Category: New Car Reviews!

The latest and greatest from auto manufacturers all over the world. We report and you decide if it’s worth plunking down your hard-earned for.

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

Toyota C-HR
Toyota C-HR

The 2018 Toyota C-HR coulda, woulda, shoulda. They say shortly before it appeared in dealerships as a Porsche, the 924 was set to arrive in Volkswagen dealer showrooms. The 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium follows that same path, in that it was to be introduced as a Scion instead.

No matter though as it now seemingly fits into the edgier family that Toyota has become. One of the smaller Crossovers in the Toyota lineup, it’s a sharply creased, curvy round, futuristic-styled turn on a high-riding (well maybe not very high) hatchback that can answer several needs that maybe you might not have realized to this point.

Limited Power.

Toyota C-HR
Toyota C-HR

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is powered by a singular 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). There is no all-wheel-drive option.

Eighteen-inch wheels are standard offerings for this model, with automatic headlights, auto high-beams, and LED daylight running lights. Our two-tone, radiant green and iceberg-painted (turquoise and white?) C-HR is relatively well equipped, although for just a few more shekels, you can have the C-HR XLE Premium instead, which added fog lights, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats (a great idea in Florida!) and driver’s side two-way power lumbar support. Finally, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert complete the package which we think is a better, more complete offering than the base C-HR XLE model.

The interior is a hodge-podge of textures and features that work for the most part. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, and features a bit of hard plastic combined with fabric seats and a rather straightforward gear shift selector. This Toyota C-HR has a nice shape and continuity to the dashboard orienting itself towards the driver, although we have a bone to pick with the audio head unit that seems as though it was taken off the shelf from a soon to be out of business car audio installer.

And yes, we know how all you millennial’s like apps. But that doesn’t mean we like to see apps on our in-car entertainment. Instead of burying navigation and other functions within the menu, why not just have a button on the face of the unit that says Navi? Or Maps. You managed to put an icon of a telephone handset on the face of the unit, why not some other shortcuts? Speaking of apps and telephones, at this point in time, the C-HR is still lacking Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Buyers will likely also check out the Buick Encore, Nissan Juke, and Hyundai Kicks when shopping this segment.

The rear seat is somewhat cavern-like in that shorties will likely fall deep into the seats and not be able to see out the windows. It can comfortably carry two and in a pinch squeeze a third person into the second row but for all intents and purposes we consider the C-HR more of an urban lifestyle vehicle than a suburban kid hauler and utility vehicle. So instead why not just fold down the rear seats and use it as a medium-sized crossover vehicle instead.

Toyota C-HR
Toyota C-HR

The C-HR includes a standard 7.0-inch audio display screen, adaptive cruise control, 10 airbags, dual zone climate control 18-inch wheels and Bluetooth. Step up a few dollars more and get the Premium model with push-button start, keyless entry, a blind spot monitoring system, folding mirrors and heated seats.

Drive Time.

We liked the way the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium looks and handles, but not so much how it moves. That is our big fall down in the car overall. We actually like the way the Toyota C-HR handled. It doesn’t have much power, especially when you consider that this non-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine only produces 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque. It sends its traction to the front-wheel-drive transaxle via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which, when judged by a strictly seat-of-the-pants feel, gives the impression that it is both noisy, and slow. Particular moves, while in traffic, need to be planned deliberately, unless you’ve had designs all along on being the hood ornament of the big 18-wheeler that is rapidly filling up your rear-view mirror.

We find there’s an excessively high amount of noise that works its way into the cabin. It’s not that it’s unexpected, but it’s something that seems to be lacking in some of the C-HR’s competition.

Drive with ease and you will all be ok.

