In way, Hyundai is looking to re-assert itself as a premium brand; that is a tall order in a market chock full of different nameplates. But the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is a big step in that direction. The Palisade is a three row midsize premium crossover with a prominent grille, today’s ID badge in the automotive world. The cascading grille was wide, distinctive and clearly made to lay stake to a place in the market. Depending on trim, LED headlights and daytime running lights are available. Internals called the headlights crocodile lights, they seemingly were just above the sheet metal line. There was a vertical layout to the lights both fore and aft where too there were LED lights. There were also options for roof glass. A regular moonroof was available and so was a double glass roof. The pane in the front was movable while the pane covering the second and the third row was fixed. Hyundai said, “This design has aerodynamic benefits as well, with a 0.33 coefficient of drag (Cd). Palisade achieves this low drag coefficient with specific design cues that include a fast A-pillar angle, a rear spoiler side garnish, an optimized front cooling area with an extended internal air guide, aero underside panels, and rear wheel aero deflectors.” Sounds great but the proof of that was on the pavement. And it started with what was under the Palisade’s hood. The midsized crossover had a 3.8 liter V6 that made 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. It was mated to an eight speed automatic transmission. In front-wheel drive mode it got 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. In all-wheel-drive mode it got 19 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined. The short story is that this engine made the Palisade deceptively quick. Any number of times we found ourselves braking because we had come to a curve in the road a lot quicker than we thought.
Detroit – Mazda continues to evolve its Kodo design language and the results are impressive. We didn’t think it possible but the 2019 Mazda3 sedan looked longer, wider and lower. It took its design cues from Mazda’s Vision Concept which was first shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show a couple of years ago. Some aspect of the design made into the production car and others did not. But overall the Mazda3 sedan is the first production model which has taken on the new look that Mazda called a matured Kodo design language: a lower hood, a more refined cabin and a shorter rump which concealed a huge trunk 13.2 cu. ft. which expands to 20 cu. ft. with the back seats folded. Under the hood was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that made 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Yes, the engine is a carryover but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The four-cylinder was mated to a six-speed transmission with manual shift capabilities and paddle shifters. And lest I forget, the Mazda3 Premium Package had cylinder reactivation. The Mazda3 sedan featured standard G-Vectoring and all-wheel-drive. It got 25 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. This engine always sounds a little wimpy when it starts up but once it comes to life it has more than enough oomph to get the job down. Mazda said the top speed is 130 mph. It was a snappy snazzy little sedan that got a lot of attention because of its styling. Handling was precise, acceleration was good, the suspension was up to the challenge of city roads and it confronted the ends and outs of urban traffic with no problems. LED headlights and taillights are now standard. The suspension used MacPherson struts in the front and a newly developed torsion beam setup in the rear. The internal structure of the bushings adopted a new spherical shape and updated suspension geometry to help realize lag-free transmission and linear action. The car was smooth running and riding. Inside is where designers really upped the quality and the style of the Mazda3. They set the infotainment screen back atop the dash/. It is still a floating fixture but it was too far back to be reached with ease. Thus, it is no longer a touch screen.
I had completely forgotten that the Kia Niro being delivered was an EV; that is an electric vehicle. It wasn’t a hybrid or a plugin hybrid; both have gasoline engines that work in tandem with electricity generating batteries. The Kia EV had no gasoline engine, it was completely electric. I was scheduled to go to Chelsea in a couple of days. That’s about 60 miles from here. Now I’ve written about range anxiety, I’ve theorized about it and I’ve participated in panel discussions on the subject. But for the first time I experienced it and the feeling was almost immediate. At the heart of the Niro EV were the 64 KWh liquid-cooled Lithium ion Polymer battery and the electric motor that made 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. The Kia Niro doesn’t come with a charger but for peace of mind and practicality you would be wise to get one to go with this car. And whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to know or to learn a little bit about electricity. It takes 60 minutes to charge the battery to 80 percent of its capacity with a DC fast (100kW) charge. A DC 50 kW charge will do the job in 75 minutes. A 240v (Level 1) will take 9 hours and 35 minutes for a full charge and 120 v (Level 1) will take 59 hours. Really, that is what the media information said. Just plug the Kia Niro EV in, the plugs in the front of the crossover. But the settings have to be right to match the current flowing into the car. I opted not to call and get the right settings for my 120v outside socket. Besides I didn’t know whether eight or nine hours charging overnight with 120v would be of any use. And I thought it might not be a bad thing if I could say that I drove Kia Niro for a week and didn’t charge it. It had a range of 257 mile; officially it is 239 miles, when I started the test drive. There was one full day and 97 miles left when I wrote this review. That wasn’t bad, I drove about 160 miles. Beyond the silence, there wasn’t that much difference in the electric driven Kia EV and a gasoline engine powered car. Kia said the Niro EV makes a whir to alert pedestrians but I never heard it; of course I was inside the car. The Kia EV was silent but the everyday sounds of driving with windows down created the connection needed between movement and the crossover.
