All results / Stories / Frank Washington
We test drove the future recently; the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. It is the electrified version of the fabled Mustang. This is not a concept car; it is on sale now. And it has a reasonable purchase price. The Mustang Mach-E has a sticker of $43,897. What’s more, government subsidies can shave up to $7,000 off that price. We would need more time with the car to find something we didn’t like about the Mustang Mach-E. Mechanically, as we’ve said, the Mustang Mach-E is an electric car. These are the core elements of the electric Mustang that undoubtedly will force manufacturers to speed development of their own electric offerings.
We went out to the Ford Proving Ground about 50 miles north of here to get a look at and drive new the F150. All new is a term often misused but in this case it is accurate. Almost all the truck, 97 percent, is new. The new Ford F150 PowerBoost was recently named North American Truck of the Year. There has always been heaps of variants when it comes to pickup trucks and the F150 continued the tradition. We were told that the F Series had 11 different grilles and three sets of headlamps What ties them all together is C Clamp signature lights, or daytime running lights. Our guide pointed out an active air dam which lowered the truck when the speed reached 40 mph.
Toyota has retrofitted its GR 86. For the uninitiated, this is a world class 2+2 sports car. That may sound strange in a utility vehicle world, but the automaker is looking for incremental sales; perhaps as many as 13,000 annually. And they did this the only acceptable way with sports cars. Improvements were incremental. The engine was bumped up from 2.0-liters to 2.4 liters. That gave the 2022 GR 86 18 percent more horsepower and 11 percent more torque. That is 284 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The GR 86 keeps its horizontally opposed four cylinder or boxer engine; but engineers also tweaked the engine so that torque comes far earlier in the power curve, at 3,700 rpm versus 6,000 rpm on the previous model. The bore was increased to 94 mm from 86 mm for 20 percent more displacement. That bumped the engine up from 1,998 cc to 2,387 cc. Doesn’t sound like much but it translates into a better zero to 60 time from 7.0 to 6.1 seconds for the manual. Almost a second faster and that is significant. For the automatic the reduction was even more, it was 8.0 to 6.6 seconds.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI – We came to this affluent suburb north of Detroit for a quick rinse test drive of the 2021 Genesis GV80. This was a regional affair with similar events scheduled for L.A. and New York, thanks to COVID-19. The point is Genesis is trying to adapt to the times. So, this is going to be a quick rinse review. Luxury manufacturers have always been known for their sedans and that is the way that Genesis started, introducing three well received sedans.
Denver – Audi has redone its entry level sedans, the A3 and the S3. They are both all new. These sedans have been around since 2005 and neither seemed the worse for wear in terms of the time they’ve been on the market. But the entry level premium/luxury market is growing and getting crowded with more entries. So, Audi decided to put some polish on the sheet metal, throw in more pronounced creases and make the operative word for the 2022 Audi A3/S3 more.
We just drove the future. The Chevrolet Bolt EUV is an electric vehicle but it goes a step further. In a phrase, it can drive itself -- sorta. Chevy calls it Super Cruise. It is a driver assistance feature to maintain your current lane. It works in conjunction with adaptive cruise control. And the system will alert the driver when he or she needs to take control. It works on compatible roads, meaning thoroughfares with painted lanes and medians, that separate opposing traffic. It uses a GPS system, map, a network of cameras and sensors that maintain control of steering. The adaptive cruise control maintains the gap between the vehicle you’re following. There is also a driver attention alert to make sure the driver stays alert. In other words, you can’t engage this system and then take a nap or sightsee. Chevrolet is careful to emphasize that Super Cruise is not a self-driving system.
