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Cadillac XT4 Small Crossover SUV – Nice Vehicle, High Price.

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Driving the new Cadillac XT4 on the excellent country roads around Seattle and Bainbridge Island revealed a vehicle that is well conceived and well put-together.

Let’s Talk About the Styling: Cadillac designers and engineers have developed a vehicle with outstanding proportions using an all new platform. They have pushed the wheels out to the corners of the vehicle so the stance of the XT4 is great. Some small XSUVs seem too narrow and too tall. The XT4 looks wide enough to have a very purposeful appearance.

The styling cues are pretty distinctive. Cadillac is known for unique “light pipe” daylight running lights. The XT4 goes the typical light pipe one better. An eyebrow flowing towards the grille from the vertical light pipe gives XT4 a hard-to-miss look. Carried over into the vertical taillamps, XT4 takes advantage of new LED lighting technology. While XT4 looks modern, it does not rely on an extremely fast windshield to give it a sense of motion. XT4 is styling is different, but not too contrived.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport:  Source – Cadillac

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport:  Source – Cadillac

Let’s Talk About the Package: For a Cadillac, XT4 is small, but it does not feel small when you are looking at it, sitting in it or driving it. Many of XT4 competitors are difficult to get into and out of. Not the XT4. XT4 has generous door openings that invite you into the interior. The driver’s seat is comfortable and visibility is excellent all around. XT4 is an exercise in effective package design.

Ergonomics Excellent:  The layout of the instrument panel, instrument cluster and console area are excellent.  Everything is easy to see and most is easy to use.  While no car can pass the rental car test today (Hertz, midnight, pouring rain, set radio, HVAC, start and drive away), the AT4 interface comes pretty close.  It does not however solve my ongoing bugaboo of showing street name on the nav map, but no city name.  Only Ford seems to do that at present.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport:  Source – Cadillac

2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport:  Source – Cadillac

Powertrain is Competitive: The XT4 is powered by an upgraded Spring Hill, TN-assembled, 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo that has 237-horsepower and 258 lb-ft torque. That is enough power and torque to propel the XT4 around town and on the freeway. In fact, 4-cylinder engines with these basic specifications have become the default engine for everything from small and mid-size XSUVs and mid-size cars.

The XT4 4-cylinder is mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission. The Powertrain combination yields good fuel economy. The 9-speed is designed to deliver quick, smooth shifts throughout the power band.

Now the Problem – Price: The XT4 base price is $35,790 including destination. This seems pretty reasonable. In fact, going to the upper trim levels – Premium Luxury and Sport – both at $40,290 seems like a good deal. But these upper models do not include all the features consumers have come to expect in premium and even popular brand vehicles. Once those features are added – adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, navigation, all wheel drive – the price skyrockets. Vehicles provided for the press preview were all in the $56,000 to $59,000 range.

For reference a small XSUV from popular-brand Hyundai – the Kona – tops out at around $30,000 with features similar to the XT4. Of course it is full of plastic. It’s seats are not as comfortable. It is not as quiet. But is the XT4 worth twice as much. Not fair, a Hyundai does not compare to a Cadillac. Fair enough. Let’s look at the all new Acura RD-X. It is powered by a 2.0L Turbo similar to the XT4, but the Acura 2.0L puts out 272HP – 35HP more than the XT4. Loading up an RD-X yields a price of about $47,000. Maybe Acura is not a Cadillac, but is the Cadillac brand worth a $10,000 premium over a Cadillac?

Fairfax, Kansas Assembly: XT4 is assembled at General Motors’ Fairfax, KS Assembly Plant. The Chevrolet Malibu is also assembled there. Cadillac assures us that the XT4 is totally unique and does not share any Malibu parts. The capacity allocated to XT4 is 45,000 units. If demand warrants it, additional capacity can be added. That depends on whether the millennial audience Cadillac is depending on buying XT4 really reacts positively to it at its price.


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2019 GMC Sierra Steps Up – Literally

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What could make spending a few days in the beautiful northeast Canadian Province of Newfoundland better? Spending it driving the new 2019 GMC Sierra. Spacious, comfortable and smooth-riding, the Sierra Denali was a joy to experience, as a driver and passenger.

