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2018 Hyundai Accent First Drive Review: Basic No More

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Utter the words subcompact car and most visualize cheap, basic transportation, but there aren’t too many bare-bones vehicles left—compact cars are now available with features originally reserved for luxury vehicles, and subcompacts are following suit. Despite consumers moving more toward crossovers, there’s still room for affordable subcompact cars in a market whose thirst for vehicles with extra ride height seems unquenchable. The redesigned 2018 Hyundai Accent is out to prove that affordability doesn’t equal bare-bones transportation.

The 2018 Hyundai Accent follows the rest of Hyundai’s lineup in wearing the brand’s new cascading grille, which is said to be inspired by liquid metal being poured out. Its exterior is the latest take on Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language, and it works well despite the 2018 Accent’s small footprint. There are no odd angles and unfinished lines that give many subcompact sedans odd proportions. From hood to trunk, the silhouetted flows smoothly and without interruption. Its headlights sweep back and wraparound taillights, giving it the familiar Hyundai corporate look.

Hatchback buyers will be sad to know that the 2018 Accent will only come as a sedan. Mike Evanoff, product planner for small cars at Hyundai Motor America, revealed that 75 percent of Accent buyers bought the sedan and only 25 percent opted for the hatchback. As a result, only the sedan will be available in the U.S. market. Like the rest of the new Hyundai vehicles being introduced, the 2018 Accent’s body is composed mainly of high strength steel (54.5 percent), increasing its torsional rigidity by 32 percent. The updated suspension features rear dampers that have been moved closer to the wheel, and the subframe is stiffer and door seals are thicker for a quieter cabin.

A revised 1.6-liter I-4 rated at 130 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission is the only powertrain choice offered. The stick will only be available on the SE trim, and Hyundai expects a take rate of 5 percent. Power figures are down for the new generation because the engine has been retuned for improved responsiveness, more low and midrange torque, and fuel economy, which came at the cost of peak output. EPA fuel economy ratings are 28/38 mpg city/highway for the automatic and 28/37 mpg with the manual.

On the road, the 2018 Hyundai Accent drove home a point: subcompact cars are no longer penalty boxes. The small car drives in a way you don’t expect from a vehicle in its class. Getting out of Las Vegas and on the freeway toward the Valley of Fire State Park, the little 1.6-liter I-4 pulled well. It has plenty of low and midrange torque on tap, so it doesn’t feel lacking and had no trouble cruising at 75 mph even with three people. The six-speed automatic shifted smoothly and quickly, going about its business invisibly. When you drop the hammer, it downshifts immediately, putting you back into the engine’s powerband. Sport mode makes the throttle more responsive and causes the transmission to hold gears longer. However, forget that the manual mode on the automatic exists because it’s unresponsive and doesn’t improve the driving experience.

After exiting the freeway, we encountered some winding roads that are more ideal for a sport sedan; however, the 2018 Accent performed admirably. It’s no sport sedan, but it handles securely, thanks to well-controlled body motions, a well-tuned chassis, and Torque Vectoring Control, which applies the brakes on the inside wheel ever so slightly to mitigate understeer. The car’s steering is reasonably weighted but could use a little more feedback. Ride comfort, on the other hand, has been improved because of revised rear shock absorbers. However, because it retains the torsion beam out back, the rear end has a tendency to get unsettled and bounce around over less-than-perfect pavement. The optional 17-inch alloy wheels mean you’ll have less sidewall protecting you from road imperfections because it’s shod with 205/45/R17 tires.

The 2018 Accent has comfortable and supportive front seats and spacious rear accommodations that can easily fit two passengers on a long drive or five for a lunch run. It has a 13.7-cubic-foot trunk, which can be expanded via the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Material quality is good, with padding strategically placed where your arms would fall; however, don’t expect much soft-touch plastics because the dash and the door panels are made of hard plastic. Thankfully, they feel solid and don’t sound brittle. Cabin sound insulation is good with minimal wind noise but there’s excessive road and tire noise on rough pavement and is especially apparent near the wheel wells.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard on the SEL and Limited grades; however, there’s no available built-in navigation system. Hyundai’s integration of both apps is one of the best. Voice commands don’t require any specific phrases and are easily accessible via the voice command button on the steering wheel. The main touchscreen functions like a smartphone embedded into the car, with quick responses to inputs.

