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Chevrolet Corvette 2020.jpg
For 2020, the Corvette underwent the most radical redesign in its 67-year history. Chevrolet's engineers decided a new mid-engine layout was the way to go for its inherent advantages in weight distribution. Risky? Yes. But the result is hugely impressive.
In terms of performance, the Corvette equals or outshines cars costing two and three times as much. The new 6.2-liter V8 and dual-clutch automatic transmission are a formidable combo on the track but offer plenty of oomph and smooth operation in nearly any condition. The 2020 Corvette imparts information about its handling balance and grip, thereby giving its driver more confidence in taking the car up to its handling limits.
As with past Corvettes, the C8 is practical for both daily driving and long trips. There's space for the coupe's removable targa roof panel top in the rear, and the lack of an engine up front means there's a small frunk in the nose. The new interior has a sharp, driver-focused design and fine materials throughout. A Corvette convertible is on its way too.
It's fast, ooks exotic, and brings home what the Chevy's sports car has always done. It gives maximum performance at a reasonable price. Even in a class full of impressive performance cars, the Corvette stands out.
In testing, the car went from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and cleared the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at more than 120 mph. Both times are very quick. Braking performance is impressive, but that's largely down to the narrow front tires. The panic stops were recorded from 60 mph in 105 feet, which is still a good number, and noted the Corvette's stability and excellent pedal feel. Steering and handling are both much improved. Skid pad testing showed the chassis' excellent balance with an eye-opening 1.09g, which is a number you'd expect from much more expensive performance cars. The new eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth and quick shifts.
The new Corvette is one of the more comfortable cars in its class. The test car had the optional MagneRide adaptive suspension. The Corvette offers excellent compliance over a variety of road surfaces and smooths out bumps that would likely upset other sports cars. Adding to the comfort is the relative lack of wind and engine noise, though tire noise can be prominent on rough road surfaces.
The climate system provides good airflow from its stylish vents. Maybe just as striking as the exterior design, the Corvette's interior is certainly eye-catching. Getting in and out of the Corvette took a little maneuvering. This predicament is exacerbated in tight parking situations. But buyers will likely figure out a way and won't be too bothered. The compromised rear visibility will take some getting used to as well. Chevy added a camera-based rearview mirror display to help, but the blind spots created by the rear pillars were a cause for concern for me.
The Corvette benefits from Chevrolet's newest infotainment system. The graphics are crisp and modern, and the touchscreen's closeness to the driver makes it easy to operate. As small as the interior is, the optional 14-speaker Bose audio system manages to produce a decent soundstage with plenty of power.
The front trunk can hold a couple of grocery bags, and the rear is big enough for two golf bags. Rear storage all but disappears, however, when you store the Corvette's removable roof panel in the trunk. Corvette returned 20.1 mpg, which is commendable given that some hard driving was done.
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An appealing blend of style, safety features, and technology puts the 2021 Volvo XC90 firmly among the cream of the luxury midsize 3-row SUV/crossover class. New features for 2021 include a Care Key that allows owners to pre-program various limits for young drivers, a reduced top speed, and hazard light/slippery road alerts. These alerts are possible now that Volvo vehicles can communicate with each other, a function that can be retrofitted to earlier XC90 models.
Drivetrain choices center around a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s either turbocharged, turbocharged, and supercharged, or employing both of those forced induction methods while being part of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) system. This latter drivetrain has been renamed Recharge for the 2021 XC90. Some people might prefer six cylinders or even eight, but the XC90’s setups work well. There might also be resistance to relying on the touchscreen for many functions. However, the XC90’s tech is well thought out and applied, including one of the best partially autonomous driving systems.
In T5 form, the Volvo XC90’s 2.0-liter engine is turbocharged, with 250 horsepower, it does a competent though unremarkable job of motivating the XC90.
The T6 is fa bit more interesting. By using both turbocharging and supercharging, it develops a remarkable amount of output from just four cylinders and two liters of displacement: 316 horsepower and a gutsy 295 lb-ft of torque, that you can feel during acceleration.
Recharge is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) setup, augmenting the T6’s engine with an electric motor to deliver the most power (400 horsepower) as well as the lowest emissions. Regardless of drivetrain, the 2021 XC90 handles itself with a quiet comfort, plus a hint of that typical European poise when driven harder.
• PILOT ASSIST: Pilot Assist combines adaptive cruise control and active steering to keep the XC90 in the desired lane, resulting in a partially autonomous driving system. Rivals have similar offerings, but this one is standard and among the smoothest we’ve tested.
• BOWERS & WILKINS AUDIO SYSTEM: This optional audio system (upgraded for 2021) is the epitome of premium sound. With 1,400 watts and 19 speakers, it’s loud. But the quality is superb, even when playing files from a smartphone.
Luxury without the fuss, indulgence without the rigmarole, special without being overdone — that’s the Volvo XC90’s cabin. It comes with 3-row/7-occupant seating as standard, offering the option of captain’s chairs in the second row. These bring the posterior countdown to six, but the middle row is more spacious which allows easier access to the back. The third is best for children. Volvo seats are renowned for their comfort and support. The front seats are well-shaped and good for long trips. The base XC90 has simulated leather upholstery, but leather comes in at the next level up. Standard features include the 12.3 digital driver information display and the vertically oriented 9-inch infotainment touchscreen. This latter item is crisp and reasonably responsive, but we’d prefer it if a touch weren’t required for almost every function, including climate control adjustments.
