Tag: Luxury Cars

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 Jaguar E-Pace AWD First Drive

2018 Jaguar E-Pace AWD First Drive

The concept of Jaguar producing an SUV/CUV is already a foregone conclusion that has been met with great success thanks to its F-Pace. So now it’s the perfect time to broaden the segment with the introduction of the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace. Jaguar-Land Rover flew us to the French island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean, which itself is a combination of Franco-Italian style and culture, to sample this exotic combination of utility and performance.

Jaguar calls the E-Pace a “tweener” and we will, too. Tweener in the sense that just as the F-Pace did not directly match up with such competitors as the Mercedes GLC, and Audi Q5, it actually ends up somewhere in between. The same can be said for the new Jaguar E-Pace. It sits decidedly between the BMW X1 and X3, the Lexus NX and above the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA.

But an SUV from a company known for such icons as the D-Type, E-Type and the XJ220 supercar that rocketed to 212.3 mph? It’s called profitability, and with the F-Pace, and now the E-Pace, the brand’s SUV and CUV lineup has nearly doubled company revenue.

A Different Kind Of Cat.

While the F-Pace featured more of a style as found in its Land Rover cousins, the E-Pace is taking advantage of the latest refinements in the Jaguar stable. A front-driver in European versions, we Yanks will receive the all-wheel drive variant with a powerplant from Jaguar’s Ingenium engine series. With two variations, the Core Model and R-Dynamic version, the E-Pace will feature a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, or 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, respectively. Essentially identical engines, the more powerful version uses increased turbo boost to add more to its bottom line.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

Transverse mounted, both engines are mated to the widely used ZF 9-speed automatic transmission that functions with a shift lever or steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. While the front wheels offer torque vectoring via the brakes, our R-Dynamic model offered Jaguar’s “Active Driveline” which accelerates the outside rear wheels in a turn with up to 100-percent of the torque going to the rear axle via a wet clutch. It’s the perfect thing for drifting, if you were so inclined!

Our tester included the optional Configurable Dynamics package, which allowed us to tailor the throttle, steering, shift speed and Adaptive Dynamics system, which varied damper ratios according to sensors that “read” the road every 10-milliseconds (0.01-seconds).

The E-Pace rides on the JLR D8 platform that it shares with the Range Rover Evoque and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Measuring up 12 inches shorter than the F-Pace, it includes an aluminum front clip (fenders, hood), roof and tailgate but adds more high-strength steel than its larger sibling. The steel makes for a more rigid ride, but also increases overall vehicle weight.

Honey, I shrunk the F-Pace.

The new E-Pace appears like its F-Pace big brother that may have spent too much time in the dryer following an intense wash cycle.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

Actually the E-Pace steals some of its big brother’s design cues including the bold grille similar to the other vehicle. LED headlamps and signature J-Blade lighting flows around the outside headlamps for a distinct appearance like no other. The sharp looks continue rearward with “tight haunches” that wrap tightly around, into blade like rear lamps that bring to mind the rear appearance of the F-Type sports car, itself already an icon. Our R-Dynamic model included the full and fixed panoramic roof, which was just enough to allow us to enjoy the surroundings of this Mediterranean sea-based island.

The E-Pace’s interior is conservative, but still all Jaguar. If you have seen and enjoy the controls in F-Type vehicles, then too, you have seen the controls in this E-Pace.

Sport contour bucket seats offered numerous ways to become accommodated in total comfort. A grab bar, similar to the same device inside the F-Type sportscar, allowed a bit of stability for passengers on twisty Corsican mountain roads. But we would offer that despite the fact Jaguar calls this E-Pace a five-passenger vehicle, its backseat was better suited to handling just two extra passengers. As such, we’d call it a four-seater.

Jaguar E-Pace AWD
Jaguar E-Pace AWD

A 10-inch touchscreen display helps to control the Touch Pro infotainment system in handling navigation, audio, telephonic and vehicle controls. Our top shelf R-Dynamic E-Pace was equipped with an available 12.3-inch display that displayed all pertinent controls within our field of view from behind the steering wheel.