Steady and Smooth

Exploring the countryside through curves, hills, small towns roads and highways, it was easy to forget I was riding in a truck. The “brace yourself” moments when you expect to jerk to the side, or feel the dreaded bed bounce never arrived. Redesigned from the ground up, the new Sierra Denali has Adaptive Ride Control, a Denali-exclusive, that adjusts damping for exceptional control and ride.

Impressive Bed Access and Functionality

By far the most functional feature is the MultiPro Tailgate. This six-function tailgate makes loading, stepping, hauling and working easier with just a few quick steps. Have trouble getting up into the bed? In addition to the steps built into the rear side bumpers, the MultiPro tailgate has an inner gate that folds out to a step. An extendable pole located in the bed acts as a helping hand for climbing up or down. The tailgate also has a position for second-tier loading, a load-stop barrier, standing workstation, and easier access to items in the bed when the inner gate is folded down, enabling a further reach into the bed. The MultiPro tailgate is standard on Denali, SLT and AT4.

Load the truck bed so high you can’t see behind you? A segment-first rear camera mirror is available. The mirror functions as a regular rearview mirror that can turn into a camera mirror to provide a more unobstructed view. While nighttime use of the mirror results in some image fuzziness, daytime resolution is bright, crisp and clear.

 

A personal favorite is the new Prograde Trailering System designed to help ease the process of trailering for rookies through professionals. The advanced camera technologies provide hitch guidance through a hitch view mode that allows the driver to zoom in on the hitch and provides guidance lines for easy positioning. Side view cameras integrated into the side mirrors provide a view down the side of the truck and trailer for greater visibility during lane changes or when backing up. An available, third-party seller auxiliary camera can also be mounted on the rear of the trailer to display on the center screen.

Enhanced Safety Technology Offerings

New car and truck buyers want safety features and 2019 Sierra delivers. Front pedestrian braking, lane change alert with side blind zone alert and rear cross traffic alert are available. Sierra also offers surround vision to assist with parking and visibility during low-speed maneuvering. I love head-up displays and Sierra’s segment-first Multi-Color Head-up Display is wonderful. Larger than their previous version, the 3-inch by 7-inch display projects key, customizable vehicle data such as speed, infotainment, phone and navigation, on the windshield.

Family-Friendly Rear Seat Storage, Spaciousness and Comfort

As a soccer mom/chauffeur of teenagers, interior spaciousness, storage and rear comfort features don’t go overlooked. The new Sierra also has a longer wheelbase, providing about 3 inches more rear legroom than its predecessor. The rear seat also has a convenient and very innovative seatback compartment for storing those little items you want to always have with you (love this!), but don’t want out in view or in the way. New rear seat air vents keep rear passengers comfortable.

The 2019 GMC Sierra is an impressive truck for the truck buyer but also gives SUV buyers who could use the additional functionality of a pickup a very reasonable option that doesn’t compromise in comfort, styling or features.


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2018 Hyundai Accent No Longer a Penalty to Drive

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2018 Hyundai Accent

2018 Hyundai Accent Substantially Upgraded

Once upon a time, way back in 1986, I drove a Hyundai Excel.  Excel was Hyundai’s entry vehicle to the USA market.  It was terrifying to drive.  It wallowed, wheezed and it felt like parts were falling off as it rolled down the road.  With the upcoming launch of the 2018 Hyundai Accent, the successor to the first Excel, Hyundai has a very respectable sub-compact car to sell.

Of course, car sales are down, and Hyundai Motor America would rather have the Kona small crossover SUV on dealer lots now instead of in the Spring.  But Accent is needed as the low-priced anchor to Hyundai’s car presence.

2018 Hyundai Accent Models and Pricing  Hyundai has raised the base MSRP by $250, but it feels like much more cost was added to the car than $250.  Its $14,995 base price is for a  base SE 4-door sedan with a 6-speed manual transmission.  A 6-speed automatic on the SE adds $1,000.  The top of the line Limited goes for $18,895 and an 8-speed automatic is standard.  All models of the 2018 Hyundai Accent are powered by a 130-horsepower 1.6L DOHC GDI 4-cylinder engine.