 

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

Cylinders:                                   I4

Displacement:                          2.0-liters

Power:                                        144 hp @ 6100 rpm

Torque:                                      139 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm

Fuel:                                           Regular

Drive Type                                FWD

Gearbox:                                  CVT

Tire Size:                                  225/50R18

Unladen Weight:                   3,300-pounds

Length:                                    171.2-inches

Width:                                     70.7-inches

Height:                                     61.6-inches

Wheelbase:                              103.9-inches

Cargo Volume:                      19.0 cubic feet rear seat up

36.4 cubic feet rear seat folded

City:                                           27

Highway:                                  31

Combined:                               29

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”117″ gal_title=”2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium”]

 

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2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD Review

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD Review

2018 Kia Stinger GT2

Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler

Back in the day, when General Motors was King, Chevrolet was their bread and butter brand while Pontiac was “where the action was.” At the Hyundai Group, we think it’s appropriate to consider Hyundai Motors in the Chevrolet role while Kia is “where the action is,” as seen with their new 2018 Kia Stinger GT2. Why, the action is so here that even Steven Tyler and Emerson Fittipaldi are interested!

The Upselling of an image.

kia stinger gt2
kia stinger gt2

As has been mentioned more than 10,000 times on the Internet already, the Kia Stinger GT2 is based on the Kia GT concept car that debuted at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Impressed for sure, it merely showed some ideas that were bouncing around the design studio. Jet forward seven years and what we actually got Instead looks like a huffed-up version of the Kia Optima, with a steroid supplier on speed dial.

With a Kia Optima parked side-by-side with our Stinger tester, it is clear that they only share a passing familial resemblance, which included the familiar tiger-nose treatment at the grille. While the Optima is a front drive vehicle, the Stinger is a rear- or all-wheel-drive (AWD) Grand Touring machine. Oh, did we mention it has a liftback? So right from the get-go it’s the anti-SUV.

kia stinger gt2
kia stinger gt2

Walking around the vehicle, we notice the wide under-bumper intake for the intercooler flanked by vertical intakes for the air curtains to help trim the airflow over the front wheel wells. There is a lot of detail to like in the LED headlight area which leads to a character line stretching from the front to the rear, ending at the slightly upturned spoiler/deck/trunk lid. There are interesting doo-dads throughout, but we think the side gills tend to fussy things up, where they don’t need fussying up. Along the way, we notice design inspiration from vehicles like the Audi A5, BMWs 4series Gran Sport and even the Jaguar XF sedan.

Trimmed out.

The 2018 Kia Stinger is available in five trim levels starting with Base, Premium, GT, GT1 and highline GT2 models. Of course, we lucked out with the GT2 version (cue the smug grin). We loved the Hichroma Red metallic paint which set off our black Nappa Leather interior nicely.

kia stinger gt2
kia stinger gt2

The interior trim was a step up over anything we have seen in Kias past, and although it looked as though lifted from the interior of an early 2000-era Mercedes Benz sedan, it was nice but not ostentatious.

Being the GT2, that meant that the Stinger was dripping with every possible option from the Kia parts bin including the 3.3-liter twin turbocharged V6 engine that produced 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. That engine, which it shares with the new Hyundai G70, seemed perfectly matched to this five-door, five-passenger Grand Touring sedan that somehow managed to tip the scales at nearly 4000 pounds.

Under the hood.

kia stinger gt2
kia stinger gt2

Although the Stinger’s base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, twin scroll turbo engine producing 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, the Stinger really cries out for the 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 that was in our tester. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Our GT2 was equipped with an electronically controlled suspension which adapted on the fly to a specified a drive mode which included Smart, Eco, Comfort and Sport along with custom, which allowed you to pick one from column A, one from column B and so on.

The View from others.

It seemed that the general public got the advanced notice that the Kia Stinger GT2 would be arriving soon. Perhaps that’s why we had so many comments from onlookers, enthusiasts, car salesmen and just regular man on the street types who usually were heard to utter, “that’s a Kia?” We’d nod yes, and acknowledge their polite thumbs up signal with a quick wave before we were off.

Behind the wheel.

Hoofing away from a stoplight had us suddenly pushed back into the adjustable bolstered seats that managed to keep us settled as the skinny pedal unleashed the 365 horses up front. Power continued to pour out from the twin turbo V6, accompanied by a lusty brrrrrrrrrrrrrp from the quad pipes out back. This was like no other Kia we have ever driven.

Stepping into the sport mode found the Stinger holding tight through the turns in a way that almost brought a flashback of what it was truly like to driver a real rear wheel car. Oh, how we miss that! The steering was firm but not overly so, which made us feel as though we were in control at every moment. Kudos, too, to the paddle shift levers that control the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Stinger felt planted, allowing us to apply power whenever we wanted. When we tired of driving in anger, or when the spousal unit told us to quit hooning and cool it, we were just satisfied to absorb the quietness that came from a well-designed and insulated interior.