It’s those T-shaped LED daytime running lights (which Volvo calls “Thor’s Hammer”) that probably hit the retinas first. They’re part of a house style encompassing the company’s other vehicles, an overall approach that’s very attractive. The tailgate is powered and endowed with hands-free operation, the door handles are illuminated, and the side mirrors are retractable. R-Design models have a sportier character with a trim-specific grille, high-gloss black exterior accents, matte-silver mirror caps, and larger, octagonal exhaust outlets. The standard alloy wheel size is 19 inches, but there are alternatives going up to 22 inches, plus summer performance tires for the R-Design models.
Its difficult to choose, because Volvo has two 2021 XC90 trim levels with similar names. The Recharge Inscription Expression is the basic model with the PHEV drivetrain, whereas Inscription is the XC90’s most luxurious trim. The 2021 XC90 range kicks off with the Momentum T5, which is brimming with standard equipment such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, full LED lighting with automatic high beams, quad-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, hands-free tailgate operation, panoramic moonroof, front/rear parking sensors, high-pressure headlight cleaning, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, four USB ports (including two Type-C versions in the second row), and a 4-year subscription to Volvo On-Call which allows certain functions to be controlled by a smartphone.
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The Kia Telluride has captivated me since its debut. This is Kia's biggest SUV, and, like most three-row midsize SUVs, it seats up to eight passengers. Other aspect of the 2021 Telluride does things a little nicer than the rest. Its cabin is luxury-like in its quality and the third-row seat can comfortably fit adults. The Telluride rides effortlessly and is equipped with the latest technology and safety highlights. Pricing is competitive and the warranty is pleasing.
The Telluride SX V6 AWD is a comfortable, capable, and loyal. I fell in love with the Telluride after several hundred miles behind the wheel. The Telluride is a pleasant SUV to drive. Its V6 engine is responsive, and the acceleration is nice for a three-row SUV. The Telluride sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, but the brakes are strong and bring the Telluride to a halt in a hurry. They're also easy to modulate for consistently smooth stops. The steering is light at parking-lot speeds and handles smoothly in turns. The Telluride is stable when going around turns and doesn't demonstrate unnecessary body roll. The engine's fuel-saving stop-start feature works quietly efficient.
The Telluride offers a very roomy and chic-feeling cabin with easy access to all three rows. Passenger space is terrific in both the second and third rows. The space feels more open thanks in part to the wealth of large windows. The front-passenger knee room is close. The controls are clearly labeled and arranged logically, but drivers have to reach to adjust the infotainment screen. The camera systems and parking sensors are wonderful extras.
Tellurides come with numerous collision avoidance and mitigation systems as well as adaptive cruise control that operates down to a stop. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, with numerous USB ports that are spread across all three rows, although only one can transmit data. The optional wider infotainment screen (EX and up) looks sharp, and it comes with navigation that offers several useful features.
I really enjoyed the upgraded 10-speaker sound system. The turn-signal camera display in the gauge cluster was a necessary, but I hated the low low-resolution level.
The Telluride might be the best value in the class for what you get. From the driving experience to the interior to the standard and available features, at every price point you just get a little bit extra, and in top trims you get a near-luxury experience. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the Telluride. You also get Kia's impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and that’s hard to beat.
The 2021 Toyota Highlander midsize 3-row SUV/crossover is capable of seating seven or eight, depending on whether there’s a bench in the second row or a pair of captain’s chairs. It also offers a hybrid drivetrain (reviewed separately), which now comes as a more affordable front-wheel-drive variant. The Highlander is now in the second year of its fourth generation.
Naturally, this new Highlander is bigger than its predecessor, which brings benefits in cabin space. But accommodations in the third row still don’t compare well to several main rivals. For example, the Buick Enclave and Volkswagen Atlas enjoy more than 33 inches of third-row legroom. The Highlander has 27.7 inches.
Cargo space now measures 16 cu ft. behind the third row, expanding to 84.3 cu ft. with the second and third rows folded. That’s about the same as the Honda Pilot, which is a good thing.
The exterior design is suitably edgy for contemporary tastes, with an assertive front end enlivened by LED headlights, plus well-defined side panels. Inside, a stylized dashboard puts a neatly integrated touchscreen and supporting controls at its center. Not so visually arresting but still useful are the recessed cargo trays along the dashboard’s base.
Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and satellite radio are all standard across the range. So is Driver Easy Speak, a feature that broadcasts the driver’s voice through the rear speakers. Also standard throughout and perhaps one of the strongest arguments in the 2021 Highlander’s favor (along with solid reliability and robust resale values) is the set of driver aids
known as Toyota Safety Sense 2.5. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane tracing assistance, lane departure warning with steering assistance, automatic high beams, and road sign recognition.
What’s New for 2021?
The standard-issue Toyota Safety Sense array of driver aids upgrades to version 2.5. Improvements include left-turn intersection support and mistaken pedal application, partially autonomous emergency steering, plus enhancements to the adaptive cruise control, lane departure, and lane tracing functions. LED projector headlights are now standard in every 2021 Highlander. And a new XSE trim level is introduced, coming with trim-specific 20-inch alloy wheels, black roof rails/side mirror housings/window trim, ambient cabin lighting, optional torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, and a sport-tuned suspension.