And just because, Jaguar has left little details that are what other manufacturers call “Easter Eggs.” You know, those small details designed to amuse the vehicle’s owner. In this case, it’s a Jaguar mother, and her “cub,” representative of the larger F-Pace, and its E-Pace cub. Get it? The outline is seen in several locations around the cabin, waiting to surprise and delight its owner, everywhere it is seen.

Driving Impressions.

The first thing we noticed was the spritely pickup accompanied by an engaging exhaust note from the 2.0-liter inline turbocharged engine. The paddle shift levers offered a great degree of shift control from the 9-speed gearbox. The engine, despite its being only a transverse-mounted inline four-cylinder, is raspy like a turbocharged V6 when pushed hard.

Despite that raspiness when driven in anger, the engine was relaxed at speed, as the gears climbed in the ZF 9-speed. In normal driving modes, its sound managed to keep to a very respectable level rather than going to low rumble or a high-pitched wail. Consider it having a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The sweet sounds from the Meridian Audio system displayed a delicate voicing that allowed you to single out a particular instrument. It became quite soothing after a spirited run through Corsican twisty turns along our sometimes-mountainous routes.

The E-Pace offered great handling with a totally connected feel, which might be antithetical for a semi-tall CUV like this. Credit the new lightweight steel knuckle-based front suspension, which increases camber, and in the process helps minimize understeer. Lighter and greatly refined, it makes for a very responsive steering feel that becomes even stronger in the Dynamic mode. It was enhanced by the active torque vectoring that helped to shorten the length of a curve during aggressive corner cutting.

Taking the Leap(er).

The new Jaguar E-Pace proves once again that good things do indeed come in small packages. Sure, it isn’t the biggest cargo hauler in the segment, nor will it offer three-wide rear seating for a trio of burly man-types, but it will offer lots of fun both on and off-road, with capabilities that will allow you to get wet, dirty, sandy and snowy, too. In other words, this CUV is a “Cub” for all seasons.

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

2018 Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic AWD

Base Price: $38,600 (Core E-Pace) $47,250 (R-Dynamic)

 

Specifications:

Type: Five passenger AWD CUV

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder Ingenium engine series.

Horsepower: 296 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 295 torque @ 1,450-4,500

Transmission: ZF 9-speed Automatic

Length: 173-inches

Width: 78.1-inches

Height: 64.9-inches

Wheelbase: 105.6-inches

Cargo: 24.2-cubic feet, seat up

52.7-cubic feet, seat folded

0-60 mph: 5.9-secs

Top Speed: 151-mph

Fuel Economy: 21 city / 27 highway / 23 combined

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”99″ gal_title=”Jaguar E-Pace AWD”]

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

There’s nothing quite like moving down a major thoroughfare flipping your folding roof, all while moving under 30 mph. Yes, you’re cruising like a boss, driving the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet. But how about when it’s nearly 40-degrees outside. That’s just pure genius!

That genius displays itself through the Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet’s amazing AirScarf that huffs warm air down the back of our necks, while the heated seats massage our backsides to the consistency of jello. Life behind the wheel of this Merc is good.

2018-mercedes-benz-e400-4matic-cabrio-24
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

While everyone else is reveling in how the market for Sports and Crossover Utility Vehicles has launched into the stratosphere (Mercedes-Benz included), company officials made sure we were aware that the brand is here to celebrate the car, specifically this topless four-seater.

The New E-Cabriolet: Beauty and Brains.