Something Special.

From the moment we got into the Stinger, it was clear that we were settling into something special. It was a way of showing that the brand had finally arrived. Many years ago, Kia was what you could charitably call a brand of last resort. Somewhere along the way, a “come to Jesus” moment happened in Seoul, with someone saying “we are done being the laughing stock of the automotive industry.”

The result was transformational, and through the stewardship of such industry “lumineers” like Kia president and chief designer, Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors Europe designer Gregory Guillaume, performance maestro Albert Biermann and numerous others, it is very clear we are not talking about the same company.

2018 Kia Stinger GT2 RWD V6

Story and photo by Mark Elias

Base MSRP: $49,200. As tested: $50,100

No options, includes $900 destination fee.

 

Kia Stinger GT2 Key Specs

Cylinders:                       V6

Displacement:               3.3-liters

Power:                             365 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque:                           376 lb-ft @ 1300-4500 rpm

Fuel System:                 Gas Direct Injection

Fuel:                                Premium recommended

Acceleration:                 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds

Drive Type:                    RWD

Gearbox:                         8-speed Automatic with paddle shift levers

Tire Size:                        225/40R19 front, 225/35R19 rear

Unladen Weight:         4,023-pounds

Length:                          190.2-inches

Width:                           73.6-inches

Height:                          55.1-inches

Wheelbase:                  114.4-inches

Cargo Volume:            23.3 cu/ft seat up, 40.9 cu/ft seat down

City:                               19

Highway:                      25

Combined:                   21

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”115″ gal_title=”2018 Kia Stinger GT2″]

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2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

2018 Lexus LC 500h : Green Grand Tourer?

Do you like being watched and looked at? Being in the 2018 Lexus LC 500h is kinda like being inside the cage at the zoo. People look and point at you along the way. It was a similar feeling to what we experienced driving around our HQ in West Palm Beach, FL.

But, honestly, we didn’t mind.

Because damn it, we were behind the wheels of one of the sexiest shapes to come out of the Lexus design shop in quite some  time. Available in a buyer’s choice of the Lexus LC 500, with a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine, or, as in the case of our tester, as the LC 500h , which is a gas electric hybrid powered by a 3.5-Liter V6 gasoline engine add to electric motor generators that combined to produce 354 total horsepower. The hybrid has a top speed of 155 mph, clicks off naught to 60 mph in 4.7-seconds, and manages 26 miles per gallon city/ 35 miles per gallon highway with a combined total of 30 miles per gallon overall.

And before you go thinking of a Toyota Prius with its hybrid drive system, fuhgeddaboutit.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

The Lexus LC 500h incorporates Lexus’s hybrid synergy drive which uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with the paddle shifters, coupled to a more traditional four-speed slush box which does it’s best to keep the 3.5-liter V6 running in the middle of its powerband’s sweet spot. We are not quite sure how they’re able to do it, but the gearbox is able to simulate the operation of actually being a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Perhaps the engine is a tiny bit thin when it comes to sheer grunt from the tailpipes, but maybe that’s why Lexus engineer chose to pipe some of that noise back into the cabin through an intake manifold baffle on the top of the engine.

The Lexus LC 500h rides on a multilink suspension that provides control by steering handled through an electrically assisted rack and pinion kit in front. An optional rear-steering system is part of the LC’s Performance package for a more-agile steering system. Lexus officials told us the car was more rigid than the LF-A supercar.

As for cross shopping, buyers will likely conside fellow green cars, the Acura NSX, BMW i8, and Porsche Panamera Hybrid.

Looks matter.

The spindle grille, while looking awkward on other Lexus models appears more comfortable here. Think of it as growing into one’s skin. As people reach a certain age they become more agreeable with their outer appearance. That’s the case here as the LC 500h  nose actually looks to belong.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

From the side, it’s a hunkered-down look reminiscent of drawings done in school while we were supposed to be paying attention to math and science lessons. Long nose, short tail, and shoulders that could rival any cut-and-buffed athlete, it is a well-executed look at what a grand touring near-supercar should be. As an added bonus, the hood, fender and door panels are aluminum, while much of the rest of the car is composed of composite material.