A 3.5-liter V6 engine propels the Highlander with 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. It has a stop/restart function to help save some gasoline while idling. The next link is an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive (FWD) is standard; all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel consumption estimates are 20 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg in combined driving (FWD) or 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined (AWD). The EPA puts fuel consumption at 36 mpg city/35 mpg highway/36 mpg combined (FWD) or 35 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/35 mpg combined (AWD). The exception here is the all-wheel-drive Limited Platinum trims, which are thirstier on the highway by one mile per gallon. Maximum towing for the V6-powered Highlander is 5,000 pounds.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Toyota Highlander with the V6 comes in L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels. Prices quoted here are for front-drive versions and include the $1,175 destination charge. All Highlanders can be optioned with all-wheel drive, costing between $1,600 and $1,950, depending on the trim.
L ($35,985) has 18-in alloy wheels, eight airbags, keyless entry/ignition, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, LED projector headlights, LED taillights, washer for the reversing camera, selectable driving modes, tri-zone automatic climate control, eight cupholders, four bottle holders, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat, cloth upholstery, 8-occupant seating with 60/40 split/folding second-row and third-row bench seats, 4.2-in color LCD driver information screen, four USB ports, two 12-volt outlets, Driver Easy Speak, Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, hill-start assist, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, 8-in infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, satellite radio, and a 6-speaker audio system. All-wheel-drive versions also have hill descent control and mud guards.
LE ($38,815) adds a powered liftgate, LED fog lights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
XLE ($40,985) brings a powered moonroof, roof rails, self-dimming rearview mirror, wireless charging, simulated leather upholstery for the first two seating rows, heated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, second-row captain’s chairs (reducing the occupant count to seven), second-row sunshades, and a 7-in color gauge cluster.
Options include 8-occupant seating and navigation.
XSE ($42,580) has a sport-tuned suspension and steering system, trim-specific 20-in alloy wheels, twin exhaust tips, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, ambient cabin lighting, black simulated leather upholstery, several cosmetic additions, and black accents on the LED headlights with a light-strip design for the daytime running lights. This trim is eligible for red/black 2-tone leather upholstery.
Limited ($44,940) has 20-in wheels, puddle lights, LED daytime running lights, high-output LED fog lights, hands-free liftgate operation, real leather for the first two seating rows, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, 120-volt outlet, front/rear parking assistance with automatic braking, navigation, and a JBL 11-speaker premium audio system. Options include 8-occupant seating, 360-degree camera system, and a 12.3-in touchscreen. The 7-seater-only Platinum ($48,140) adds adaptive self-leveling LED projector headlights, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic moonroof, digital rearview mirror, 10-inch color head-up display, 12.3-inch touchscreen, and illuminated door sills up front.
Every Highlander comes with eight airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System, including stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and brake assist. Also standard throughout is Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 that includes forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, left turn intersection support, partially autonomous emergency steering, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, lane tracing assistance, lane departure warning with steering assistance, automatic high beams, and road sign recognition. Lane tracing helps the Highlander keep in the center of its lane while using adaptive cruise control. This generation of Toyota Highlander has yet to be crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made it a Top Safety Pick after it took top scores in most major categories. The IIHS said this accolade only applied to versions with upgraded LED projector headlights, but since the 2021 Highlander gains those as standard, its safety credentials are top-notch.
Behind the Wheel
The Highlander’s cabin is a comfortable place to spend many hours. The large glass area provides great views all around and occupants in the first two rows have plenty of room to spread out. The third row remains a kids-only space. The instrument panel is arranged sensibly; it’s tidy and easy to navigate. The only issue is the occasional glare from sunlight obscuring the touchscreen.
The V6 Highlander has plenty of thrust, easily enough to move this midsize 3-row crossover when it’s full, and certainly more than most rivals. This V6 engine/8-speed automatic transmission is a tried-and-trusted drivetrain.
Handling is consistent and stable. It feels big from behind the wheel, but that will appeal to SUV buyers who feel a larger vehicle provides an extra degree of safety. The all-wheel-drive system in the V6-powered L, LE, and XLE can transfer up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels if wheel slip is detected. A more sophisticated all-wheel-drive setup is in the XSE, Limited, and Platinum versions, featuring Toyota’s Dynamic Torque Vectoring with Driveline Disconnect. It enables the redistribution of torque not only from front to rear but also side to side at the rear axle. This system also provides multi-terrain driving modes, including Mud & Sand and Rock & Dirt.
Toyota Avalon 2020.jpg
As I test drove the Toyota Avalon, I kept thinking about how fewer automakers offer the large class sedan because consumers are increasingly gravitating to SUVs and highly capable midsize sedans. Toyota, however, is one brand that's still carrying the torch. The Toyota Avalon simultaneously exemplifies and upends the standards of the class. TheV6 engine provides smooth acceleration.
Slightly larger than the Toyota Camry, the Avalon has plenty of legroom for all occupants and a higher percentage of premium materials. The Avalon is great on long road trips thanks to the supportive outboard seats and minimal wind noise. The Avalon, with nimble handling and quick steering, is up to the challenge of zipping along a curvy road. There's even a new TRD model this year with a sport-tuned suspension. If you want an uncompromising blend of performance and comfort, consider the top Touring trim. It's equipped with adaptive dampers that soften the ride or sharpen handling at the press of a button.