Going up to the mid-range SEL model you get a 4-wheel disc brakes, a 7-inch center screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability, driver’s blind spot mittot.  When you go all out and select the Limited, front LED accent lights, sunroof, LED taillamps, 17-inch wheels, BlueLink Connected Services, automatic temperature control and a 3.5-inch TFT screen in the instrument cluster are added.  Heated seats are part of the Limited package.2018 Hyundai Accent2018 Hyundai Accent2018 Hyundai Accent

2018 Hyundai Accent Presence  But pricing and equipment isn’t all that is interesting about the Accent.  It looks good and doesn’t look particularly downscale.  Accent now has the  signature Hyundai grille. Its profile is semi-fastback like the Sonata.

The ride is good.  Handling is better than many small cars.  Ergonomics are excellent.  The beefy leather wrapped steering wheel in the Limited is worthy of a much more expensive car.  The door closing sound is a reassuring thunk rather than a clang that characterized many small cars in the past.  Easy to get into, with great visibility, the Excel will be an easy car to live with.

The only strong criticism is the interior. The black interior of the model AutoPacific drove swallowed light like a black hole.  The seats, while pretty comfortable, had a muted check insert that confirmed its lower price positioning.  The upper surface of the instrument panel glared under heavy sunlight – almost like it had a coat of Armor-all on it. Not good.2018 Hyundai Accent Panel Glare

The customer looking for base transportation without too many bells and whistles should be very satisfied with the 2018 Hyundai Accent.

#2018HyundaiAccent #HyundaiAccent


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Jeep Renegade Survives Costco Challenge

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2017 Jeep Renegade Deserthawk

Having a new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk over the long July 4th weekend, I took it to Costco for the quarterly bird seed, cat food replenishment.  At first I was wondering if the Renegade was up to the task.  Does a small crossover SUV have the capacity to take the load?

There were fourteen bags of bird seed and two of cat food.  Plus the package of 30 rolls of toilet paper.  Would they fit?  Plus, would they fit with the other stuff we bought?  Removing the tonneau cover over the cargo area and folding the rear seats were required to fit in the load.  There was room to spare.  Probably could have doubled the number of bird seed and cat food bags.

Renegade Survives Costco Run

Renegade Easily Takes Load from Costco

Small Crossover SUVs are Very Capable  Even the smallest of the new generation crossover SUVs are extremely capable as this brief test shows.  The booming sales of small and mid-size crossover SUVs is the reason sales of traditional passenger cars are down.  Responding to what vehicle buyers have been telling us they want since the late 1980s, the new crossovers fit the bill.  They are easy to get into and out of.  You don’t have to drop down into one like in a car.  The seating position is chair like.  Your legs are not extended forward.  More glass and the higher seating position provide optimum visibility.  The fold down rear seat combined with an open rear cargo area maximize load carrying capability.

Trailhawk “Deserthawk”  This Jeep Renegade had the Deserthawk 4×4 package ($1,395) to yield the ultimate off-road Renegade.  It is another answer from Jeep on their old saying “a Jeep is for the occasional use prerogative”.  On-road or off-road, the Deserthawk can do it all.  Taking this particular Renegade off-road even with the full load, would have been no problem.  The challenge would be to keep the cargo in place, or to fill it even more deeply so nothing could move around.

Pricing for Everybody  Not only can the Jeep Renegade carry an impressive amount of cargo and be capable off-road, the vehicle can be loaded with amenities.  The base price for the front wheel drive Sport model is $17,995.  The Trailhawk is $26,895.  Adding practically all the optional features and selecting the Deserthawk package you can pay $33,265.  At that level you get a blind spot monitoring system, UConnect navigation system, automatic temperature control, Selec-Terrain 4×4 system, hill descent control, hill start assist, and more.  One thing oddly missing is a remote liftgate release. There is a nice blank spot on the key fob for that feature, but it is not there.  Go figure.  In July 2017, Jeep is offering a lease discount of $4,250.

Powertrain a Bit Balky  The 180-horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder Multi-Air engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.  This combination is fine most of the time around town, but when you need to quickly accelerate there is an unwelcome hesitation.  Slam the accelerator to the floor, wait, wait, then the engine decides you really do want full power and it gives it to you.  Too much hesitation for my book. Maybe an owner would learn to compensate after driving the Renegade for a week or so.


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Can All New VW Tiguan Challenge Top Selling Small SUVs?