Lexus LC 500h
Lexus LC 500h

Inside the LC 500h, are a few hits, and a couple of misses, too. Two well-crafted seats are there with a wide variety of adjustments. We loved the wide view of the high-definition TFT screens but wish they found another input device from which to control it. The Lexus touch pad is not amongst our favorites. And those rear seats? Don’t even think about sitting back there unless you have a chiropractor on speed dial. They are better suited to a duffle or camera bag, or even a bambino in a safety seat. But overall? As much as we like the rest of the interior with its tan finish, we can’t help but think that it is not as pretty as that found in the Dodge Viper before it made its exit from the automotive scene. That car’s Italian heritage shone through with a tan interior from a company that supplies Ferrari. The result? Sublime.

Behind the wheel.

Our drivetime in the LC500h was a tale of both the green and high-performance worlds. A tale of two cities, if you will. Driving around town found us making the most of the Multi Stage Hybrid system with two electric motors assisting the Aktinson-cycle six-cylinder engine.

Acceleration was potent with a slight electric whine that actually contributed to the overall effect, and that wasn’t a bad thing. The car uses a two-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT) that combines with an Aisin brand four-speed gearbox that actually allows the LC500h to stretch its legs more with greater (sports car) feel.

Handling on our test loop found a GT car that felt at home going right and left, and accelerating cleanly out of a turn, to boot. Despite its electric gimcrackery under the hood, we loved the sound and feel of the engine power unit as it pushed the envelope of hybrid performance. As gorgeous as it is, it is not a svelte young thing. We never were quite able to achieve the 30-mpg average that the EPA tells us to expect but we could easily live with the 27.5 mpg that we actually saw.

2018 Lexus LC 500h
2018 Lexus LC 500h

About the Lexus touchpad: We find it touchy, finicky and in some cases downright dangerous, what with everything else going on around and within, and dealing with other traffic. Some items were so buried in the menus that we actually needed to pull over to adjust them.

Still, this is a Grand Tourer that will accommodate a wide variety of driving styles. Available in extremely limited numbers, there is almost a guarantee that you will be the only one in your neighborhood, heck, in your region, who owns one. 

2018 Lexus LC500h

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

Base MSRP:  $96,510. As tested: $102,039.

Includes: Convenience Package, $1000; Heads Up display, $900; Premium Paint, $595; Touring Package, $1,790; Cargo Net, $249; Destination Fee: $995. 

Key Specs                                            LC 500h

Cylinders:                                            6 + two electric motors

Displacement:                                     3.5-liter

Power:                                                 354 hp (combined)

Torque:                                                256.7 @4,900 rpm

Fuel System:                                       Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                    Premium

Acceleration:                                       0-60mph in 4.7 seconds

Drive Type                                           RWD

Gearbox:                                             Multi-stage Hybrid

Tire Size:                                             245/45RF20, Rr: 275/40RF20

Unladen Weight:                                4,521-pounds

Length:                                                187.4-inches

Width:                                                 75.6-inches

Height:                                                53.0-inches

Wheelbase:                                         113.0-inches

Cargo Volume:                                   5.4-cubic feet

Cd:                                                       0.33

City:                                                     26

Highway:                                             35

Combined:                                           30

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”111″ gal_title=”2018 Lexus LC 500h”]

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2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

We won’t go out a limb to say the SUV is dead. But we will take a gamble and say that the station wagon, er, shooting-brake, like our 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD, is making a comeback. And for us fans of sports wagons, this rebirth hasn’t come a moment too soon. Walks through dealership service departments show the majority of vehicles on the road and in for service are SUV or crossover-based in nature, with one car for every 10 SUVs on the lift.

But just what is a shooting brake, you ask? It’s a term that was popular in 19th-century Britain. Used by the “sporting set,” it was the name given to carriages and later motorcars that were outfitted to carry shooting parties, along with their long guns, hunting dogs and hopefully, game upon their return. In the case of our Jaguar, the company has modified the name from shooting-to Sportbrake, in a nod to those enthusiast drivers who choose to haul cargo, while at the same time, hauling ass.

