The 2019 Volvo V90 Cross County reminded us of the station wagons of the 1950s. You know, those cars that could haul kids and their stuff back and forth to school, take you to little league games, PTA meetings and then pull up in front of the country club for a black-tie affair. Station wagons have long been a strength of Volvo. They’ve got four of them and a fifth is on the way. We had the V90 Cross Country, which is Volvo’s five door, five seat premium all-road estate. That’s what station wagons are called in Europe.
A Hyundai Tucson was delivered on Friday and we were on the road to Chicago early Sunday morning. In short, this Hyundai had Interstate chops. We engaged the front-wheel-drive crossover’s adaptive cruise control and headed west down I-94. The 2.4-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine made 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. That was more than enough oomph. This stretch of highway gently curves south and goes around the southern tip of Lake Michigan. It is two-lanes in one direction and expands to three as you approach the metro areas. And this route to the Windy City is almost flat. In other words, there is really no place to test how well the engine, its torque and its transmission can handle hills. Still, the drive revealed some of the characteristics of the 2019 Hyundai Tucson FWD. First the pavement was dry. Therefore, power to the front wheels provided enough traction; what’s more the Tucson was easy to handle. This interstate highway was in great shape so the quality of the Tucson’s ride was excellent We engaged the adaptive cruise control. The system was easy to use and reliable. We wish that braking would engage sooner, however, we did not change the follow distance; that may have eased our anxiety but we doubt it. We still haven’t gotten used to automatic braking.
The Lexus NX 300h is yet another hybrid from the luxury automaker. This one combines the output of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and what Lexus called a small high torque electric motor. Power can shift between the gas engine and the electric motor or they can operate in tandem. Combined they supply 194 horsepower to the NX 300h. Transferring that power to the pavement is an electrically controlled continuously variable transmission or ECVT. We don’t know if there is any advantage to this type of transmission versus a regular CVT. But it seemed to convey a little more oomph to the pavement under normal conditions. This combination had an EPA rating of 33 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg combined. We thought that was a little on the low side. But 30 mpg is the magic number for fuel efficiency and the Lexus NX Hybrid topped it across the board.
DETROIT – The first thing we noticed when getting into the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid was that it had a range of 575 miles. That was simply astounding for a subcompact car with an 11.4 gallon fuel tank. But with a fuel rating of 53 mpg in the city, 52 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg combined it makes sense. The Corolla Hybrid had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors which produced a net of 121 horsepower. It was mated to a continuously variable transmission or CVT. Like most hybrids, the Toyota Corolla was smooth and quiet. And like most hybrids, acceleration was not its strong suit. Under normal circumstances the car was okay. When pulling away, the battery provided a subtle power boost in order to put less strain on the engine and eliminate the “rubber band” effect experienced with some hybrids. That’s what Toyota said. But when aggressive acceleration was needed it was really not there. The 2020 Corolla was definitely a car that needed to be understood and defensively driven. Hybrids have regenerative brakes capable of capturing kinetic energy and transferring it to the battery for charging. The Corolla had electronically controlled regenerative brakes and they could be aggressive, or biting we thought. A couple of times we found ourselves stopping short because we had not gotten use to the brake pedal feel. The brakes could also reduce driver pressure needed on the pedal to keep the Corolla stationary while waiting at a traffic light. When the accelerator was pressed, Brake Hold as Toyota has branded it, releases instantly. We never noticed it.
The Hyundai Kona, a subcompact crossover, has garnered all sorts of rewards since it was introduced in the 2018 model year. The crossover had love it or hate it styling which is a central feature of good design. In a word, it was distinctive. We had the 2019 Kona Ultimate AWD model. It was the top-of-the-line model for the gasoline powered Kona. There is an all-electric version of the crossover. The Kona featured Hyundai’s cascading grille, double headlights, LED daytime running lights above the headlamps, fog lights and halogen cornering lights. The side was sculpted with scallops and there were edgy distinctive lines while the rear roofline curved down and filled out the rear. There was black cladding on the bottom and around the wheel wells; it looked like one piece. And the bulging shoulders of the fenders added some muscularity to the look. It made for a distinctive and aggressive design.
DETROIT – A Hyundai Tucson was delivered on Friday and we were on the road to Chicago early Sunday morning. In short, this Hyundai had Interstate chops. We engaged the front-wheel-drive crossover’s adaptive cruise control and headed west down I-94. The 2.4-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine made 181 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. That was more than enough oomph. This stretch of highway gently curves south and goes around the southern tip of Lake Michigan. It is two-lanes in one direction and expands to three as you approach the metro areas. And this route to the Windy City is almost flat. In other words, there is really no place to test how well the engine, its torque and its transmission can handle hills. Still, the drive revealed some of the characteristics of the 2019 Hyundai Tucson FWD. First the pavement was dry. Therefore, power to the front wheels provided enough traction; what’s more the Tucson was easy to handle.