With a 301-horsepower V6 mated to a smooth-shifting transmission, the Avalon has power to get up and go. It is also pleasant to use in most scenarios, from long road trips and afternoon cruises to day-to-day commutes and short errands around town. Braking is consistent, which lends to its comfort in daily use.
The Avalon is very athletic with its pleasurable handling and drivability. While not a sport sedan, this cruiser can handle twisty roads with relative ease for a vehicle of its size. Comfort is a strength for the Avalon and is probably the primary reason you'd consider such a large sedan. All seating positions give you ample cushioning and support for long drives or short cruises. The leather upholstery is very soft and gives the sensation that the Avalon is more upscale than its price suggests. The ride is cushioned and makes you feel shielded from harsh roads. The cabin is cozy due to the climate control's quick heating and cooling. While there is no rattling or shaking inside the cabin, I must admit that I could the road noise at all times. The Avalon's cabin is a nice place to be. It is roomy and user-friendly. The driving position is superb due to its multitude and depth of adjustments, and visibility is great up front and modest to the sides and over the shoulder. Toyota's Entune system and its 9-inch touchscreen are surprisingly good.
Apple CarPlay support makes things so much better. The display is bright and responds well to inputs, but Toyota tends to lock out more functions while you're driving than other carmakers.
There's one USB port for data and four 2.1-amp power-only USBs — two up front and two in back. The front console also houses a wireless charging pad. The car's built-in voice controls are hit-or-miss — it's better at understanding radio commands than navigation commands. We had much more success using Siri via Apple CarPlay.
While cargo capacity is average on paper, the Avalon works out to be more convenient compared to some others due to the wide trunk opening, broad floor and convenient loading height. Inside, there are numerous small cubbies, plenty of cupholders, and a center console that's sizable and surprisingly deep. The door pockets are average, but there are enough other options that it's not a concern. The Avalon really shines when it comes to fitting child safety seats.
You gotta love the Nissan Titan. The 2021 Nissan Titan is a full-size pickup truck that cost only $38k. Nissan’s changes brought a thoroughly revised interior (making a 9-inch touchscreen available; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard) and more standard safety technology, including automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. The exterior also saw some styling revisions. And tow ratings increased so that a 2021 Titan King Cab 4×2, the best tow rig, can pull a 9,370-pound trailer. The engine puts out 400 horsepower (with premium fuel). It’s the only standard V8 in its class with that much muscle. The Titan is now much quicker from 50 to 70 mph.
Cost is not surprising. An entry-level 2021 Nissan Titan S King Cab with rear-wheel drive has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $36,550. Adding the $1,595 destination charge makes $38,145. All-wheel drive differs in price according to trim but expect to pay slightly more than $3,000. Adding the Crew Cab means another $2,730.
Drive time in the 2021 Titan delivers a pleasurable experience. The V8 engine is quiet with enough power to make short work of freeway onramps. It stays relaxed on the highway, running at about 1,500 rpm at 60 mph and only 1,900 rpm at 80 mph. The 9-speed automatic transmission is similarly smooth yet will downshift two or sometimes three gears in rapid response to a mashed accelerator pedal. I enjoyed the ride.
Conversation within is never strained, due to acoustic laminated glass. Operating the Fender-branded stereo is made easy by the 9-inch touchscreen above the center stack. The screen’s resolution is better than HD. My favorite is the supported large buttons that can be manipulated without looking away from the road for too long. The lane departure warning system vibrates the steering wheel gently if the Titan starts to drift out of its lane. The system can be shut off by controls on the steering wheel.
Featuring a handsome 9-inch touchscreen with outstanding WXGA resolution (better than high definition), the Titan’s Integrated Command Center is wonderfully easy to use. Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration is another definite plus point.
Automatic emergency braking is a potential lifesaver and standard in all versions of the Nissan Titan, along with a rear braking feature that automatically applies the anchors if something is detected in the pickup’s path when it’s reversing.
The 2021 interior of the Titan comes as a King Cab with a pair of rear-hinged back doors, or a Crew Cab with four conventional doors. Both seat five comfortably (or six when ordered as a base S model with a front bench seat). The interior features a center stack with the Integrated Command Center and laminated glass. A panoramic moonroof is optional. The seats are comfortable, rear legroom is fine for most adults, and the quality of materials is high. The off-road-focused Titan Pro-4X offers a camouflage seat fabric that looks much better in real life than it might sound.
The big analog rev counter and speedometer flanking a large center information display is easy to see. In the Pro-4X, this display can feature specialist information like the angle of inclination, plus an active pictogram that shows power delivery in the 4×4 system’s low range. The 12-speaker/485-watt Fender audio system fills the roomy cab with clear sounds.
The exterior of the Titan SL has lots of chrome, brightening the grille, mirrors, door handles, sidestep, exhaust tip, and the 20-inch alloy wheels. Texans love chrome. The Platinum Reserve has a 2-tone color scheme with a satin chrome grille and tailgate finisher. This is complemented by illuminated chrome running boards and painted 20-inch machined alloy wheels. The off-road-oriented Pro-4X features a blacked-out grille with red Nissan lettering, red tow hooks, black tailgate (also with red Nissan lettering), special graphics, and black door handles. The Pro-4X rolls on dark-painted, 18-inch alloy wheels wearing all-terrain off-road tires.