Along the way, the Tata-owned brand has joined Mercedes-Benz with their E-Wagon and Volvo with their V90 in bringing an SUV/CUV alternative to this side of the big pond. In they process, the Jaguar also happens to best both of its rivals in terms of  performance and looks.

Power

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

Power for this Jaguar XF Sportbrake comes from the same 3.0-liter 380-horsepower supercharged V6 that finds its way into the Jaguar F type and other brands throughout the Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) lineup. With ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. It is equipped with Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive system for added grip, and with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) to assist with cutting corners in a torque vectoring sort of fashion, while at the same time, helping to make the AWD system offer a more rear-drive style of response.

A lead sled, this wagon is. Self-leveling Integral-Link air suspension levels out the heaviest of loads while the adaptive dynamics with configurable dynamics help to retune the grip and vehicle on the fly. Still at the end of the day, it’s every bit as stout as the XF sedan. Our Jaguar Sportbrake was equipped with intelligent driveline dynamics, which is a form of torque vectoring. The system also allows power to shift back and forth from front to rear to provide the best of both worlds : All-wheel drive from start to rear wheel drive while cruising. Surprisingly at 116.5 inches, it handles very similarly to its sedan sibling,

Stylistically Speaking

The 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD as we tested it featured a gorgeously finished interior with two ebony-colored thrones in the front with adjustable lumbar, heating and ventilation. The dashboard featured a totally configurable screen in the instrument pod then measured out to 12.3-inches diagonally. To its right, was a 10-inch center stack display with the controls for navigation, climate, audio and Bluetooth, in addition to the car’s systems settings. This jag even included an activity key for active lifestylers who bike and swim but don’t want to worry about getting a key fob wet during those activities

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

The roof featured a full-length panoramic sunroof which really opened up the inside appearance which was a good thing with all this black leather that we found ourselves surrounded by. A one-piece polymer rear hatch help the Sportbrake shed some rear weight and maintain a 50:50 weight balance.

The entire rear area is what we would call cavernous, going from 31.7-cubic feet behind the rear seat to 69.7 once the 40:20:40 split rear seats are folded forward.

If this Jaguar XF had a shortcoming, it’s in the controls. We have become tired already, of the submersible drive selector knob that raises to greet you once the ignition switch has been fired. But that’s just a minor quibble that hopefully will be excised with the next generation.

0-60 in 5.3 secs

Our time behind the wheel in the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD had us feeling like the leaper in the cage, because in addition to having a gorgeous red metallic finish with black enameled alloy wheels that would naturally attract attention, we were getting stared at because we were driving what people essentially knew to be a station wagon.

But, oh what a station wagon.

Power from the 3.0 Liter supercharged V6 came on at a relatively rapid pace as the supercharger wound up. It did manage to kick us back into our black leather-covered seats which we actually wished were tan hides rather than the ebony that our car was equipped with. But it was obvious Jaguar designers were capitalizing on a blackout theme, so there you go.

As equipped, this Jag with its integral-Link suspension featured automatic load leveling that manage to keep its composure regardless of what we were carrying. The adaptive dynamics dampers manage to “Read the road,” while we attempted to cut corners around our favorite driving loop. The results were a station wagon, er, shooting brake that behaves like its sedan sibling.

We still never tire do of being able to throw the transmission into manual (M) mode for some paddle-shifting hijinks that had us pretending we were a former Jaguar F1 driver, even though they haven’t existed for sometime now. But we can still dream.

Of course, we think the brand knows this will be a niche vehicle because everyone is still Jonesed about their Crossovers- and Sport Utility Vehicles, but at the same time, when you buy in to the Sportbrake as an owner, you are joining an impossibly exclusive club, that can compete with the Germans, and without apologies, at that.

To which we say, “I think I can hang with you brothers for a while.”

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD

Base MSRP:   $70,450         As tested: $84,815.