When it comes to the Cadillac CT4 V Series, there is good news and there is bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. During our weeklong test drive, a GM retiree with more than 30 years in the company asked us what kind of car it was. Worse, a woman in a grocery store parking lot asked us the same question. She still lamented turning in her Cadillac CTS and was looking for a replacement. She had never heard of the CT4. We don’t see this car on many urban streets. Yes, we know it is a crossover market but there should still be more copies of the CT4 rolling around. We see so few that it is memorable when we do. The point is that the marketing plan for this sedan is lacking. Now to the car, it was great. We had the V-Series and that demands we start with the engine. Under the hood was a new to the entry luxury segment dual scroll 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. For our CT4-V, this engine had been tuned to make 325 horsepower and a whopping 380 pound-feet of torque from an outstanding 1,500 to 4,000 rpm. It was mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission that could be shifted manually using the gear selector or the paddle shifters. The car got 20 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined.
We have driven more all electric vehicles in the last three months than we have in a lifetime. What seemed like the distant future is now upon us. The latest wattage on four wheels we’ve evaluated was Volkswagen’s ID.4. We have no idea what that stands for. But we can share some truths. The ID.4 was quiet, but it was not silent. Road noises combined with wind noise provided that aural sense needed when driven. Trust us, absolute silence while driving can be dangerous. And we have been surprised that electric vehicles function like internal combustion powered cars. They are quick, steady on the road and they have the same equipment; Volkswagen’s ID.4 included.
You don’t often think of the Toyota RAV4 as an off road vehicle. But for the second year in a row the TRD version of this crossover has been named Compact SUV of Texas. To be precise, we are taking about the 2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road. It was powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that made 203 horsepower and a 184 pound-feet of torque at an astoundingly high 5,000 RPM. It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system. This combination got 25 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. We thought the engine ran a little rough but that was under duress. In other words, in the mornings headed toward the gym when we had not given it time to warm up. Once it had; the four-cylinder smoothed itself out.
At first glance, Cadillac’s CT5 looks just like the brand’s CT4. But on close inspection, it has a different front fascia, grille and it is a little bit bigger. It had a 3.0 twin scroll turbocharged direct injection V6 engine that made 335 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and it had paddle shifters.
Lexus asked us to compare the 2021 LS 500 against the 2020 LS 500. The short story is the former is better and that is difficult to say since the full-size luxury sedan is so capable. The level of quietness has been increased. One morning we were headed to the gym and the most pronounce sound we heard was the tread of the tires rolling against the pavement. We had to check to make sure that our test vehicle was not sheathed with snow treads. Lexus’ flagship sedan was powered by a 3.5-liter dual turbocharged six-cylinder that made 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. What that means is that even though the car weighed three tons, it moved like a midsize sedan. That is one of the traits that has always impressed us about the LS 500, its smoothness and maneuverability. And now they’ve made it more responsive and nimbler. Even the 2020 we had was light on its treads, and it was an all-wheel-drive model. Our 2021 model was rear-wheel-drive. Both had 10-speed automatic transmissions and since we had the F Sport trim packages, they both had paddle shifters. Our test car could get to 60 mpg from a standstill in 4.6 seconds. That is quick for a vehicle that weighed almost three tons. That power and feel could be changed by using the econ, comfort, normal, sport s or sport s+ drive modes. One of the subtle but significant changes between the 2020 and 2021 LS 500s is the infotainment screen. In last year’s model it was not touch, in fact it sits behind clear Plexiglas. In effect, it cannot be touched.
Small use to be a synonym for cheap but not anymore. We test drove the 2021 Hyundai Venue and were impressed. It was a subcompact crossover, it seems the category has grown, because of its performance and size. It was powered by 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that made 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a continuously variable transmission that had been engineered to simulate automatic shifts. This it did nicely.
We test drove the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and found it improved. The midsize crossover had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with two electric motors. The gasoline engine used variable valve timing on both the intake camshaft and the exhaust camshaft. Toyota said a variable cooling system and a fully variable oil pump helped to enhance engine efficiency. The system made 243 horsepower; we had the AWD version, though there is a front-wheel-drive version as well. All that improvement translated into the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid having a fuel efficiency rating of 35 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg combined.