Switching from a trim line to a brand, especially a luxury brand, has proved to be a challenge for Genesis. The automaker started by launching luxury sedans when market tastes switched to crossover and utility vehicles. But Genesis had to follow its development plans and we’ve seen the launch of three top notch luxury sedans. What’s more the last one, the G70, may be the best of the lot. We had the 2019 G70 AWD 3.3T. This car will grow into the epitome of a luxury sport sedan. It was powered by a 3.3-liter dual turbocharged V6 that made 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque at 1,300 rpm. It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and rev matching. The car was capable of getting from a standstill to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. When dealing with speed, braking becomes even more important. The test car had a set of Brembo performance brakes. They had four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers, which gave the G70 great stopping power and good fade resistance, thanks to 13.8-inch ventilated front rotors. And speed and fuel efficiency don’t normally go together. The G70 AWD 3.3T got 18mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined. This G70 was lightning fast and the brakes gripped with authority and slowed the car down in quick order. It had launch control, which went unused as did the drive modes; it stayed in comfort for most of the week-long test drive. There were five choices. The adjustable elements include: powertrain response, steering weight, engine sound, all-wheel drive torque distribution, and suspension firmness. Custom-drive mode further adjusted a variety of vehicle parameters to suit preferences or driving conditions. We noticed the suspension kept the G70 on track even in curves which we took at ever increasing speeds. There was rack and pinion power steering in the front and motor driven power steering in the rear. That meant four-wheel steering. All G70 models ride on a MacPherson multi-link front and multi-link rear suspensions with a performance-oriented geometry. The 3.3T model had a dynamic package that included a mechanical limited slip differential that improved traction by balancing torque distribution across the rear axle when wheel spin was detected. The G70 3.3T models also featured variable gear ratio steering. The car’s mass was managed by various aluminum components, including an aluminum hood. Handling was exceptional.
In a shrinking market for cars, automakers are doing everything they can to keep consumers interested in sedans and coupes. At Mazda that meant making i-Activsense safety and diver assisting technologies standard across all trim levels. The i-Activsense safety features now standard in the Mazda6 Sport include Advanced Smart City Brake Support with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, Smart Brake Support and Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go function. We had the top of the line Signature trim line and it came with a lot of equipment. Under the hood was a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that made 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Cylinder-deactivation technology is standard on Mazda6’s 2.5-liter engine, which shuts off its two outside cylinders in cruising conditions for even more efficiency. The engine was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The midsize sedan got 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. On startup, this engine sounded a little wimpy. But once we put our foot to the gas pedal all thoughts of weakness left. The Mazda6 accelerated well. Gear shifts were precise and the midsized sedan was not overwhelmed by traffic. As a colleague of ours says, the 2019 Mazda6 was road worthy. The ride was great, the car smoothed out the roads. It had an independent front and rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars and electric power steering. The cabin was quiet and the sightlines were unobstructed. The Mazda6 provided a pleasant driving experience. The only quibble we had was that for some reason the audio system had a lag time. It took a few seconds between startup and it coming on line. However, we had it set on satellite radio; that may have been the cause. The interior was clean and without a lot of clutter. There was a floating touch screen infotainment system. The instrument panel had three large circular dials. The odometer was on the left, the speedometer was in the middle and the fuel and temperature gauge filled the third one. They all were black with white lettering. Fit and finish were great. There was parchment stitching, which was the same color as the bottom half of the dash. It was so nicely done that it was difficult to tell whether the stitching was real. The heated and cooled front seats provided plenty of support. The dash was soft touch, there was a moon roof and both front seats were power operated. We’ve always said that it is the little things that can make a big difference. With the 2019 Mazda6 we thought that all four power windows being one touch up and down was a nice touch. You would be surprised how often that feature is limited to the driver’s window. And we were really surprised by the back seat. There seemed to be no fall off. They had the same thickness as the front seats. There was plenty of head room and since the Mazda6 was front wheel drive, the tunnel didn’t seem like it was an intrusion in the interior. What really caught our attention was when we pulled down the arm rest there was a pod inside with two USB jacks in it. If that did not cause glee enough, we saw the controls for the heated back seats. This 2019 Mazda6 was chock full of features. It had 19-inch alloy wheels, heated folding sideview mirrors with turn lamps, a heated steering wheel and a rear lip spoiler. There were automatic deeming mirrors and a heads up display.