Let’s face it, the original Lexus ES luxury sedan was designed to not offend anybody. That means from a design standpoint, the luxury sedan didn’t appeal to anybody. But all that has changed. We don’t know that any nameplate in Lexus’ lineup has benefitted more from the brand’s style change fueled by the adoption of the spindle grille. These days you love or hate the new Lexus look. From the street reaction, most folks we ran across while test driving the new 2019 ES 350 were all in favor of the new style. The front-wheel-drive sedan used an all-new platform that lowered and widened its stance, and made it longer too. The wheels had been pushed closer to the corners than ES models before it. For the first time in its seven generations, designers used a flat roof to lower the stance even more and provide for better aerodynamics. Lexus said thanks to a two-inch longer wheelbase and wider tracks front and rear and enhanced the 2019 ES 350’s ride and its performance capabilities. The ES’ spindle grille had a vertical pattern and satin plated trim. That theme is repeated at each corner of the bumper to give the ES a wide, planted look.
If it looks like a Volvo, rides like a Volvo and feels like a Volvo, then, hey, it is a Volvo. That came to mind during our test drive of the 2019Volvo XC40 T4. This particular Volvo had a sticker that was just shy of $38,000. In a world where you get less and pay more, that is a bargain for a luxury automobile. At that price, we think this Volvo may be the most cost efficient vehicle in the lineup, thus far. That means it is the cheapest. But beside the word there is nothing cheap about the XC40. It looked like a Volvo with the Thor’s hammer daytime running lights, the Iron Mark grille which was concaved on the XC40, a bunch of vibrant colors to attract the younger buyer, a color contrast roof on some models, that means two toned, large 18-inch wheels, obviously large clad covered wheel arches and an 8.3 inch ride height which bolstered a feeling of security. Every time we got out of the test vehicle we were always a little startled by how far our foot went down before it touched the ground. We never felt like we had to step up to get into the XC40 but we had to step down a little to exit.
Talk about more than enough, the GMC Yukon XL 4WD SLT certainly filled the bill. Where to begin? Let’s start under the hood. We had the Graphite Performance Edition. That means that the 5.3-liter V8 for a normal Yukon got bumped up to 6.2-liters and 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque with cylinder deactivation. There was a 10-speed automatic transmission, a 3.23 axle ratio and a two-speed active transfer case and magnetic ride control. This engine moved the Yukon XL, which weighed almost three tons, with ease. We didn’t sense any cylinder deactivation. Gearshifts were silky smooth and the suspension managed to kill most of the truck-like ride on this body on frame three-row sport utility. It had an independent coil-over shock, magnetic ride control with the graphite performance package front suspension. In the rear was a solid axle with five-link location and coil springs, magnetic ride control and the graphite performance package. This package included black 22-inch machined wheels with carbon flash metallic pockets, black assist steps with gloss black accents, black chrome grille mesh insert and fog lamp surrounds, body-colored grille surround, gloss black beltline moldings and additional trim, the Z85 suspension package. This was a menacing looking vehicle and we mean that in a good way. About the only thing that was missing were LED headlights. The halogen lamps seemed like they were from another planet. And there wasn’t a moonroof. Still, this GMC Yukon was well equipped. It was the XL Yukon. It had a wheelbase that was 14 inches longer than a normal Yukon and it was almost two-feet longer overall with more than twice the cargo space behind the third row seats.
BANFF, Alberta, Canada, — We came here to see some of the product highlights that Volvo has planned for the 2020 model year. We also heard about how the company is doing. The short story is that sales are up in the U.S. even though the market is down from last year. Global sales are up too. The name of the auto game is product, product, and product. And Volvo has been rolling out top notch vehicles for the last four years. You need look no further than the new crossovers, sedans and wagons the company has been churning out to pinpoint the cause of its sales increase. Specifically, we were going to drive the new XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered, the new Volvo V60 Cross Country and the refreshed 2020 Volvo T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid. It had 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. Among the tweaks for the XC90 was a new color, Birch Light Metallic, and third row seats. Depending on the second row configuration, the 2020 XC90 can now be configured for four, six or seven passengers. Volvo staffers said the addition was made because American consumers wanted a third row. And Volvo promised easy access to that row. Alas, we just didn’t get the chance to check it out; even though the XC90 T8 was the first vehicle we put on the road. We had the six-seat model. Volvo had a pretty long list of tweaks for the XC90 in the upcoming model year. Among them were a new concave front grille design, restyled front and rear bumpers, a new gloss black theme for the R-Design trim and all new wheel designs. Volvo said the electric motor sits on the rear axle of the T8s and provides 87 hp driving the rear wheels. The placement allows room for a large electric motor, which is useful in stop-and-go city traffic. The rear placement also makes all-wheel drive more efficient by providing the rear axle with an independent power source. The XC90 T8 comes with what Volvo calls a TurboCord, which is a dual voltage (110v & 220v) charging cable. This allows customers to charge at home using a standard 110v or 220v wall outlet. The flexibility of the vehicle’s industry standard J1772 connectors means customers can recharge their vehicle at thousands of public charging stations. With a 200v power source, the T8 can fully recharge in 2.5 hours.