the 2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD.

What’s New For 2018

The Buick Enclave gets a full redesign for 2018. In addition to a sizable list of improvements, Buick has introduced a new, top-of-the-line Avenir version. The Enclave’s wheelbase has grown, the roofline is lower, and the windshield is more angled. Vehicle weight has dropped and the use of LED lighting has increased.

Features & Options

The 2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD ($50,315) comes standard with LED headlights, a power hands-free tailgate, keyless ignition, pushbutton start, heated power front seats, three-zone automatic climate control, and 18-inch wheels. The eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Premium trims get perforated leather seat upholstery, lane-change alert, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Premium trims also come standard with a 10-speaker Bose audio system, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, front/rear parking sensors, power third-row seats, and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking.

Options on this Premium tester included the dual front and rear moonroof ($1,400), 20-inch aluminum wheels ($1,400), rear camera mirror ($825), White Frost Tricoat paint ($995), Trailering Equipment ($650), and an HD Cooling System ($495). Total MSRP including destination: $57,055.

Interior Highlights

Elegant yet subtle is how we would describe the interior, featuring a rich cockpit that blends technology with tastefulness. The cabin’s fit and finish excels and offers impressive comfort. We like especially like the upgraded perforated leather, the heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second-row seats. The electronic instruments and display screens appear in an expressive sweep across the dashboard, giving it a contemporary feel. We think Buick’s IntelliLink is among the most user-friendly infotainment interfaces, unlike many other luxury crossovers on the market.

We found the first and second rows had plenty of room for adults with good head clearance and leg space. Power front seats are supportive and comparatively firm. Out back, second-row bucket seats slide fore/aft to expand either leg or cargo space. The optional dual-pane sunroof even offered sizable headroom for taller passengers.

Out back, the Enclave’s second-row captain’s chairs pivot for easy access to the third row, which provide ample space for even six-foot adults to sit comfortably. The second row is a place you won’t mind spending lots of travel time. Cargo space is also a strong point for Enclave, with 23.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row, growing to 58 cubes with the seat folded away. Cargo capacity reaches up to 97.6 cubic feet when the second-row seat backs are folded down.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The Buick Enclave is powered by GM’s latest 3.6-liter V6 engine, producing 310 horsepower and 266 lb-ft. of torque. Engine output has grown by 22 horsepower compared to the 2017 model, though torque has declined slightly. It’s mated to a quick-shifting 9-speed automatic. Our Enclave Premium tester came with optional all-wheel drive.

Fuel economy has significantly improved, yet falls behind some competitors. All-wheel drive models get an EPA-estimated 17/25 city/highway and 20 combined.

Driving Dynamics

The moment we got up to highway speed in the Enclave Premium, we noticed the cabin was especially quiet and the ride was smooth despite uneven pavement. The 3.6-liter V6 is strong, accelerates quicker, and has improved driving dynamics over its predecessor. 

We especially liked the shift quality of the 9-speed automatic transmission during the mountain driving we did this week. Shifts were smooth and the engine never had to hunt for the right gear. We used the steering wheel paddle shifters along with a semi-manual mode for maximum control and a more sporty driving experience. Overall, the new Enclave has road manners that will satisfy even the pickiest luxury car buyers. The suspension yields a suitable, yet taut and firm ride that feels controlled. Through even the tight mountain corners, there is very little body lean. 


The 2018 Buick Enclave is a sassy but luxurious three-row SUV. Its strong engine and satisfying ride further enhance its appeal. The Premium trim offers plenty of luxury and comes with a host of features to keep families feeling comfortable and safe on the road.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Buick Enclave Gallery

2018 Buick Enclave Official Site.

Photos: Buick.

]]> 0 91506
2018 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Premium Review Mon, 08 Jan 2018 19:00:22 +0000

While most families won’t take their SUVs off-pavement, the 2018 Toyota 4Runner is a vehicle for serious recreation that will get you away from civilization. The 4X4 TRD Off-Road trim offers up a bit more attitude and comfort than the standard model. It’s a rare breed that doesn’t fit the typical SUV/crossover mold. It will thrive in mud, snow, dirt, and steep, rocky adverse terrains.