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2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium

The all new Volkswagen Tiguan was revealed at a low key media event driving out of Denver, CO up to 8,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.  While the VW Tiguan is classified as a Compact Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle (XSUV), it’s dimensions are close to that of an ideal mid-size car of a decade ago – wheelbase of about 110-inches and overall length of about 185-inches.  It is a nice size, has a comfortable interior with adequate room in the second row seat and even has a third row seat available.  Front wheel drive Tiguans have the third row seat standard.  In all wheel drive VW Tiguans, the third row is optional.

The 2018 VW Tiguan is the second generation of the smaller VW XSUV.  It is about 10-inches longer than its predecessor.  At-a-glance, the styling is clearly Volkswagen.  It is evolutionary but crisper and clearly more modern.  The VW Tiguan rides on Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform that also underpins the newly introduced Volkswagen Atlas crossover. The replacement for Volkswagen’s 4-door CC coupe – the Arteon – will be based on MQB when it is launched in 2018.  The present Golf is also an MQB platform mate.

Compact XSUV Competitive Landscape  Having been underrepresented in the SUV market before now, Volkswagen’s two SUV introductions this year show the automaker has clearly heeded the shift in the market away from cars and towards crossover SUVs.  Today the truck/car split is about 60% trucks/40% cars.  Who woulda thought?

While VW management will not talk about future products, there are whispers of a couple of more XSUVs.  Probably one a bit smaller than the VW Tiguan and maybe one larger than the Atlas.  Somewhere in the mix, the aging Touareg still is sold.

Through May 2017, the 1st generation Tiguan has sold about 15,000 units in the USA down from 17,500 in 2016 for the same time period.  Where Volkswagen has fully competitive products in the USA, they usually sell at about 50% of the segment leader.  So, with the May CYTD leader being the Nissan Rogue with over 161,000 units sold, Tiguan should sell about that many in a full calendar year.  While that would be great, VW’s Pueblo, Mexico plant probably doesn’t have capacity to pump out that many Tiguans.  And the compact XSUV battleground is vicious with Rogue, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox leading the pack.  Tough competition.

Tiguan Feature Laden, But Not Perfect  The VW Tiguan is in the sweet spot though.  Easy to get into and out of, the ergonomics are top-notch.  The center screen is big and bright, but the information is a bit confusing.  The road/street name does not show on the navigation screen like on most competing makes.  You can find that information in the instrument cluster where turn-by-turn arrows anticipate your next turn but the fonts are tiny and contrast is bad.  Having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard is the saving grace to save the VW navigation from itself.

There is a full complement of advanced driver assistance features available from adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert with braking, lane assist, area view.  There is even a 12.3-inch reconfigurable display for the instrument cluster.  Availability of these features is the price of entry in almost any class today.

Driving Tiguan, Adequate  The VW Tiguan is powered by a 184-horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo engine (EA888).  In the front wheel drive model, the engine is responsive but a bit noisy.  The same engine in the AWD model seemed to resist responding quickly seeming to think about whether or not it wanted to go or not.  Perplexing.  All in all, the Tiguan engine is “adequate”.  Its power output is competitive for the segment, but somehow it doesn’t have the finesse of the Honda CR-V for instance.

The ride is firm and composed over most road surfaces.  The Tiguan evaluation route did have one stretch that was bumpy and had a washboard surface.  The front wheel drive Tiguan danced around dramatically even at moderate speeds.  Drivers of the AWD model reported similar dynamics over this particular piece of road.  The vehicle did not feel particularly under control.

Price Competitive  The base price for the front wheel drive 2018 VW Tiguan is $25,345.  The top price is $37,550 for an AWD SEL model.  Checking all the boxes can get its price up to about $40,000.  Following its lead with the Atlas, the Tiguan has a 6-year, 72,000 mile warranty.


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Atlas Crossover Hits Mark – or Doesn’t

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The all new Volkswagen Atlas crossover SUV (XSUV) launches in late May in the United States.  It is being dropped into the highly competitive mid-size crossover SUV market dominated by the Ford Explorer and the Honda Pilot.  Those two vehicles are Atlas’ strongest competitors.