Acura has a new flagship, and we couldn’t hear it. We’ll explain. The 2022 Acura MDX we had featured remote start. We tried it just before we went out to shovel the snow and didn’t think it worked because we couldn’t hear the three-row crossover start up. Our driveway is right next to the kitchen window, so we’ve done this many times from inside our heated house. Anyway, we’re out there, looking around and noticed the exhaust condensing in the air. The MDX was running; it was so quiet that we couldn’t hear the engine even though we were standing right next to it. That is the first time that has ever happened with remote start on any vehicle we’ve tested. Our test vehicle was powered by a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine that made 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. This engine was quiet, even when powering down the pavement, during early morning starts and even when the outside elements had the temperature down in the teens.
Volvo keeps selling just about everything it can make, and that includes its top of the line 90 series. In this instance, we’re talking about the XC90 T8 Inscription. The T8 was bristling with technology. It had a supercharger and turbocharger working together. Then add an 87-horsepower electric motor and you’ve got a plug-in hybrid of note. This trio of technology allows the XC90 T8 to generate 400 horsepower out of its 2.0-liter gasoline engine. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the combination gets the equivalent of 55 mpg combined.
The 2021 Mazda MX-5 is an enthusiast’s throwback. It is a two-seat sports car in a real sense of the words. We had the MX-5 RF; the RF stood for retractable fastback. In other words, the roof retracted into the tonneau cover in a relatively quick 13 seconds, creating a roadster.
It is hard to improve a top-notch vehicle, but Volvo managed to do just that. We’re talking about the Volvo V90. To be specific, the T6 AWD Inscription. First, they started with the design of this estate. That is Euro-speak for station wagon. For 2021, they gave it a new fascia, they updated the grille and the Ironmark badge. They did the same thing in the rear that included burnishing the fascia and rear spoiler. The V90 got new colors, upholsteries, interior trims, and wheel designs. It would not be bad to visit Sweden to get a better understating of minimalism which is what the interior of a Volvo is about. Clean lines, to the point controls and a lot of equipment and features are tucked away in the infotainment screen.
Not many years ago the concept of a three-cylinder powered car was unimaginable. First three-cylinders indicated small and small indicated cheap. But that is being upended by several automakers, most assertively by Chevrolet with its new Trailblazer. Our test vehicle was powered by a 1.3-liter turbocharged inline three-cylinder engine that made 155 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. A continuously variable transmission is available, so is a turbocharged 1.2-liter inline three cylinder that makes 137 horsepower. That is a lot of developmental muscle that has gone into these three cylinders and it suggest that these engines are not going anywhere anytime soon. Our test car had an EPA fuel rating of 26 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. That was for our all-wheel-drive model. Of course, it was better for the front-wheel-drive version. And even though the Trailblazer was powered by a three-cylinder engine by no means was it a putt-putt sort of a vehicle. Looking at it, there is no way to tell that it is a three-cylinder vehicle. Most important, there was nothing lacking in terms of performance. It moved with authority, of course there wasn’t a growling engine, but it got us where we needed to go like lane changes and prompt acceleration.
We came here to test drive six years’ worth of development. That is how long it has taken Hyundai to start bringing this new generation of Elantra to market. There are four branches to the Elantra family tree. The normal front-wheel drive sedan, the performance line, and the hybrid. What’s more, there will soon be a version designed for the racetrack. The first of this new breed of Hyundai was the Veloster N. Now, two more are being introduced to market. There is the N Line and then there is the more powerful N. We’ll begin go see the former by the end of 2020 and the latter sometime in 2021. We test-drove the Elantra N Line. Like all N Line cars, it had a unique front fascia and grille and gloss black sideview mirrors. A unique rear fascia, dual exhaust, and sport seats were part of the package.
St Helena Ca - When it comes to the 2022 Infiniti QX60, it is not about horsepower, torque, or bulk. The three-row crossover is about understated refinement and elegance. Yes, it had a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 that made 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The combination got 20 mpg in the city, 25mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Front wheel drive is the natural setup for the QX60, but we had an all-wheel drive model with paddle shifters, and it could tow up to 6,000 lbs. There was also a panoramic roof.