Standard features are available as a King Cab model with a 6.5-foot bed or as a Crew Cab model with a 5.5-foot bed. The Nissan Safety Shield 360 array of driver aids is standard, as well as rear automatic braking, automatic on/off headlights, trailer sway control, Bluetooth, USB port, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. An 8-inch display is standard in the S trim, but the Pro-4X, SL, and Platinum Reserve versions have an impressive 9-inch touchscreen with WXGA resolution.
Nissan Connect is also included, allowing over-the-air software updates plus several safety and security features. Other than that, the S trim is basic, with air conditioning, 4-way annually adjustable front seats, 18-inch steel wheels, and a 6-speaker audio system.
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What’s New: 2021 Lexus GX 460
• Available Premium Plus packages
• Silver 18-inch wheels available on Premium and Premium Plus packages
• Heated Wood-trimmed Steering Wheel available on Premium and Premium Plus packages
• Acoustic front side glass on all models
• Amazon Alexa compatibility
Versatility best describes the luxurious three-row GX. It’s not only engineered for all kinds of terrain including extreme off-road conditions, it also displays exceptional craftsmanship throughout and offers seating for up to seven passengers. The Premium Plus packages include GX Premium features and Navigation Package, plus third row power seats and a Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 330-watt Premium Surround Sound Audio System.
Command the City and the Weekend
A dual-purpose luxury vehicle, GX 460 can go from a short work commute to a long family vacation deep in the Rocky Mountains. Every GX is powered by a 301-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 producing 329 lb.-ft. of peak torque. Combine that with a 6,500-lb. towing capacity, and you’ve got an ideal boat hauler. Towing is aided with Trailer Sway Control, a function of the Vehicle Stability Control that enhances straight-line tracking.
Evocative at Every Touch
Every GX comes from the hands of masters. The interior leather trim is carefully selected from around the world, and only a fraction is considered worthy. The available semi-aniline leather trim, offered in a striking Rioja Red, is dyed all the way through, unlike leathers with conventional surface dyes. The available Gray Sapele wood trim adds another level of refinement. It marries the natural expression of fine wood with the clean sophistication of brushed aluminum by layering the juxtaposing materials – laser technology engraves the wood surface to reveal the delicate metallic lines underneath. Heated and ventilated front seats are available as a standalone option for the base model and are standard on Premium and Luxury models. In the Sport Design Package for Premium and Luxury trims, captain’s chairs comprise the second-row seating. With an intuitive, three-spoke steering wheel featuring convenient controls, plus an available three-zone climate control to personalize temperature settings, the 2021 GX provides a memorable first-class experience.
Embracing a sophisticated design all its own, the muscular GX features an imposing stance, a modern front fascia with standard Premium Triple-Beam LED headlamps, and available 19-inch wheels and more. New for 2021, silver 18-inch wheels are available on Premium and Premium Plus packages. The GX comes in six vibrant exterior colors — Starfire Pearl, Atomic Silver, Nebula Gray Pearl, Nightfall Mica, Black Onyx and Claret Mica. The GX interior is available in the following four colors: Black, Sepia, Ecru, and Rioja Red with black headliner.
Engineered to Explore
Utilizing the technology of the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), the GX enhances handling and ride comfort by helping to keep the vehicle level in both on and off-road conditions. When the GX encounters an uneven surface, one compressed cylinder causes fluid to flow to the other cylinder, helping the vehicle to keep all four wheels on the ground. The system works without any action needed by the driver. Another asset of the GX for on-road smoothness is the available Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). The AVS uses electronically controlled dampers that adjust to road surface conditions. The driver can tailor the ride by selecting from Normal, Sport, or Comfort modes.
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The 2020 Kia Niro EV is a fully electric version of, yes, Kia's Niro. Kia also sells the Niro as a regular hybrid as well as a plug-in hybrid, but the EV only uses electricity. For power, it uses a 64-kWh battery with a 201-horsepower electric motor that drives the front wheels.
The result is both quick acceleration and an EPA-estimated range of 239 miles. That's not quite as much as rivals such as the Chevrolet Bolt or Tesla Model 3 are capable of, but it's still plenty for most EV drivers.
There's more to the Niro EV than just some impressive numbers. You'll also like itsdriving experience and the roomy seating and impressive amount of technology and safety features. This is one of our top-ranked electric vehicles, and it's worth checking out. Niro EV test car accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. That's noticeably quicker than rival EVs such as the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf, though the Tesla Model 3 is quicker still.
Braking is smooth and consistent. The Niro offers partial one-pedal driving, but it won't bring you to a complete stop unless you hold the steering paddle. The steering is direct but doesn't interpret much feedback from the road. When the Niro is pushed, the suspension keeps the car planted and composed. It's fun to drive this car quickly, though the eco-oriented tires provide only modest amounts of grip. I like the Niro's ride quality. It smooths out bumps in the road without being overly soft or bouncy. The front seats are well shaped and firm. The dual-zone climate control works quickly and evenly, and the rear air vents are a welcome feature for passengers. The car cools or warms quickly.
The Niro EV is very quiet with little wind, tire or road noise coming into the cabin. At low speeds, the car emits a futuristic whirring sound that's required to help alert pedestrians. It fades away above 20 mph.
Kia nailed the Niro's interior. The rear offers plenty of legroom and headroom and there's quite a bit of open space up front. It's also easy to get in and out of. The rear window is a bit small, which can hamper your view when backing up or trying to see what's behind you in traffic. The Niro EV is easy to see out of. All the controls are easy to find and use too.