Volkswagen, like Hyundai, can be criticized for being late to the American-style XSUV market.  Sure VW has had the Touareg and Tiguan crossovers in the market, but neither have the volume potential of the Atlas.  Atlas is produced at VW’s 300,000 unit assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN.  Atlas shares Chattanooga capacity with the Passat that sold 73,000 units in the USA in 2016.  Clearly, VW has room in Chattanooga for the Atlas and perhaps one or two additional entries. 

The Atlas is sized right for its competitive set.  It is almost exactly the size of the very successful Ford Explorer on the outside, but has a much longer wheelbase.  It makes great use of its interior space yielding much more cargo capacity than the vehicles compared above.  The front seat area is spacious and the cockpit is well laid out.  Ergonomics are first rate.  The second row can accommodate three large child seats and is adjustable for better legroom.  The third row seat is accessible, but only for small children or adults for short trips.

Source: George Peterson, AutoPacific

The Atlas is styled like you would expect a VW XSUV to be.  The front end styling is definitely a VW face with standard LED lighting and accent lights – distinguishable from afar.  The muscular bodysides communicate capability with a strong character line connecting the front and rear wheel openings.  The taillamps are connected by a chrome strip that highlights the rear styling and gives an upscale image.  The liftgate opens to the very large cargo area which is flat when all the rear seats are folded.

Driving the V6 Atlas crossover is pleasant, but not particularly exciting.  That is a good thing for a XSUV targeted at family car usage.  Ride quality is good, but there is a bit too much body lean on the twisty roads in Texas’ Hill Country around San Antonio.  Quiteness with its 20-inch tires is poor on many road surfaces.  When you find that elusive stretch of absolutely smooth asphalt, quietness is superb.  On rougher road surfaces you cannot carry on a conversation.

Source: George Peterson

In search of the Atlas’ unique selling proposition you conclude that the reconfigurable VW Digital Cockpit may be it.  The 12-inch wide instrument cluster can can change to provide several different information displays.  Unlike some reconfigurable systems, you cannot change the overall appearance, just the information shown.  The 8-inch center stack display is intuitive and turn by turn driving directions can be displayed on the instrument cluster at the swipe of a finger.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

The Atlas crossover has a complete suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems available.

Checking prices, the price for a FWD 4-cylinder Atlas S is $30,500.  An AWD V6

Atlas SEL Premium is $48,490.  So, the price is in line with competition.

Who will buy the Atlas?  The Atlas crossover is selling in a growing segment but there are two giants among its seven-passenger competition – Explorer and Pilot .  Both Explorer and Pilot have a loyal buyer base and they may be the superior products.  Volkswagen has a buyer base that loves the brand (let’s not discuss “Dieselgate”) and will likely consider the Atlas for their family hauler.  The question is can VW dealers position the Atlas as superior to its strong competitors or will they have to hope for VW loyalists coming in looking for aggressive prices?


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2 Million Jeeps – Global Sales Goal

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Jeep sold about 1.4 million SUVs in 2016 and has 2 million Jeeps in its sights.  It is going to take until 2020 or so to sell 2 million Jeeps per year.

At an event showcasing the all new 2017 Jeep Compass, Mike Manley, Head of Jeep, detailed the evolution of Jeep production that could achieve global sales objectives of 2 million Jeeps by 2020.  The Compass is a crossover SUV positioned above the B-Segment Renegade and below the D-Segment Cherokee. Actually, the Cherokee is more of a C/D Segment vehicle. Cherokee is not really big enough to be a full D-Segment vehicle.  At the top of the lineup is the Grand Cherokee which is the heart of Jeep DNA for now.

Jeep’s Capacity Story

There is a dance of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (FCA) plants that is going to realize substantially more Jeep production.  The dance goes like this…