If it sounds too rugged for you, think again. This weekend, we drove the 2018 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium. It was as comfortable as it was capable.

What’s New For 2018

The 2018 4Runner has a few different options and packages, but otherwise carries over from 2017 unchanged.

Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium ($39,495) comes with lots of standard features. It has skid plates, fog lights, a backup camera, keyless entry, five 12-volt power outlets, and a 120-volt AC power outlet. Stepping up to this trim adds some serious off-road goodies in the form of a locking rear differential, wheels that are 0.5 inches wider, and a crawl control function.

Premium variants of the TRD Off-Road get power-adjustable and heated outside mirrors, premium vinyl upholstery, navigation, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Our tester came with the optional KDSS suspension ($1,750), sliding rear cargo deck ($350), and power moonroof with a sunshade ($850). Total MSRP including destination: $42,690.

Interior Highlights

Families are choosing the Toyota 4Runner for sporting events, school activities, and runs to the grocery store and shopping mall. Even though it looks rugged and has the ability to get you away from civilization, the interior offers a comfort zone for families to travel in relaxation. The TRD Off-Road Premium offers a soft side that doesn’t match the 4Runner’s aggressive exterior and off-road character. The cabin is attractive and comes with easy-to-clean premium vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, and a power sliding rear window.

The dash is nicely arranged and the instrument panel is simple and easy to read and understand. The view from the driver’s seat is commanding because the 4Runner sits up higher than the average SUV and crossover. The disadvantage is that it’s harder to get in and out, unless you have the optional running boards. An extra 3 inches of step-up height is the price you pay for extra rock and ground clearance. The standard reverse camera is also a plus because rear visibility is limited.

There’s enough head and legroom for taller adults up front, and the rear seats offer similar headroom. There is a bit less legroom in the backseat, but tall passengers still fit easily. The large cargo area is quite functional, and the rear seatbacks fold flat. It’s easy to pack the sizable cargo hold with 88.8 available cubic feet with the seats down, and 46.3 cubic feet with the seats up. The cargo area is quite versatile, especially when equipped with the optional sliding rear cargo deck.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The Toyota 4Runner is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine, producing 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft. of torque. It’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and rated to tow up to 5,000 lbs. EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 17/20 city/highway and 18 combined. 

Driving Dynamics

This 4Runner’s real strength lies in its ability perform off-pavement. It’s designed for families who want to get into the back country and away from the city. 4Runner is a rare breed – its body-on-frame construction gives it a ruggedness and tolerance for extreme off-roading. While many families might not take their SUVs off-road, they may want a tough vehicle that will handle extreme weather. This one offers a level of safety and confidence that most crossovers won’t when the going gets slick and icy.

The 4Runner does have descent pick-up when you need the power for getting up to highway speeds quickly. It also has enough climbing power for traveling up long grades and getting over the mountain passes at altitude. It’s not the most powerful engine in the class, but it gets the job done in most driving situations. Throttle response is smooth and continuous, and the five-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly. Although, we did wish for another gear as we traveled up I-70 into the mountains.

Another drawback here is how fuel mileage suffers with the extra weight, and it won’t corner like a typical family crossover either. It’s stable in the corners, for the most part, but it does have some body lean because of its extra ground clearance. For those wanting a true off-road vehicle, the 4Runner comes with part-time four-wheel drive, crawl control, active traction control, and a rear locking differential. Our tester had the optional KDSS suspension that automatically disconnects both stabilizer bars when maximum articulation is needed. We could see this being beneficial for families during the winter.


The 2018 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium is comfy inside, with enough room for growing families and their cargo. While the 4Runner can handle weekly activities, the real strength of this SUV is its off-road and all-weather prowess.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Toyota 4Runner Gallery

2018 Toyota 4Runner Official Site.

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

]]> 0 91464