The Niro's infotainment system is functional and easy to use. There are EV-specific screens that show range, driving data and more, which is a welcome feature for eco-conscious drivers. Syncing a smartphone is easy, and the Niro quickly reconnects once you get back inside. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. There are one data and two charging USB ports and a wireless charging pad.
The Niro comes standard with advanced driver aids. I enjoyed the smooth and easy operation of the adaptive cruise control, especially in traffic. The Niro comes to total storage capacity. It is easy-to-load and the rear seats fold flat. Up front, there’s a lot of places to store small items inside the cabin. Women will love this.
All four doors feature pockets and water bottle holders. The main cupholders are adjustable and can be folded away to provide another bin or room for larger water bottles. It’s easy to install child safety seats in the Niro EV thanks to the roomy rear seat and easily accessible seat anchors. Depending on your route and driving style, you'll probably be able to gain many miles without much trouble.
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The 2021 Hyundai Veloster remains one of the most unique cars on sale today. It’s because not many cars come with three side doors. The answer would be one: the Veloster.
It has an asymmetrical three-door setup with one door on the driver's side and two on the passengers. That quirky door arrangement improves the practicality of this small hatchback by providing better access to the rear seats compared to a regular coupe. It is fun and playful driving characteristics that you expect from a small performance coupe.
The base 147-horsepower 2.0-liter engine doesn't exactly get the heart pumping and can feel strained just merging onto freeways. Thankfully, the optional turbocharged 1.6-liter engine (201 hp) makes the Veloster feel a lot sportier. Or if you want serious performance from a small car, look no further than the Veloster N. In turns and corners, there's only a hint of body roll, and the R-Spec's high-performance tires help it instantly change directions. The R-Spec comes only with a manual transmission, but the dual-clutch automatic in other turbocharged Velosters responds quickly to paddle-shifted gear changes.
The Veloster is sportier than most compact cars, and that means a fundamentally stiff suspension. Even so, the Veloster remains comfortable for driving around town or highway cruising. The ride is composed and stable, and the suspension takes the edge off larger bumps, but the car's short wheelbase makes it more sensitive to choppy roads.
The R-Spec's seats are nicely shaped, offering ample support and side bolstering and plenty of adjustability. Some drivers will lament that the seats lack adjustable lumbar, but you can get this feature in Turbo and Turbo Ultimate models. The cabin can get noisy at highway speeds, especially when the car is equipped with high-performance tires.
The Veloster's interior is intelligently designed and packaged. It makes good use of available space afforded by the car's funky, asymmetrical styling. The long driver's door makes it tricky to get in or out in tight spaces, but shorter doors make it easier on the passenger side. There's surprisingly ample front and rear space inside the car, and most adults can sit in the rear seat without complaint, but limited headroom might annoy taller riders.
Veloster is a driver's car, and the driving position is appropriately low and sporty. The controls are logically grouped and placed close at hand. Overall visibility is good Navigation is available with the Turbo Ultimate trim. It's a basic system but it's clear and easy to use.
The Veloster comes with an array of USB and 12-volt charging and data connections, and some trims offer a wireless charging pad. Voice commands are limited to a handful of functions, but the system responds well, even to some more natural phrases.
The Veloster's trunk is spacious at 19.9 cubic feet, although it relies on a low load floor to create much of that space. As a result, you'll have to lift items somewhat high to clear the trunk opening.
The cabin offers plenty of spaces to store drink bottles and personal items, including wide door pockets and a large center console. Rear passengers need to make do with cupholders and a small tray. The car seat anchors near the surface of the seats are clearly marked and tucked between the cushions.
Honda Odyssey Mini-Van 2021.jpg
Seriously, I couldn’t wait to sit in the seat of the 2021 Honda Odyssey. I literally begged the manufacturers to let me test drive it and now that I’m experiencing its mobility, I am very happy to report my wonderful drive time experience to my readers, but first general information about the vehicle.
• Honda finished 2020 as the retail #4 brand in America, with solid contributions from passenger cars and light trucks, without heavy use of incentives, which remain among the lowest in the industry.
• Honda is the #1 brand with first-time, Millennial, Gen Z, and multicultural buyers, while Civic and Accord are the #1 & 2 cars, CR-V the #1 CUV and Odyssey the #1 minivan with under-35 buyers.
• Honda SUVs continue in 2020 as top retail players: CR-V is the overall retail #2 SUV/CUV; Pilot and HR-V are #3 retail models in their segment.
• Odyssey finished ‘20 as the retail #1 minivan in America, a position it has held for 11 straight years.
• Odyssey captured nearly 40% (39%) of all retail minivan sales in 2020.
• Refreshed exterior design plus new utility and available luxury refinements inside.
• Standard Rear Seat reminder is integrated with CabinWatch® camera on upper trims.
• Honda Sensing®, standard on all trims. Adds more capabilities.
• Redesigned 2nd-row MagicSlide™ outboard seats fold almost flat for easier removal.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey is the newest version of an award-winning minivan. It has collected accolades for things like best family vehicle and best resale values. The 2021 Odyssey keeps these qualities and then goes further. What I liked most was the roominess. Leg room, arm room and body room was top notch. It did not feel too tight. I felt very comfortable.