  • FCA kills Dodge Dart, Jeep Patriot and the old Jeep Compass produced at their huge 407,000 unit capacity plant in Belvidere, Illinois.  Cherokee moves from Toledo, Ohio to Belvidere in 2017.  Estimate a maximum production of Cherokee at 250,000 units.  This means there is room for another vehicle “not yet announced” at Belvidere, says Manley.
  • Toledo adds all new Wrangler off-road SUV during 2017.  Wrangler is selling so well it needs more capacity, but not as much as relieved by moving Cherokee to Belvidere.  Jeep adds a Wrangler-based pickup to Toledo to fill capacity.  This also satisfies demand from dealers and customers for a Jeep pickup.
  • The all-new 2017 Jeep Compass is launched with assembly plants in four countries:  Mexico, India, Brazil and China.  The Mexican plant will supply North America and left hand drive Europe.  The Indian plant will satisfy demand from right hand drive countries including the U.K, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  Jeep has high expectations for the new Compass as the assembly plant count confirms.
  • Jeep is adding a Jeep Wagoneer to the lineup.  Manley mentions that this could be a “line of Wagoneers” implying that there could be a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in Jeep’s future.  Wagoneer will be a body-on-frame SUV.  It will be based on the next-generation Ram pickup but with independent rear suspension.  Manley agrees that “Ford went the right way when they added independent rear suspension to their Expedition to get a great 3rd row seat”.  The speculation is that Wagoneer will be added to FCA’s Sterling Heights assembly plant.  Sterling Heights is being shifted to Ram pickup production after the Chrysler 200 sedan was killed.  The 200 was the only vehicle in Sterling Heights and never achieved anything like FCA’s hoped for volumes.
  • That leaves the “mystery vehicle” to take up the additional capacity at Belvidere.

Given all this attention to plants and plant capacity, 2 million Jeeps looks plausible by the next decade.

New Compass Key to selling 2 million Jeeps

Source: George Peterson, AutoPacific

2017 Jeep Compass in Brief

Based on driving and living with the all-new 2017 Jeep Compass for a short time, the Compass will attract robust sales.  Compass styling is very much traditional Jeep with the seven vertical slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches and a strong overall style.  Compass has a unique floating roof character that has been adopted from everybody from the Jaguar XJ, Lexus RX SUV, Nissan Murano to the GMC Acadia SUV.  The Compass is one of the only vehicles in white where this really looks cool.

The Compass interior is excellent in the mid-range Latitude model, the top-of-the-line Limited and the aggressive Trailhawk model.  Front seat comfort is outstanding for a vehicle in this class.  The seats are firm without being too stiff.  Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat.  Everything is easy to reach and see.  Ergonomically, Jeep designers and engineers have done an excellent job.

Compass is powered by the 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.  In North America there are three transmissions.  4×2 models get a 6-speed automatic.  4×4 models get a 9-speed automatic.  Both 4×2 and 4×4 models are available with manual transmissions.  Manual transmission availability is getting rarer and rarer these days.  Likely the wide global distribution of the Compass makes the 6-speed manual readily available.

Performance on-road is adequate.  A 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder with 230-250 horsepower would always be welcome in a vehicle like the Compass.  Off-road, navigating a very technical course, the Compass is very capable.  Clearly, retaining Jeep DNA for off-road fun was an important feature in the development of the Compass.


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Chevrolet Bolt EV Surprises – Range Anxiety Gone

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Image Source: George Peterson

When a Chevrolet manager refers to the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, they inevitably hold up two fingers to guarantee you know they are referring to the Volt.  When they mention the Chevrolet Bolt EV electric vehicle, they always say “Bolt EV”.  “Bolt EV did well in focus groups,” one PR manager stated.  Having done thousands of focus groups over the years, I know how that can be done.

Well, enough of that.  The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the real deal.  It is an electric vehicle purpose-built around a five module battery pack that forms the floor of the car.  These batteries give a maximum range of 238 miles.  AutoPacific’s research on electric vehicles over the years has concluded that the holy grail for EV range is 225 miles to avoid range anxiety.  So Bolt EV achieves that range with a little to spare.

The designed-in-South Korea Bolt EV is a crossover SUV in Chevrolet’s mind.  I see it as more of a 5-door hatchback, but Chevrolet contends its higher seating position and relatively high roof deserve a crossover classification.  Besides, crossovers are selling like hotcakes these days and cars are not.  Bolt EV looks modern with forward sloping character lines that you could see on a crossover today.  OK, it’s a crossover.

The Bolt EV is spacious enough for four people.  Getting in and out is relatively easy but the front A-Pillars are so fast that you have to be careful to duck or else you will hit your head.  The instrument panel in the top model includes a reconfigurable instrument cluster and a 10.2 inch screen in the center stack that provides all the information concerning its electric operation and the usual connectivity features like Bluetooth.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are how you get navigation in the car.  There is no resident NAV.  The Bolt EV is available with the typical General Motors driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane keeping warning, surround view camera, blind spot warning, etc.