Key features on Android Auto include the ability to reply to messages via voice commands, and it helps that the app can easily understand basic speech so you don’t have to get too specific when you use speech to text. Google Maps is integrated beautifully on Android Auto and features everything from the app found on your laptop, tablet, or phone. Waze has been integrated into Android Auto as a separate app, giving you a second map app in addition to Google Maps.

Standard features included in the base SE trim are a 5.0-inch touchscreen, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, 15-inch steel wheels, and a rearview camera. The SEL trim adds 15-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, rear disc brakes, and a second USB port as standard. Limited models gets LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats, a 3.5-inch multi-information display, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, a sunroof, and automatic climate control.

With a generous list of standard features on each trim, the 2018 Hyundai Accent proves that buying a subcompact car doesn’t mean you’ll be driving something extremely basic. Sure, there’s still some road and tire noise, but it’s better than the old car and quieter than rivals such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Ford Fiesta. The car’s exterior is stylish, and its driving dynamics have improved. With all of the improvements made to the new car as well as its long warranty, the 2018 Accent might just win over buyers who would otherwise only consider a used vehicle.

Article source: http://www.motortrend.com/cars/hyundai/accent/2018/2018-hyundai-accent-first-drive-review/

2017 BMW M240i review: One of the best cars you can buy today

This is the BMW that BMW should be building. While not as radical as the M3/M4, or even the M2, the M240i is sporty and spry enough to keep me happy. If this had the M-Sport seats up front and didn’t have the automatic, then I’d say this is a better bargain than the M2. Sure, the M2 is the king of the 2-Series lineup, but having driven similarly prepped versions of both cars, I can say that you’re not getting much more out of the M2. Hell, I’d say that the M240i is the best bang you’ll find at a Bimmer dealership.

Well, almost the best bang. This particular tester is loaded with a lot of extras that don’t do too much for the overall sporty experience. Wireless charging? Save $500 there. Retractable headlight washers? Don’t need those to enjoy driving — there’s another $700. Parsing this down to stripper status makes it an even more attractive option in the BMW lineup; it saves weight and it shaves the price.

The M2 has some more horsepower, but I’d be hard-pressed to call the M240 anything but fast. The turbocharged 3.0-liter I6 spits out enough power to get you into serious trouble with the law. The eight-speed automatic shifts quickly enough to make you think it’s a dual-clutch, but you should still chase down a manual to optimize your dollar-for-fun-ratio. It might be cliché at this point, but the automatics aren’t as much fun, even when shifted by paddles, as manually rowing your own gears.

The rest of the M240i? Well, the suspension is aptly stiff, and without a lot of sidewall on the tire, you’re going to feel bumps. You won’t mind — at least I didn’t. It doesn’t shake you to death like the ultra-firm jobs from AMG, but you’ll feel more connected to the pavement than, say, an X3. Without throwing it on the track, it’s tough to say how the brakes really hold up to abuse, but spirited driving on the street proved them to be fadeless and firm.

You could argue that getting similar metrics from a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro for cheaper makes more sense — and I’d generally agree. The new Camaro is a track star in its own right, and dollar-for-dollar the GT350 Shelby Mustang is more fun than this 2-Series, but it doesn’t give you the same luxe-German experience. This 2-Series is an impressive performer, but still has the tactility and substance of a premium car.

–Wesley Wren, associate editor

OTHER VOICES:

So the M2 starts at $53,000 or so; this starts at $46,000. Would you, I, spend the extra 7 grand? That’s a sixth more expensive, and it feels like a pretty big chunk to me. For the record, the base 2-Series and base 3-Series both start at $33,150. And this M240i is very, very good.