More standard safety equipment to the entry-level LX trim, LED headlights for every model and a new rear-seat reminder feature is standard. In the top Elite trim, this reminder can work together with the CabinWatch camera.
The 2021 Odyssey has a HondaVac vacuum cleaner. While its name may suggest that it will turn the next family road trip into a grand adventure, the 2021 Honda Odyssey is far more likely to be appreciated for its day-to-day practicality. Its spacious and reconfigurable interior is perfect for hauling kids, cargo, or both and it offers a collection of inventive features that are intended to make family life a little easier. My drive time experience was pleasant and silky-smooth. The V-6 engine pulls solid for highway merging and passing. Honda Odyssey safety features are standard on the Odyssey lineup.
New headlamps flank a modified front grille while slight adjusts have been made to the rear liftgate. The interior of the swanky Elite model is now fancier thanks to leather upholstery with contrasting seat piping and stitching. Odysseys has other nice enhancements such as piano black trim, revised climate controls, and new floor mats. The line-up includes adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Responsive, efficient, and polished, the Odyssey's powertrain requires zero compromises. The Odyssey changes direction sharply, and from behind the wheel it's easy to forget you're handling a three-row van. You are going to love driving this vehicle. The steering is direct, and the effort is light. Odyssey is the best-driving minivan, and its agility makes it competent in corners and easy to drive on narrow roads. It’s 19-inch wheels are standard, and the Odyssey displays a comfortable ride. I can’t imagine any of its passengers moaning about the comfort. I suggest you consider this vehicle if you’re looking for a minivan experience that’s quite grand.
Honda Accord Hybrid 2021.jpg
Did I tell you that my first car was a 1998 Honda Accord that I still own and fight daily not to sell. Strangers knock on my door daily asking if I want to sale my Honda. I must admit it’s hard to part with. It still runs great, not counting the bumps and bruises acquired from my daughter when she was learning to drive a stick shift. Still my Honda Accord is my baby, and I can’t let her go…. But here the story of today. I’m test driving a Honda Accord Hybrid. Fate has brought us together. I’m so excited.
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is here, and the new model looks good. A hybrid powertrain is a must nowadays, and Accord Hybrid delivers improved performances and fuel efficiency. It is a fun-to-drive sedan that competes with Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. It provides more than enough power, and its ride quality is fantastic. The cabin is quiet and pleasing.
The design language of the new 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid is a carryover in terms of design. The mid-size sedan comes with a refreshed look, and it features sweeping roofline. Thanks to that, Accord looks sporty, and it makes a standout in the segment. The 2021 Accord are visually the same as the 2020, but some parts look unique and more distinctive. I really like the looks. It is a recognizable design language with futuristic LED headlights and modern grille.
The Honda Accord rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, and the customers can buy optional 18-inch or 19-inch rims. Sport trim is in the offer once again. While it does not improve performances, I like the Accord Sport which adds plenty of sporty features, and it comes with lower ride height.
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid introduces a couple of updates inside the cabin. The mid-size sedan offers a modern and spacious interior. I like that the Accord offers class-leading figures in terms of cargo capacity. There is room for five passengers, and the rear section can easily accommodate the adults. I have a couple of grandchildren who likes their space, so this is perfect for them. The hybrid version won’t depart from the gasoline-powered Accord. The interior room is the same and Accord is available in numerous trim levels.
The base trim level comes with a standard 7-inch touchscreen that’s easy on the eyes and is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The new infotainment system is available, and the dashboard remains simple. Lastly, the base LX trim level offers numerous driver-assistance aids. Some are offered as standard, including lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. You can’t go wrong with these features.
The 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid engine delivers more power and improved fuel efficiency. The hybrid system includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, combined with two electric motors and battery pack. The regular model delivers 143 hp and 129 lb.-ft of torque. However, a hybrid variant will produce up to 212 horsepower and 232 lb.-ft of torque. It is a significant improvement in terms of power, but the best part of the upcoming sedan is its mileage. According to various reports, Accord Hybrid will deliver around 48 mpg combined. A front-wheel-drive setup is standard, along with the E-CVT automatic transmission.
While the regular Accord starts at around $24,000, new 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid will cost around $30,000. To compare, the range-topping Touring trim costs $38,000. There are five trim levels. I think you’ll love the Honda Accord Hybrid. I sure do.
Ford Bronco Badlands.jpg
The Badlands vehicle is equipped for adventure. Aside from a limited run of First Edition models, it's the most expensive of the Sport's five available trim levels and the best performer, both on and off road. At $34,315 to start, it costs $6000 more than the base model and brings a long list of upgrades. A turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque resides under its hood, replacing the 181-hp turbocharged three-cylinder that powers the Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board.
Badlands models also get unique suspension tuning with about an inch more ground clearance than lesser trims. To cope with the additional weight of the four-cylinder, taller and slightly stiffer springs are fitted, as are front dampers with hydraulic rebound stops for soaking up harsh, full-jounce impacts. Ford claims that the Badlands's 7.4 inches of wheel travel is the best in its class. With 8.8 inches of ground clearance, the Badlands has a hair more clearance than a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. To gain a few extra millimeters of space, Ford's engineers tucked the Sport's exhaust system up closer to the floor pan. Its 30.4-degree approach angle is also better than the Jeep's, although the Cherokee offers slightly better breakover and departure angles.