Based on the E-Class sedan platform, the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet starts with strong bones and follows the lead of the E-Sedan, which Mercedes claims is the most advanced car ever. This seventh generation E-Class, as overseen by Chief Designer Gorden Wagener, follows his edict that if you build a house right, you don’t need to add many lines of character to it. Such righteousness has given way to the Coupe, Station Wagon, Sedan and now, this Cabriolet.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Much swoopier than others, the new E-Cabrio begins with the by-now familiar Mercedes-Benz star in the diamond-studded grille, which is divided by a single lamella wing stretching from side to side for a wider look. A newly designed badge rests at the front of the power-domed aluminum hood, which heralds the arrival of the E400’s new Sensual Purity design language. Overall, it’s a look of maturity, as seen through the restraint displayed by a lack of sharp edges, harsh lines and other character features likely found on some of its now more garish competition. At least that’s what they would like you to think. Among the E400 Coupe’s competitors is the BMW 6-Series cabriolet and the Audi A5 Cabriolet.

Extending along the flanks, it is evident that less is more. Abandoning the folded look has yielded a more muscular side appearance that traces up to the shoulders over the standard 18-inch or available 19-inch rear wheels. This leads all the way to the LED-encrusted taillamps at the rear with a new lower appearance thanks to the below bumper mounting of the rear license plate. When locking or unlocking the car, the taillamp sequence welcomes you, flashing from center outward when the E400 is open and outward – inward when it is secured.

A full-fledged four seater.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

Based on the new Mercedes-Benz E-Series Sedan platform, the entire car is now almost five-inches longer. Of that, almost 4.4-inches went into stretching the wheelbase for increased space, not to mention road stability. The stretched wheelbase places almost two more inches into rear seat legroom. The width is increased by almost 3-inches. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet is a four-seater with an actually usable rear seating area, which actually accommodates two adults.

Leather is standard, both on the seating surfaces, the doors and dashboard with single-needle tailoring. Newly designed matte-finished turbine HVAC vents recall the intakes of jet aircraft engines and are nestled across the large expanse of wood inlay that looks like it came from its S-Class big brother.

Tech Talking.

The heart of the E-Coupe’s technology suite resides with the standard 12.3-inch display that controls the Mercedes COMAND system. It’s from here that driver and passenger can operate the audio, navigation, telecomm and vehicle settings, not to mention engaging a full massage to tingle from top to bottom during a blast up the ‘Bahn.

If you want a digital display wall, opt for the available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Together with the 12.3-inch central display, it provides more than 24-inches of visual stimulation that operates virtually every aspect of the car and features configurable speedo- and tachometer, as well as cellular, vehicular and navigational displays in the central part of the gauge binnacle. Steering wheel-mounted touch control buttons allow the driver to operate both screens while maintaining complete control of the wheel.

Further down the center console, resides the dynamic select control switch, which offers varying styles of Throttle, Steering and Transmission inputs. Comfort, Sport, Sport+ ECO are all here, as well as Individual, which lets you select settings according to your tastes.

Safety first, last and always.

As always, Mercedes takes nothing for granted in the abilities of their own customers and those of other drivers. Our E400 Cabriolet was equipped with the standard Pre-Safe and Pre-Safe Sound features that adjust seat position, close windows and pre-tension seatbelts, as well as introduce a form of “white noise,” to engage the “Stapedius Reflex” that helps preserve occupant’s hearing when sensors determine a shunt is imminent.

Going further, our sampler included other new safety features as part of the Premium 3 Package ($9,350). They included Active Parking Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Active Distance Assist (Distronic), Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross Traffic Function, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Pre-Safe Plus with Rear Collision Protection.

Of the most interesting, were the Active Lane Change Assist which determined, after engaging the turn indicator for two seconds, if it was safe to overtake a slower moving vehicle. It would then take care of the steering movements to complete the overtaking.

Then there was the Evasive Steering Assist, which hurried us out of the way of a car that did not see us in his blind spot when changing lanes. The system works by adding steering wheel torque when we tried to wrench ourselves out of the way of this meathead. All of this gave us a new appreciation for the ghost in the machine.

The Powerplant:

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet
2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

The heart of the new E400 Coupe is a singular 3.0-liter Biturbo (twin-turbo) V6 engine that produces 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. The latest generation of this engine is now mated to an all new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with a zero to 60 mph time of 5.5-seconds for the rear wheel drive version, and a 0-to-60 time of 5.2-seconds with the all-wheel-drive 4Matic. That’s a one-second improvement over the previous generation. Top speed is an electronically limited 130 mph.