Lincoln is crafting a new identity that just might lift it from the ranks of second tier luxury brands. We test drove the 2019 Lincoln L Navigator Black Label and were duly impressed. The question is not whether it was good but how good it was. Where to begin? From the distinctive honeycombed grille with the Lincoln badge in the center which is now the face of the brand, to the family of powerful V6 engines that propel Lincolns down the road, the brand has taken some impressive steps. A close inspection of the grille revealed the honeycombs to be outlines of Lincoln’s rectangular badge. The body on frame constructed Navigator was loaded with little details like that that illuminate a step up in thinking on the part of the brand’s engineers and designers. First of all, the 2019 Lincoln Navigator L was big. The wheelbase was 131.6 inches, compared to a regular Navigator at 122.5 inches. Overall length was 221.9 inches compared to a regular Navigator at 210 inches. But let’s be clear, the Navigator has left the realm of regular. The Navigator L 4X4 weighed three tons, 6,056 lbs. to be exact. It takes a lot of brute force to move that much weight. But Lincoln put the Navigator’s power in a velvet glove. Under the hood was a twin turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 that made 450 horsepower and a diesel-like 510 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 RPMs. The engine was mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and it could tow up 8,100 lbs. This powertrain moved the Navigator L with little or no effort. I never heard the engine. The vehicle had that force of personality that changes the natural inclination of the driver. There wasn’t much hard acceleration or powering through curves. It was quiet, the suspension certainly smoothed out the road, and there were drive modes to deal with all sorts of road conditions and the V6 when idling sounded like a V8.
Nissan’s Murano was one of the earliest pure crossovers. It has been around for 16 years. But now in its third generation it has been extensively refreshed for the 2019 model year and it looks sleek, slick and svelte. The V-motion grille was more pronounced. There were redesigned LED headlights and taillights, new LED fog lights and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels. But I think were the big boost came was inside. That begins with what was under the hood. The 2019 Murano was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that made 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to what Nissan has branded an Xtronic CVT or continuously variable transmission. They’ve put a lot of work into this technology that many manufactures took a look at and walked away. CVTs don’t have the gears, it is a pulley system. The point is there are fewer parts so they are easier and I presume cheaper to manufacture. The upside is that they get better gas mileage than regular transmissions but it is all downhill from there. They are loud under acceleration, they seem to be slow and since there are no gears they are disconcerting to drivers. A CVT can actually make it seem like there is something wrong with the vehicle. Nissan through its engineering prowess has done away with most of the downsides of CVTs. This transmission was quiet, it transferred power to the wheels efficiently and it feigned gear shifts so well it left me wondering does the it or does it not have a CVT. It did and this one could be put in manual mode. Anyway, the combination gave the 2019 Murano an EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. The Murano was quick and relatively quiet under hard acceleration. And it did feel like gears were shifting rather than the drone that comes with most CVTs. But the real surprise was the interior. It was quilted leather with stitching. The seats were comfortable; the front set was heated and cooled while the back set was heated.
Even before my week test driving the 2019 Subaru Forester was up my opinion had been reached. It was very satisfying to the point of being a very impressive midsize crossover that delivered on a number of levels. Under the hood was a 2.5-liter Boxer engine, meaning horizontally opposed four-cylinder that made 182 horsepower and 176 pound feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. The Forester had an EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined. This new engine provided more than enough oomph in day to day driving. I really don’t care for CVTs but this one was not bad. Acceleration was good and it was fairly quiet, for a continuously variable transmission. The first driving characteristic I noticed about the Forester was its handling. It was Go-Kart precise. Just the slightest turn of the wheel and the midsize crossover went in the direction the wheel was turned. Reaction time to driver input was almost instant. Styling was new for 2019 too. Subaru said it was more rugged. The exterior had shoulder lines that followed around the pillars to emphasize height and strength. Prominent wheel arches emphasized the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system’s functionality. Subaru is one of the few manufactures that make all-wheel-drive standard. The front, side and rear under guards were also standard on all models, with color finish according to trim line. New LED headlights were standard on all models. The wheelbase was increased to 105.1 in. from 103.9 in., with the gain benefitting rear seat legroom, which is now 39.4-in., a 1.4-in. increase. I got into the rear seats and found them comfortable. There was plenty of headspace, hip room and I think three people could sit in the back seat in relative comfort. And because the Forester sits deceptively high, the drive tunnel was not that much of an intrusion into the interior space.
I thought that big body on frame sport utilities were, well, obsolete. But I was wrong. After spending a week test-driving the 2019 Lexus LX 570, I’ve learned that it is still an admired aspirational vehicle. More than once I was asked for the keys, or whether I was driving it. During my week with the LX, I discovered it was a spacious powerful sport utility. Under the hood was 5.7-liter normally aspirated V8 that made 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. It should not matter in this price range but for the record the EPA rating for this LX 570 was 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. Ninety percent of the torque is available at a relatively low 3,600 rpm. The engine was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This LX could tow up to 7,000 lbs.
The 2019 Ford Escape might be the best deal in the automaker’s lineup. The reason is simple, there’s a new model on the way. We may not see it for a while but it has debuted at the New York Auto Show. That means to clear showroom floors, Ford has to make the 2019 Ford Escape even more appealing than it already is. In other words, I’m talking about lower prices on a world class small crossover. We had the front-wheel-drive Ford Escape SEL. It was powered by a 1.3-liter four cylinder turbocharged engine that made 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.