The eight-speed automatic just rips through the gears with the paddles, and though I didn’t get on the racetrack with it like Señor Stoy, it was fun to drive in all other circumstances.

Power comes from the now turbocharged I6 and with 335 hp, it whips this car around with a vengeance, without being as high-strung as the M2. There doesn’t seem to be any dips or peaks in the torque curve and no turbo lag either. Inside the car, you can’t really hear the song of the I6, but flat-out at GingerMan Raceway, it screams.

The reason I might take this over the M2 is the chassis. It’s like one level softer than the M2, but plenty stiff for corner carving and apex nailing. Thankfully BMW didn’t put run-flat tires on it and ruin it. It’s just short-wheelbase, predictable goodness, with no harshness, except for when the city cuts out a square of road for repairs, leaving a 2-inch edge of cement to bang over.

Again, it always comes back to steering feel. This is an electronic power steering setup, but you’d be hard-pressed to guess that after a little time behind the wheel. It seems to weight up at speed, and as you get closer to lock. The wheel also springs back to neutral as soon as you let it go. The Q50 Red Sport’s, and the Q60’s wheel for that matter, just lazily make their way back to 12 o’clock no matter what state the car is in.

The M2 is also very aggressive looking, and there’s something to be said for sneaking under the radar, both figuratively and literally. You should still get the manual though.

–Jake Lingeman, road test editor


2016 BMW M2 Coupe review and test drive

I’m increasingly convinced the 2-Series, in its various forms, is the best car BMW makes today, and the M240i hits a glorious sweet spot just shy of the M2’s competition-focused equipment. You give up 30 hp but gain 26 lb-ft of torque, the weight is about the same and the less-aggressive tire package makes track days a little less expensive, all for a substantial savings. I see Jake’s point, though — the M2 is such a performance bargain, it’s hard not to justify the few grand extra on paper. But word about the M2 has gotten out, and I suspect the price of an M2 at a dealer (assuming you can find one) will have a fat markup. Don’t forget the “S” in MSRP stands for “suggested.”

I was fortunate enough to play with our M240i at GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan for an afternoon, and I can say whatever the car gives up to the M2 in absolute performance numbers, it makes up for in willingness. Set the drive mode to Sport+ and the M240i rewards with near-perfect balance; dynamic traction control lets the tail get loose, but the car communicates exactly when it’s about to happen and responds predictably with a touch of steering correction; apply power and off you go.

Our tester had an automatic transmission, not ideal for track work but with shift times and programming that don’t leave much on the table — it’s as good as any automatic I’ve driven. Consistency is the key here, and our M240i helped me turn two identical back-to-back lap times at GingerMan.

Yes, I’m still left wondering what an M2 would have been like on the track, and I hope to find out in the future. But I refuse to regard the M240i as a consolation prize — it’s too good — too capable — both at the track and during the six-hour round trip to and from GingerMan along the pockmarked asphalt of I-94. The M240i deserves to be chosen for its own merits.

– Andrew Stoy, Digital Editor


2016 Shelby GT350

As a kid two cars I loved were the BMW 507 and the 2002. I just loved them. The first time I saw Albrecht von Goertz’s 507 my jaw hung down for a couple hours. If I remember right the 2002 cost about $2800 in the late ‘60s. I thought that was an absolute steal.

I digress. I agree with the above, this might be the best car BMW makes. It feels so connected and so controlled. Steering-wheel feedback might be the best in the car biz this side of a 911. Comparisons to the M2 are inevitable I suppose and the 240 takes the M2’s speed and feel and response and dials it back juuuuust a touch.

I love this engine. Love it. Smooth and powerful, it just begs to be flogged. The midrange poke is especially impressive and the higher you rev it the cooler it sounds.