We also experienced the available Air Body Control that provides roll, pitch and heave stabilization as well as a constant ride-height adjustment, regardless of load. On bad roads, it can raise the ride height, and then hunker back down automatically when road conditions improve.

Behind the wheel.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a technological tour de force, filled with driver enhancements and safety features that surprisingly do nothing to take away from driving enjoyment. Starting from zero, we found an eager stable of 329 horses ready to prance from the 3.0-liter Biturbo V6. Steering through South Florida streets found us wheeling it in rapid fashion to get around the excessively slow snow birding drivers, which was done with ease thanks to the variable torque of the electromechanical rack and pinion system.

Power delivery was linear, smoothly – and calmly-climbing through the nine cog gearbox, with nary a misstep or hunting for the proper gear. Overtaking required nothing more than a stomp on the skinny pedal, which was met with a drop in gearing and a nicely transmitted growl from the exhaust manifold underhood.

We experienced the E400’s ride in a combination of comfort and sport modes, which truth be told, provided a similar feel regardless of setting. Neither too soft nor too harsh, it, along with the massaging front seats, provided a relaxing and satisfying excursion through Palm Beach.

We’ll go out on a limb and say that regardless of the fact that SUVs are dominating the marketplace, the Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a very desirable and capable extension of the E-Class lineup.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

Base MSRP: $68,800 (4Matic) As tested: $87,215.

Iridium Silver Metallic, $720; Natural Grain Light Wood, $150; Premium 3 Package, $9,350; AMG line body styling, wheels and interior trim, $2,500; Destination fee $995.

Type: two-door, four passenger convertible

Drive: 4Matic AWD

Engine: 3.0-liter Biturbo V6

Horsepower: 329@5,200-6,000

Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,000

Transmission: 9G-Tronic Automatic Transmission

Shift: Wheel-Mounted Paddle Shift levers

Suspension: F+R Multi-link suspension coil springs with variable damping.

Wheelbase: 113.1-inches

Length: 190-inches

Width: 80.9-inches

Height: 56.3-inches

Track: 63.4-inches

Ground Clearance: 3.7-inches (Max Load)

 

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”93″ gal_title=”2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet”]

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Batteries are included.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Batteries are included.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is nearly the life-size representation of a childhood dream: to have what is essentially a full-size slot car that we can drive around on the street. Except that in this case we are not 3 inches tall, and there is no slot for the guide shoe. Oh, and it’s not as sleek as the slot cars of our youth.

The new Bolt EV is General Motor’s latest attempt to bypass the use of dead dinosaurs in order to make it go. Instead, the Bolt EV gets its motivation from lithium-ion batteries, which supply energy to the South Korean-built GM Electric Drive unit. The entire battery unit, by LG Electronics, weighs in at approximately 960-pounds, and accounts for slightly more than a quarter of the Bolt EV’s curb weight, which is located under the floor of the vehicle cabin. Active thermal conditioning, as used in the Chevrolet Volt, helps to keep the battery at an optimal temperature for maximum life, but in the off-chance it should fail, it’s covered by an 8-year / 100,000 mile warranty.

The batteries are replenished by an onboard 7.2 kW charger for regular charging from a 240-volt wall box. According to GM, power for a 50-mile commute can be acquired in less than two hours. Using a fast charger, the Bolt can receive up to 90-miles of range in 30 minutes. The Bolt EV is complete with an enclosed 120-volt charging cord.

This Coppertop-on-wheels offers innovative charging so that the car will know whether it is home or away. Once it is plugged in, using a GPS location signal, it will know to charge according to your preset schedule. For instance, if you have programmed it to charge during off-peak hours while at home, it will do so. But if it is sensed in a different location, it will know to start charging immediately.

Available in base LT and Premier trim levels; it competes directly against the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV and Volkswagen eGolf.