The real surprise comes when driving the Bolt EV.  Its powerpack provides 200-horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque.  This output is like a peppy 1.6L or 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder in a hot hatch small car.  Bolt EV does not have to apologize to anyone on the freeway.  The car can be operated in “one-foot mode” where regenerative braking is activated.  This would be my normal driving mode.  When you lift off the accelerator, the brakes engage to put electricity back into the batteries.  The deceleration can be controlled by a paddle behind the steering wheel.   Using regen, you rarely have to actually press on the brake pedal.

No new car is perfect and the Bolt EV is not.  Where it falls down is in the material selection in the interior.  Lots of hard, glossy plastic.  The lightweight front seats are very hard and the side bolsters are stiff.

The base price of the Bolt EV is $37,495 that results in a $29,995 price after the federal government tax credit (you have to earn about $75,000 to qualify for that tax credit).  If you load the Bolt EV up with all the options, it will top out at around $44,000.

Bolt is on sale now in California and Oregon and will roll out nationally over the year.


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Daimler Offers Van Customers MasterSolutions To Their Upfitting Needs

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IMG_3783

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with a MasterSolutions upfit package. (Photo by Ed Kim)

As published on Forbes.com

Daimler’s Sprinter commercial van has been a pioneer in the North American market, introducing commercial customers here to the tall and slab-sided European-style van format all the way back in 2001. Today, this format’s U.S. sales surpass that of the traditional American-style van as the latest full-size commercial vans from Ford and FIAT Chrysler Automobiles have followed Sprinter’s lead.


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Infiniti QX30 – Infiniti Joins Small Luxury XSUV Battle

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2017 Infiniti QX30 - VehicleVoice

Image by: George Peterson

Infiniti QX30 Launched  One of the fastest growing product segments is the Luxury Small Crossover SUV (XSUV) category.  Infiniti has been a bit late to the party as there are already 33 small XSUVs on the market.  Eight of those are luxury brand XSUVs:  the Acura RDX has been out since 2013 in its second incarnation, Audi Q3 out since 2014, BMW X1 out since 2014, Land Rover Discovery Sport out since 2016, Lexus NX200t out since 2015, Lincoln MKC out since 2015, Mercedes GLA since 2015, Range Rover Evoque out since 2012.  Launch of the Infiniti QX30, while a bit late, pretty much has every brand in the fray.

Infiniti enters the fray with the Infiniti QX30, making it the 34th member in the small XSUV market and 9th luxury brand XSUV.  Remember, QX is the Infiniti nomenclature for SUVs whether they are body-on-frame SUVs (QX80) or crossover SUVs (QX70, QX60, QX50).  Infiniti cars carry names that begin with a simple “Q”.

All USA QX30s Classified as Trucks  The Infiniti QX30 is a highly styled small crossover available in front wheel drive and all wheel drive powertrain configurations.  In other markets the all drive model is called “Q30” indicating Infiniti is classifying it as an hatchback car.  In the USA, both versions are classified as trucks.

Dramatic Infiniti Design Cues Differentiate QX30   The Infiniti QX30 is sporty and curvaceous like most Infiniti models.  It has bulging front fenders sweeping back and down with a strong character line.  Infiniti decribes the character lines as “dramatic and turbulent”.  The windshield is very fast flowing into a steeply dropping roofline. The front end is instantly recognizable as an Infiniti with its unique “double-arch” grille.  In the side view, Infiniti’s signature crescent-shaped C-pillar further differentiates the vehicle.  There is a lot going on there, but it works very well in this small XSUV.

Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes GLA Share Platform  To keep the investment in line the Infiniti QX30 is assembled in Sunderland, England alongside the Mercedes-Benz GLA.  QX30 and GLA share platforms, but Infiniti has loaded its entry with all the latest high tech electronic gadgetry available.

Engine Power at the Low End of Competitive Range  The 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine is shared with the GLA and is manufactured by Daimler in Kolleda, Germany.  Power output is 208 horsepower with 258 lb-ft of torque.  Compared with other luxury XSUVs this power output is anemic.  Driving the QX30, the performance is adequate, even pleasant, but a power output of between 230 and 240 horsepower would be more expected from an engine with these specifications.

The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.


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