Includes:  Firenze Red paint, $565; Black Exterior Package, $360; Technology Package, $3,265; Driver Assistance Package, $3,495; Comfort and Convenience Package, $1,805; Premium Interior Upgrade Package, $2,860; 20-inch Wheels, $1,020; Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                     V6

Displacement:              3.0-liters

Power:                           380 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Torque:                         332 lb-ft

Fuel System:                direct injection/supercharged

Fuel:                               premium

Acceleration:                0-60mph in 5.3 seconds

Drive Type                    AWD

Gearbox:                       ZF 8-speed automatic

Unladen Weight:        4,045-pounds

Length:                          195-inches

Width:                           82.3-inches

Height:                          57.8-inches

Wheelbase:                   116.5-inches

Cargo Volume:             69.7-cubic feet rear seat folded

31.7-cubic feet rear seat up

 

City:                                18

Highway:                       25

Combined:                    21

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”105″ gal_title=”2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD”]

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

2018 Audi S5 Sportback
2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Honey, I shrunk the Audi S7.

The 2018 Audi S5 Sportback is the latest vehicle of interest from Ingolstadt, Germany. It’s also one of those cars that continues to blur the distinction between a coupe and a sedan, seemingly defying naming convention as we have acknowledged it up to this point.

Follow us here for a moment.

When we started this journey, each model had its own name, which when we heard it, instantly triggered in our minds, what it was. A Dodge Charger was a two-door large muscle car. A BMW 3-series was a two-door coupe. Those two examples have given way to new four-door sedans that look nothing like what we remember when first being introduced to them. The same can be said for the 2018 Audi S5 Sportback. All bets are off now as the two-door coupe has become part of a family that now includes a coupé, a cabriolet and this four-door liftback. But it’s quite a satisfying four-door liftback.

As Ordered.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback
2018 Audi S5 Sportback

While the Audi A5 Sportback is equipped with a 2.0-liter TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine as standard, our 2018 Audi S5 Sportback is loaded with a 3.0-liter TFSI V6 engine producing 354 hp and 369-pound feet of torque that pushes power through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. That in-turn sends all the torque, via Quattro, to all four corners of the car. The Quattro system features a 40:60 asymmetric torque split which is variable up to 70:30 bias. Zero to 60 mph, Audi claims, comes in 4.5 seconds.

The S5 Sportback relies on a five-link front independent steel spring suspension with another five-link independent suspension bringing up the rear. It also included Audi’s Sport adaptive damping suspension which is part of the S sport package ($2,500) that also includes red brake calipers and a sport rear differential.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback
2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Walk around The Block.

The Exterior of the new S5 Sportback is not dissimilar in appearance from big brother Audi S7. The familiar singleframe grille surround appears once again. Strangely under this iteration it seems closer in appearance to vehicles in the Hyundai lineup, which is no coincidence considering who Audi’s former design chief and Hyundai’s current design chief is. That would be Peter Schreyer. We know that nearly every story ever written about either the Audi or Hyundai brands includes his name but the fact is that his influence continues to weigh heavily across the industry.

Just above the grille, the hood rises up from its downward lilt, probably a result of pedestrian safety regulations throughout the EU. Sweeping up over the windshield, we are treated to a fantastic ultra-wide panoramic glass roof that can make the cockpit as bright and airy or as dark as you would like. Futuristic LED lighting crisps up the forward corners of the S5 Sportback, and lead rearward with a look that is still unmistakably Audi. In fact, the look is distinctly like that of a fastback A4/S4 variant. The rear flank continues with the crease that is seen on contemporary Audi vehicles today, but what is that we see at the leading edge of the D-pillar? Why, it seems like Audi has appropriated the Hofmeister kink, adapting BMW designer Wilhelm Hofmeister’s kinkiness as their own. At the rear, the S5 Sportback features a distinctive rear diffuser that mimics one found on its Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) road racers, down to a quad of chrome-tipped exhaust finishers.

Shoppers in the market for a four-door “coupé” will likely cross-shop the Audi against the Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG and the BMW 440 xDrive Gran Coupe. The new four-door S5 must have connected with consumers in a positive way: It now accounts for almost half of all A5/S5 models sold.

Inside Out.