Inside information.

Our Bolt EV Premier, although green, didn’t feature that same cheapish look found in other “green” vehicles that we have come across lately. Instead, we found a leather appointed interior that was comfortable enough for the long haul, even if that was a 200-mile jaunt across state from Miami to Fort Myers area. A two-toned Dashboard featuring dark soft touch material above over a white matrix design below offered just enough “real car feel” to the overall package. Speaking of package-ing (just work with us here), we were amazed at how big this “wagon” really was, once we were all in.

Chevrolet Bolt EV
Chevrolet Bolt EV

Although it doesn’t share any architecture with others built on the GM Gamma platform, the Bolt EV is built on the same assembly line as the Chevrolet Sonic compact car. It is offered for sale in Europe as the Opel Ampera-E. But this small station wagon, as the EPA calls it, is anything but small inside, with enough side-by-side seating in the front row for two adults, as well as plenty of legroom in the rear. There is 95 cubic feet of passenger volume inside, along with 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and 56.6-cubic feet when the seats are folded forward.

Full driver information is available in various readouts from the gauge display screen, and from the center console’s 10.2-inch tablet-like display. Looking more android than Apple, it offered everything from battery consumption to audio, telephone, navigation and vehicle information. In regards to the connected car, the Bolt EV is all-in with OnStar’s WiFi hot spot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity suites. A wireless charger is located at the base of the center console, and there is an under elbow storage bin large enough for most tablets. Software apps from ChargePoint display a list of types of chargers available in your general vicinity.

How It Drives.

Chevrolet Bolt EV
Chevrolet Bolt EV

Surprisingly well, thank you. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, although weighing half as much as a Bentley Continental GTC, still manages to produce enough torque to snap your head back into the headrest upon launching at the stop light dragstrip. Impressive in its might, the Bolt EV motor unit manages to produce up to 266 pound feet of torque, and 200 hp, for a 0 to 60 time of approximately 6.9 seconds.

We found the Bolt Regen system, which the General touts as providing one-pedal driving, managed to make us feel as though we were winding around a golf course in a Club Car or EZGO golf cart. Forward momentum was constant as you managed to push the accelerator; lift up, and it immediately caused you to lurch forward in just the same fashion you would while on the way to the 19th Hole. It’s just the thing to help give some power back to the battery, while in slower stop-and-go traffic.

The motor sends its power to the front wheels via Chevrolet’s electronic precision shift system. A shift-and park by wire arrangement, it sends electronic cues to the CPU, which in turn does their best to approximate what we would call a natural driving experience.

The ride quality was surprisingly supple, with the Bolt EV being able to maneuver from lane to lane in a split second. Surprised by the actual handling that this wagon exhibited, it was likely enhanced by having nearly 1,000 pounds of battery at one of the lowest points on the vehicle. Your mileage may vary, but we found the car surprisingly, er, car like in feel, response, and tractability.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Base MSRP: $40,905. As Tested: $43,510.

Includes: DC Fast Charger Connections, $750; Driver Confidence Package, $450; Infotainment Package, $485. Destination Fee, $875. Federal Government tax credits are available up to $7,500.

Key Specs

Type:                                                Rechargeable energy storage system

Mass:                                                960-pounds

Battery Type:                                 Lithium Ion

Power:                                             200 hp / 150 kW

Torque:                                           260 lb-ft / 360 Nm

Warranty:                                       8-years / 100,000 miles

Acceleration:                                  0-60mph in 6.9 seconds

Drive Type                                     Front Wheel Drive Single Motor and Gearset

Suspension:                                   Front: MacPherson Strut / Rear: Torsion Beam

Tire Size:                                        Michelin Energy Saver A/S 215/50R17

Unladen Weight:                          3,580-pounds

Length:                                           164-inches

Width:                                            69.5-inches

Height:                                           62.8-inches

Wheelbase:                                    102.4-inches

Cargo Volume:                              16.9 cubic feet

Cd:                                                   0.27

Range:                                            238 (EPA) up to 260+/- YMMV

City:                                                128

Highway:                                       110

Combined:                                    119 MPGe (MPG equivalent)