The 240’s ride isn’t too harsh, even in Detroit. I was frankly surprised it wasn’t rougher. The 240 felt like a better everyday car to me. Less edgy perhaps is the way to put it. I left it in comfort mode mostly, it performs as its name implies. Set the mode to Sport+ and the M240i becomes nearly the rocket the M2 is. The car’s grip impressed me no matter the mode, or at least as much as I could fling it around on the street.

Back to the M2 comparison, I would say this: If you want to do track weekends, the M2 is probably the better choice. For a fun little around-town car I’d save the $$$ and get this.

–Wes Raynal, editor


2017 BMW M3 quick take: All the details

The M2 might be my favorite M-car, but this has got to be my favorite present-day BMW. It does just about everything right: Good chassis, good engine, great balance. It doesn’t mind being pushed a bit, but it’s not too rabid to be a comfortable everyday driver.

None of this is surprising; we all said essentially the same things about the M235i several years ago. Model-name inflation hasn’t messed up the basic equation, fortunately.

Assuming I was going to go the German route (an American pony car is more my style, but I accept that the buyer crossover is narrow), this is the way I’d go. The M240i may be less of a style-statement than the C-Class coupe or the S5, but it’s a more engaging driver than either of them. And I’m not sure there’s any scenario in which I’d opt for the M2 over this for daily use; it’s simply a more organic, comprehensible car to a non-track-rat like me. Just jump in and go, as quickly as you’d like — it feels comfortable with itself at any speed.

I’d like to try out the inline-four take just for a point of reference, but I suspect it will lack some of the magic of the I6. It’s just such a classic BMW formula…

Hilariously, the 2-Series coupe and the 3-Series sedan are (in base trim at least) within $300 of each other when it comes to starting-price. I know that volume makes lower prices possible, and there’s a premium for two-door body styles, but it’s almost like BMW doesn’t want to sell too many of these appealing coupes in any configuration.

In any case, the closer you can get this one down toward the base price, the better. I do like that wireless phone charging pad, though…

–Graham Kozak, associate editor

 

OPTIONS: Navigation ($1,950); black dakota leather ($1,450); driver assistance package with rear-view camera, park distance control ($950); cold weather package with heated steering wheel, heated front seats, retractable headlight washers ($700); wireless charging ($500)




By Autoweek Staff

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $45,145

As Tested Price: $50,695

Powertrain: 3.0-liter DOHC turbocharged I6, RWD, 8-speed automatic

Output: 335 hp @ 5,500 rpm; 369 lb-ft @ 1,520-4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,519 lb

Fuel Economy: 21/32/25 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Pros: 90 percent of the M2 for 75 percent of the price

Cons: The M2 will always be out there, teasing you

Article source: http://autoweek.com/article/car-reviews/2017-bmw-m240i-review-only-bmw-company-needs

PowerSteering: 2018 Audi A5 Review

Introduction
Audi sure knows how to stretch its investment in a single car platform. Take, for example, the Audi A4’s fertile underpinnings. They form the basis for a diverse array of different and satisfying vehicles, including the A4 and S4 sedans, the A4 Allroad crossover wagon, and the A5/S5 variants in coupe and convertible flavors. Impressively, all of them are desirable vehicles, and each is different enough to appeal to a particular audience.

The latest permutation of this component set is the A5 Sportback, which brings hatchback utility, a coupe-like profile, and passenger sedan friendliness together in a sexy, pleasurable package. And with a starting price of $43,575, it’s the least expensive member of the A5 family.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback photoFor this review, J.D. Power elected to examine the new A5 Sportback. The test car arrived in Premium Plus trim with Manhattan Gray metallic paint, walnut wood interior panels, 19-inch Design Line aluminum wheels, the Cold Weather Package, the Navigation Package, a Bang Olufsen audio system, and summer performance tires. The price came to $52,620, including the $575 destination charge.


What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new Audi A5, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this car, and what they liked most and least about their A5s.

