Frank Washington

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2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport

Infiniti has got something special in the 2017 QX30 Sport. It had a low slung roof, high stance and swerves and curves that distinguished it on the road. It had an air that smacked of luxury. There was a double arch grille with mesh draws that flowed into the headlights. And there was a double wave aluminum hood that flowed into the fenders and across the bodyline. The sheet metal looked as though it had been stretched over the frame. The C-pillar had a crescent design meant to emphasize motion. We don’t know about that but it did look good. And that crescent arch visually pulled the roof even lower. Under the hood was a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that made 208 horsepower. That may not sound like much but it made 256 pound-feet of torque from 1,200 to 4,400 rpm. That’s where the power came from; it moved the QX30 Sport assertively. Mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, the QX30 Sport had an EPA fuel rating of 27 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg combined. The QX30 was really fun to drive. Our test model was front-wheel-drive

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2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid Limited

Quietly, Hyundai has entered the world of electric vehicles. With its 2017 Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, the Korean automaker now offers what it called a class-leading 27 miles of electric-only range. The reason we say silent is that we haven’t heard much about the midsized front-wheel drive sedan. Hyundai said because of its extended electric only range, consumers will be able to complete their daily commutes without using any gasoline. The car had a total range of 590 miles. A large 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack gives the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid its extended estimated all-electric range. Hyundai said that’s more than any other PHEV sedan. And it takes less than three hours to charge with a 240V Level-Two charger. It takes less than nine hours to recharge with a standard 120V outlet.

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2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

While at a gathering during our week-long test drive of the 2017 Volvo S90, a friend commented that he didn’t know that Volvo made cars like that. The “that” meant full size luxury sedans of the first order. Volvo’s new flagship reminded us of what a designer said years ago about automotive luxury. It’s conveyed in the interior of a car and Volvo certainly did that with the S90. Like Scandinavian design which is a minimalist philosophy, inside the Volvo S90 was awash in what the automaker called natural open pore walnut which was used as a design feature rather than because that’s what you do, use a dollop of wood to justify cost. It conveyed an air of luxury. The perforated leather of the seats, the front pair was heated and cooled while the back seats were heated, aided in conveying sumptuousness. Volvo has one of the best seat designs in the industry with safety being the prominent theme but the S90’s seats accentuated the luxurious ambience of the car too.

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Drivin: 2017 Lexus ES 350

The Lexus ES 350 is a sleeper sedan. It is the kind of car that is just outside of the young active demographic that you see targeted in automobile commercials of all stripes. Yet the ES is important, it has a following and it is aimed at a mature driver, not old, who is stable and doesn’t spend money unwisely. Lexus restyled the almost full-size sedan for the 2015 model year and it continues to tweak the automobile. For 2017, the car has been given a bolder rendition of the spindle grille. The LED headlights were standard and it had upgraded interior finishes.

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2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

With its no-compromise combination of head turning style, cutting-edge technology, real-world utility and eye-popping fuel economy, the 2017 Kia Niro truly is a smarter kind of crossover. That’s how Kia described its new hybrid electric crossover in a welcome letter to reporters here for the media launch of the 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the Kia Niro did look good. A static model was parked in front of the Hotel Emma and at a leisurely pace we saw that the crossover had short overhangs, aggressive headlights, and Kia’s tiger nose grille that seemed a little wider and black cladding that framed the edge of the vehicle’s lower body as well as its wheel wells. We particularly liked the trim bezel for the fog lamps and it also adorned the rear fascia.

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2017 Kia Forte S

Kia continues to make incremental improvements to its entry level Forte For the 2017 model year, the Kia Forte S got a new front bumper and the “tiger nose” grille has been widened to connect with the newly redesigned headlights, which are available with Xenon HID lights. But our test car didn’t have them. Still, the car had a sophisticated look. It was wide, it had a forward racy stance; it looked quick and here’s what it didn’t look like: a small putt-putt sedan. The Forte S also got a new engine across the trim line. The 2.0-liter Atkinson four-cylinder made 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a second generation six-speed automatic transmission that Kia said improved fuel economy and provided smoother shifting.

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2017 Kia Soul Turbo

The Kia Soul has survived in a niche where many have failed. It is a square box yet stylish, sassy and it had a little bit of sex appeal. What’s more, this year’s edition was beefed up with added power. For 2017, the Soul got a 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection four cylinder engine. It made 201 horsepower, up by 40, and 195 pound-feet of torque, up by 45 and it was mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Power not only went up but so did gas mileage. It had an EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. This engine gave the car some spunk and quickness. In sport mode, it was very quick, gear selection was faster and steering stiffened. The flat bottomed steering wheel made the car really easy to maneuver and it had a tight turning radius of 34.8 feet.

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2017 Lexus ES 300h

DETROIT – The saying that simplicity is a fine line between elegance and plainness came to as we test drove the 2017 Lexus ES 300h. It was simple, straightforward and pragmatic. Perhaps that’s why it is a bellwether of the Lexus lineup. Yes, the car does have the brand’s spindle grille but beyond that it is pragmatic and reliable and in this case it was a hybrid. For 2017, the ES 300h was endowed with the company’s suite of safety features.

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2017 Genesis G90

Consumers will decide whether Hyundai has bitten off more than it can chew. In the wake of its success in the market here, the Korean automaker decided to break off its top of the line Genesis model and move it further upscale creating a new luxury brand in the process. There are pitfalls galore in this decision. In effect, Hyundai has to generate name recognition for a new brand and two new nameplates in a market that is inundated with them: Genesis the brand and the G-series which now consist of the G80 and the G90. Getting name recognition in a cluttered market is a tall order. Success depends on spending enough money to reach the right customers. But the most important component is, if the plan is to be successful, the car. And an initial report is that it appears that Hyundai got that right.

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2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

The first thing we noticed about the 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited was the ride. It rolled down the streets smoothly and quietly, tamed the bumps and lumps in the road and it was easy to steer. The car had a MacPherson strut with coil springs, hydraulic twin-tube gas-filled shock absorbers and a 22 mm stabilizer bar suspension in the front. And a coupled torsion beam axle with gas-filled, hydraulic monotube shock absorbers and coil springs rear suspension. The 2017 version of the Hyundai Elantra was lighter than the outgoing model. More than half of the chassis was comprised of advanced high strength steel. Its use resulted in an increase of almost 30 percent stiffer torsional rigidity which improved the ride as well as the car’s handling. Hyundai really invested time and money in improving the quality of the 2017 Elantra. The company increased structural adhesive application 40 times more at higher stress points on the chassis and to reinforce welding areas.

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