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”38″ gal_title=”Chevrolet Bolt EV”]

 

2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD

2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD

New ownership at Jaguar is not that new anymore. Tata (makers of Eight-O-Clock Coffee and others) came in and dropped the brand on its proverbial head and in the process, shook things up quite nicely, we’d say. One of their grandest achievements is the latest iteration of their flagship 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD. The ability to go topless has never been more appealing than in this personal two-seat neo-spectacular near-supercar. Sure it’s a mouthful, (with a few hyphens) but please work with us here.

Available in a variety of configurations, the Jaguar F-Type has even helped to grease the skids for its newly arrived F-Pace SUV. But is it really all that? We spend a week in the F-Type R Convertible to find out.

Breathtaking.

That’s pretty much what it will do. Designed to take your breath away from 20-feet, and mold you to it once inside, the 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD is the al-fresco (topless) version of the F-Type that was introduced in 2013. A two-door, two-passenger sportscar, it is offered with several engine flavors. Our sampler featured a 5.0-liter Supercharged V8 engine built by a Jaguar team in a dedicated facility within Ford UK’s Bridgend Engine Plant. In this guise, it produces 550-horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque that is capable of motivating the all-wheel-drive F-Type to 186 miles per hour. Power is delivered to all four wheels, as sensors see fit, by a ZF-built eight-speed automatic transmission and Jaguar Instinctive All Wheel Drive.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

With its instinctive features, the system sends virtually 100-percent of the torque to the rear wheels for a typical sports/performance joint, in normal circumstances. Get in over your head (as determined by onboard sensors) and a center coupler can send up to 50-percent of the available torque forward to help control any possible over- or understeer that may swamp you. Like an insurance policy, it’s not always needed but good to know its there.

Also on board: Jaguar’s Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD). As the company explains, it is capable of sensing rain, ice and snowy conditions on the road and provides full functionality of AWD to the F-Type. Conversely under dry, optimum conditions, it sends approximately 90-percent of the traction and torque to the rear wheels. The beauty of the system, according to company brass, is that it works seamlessly and still maintains the F-Type’s Jaguar DNA.

This Jaguar now comes in five flavors ranging from base F-Type, F-Type Premium, F-Type S, F-Type R and top flight F-Type SVR. The three former are equipped with supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engines, while the two latter are supercharged V8 powered.

While not necessarily in the same wheelhouse as a rear-engined supercar, the Jaguar F-Type could almost sit at the same table. As such, it will be cross-shopped with such legendary rides as the Acura NSX, the Audi R8, the Mercedes-Benz SL and Nissan GT-R.

A looker.

The 2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible, in our mind’s eye, appears shorter than its E-Type predecessor. Still, it’s plenty slick without being over the top. While the Jaguar signature grille reappears, the power bulged hood now features revised ventilation to allow trapped underhood air an escape route to aid in front-end stability.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

Designed at the same time as the coupé, the convertible has taken advantage of engineering that allowed the car’s rigidity to be a part of the initial construction rather than be cut out of it the same time the roof has been lopped off. The result is a car that is nearly as rigid as its hard-topped brother. The sidelines draw rearward in an appealingly swoopy design that culminates in signature LED taillamps and an underbumper diffuser. Oh did we mention the chrome-tipped exhaust finishers? A console-mounted button opens an internal exhaust baffle that makes the engine go from a purring gurgle to a toxic roar.

Inside lines.