J.D. Power survey data shows that more women own A5 models than the typical Compact Premium Car, and that A5 owners are older and more affluent. The data shows that 40% of A5 owners are women (vs. 32% for the segment), the median age of an A5 owner is 61 years (vs. 57 years), and an A5 owner’s median household income is $179,167 (vs. $153,420).

More than half of Audi A5 owners identify as Performance Buyers (55% vs. 42% for the segment). They are less likely to agree that they avoid vehicles that they think have high maintenance costs (70% vs. 79%), and they are less likely to agree that their first consideration in choosing a vehicle is reliability (89% vs. 93%).

Audi A5 owners are also less likely to agree that they need a versatile vehicle that accommodates their busy lifestyle (61% vs. 68%), less likely to agree that they’re willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (47% vs. 51%), and less likely to agree that they’re willing to pay extra to ensure that their vehicle has the latest safety features (76% vs. 83%).

Owners report that their favorite things about the previous A5 were (in descending order) the exterior styling, engine/transmission, driving dynamics, interior design, and seats. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous A5 were (in descending order) visibility and safety, the climate control system, the infotainment system, storage and space, and fuel economy.


What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the new 2018 A5 measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2017 APEAL Study.

Exterior

This is one seriously fetching automobile. Stand facing it and the character lines veritably emanate from the trademark Singleframe grille, drawing your eyes and letting them linger as they slide from the aggressively seductive headlamps to the sculpturing along the sides.

Thanks to its 5-door hatch configuration, the A5 Sportback allows for a more fluid silhouette than a sedan with a proper trunk, and Audi takes full advantage, installing frameless windows evocative of a sports coupe even though the car supplies 4-door utility.

The test vehicle wore optional 19-inch Design Line wheels, giving the low-slung vehicle a strapping stance, one underscored by serious Manhattan Grey metallic paint displaying a luminescence that emphasized the lines and curves of the car.

Owners of the previous Audi A5 indicate that they’re happy about their car’s looks. They should be thrilled about the Sportback.

Interior

If you are at all familiar with the Audi brand, you know that it’s a given that the cabins are touched by the indulgent hands of a talented designers. The A5 Sportback is no exception, relfecting beautiful, high-quality plastics, metals and wood trim, all laid out in a proportionate and pleasing manner.

It’s worth noting that leather upholstery comes standard on the A5 Sportback, whereas for most vehicles in this segment buyers must pay extra. Audi also supplies a panoramic sunroof and a power liftgate, at no charge.

Seats

For both the front and rear passengers, getting into and out of the A5 Sportback requires more ducking and crouching than might be preferable. Compared to the A4 sedan, the A5 Sportback’s roofline is lower, the rear door openings are smaller, and the ride height is closer to the ground. Such is the price to paid for seductive styling.

Once you’re settled in, however, few people will have any complaints about front seat accommodations. With multiple power adjustments and a good amount of bolstering, most folks should find an ideal perch. Those planning to drive in a more assertive fashion might want to check out the sport-bolstered seat option, which also supplies ventilation.

The rear seat is not quite as accommodating. Although Audi says that legroom and shoulder space are comparable to that of the A4 sedan, the A5 Sportback feels more cramped, mostly because of reduced headroom. Otherwise, two people will be happy with the space, although three people will find it quite cramped.

Climate Control System

Rear seat passengers will, however, be happy to discover that the standard 3-zone climate control system gives them greater power over the temperature in the back. For front seat occupants, the controls are easy and intuitive to use with clearly marked buttons and knobs.

Infotainment System

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation, an optional feature with Premium Plus trim, never fails to astonish the driver with its bright, crisp, beautiful graphics.

Most impressive of all is the Google Maps satellite imagery, rendered on the 12.3-inch instrumentation display screen and providing a top-down view of the area in which you are driving. You can even zoom down onto the street you’re traveling to get a perspective of the neighborhood that most navigation systems can’t offer.

A little less impressive is the handwriting recognition technology that comes with Audi’s Multi-Media Interface infotainment system. I never did get the hang of it, finding it inferior to Audi’s conventional MMI controls clustered on the center console and steering wheel in order to input commands.