The interior of the S5 Sportback is all-Audi. The 12.3-inch virtual cockpit gauge binnacle is a TFT style display that shows off all gauges and styling cues necessary to match the drive mode you have the car set up for in the first place. If engaged, it can also display a bird’s eye view of Google Earth as seen in our photo below. It is matched by a 7.0-inch standing display atop the center console that works with the Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI) to operate telephone, audio, navigation and climate functions and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Since our tester was the S5 sport sedan, it included Classic, Technology and Sport modes that catered to those specific disciplines.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback
2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Instead of the normally gorgeous wood trim seen in standard A5 models, our S5 was equipped with a techno carbon fiber trim panel that was seen on the dashboard, doors and console. We think the carbon look is getting played out already and would welcome the use of a more luxurious open-pore wood trim instead.

Heading to the rear seat found surprisingly roomy accommodations for three passengers or two with the armrest/cupholder engaged. Rear seat climate controls were found on the rear of the center console. They offered surprising comfort during a semi-long road trip across the state.

Drivetime.

Acceleration from the twin-scroll turbocharged V6 was generally strong when in dynamic mode, but really began to sing when using the paddles for more aggression. Handling from the Quattro system had us sure-footedly cutting corners with purpose while putting the Sportback through its paces on our test loop. Zero to 60 comes in 4.5-seconds. Top speed slots in at a respectable (but governed) 155 mph.

We love the ability of the Audi S5 Sportback Quattro system to act like we’ve applied glue to the pavement. The torque vectoring from Audi’s Sport Differential worked well in a variety of situations seemingly trying to shorten the turning radius of some tighter turns. The effort in steering this sport sedan could be varied between comfort, sport and dynamic modes. Our choice overall was to set it in Dynamic which found the steering adapting according to what we, and the road, asked of it.

Overall it was quite the boulevardier, that garnered looks from most viewers. Others were mildly blasé about it, but that’s their loss, not ours.

Story and photos by Mark Elias
2018 Audi S5 Sportback
Base MSRP:  $54,400          As tested: $68,350.
Includes:  Tango Red Metallic paint, $575; Prestige Package, $4,400; S-Sport Package, $2,500; Driver Assistance Package, $1,800; Dynamic Steering, $1,150; Nappa Leather Interior, $1,250; 19-inch Wheels $800; Carbon Fiber Inlays, $500; Destination fee, $975.
Key Specification
Cylinders:                                Six-cylinders V6
Displacement:                       3.0-liter
Power:                                     354 hp @ 5,400-6,400 rpm
Torque:                                    369 lb-ft @ 1,370-4,500 rpm
Fuel System:                           Turbocharged Fuel Injection
Fuel:                                           Premium
Acceleration:                           0-60mph in 4.5 seconds
Drive Type                               Quattro All-Wheel-Drive
Gearbox:                                   Eight-speed Tiptronic
Top Speed:                                155 mph
Tire Size:                                   255/35/R19 Three Season Tires
Unladen Weight:                   3,924-pounds
Length:                                      187.1-inches
Width:                                       79.9-inches
Height:                                       54.5-inches
Wheelbase:                               111.2-inches
Cargo Volume:                        35 cubic feet rear seat folded
                                                     21.8 cubic feet rear seat up
Cd:                                                       0.29
City:                                                     21
Highway:                                             30
Combined:                                           24
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”103″ gal_title=”2018 Audi S5 Sportback”]
2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV

2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

It’s a CUV that is combination grocery getter, kid kaddy, and pet picker upper. And everything it does is performed in a manner that screams “Pronto!”  It’s the 2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport CUV. And it’s Italian. That could go both ways, by the way…

It’s quite the ride, especially when you become so steeped in Italian culture that you begin to think of yourself as il Commendatore (The Commander). I mean really! It might be because we are so excited to see the Alfa-Romeo badge back on this side of the Ocean. So, put on your latest Prada, hop in, and buckle up. It’s going to be quite a ride!

Brass tacks.

The 2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport is, like the recently introduced Jaguar E-Pace, a “tweener,” that bridges the gap between, for example, the BMW X3 and its larger X5 sibling and the Mercedes-Benz GLC which will all likely be shopped against this EPA-classed Mid-Size SUV. It gets its power from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sports a turbocharger to force feed it for more power.