With precision tailoring, occupants of the cockpit wear the Jag’s interior like a fine Savile Row suit. Constantly in flux, the F-Type’s interior has seen improvements since its introduction in 2013. While the basic design remains as it did four years ago, it has undergone refinements including updated gauges and other accoutrements. While we are not particularly warmed to the ivory and black leather color scheme, we like the way the seats fit with their adjustable bolsters and lumbar support. We did hear some whining about a hard seating surface here or there, but generally more occupants liked the seating than not.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

The F-Type now includes a standard 770-watt Meridian audio system with Sirius XM Satellite radio and Jaguar InControl Remote & Protect, and InControl Apps. With Remote & Protect, it’s possible for owners to check fuel level, door lock status, set the climate control temperature and even start the car remotely. InControl Protect automatically sends a call based on activation of a supplemental restraint trigger that alerts the emergency desk when a shunt has occurred.

Behind the wheel

The 5.0-liter supercharged V8 is an eight-pot jewel of an engine that offers supercar performance at a not-too-outrageous price. Sporting an oil filler cap with the legend FOMOCO imprinted on it, the engine shows off some of the lingering remnants of the technology swap that did, and may still benefit the two automakers. The F-Type’s electric power-assisted steering offers, for the first time in Jaguar brand history, a more efficient, and in this case, better steering feel than found in any previous Jaguar.

Jaguar F-Type R Convertible

The cabin remains relatively quiet while at speed, thanks to the multi-layer fabric roof, which features a mechanism that can raise and lower in under 20-seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. On the other hand, if the interior gets too quiet, an exhaust by-pass valve can be opened which makes for a throatier growl coming out of the chrome exhaust finishers located within the rear under bumper diffuser.

The ZF eight-speed Sportshift automatic transmission really threw down when asked to, with sure shifts and no hunting for a proper gear. While it operates in a seamless manner in automatic mode, working the paddle shift levers clearly appeals to a driver’s emotional side. Downshifting while heading into a tight right-hander saw rev-matching do its thing to impart a feeling of oneness with the car. It was almost as if you thought about what your next move behind the wheel would be, and the F-Type would execute it for you. Flick the switch into Dynamic mode and it instantly causes a pushback into the seats. Running on bumpy roads did soak up most of the road imperfections but some of them still made their way through the harder than average seat cushioning.

Conclusion

Between the sound, performance and looks, the Jaguar F-Type R-Spec Convertible is firing on all cylinders. Along with others under the Jaguar/Land Rover (JLR) concern, it’s clear to see that Jaguar has a range of contenders in the stable.

2017 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible AWD

Story and Photos by Mark Elias

Base MSRP: $108,250         As tested: $109,245.

Includes: Destination fee, $995.

 

Key Specs

Cylinders:                                         Supercharged V8

Displacement:                                  5.0-liter

Power:                                               550 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Torque:                                              502 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm

Fuel System:                                    Direct Injection

Fuel:                                                  Gasoline

Acceleration:                                   0-60mph in 3.9 seconds

Top Speed                                        186 mph (limited)

Drive Type                                       AWD

Gearbox:                                          ZF eight-speed automatic with “Quickshift”

Tire Size:                                         255/35R20 front/255/30R20 rear

Unladen Weight:                           3,847-pounds

Length:                                            176.0-inches

Width:                                             75.7-inches

Height:                                            51.7-inches

Wheelbase:                                    103.2-inches

Cargo Volume:                              7.3-cubic feet (trunk only)

Cd:                                                   0.37 Cd

City:                                                15

Highway:                                        23

Combined:                                     18

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2018 Genesis G80 Sport

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

Punching above its weight class is always a way to be noticed. Think of the slight schoolyard kid who packs a wallop when confronted by the playground bully. That’s a perfect analogy to the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport.

Now in its second year of production, you may have remembered a previous version known as the Hyundai Genesis. At the time, it was part of a high-zoot tag team partnership with the Hyundai Equus. Both were good, but with the breakneck speed of advancements the brand, and the industry seemingly make, they were quickly surpassed both on the outside and within. In that sense, this new luxury spinoff from Hyundai is punching above, and actually landing a few blows along the way.

Muscle-bound.

Exhibit A: The G80 Sport sedan. It’s a muscular four-door that admittedly shouldn’t show up for track days at your local racecar country club and day spa, but does manage to transport its occupants in luxury, while managing to not squeeze its owner’s bottom line. Oh, and did we mention its 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty?