All-wheel drive is standard on all Bronco Sports, but the Badlands features a torque-vectoring rear differential that borrows tech from the Focus RS. Its Terrain Management System also expands from five modes to seven, gaining Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl settings. Although its dampers are passive units, the drive programs alter the tuning of the throttle, transmission, brake response, steering effort, and the all-wheel-drive system for the chosen conditions.
Also included on the Badlands are skid plates for the powertrain and fuel tank, an off-road cruise-control-like system that works up to 20 mph, a front-facing camera, front tow hooks, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and 28.5-inch-tall all-terrain tires. Pirelli Scorpio A/Ts are standard, but our test vehicle wore optional 235/65R-17 Falken WildPeaks, which cost $495 and are slightly wider, a half-inch taller, and have a more aggressive tread pattern. The knobby tires fill the Bronco Sport's wheel wells and come wrapped around 17-inch wheels that have a purposefully old-school look. Although they look like steelies, they're aluminum. We like them a lot. A Ford engineer tells us owners can upgrade to 30.5-inch tires without any clearance problems, but 31s won't fit without increasing the height of the suspension.
Even better, the tires' off-road credentials don't impede the Sport's on-road stopping ability. In our 70-mph-to-zero braking test, the Bronco came to a halt in a curt 163 feet. That beats everything but the Escape from our recent comparison test of six compact crossovers. Unfortunately, our Michigan skid pad was covered with snow, so we can't comment on the Falkens' lateral grip capability.
Balancing Comfort and Capability
Ford says it had this vehicle in mind when it designed its C2 platform, making additional reinforcement to the structure unnecessary. Torsional rigidity is the same as in the Escape, and it lends the Bronco Sport a solid feel. Making the Sport capable of safely fording nearly two feet of water required only slight modifications to the engine's air-intake plumbing and fitting more robust bottom door seals.
The Sport's 105.1-inch wheelbase is 1.6 inches shorter than the Escape's, which both improves its breakover angle and gives it a stockier stance. In the metal, its boxy silhouette, slab body sides, and muscular wheel-well flares give it presence, but it's smaller than it looks—8.0 inches shorter than the Escape and essentially the same size as the Jeep Compass except that the Bronco is six inches taller. Our only aesthetic complaint is the integration of its backup camera, which appears glued to the rear hatch as an afterthought. The Bronco Sport feels bigger on the road than it is, thanks to its ample headroom, heavily weighted steering, and firm ride. It feels substantial and rather truck-like in how its suspension translates a significant amount of road texture to your backside. Highway expansion joints kick you up out of the seat.
Acura TLX .jpg
With the all-new 2021 TLX, Acura hopes to recapture some of its old sedan magic. And with slick looks, a healthy dose of tech and -- most importantly -- better on-road manners, the new TLX is nicely positioned to do just that. Acura has been upping their game and recently announced more than one new addition to their lineup. This is an auto brand on the move. We were lucky enough to test out the 2021 Acura TLX A-Spec recently, and as the sports sedan goes, they’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. Coupled with the arrival of the much-anticipated MDX SUV early in 2021, Acura is planning a real market shakeup.
Snapshot of the 2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD A-SPEC
• Price: $37,500 - $48,300.
• Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo
• Power/Torque: 272hp/280 lb-ft
• Transmission: 10-speed automatic
• Drivetrain: FWD, optional SH-AWD
Exterior Design: Just Can’t Get Enough!
To be clear, this TLX isn’t just some minor facelift. This is an all-new Acura TLX model rebuilt from the ground up. As the company builds up its brand and selection, it's reimagining its signature models and reforming them for a new era of business. Overall, it’s about 2.9 inches longer than previous models, as well as wider and lower with a far sportier look. This one makes the 2019 model look boxy and even frumpy by comparison. The hints of athleticism are everywhere you look, the angular lines, slight droop at the front of the hood, the lower roofline, and the wide rectangular dual exhausts. It’s all there for the taking, and we were thrilled with the look. There’s no way that competition at BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz aren’t looking at this kind of competition and becoming a little concerned. The new TLX can give any of them a run for their money in looks, but also in performance.
Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and a Top-Notch Chassis
Two of the biggest highlights that we noticed in the TLX are the SH-AWD system, and the redesigned and excellently tuned chassis. The potent combination creates a great feeling of control and agility, as well as a comfortable, fun ride. The SH-AWD system moves power between the wheels so seamlessly that you feel you never lose even an iota of traction. Acura is once again proving that they do know what they’re doing with the sports sedan class.
Where others are shifting to an all-modern and all-digital look for the interior, Acura is preserving some of the more charming old-world elements and fusing them with a contemporary look. The instrument cluster features sporty analog gauges, but there’s also a rather fetching 10.5” infotainment system with touchpad control (works very well) and a stylish rotary drive mode selector in the middle of the central stack. I couldn’t get enough of the comfortable and supportive front seats; they are the perfect balance of plush and supportive. This is a cockpit and driver view that you can tailor to your precise preference.
Others have whined a little about the smaller rear cabin, but we believe Acura’s explanation is pretty reasonable. Essentially, yes, the rear seating is somewhat limited in space, but the fact is that those who are shopping seriously for space are already pre-destined to choose a crossover or SUV. Your average sports sedan shopper isn’t too worried about not having a roomy back seat. They’re probably not buying it as a big family car!
This new TLX won’t blow you away at the first impression, but it is love at first drive.
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