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

Power is either a put-up or shut-up proposition. This engine deals in put-up, laying down 280-horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 306 lb-ft of torque starting at 2,000 rpm and peaking at 4,800. A ZF-built 8HP50 8-speed automatic transmission sends power via a carbon-fiber drive shaft to all four corners for all season, all-wheel drive. For those needing more in the way of oomph, there is the 505-horsepower Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

From the outside, we were impressed with the angular exterior looks that could clearly have come from the best styling ateliers in Milan. Starting with an aggressive lean that jutted forward to the express “eyes” which lead to the triangular shaped Alfa-Romeo intake, the car screams of its Italian heritage.

Inside, the Stelvio surprisingly casts off any apparent Italian flair in favor of an interior that appears much more minivan than master of the autostrada. Embossed headrests bearing the Alfa crest join the steering wheel insert as the only hint you are in anything from Italy, save for the larger than large aluminum paddle shift levers and the steering wheel-mounted ignition button.

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

The center console is marked by a rather non-descript shifter, that we have seen before, and is flanked by controls that change the Stelvio’s drive dynamics from dynamic to natural to sport, while a joystick-style nob takes care of the audio system on the other side. A matrix style graphic panel stretches from right to left across the dashboard and the Harman/Kardon audio aurally fills the space, but we were left a bit disappointed by the appearance overall. Give us some tan Ferrari-style leather, we say.

The cargo hold is nicely finished with strap-in guide rails, and 18.5 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats in the upright position. Fold them forward, and that area jumps in size to 56.5-cubic feet.

Behind the wheel

Despite the interior decoration shortcomings, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio, which turns out to be the sports car among other SUVs in the segment. It did not have, nor through its marketing campaign, display any off-road pretensions, which is quite alright for us in the sense that this SUV will never go camping, mudding, cruising through Baja California or so on. In fairness, even if you found yourself in a Land Rover, you most likely would not take that vehicle off-road either.

While others have complained of inherent problems from this Italian designed and manufactured vehicle, we were pleasantly surprised with an SUV that just worked. No drama, difficulties, or side of the road coffee breaks waiting for Alfa service to come rescue us. Progress, we say!

Acceleration from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder was about average for the segment and provided spirited handling throughout our weeklong adventure with it. We were disturbed by the roughness that appeared with the auto start/stop function, becoming so annoyed that we ended its pain by disabling the option. During around town driving at a somewhat respectable speed, we felt the engine had a tendency to drone on. It was quickly alleviated when we force fed it more fuel. But at the end of the day, perhaps it could be attributed to the mid-profile Continental tires.

Alfa-Romeo Stelvio
Alfa-Romeo Stelvio

Still, the Alfa-Romeo Stelvio is an impressive handler, thanks to its double wishbone front suspension and newly designed and patented Alfa Link vertical rod link rear suspension. It’s quite easy to see why, despite its quirks, it is easy to have an emotional attachment to an SUV, especially when it is known by its “La meccanica delle emozioni” (the mechanics of emotion) tagline.

Bravo!

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio Sport

Base MSRP: $43,795           As tested: $53,585.

Includes:  Driver Assistance Static Package with Front Parking Sensors, $800; Driver Assistance Dynamic Package, $1,500; 8.8-inch Display with 3D Navigation, $1,550; Sirius XM Radio, $350; Harmon Kardon Premium Sound System, $900; Dual-Pane Sunroof, $1,350; Cold Weather Package, $795; Convenience Package, $200; 20-inch Aluminum Wheels, $750; Metallic Paint, $600; Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                4-cylinder Inline twin scroll turbocharged

Displacement:                          2.0-liters

Power:                                     280-hp @ 5,200 rpm

Torque:                                    306 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,000 rpm

Fuel System:                           Gas Direct Injection

Acceleration:                            0-60mph in 5.5-seconds

Drive Type                              AWD

Gearbox:                                 ZF 8-speed Automatic with paddle shift levers

Tire Size:                                 255/45R20 Continental ContiCrossContact LX

Unladen Weight:                     4,044-pounds

Length:                                    184.6-inches

Width:                                     74.9-inches

Height:                                    66-inches

Wheelbase:                            111-inches

Towing:                                   3,000-pounds

Cargo Volume:                      56.5-cubic feet rear seat folded

18.5-cubic feet rear seat up

Cd:                                          0.32

City:                                        22

Highway:                               28

Combined:                            24

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”101″ gal_title=”2018 Alfa-Romeo Stelvio”]

 

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