Genesis G80 Sport
Genesis G80 Sport

Clearly the best value in midsize luxury cars today, it competes against the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class, and BMW 5-series. It is loaded with nearly everything a salaryman could hope for as he climbs the corporate ladder. The 3.3-liter twin turbocharged V6 is a direct injection powerhouse that makes 365 horsepower and a genuine 376 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic transmission that does everything asked of it, even if the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are a little on the smallish side. Zero-to-60 mph times come on in 5.3-seconds for this somewhat heavy (4,519-pounds) lead sled, but it still imparts a sense of power by way of the growl that comes on while added pressure is loaded on the skinny pedal. Quiet isolation is this sedan’s strong suit.

In the oft chance that you don’t speak turbo, the G80 can be equipped with either a 420 horsepower 5.0-liter V8 or a 311 horsepower 3.8-liter V6.

The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport includes nearly every item on the Genesis options list except for the available winter-oriented AWD system, which comes with a heated steering wheel and a $2,500 price tag. A huge standard panoramic sunroof lets enough UV light in to insure your dermatologist is able to send all four of his children to college. One thing we would love to see in the Genesis lineup is an alignment with a major watchmaker for an added sense of caché. Mercedes-Benz dances with IWC. Bentley rides with Breitling. Ferrari shuffles with Panerai. It goes a long way to help boost a car’s bonafides, especially in this luxury segment, where attention to detail is everything.

Genesis G80 Sport
Genesis G80 Sport

The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport is a real charmer, but it’s not without a few minor quibbles. We found at various times the volume on the stellar Lexicon (by Harman) audio system with Clari-Fi would creep up prompting us to reach towards the centerstack for a quick readjustment. Soon we discovered we were riding along with the air conditioning blowing a balmy 85-degrees. That’s’ a result of Genesis designers placing the climate control dials where the volume and tuning knobs of the audio system are traditionally located.

Genesis G80 Sport
Genesis G80 Sport

Secondly, and this might be a bit more subjective, and perhaps a result of not being gifted with an adequately padded gluteus, but to our bottoms, the Genesis interior designers apparently received their degrees from the Major League Baseball College of Seating Design. The seat cushions in the Genesis are as hard as a bench in the dugouts of Chicago’s Wrigley Field (Home of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs).

But does it go?
Power from the 3.3T spooled up rather quickly, putting out almost V8 power with the mileage of something you would expect in a Hyundai Accent. Not really, but you get our drift. While the Comfort settings did the job for the most part, we found the Sport gate to be much more engaging on backroads where we had a chance to see this Genesis unwind. When you hit the Drive Dynamics button to go from Eco to Comfort to Sport, things firm up in the steering and throttle departments. The suspension, whether it actually does or not, felt like it firmed up, too.

Critics commented how audacious it was that a South Korean econo-car company felt like it was time to compete with the big boys. Along the way, there have been fits and starts but they seemed to get fixed quickly as the Genesis brand does not seem content to work things out over the long term.

We find their rate of progress to be part of a plan that includes punching above that weight class, and making a name for themselves in relatively short order. With the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport, they are on a fast track.

Story and photos by Mark Elias

2018 Genesis G80 Sport
Base MSRP: $55,250 As tested: $56,225.
Includes: Destination fee, $975.

Key Specs
Cylinders: V6
Displacement: 3.3-liters
Power: 365 hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
Fuel System: Direct Injection
Fuel: Premium
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Drive Type Rear Wheel Drive
Gearbox: 8-Speed Shiftronic Automatic Transmission
Tire Size: 245/40R19 F 275/35/19 R
Unladen Weight: 4,519-pounds
Length: 196.5-inches
Width: 74.4-inches
Height: 58.3-inches
Wheelbase: 118.5-inches
Cargo Volume: 15.3 cubic feet
Cd: 0.27
City: 17
Highway: 24
Combined: 20

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