People new to MMI might like the handwriting recognition technology, as long as it interprets their writing properly. I find that one acclimates to the MMI’s standard control knob and buttons pretty quickly, though I can’t figure out why Audi still doesn’t offer a touchscreen infotainment system display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection brings even more familiarity to the system.

Storage and Space

Previously, the A5 came only in coupe and convertible form, so it’s no wonder that owners weren’t happy with the storage space. The new A5 Sportback changes the equation with its impressively large cargo hold.

As a result of its sloping rear glass, rather than the angled shape of a regular trunk, the Sportback supplies 21.8 cubic-feet of storage space, according to Audi. During testing, that held a week’s worth of luggage for a family of four.

Folding the rear seats down opens up 35 cu.-ft. of space. While a crossover vehicle will give you much more space for your things, you won’t be able to find many SUVs whose shape and bearing are described in as enthusiastic terms as are the A5 Sportback’s.

Visibility and Safety

Because you ride fairly low to the ground in the A5 Sportback, the dropped perspective takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re coming into one from a vehicle that gives you a taller ride height, such as a crossover. Furthermore, the windshield pillars are somewhat thick and angled, and the rear window is downright tiny.

Good thing plenty of technology is available to assist with visibility and safety, including a standard reversing camera. My Premium Plus test vehicle included a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, along with a feature called Vehicle Exit Assist. That latter feature alerts the driver if a car or cyclist is coming up fast from behind after you’re parked on the street, warning you not to open your door.

Every A5 Sportback is equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, each engineered to keep you from getting into a collision in the first place. If a crash is unavoidable, sensors prepare the vehicle and its passengers for impact, and an automatic post-collision braking system brings the A5 to a stop following a collision to minimize the possibility of a secondary impact after the air bags have already deployed.

As far as crash-test ratings go, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not performed assessments on the A5. The federal government has, giving the Sportback an overall score of 5 stars. Note, however, that frontal-impact ratings measure just 4 stars.

Engine/Transmission

Nestled into the A5 Sportback’s engine bay, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder stirs up 252 horsepower from 5,000 rpm to 6,000 rpm, and 273 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,600 rpm and 4,500 rpm. It’s capable of moving the Sportback from zero to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds, according to Audi.

Part of the appeal of this engine is the delicious, silky urgency with which the ponies are delivered, as if the engine is pleading for a bit more pressure from your right foot. This, combined with a meaty band of torque that minimizes the effects of turbo lag, makes driving this car a thrill.

Delivering power to the standard Quattro all-wheel drive system, a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission makes the most of power by shifting quickly and smartly no matter how the car is driven. It’s as though the transmission is reading the driver’s mind.

Fuel Economy

Many owners of the previous A5 were the most dissatisfied with the car’s gas mileage. Anyone hoping for efficiency gains from the new A5 may need to recalibrate their expectations. Despite the promise of excellent acceleration combined with terrific fuel economy, the A5 Sportback delivers only on half of that pledge.

The EPA says I should have expected 27 mpg in combined driving, but I extracted just 22.5 mpg from the car. Sure, I made a few aggressive acceleration runs. OK, more than a few. Still, this result is disheartening. Perhaps the proper frame of mind is that you can get excellent acceleration or terrific fuel economy, but not both at the same time.

Driving Dynamics

The Audi A5 Sportback not only looks like it has moves, it’s got moves. On both sinuous mountain roads and crumbling city streets, the chassis bore down hard on the asphalt while masking most of the road anomalies. Still, I bet the optional adaptive damping system, available only on the Prestige trim level, would make the car even more sublime.

Note that the optional 19-inch wheels with low-profile performance tires did transmit some extra noise, vibration, and harshness. They did, however, supply impressive grip in turns. Buy them for performance, and you won’t care about the extra racket and jiggling. Buy them for style, and you’ll probably complain.

In the normal driving mode setting, the steering is a bit lighter than I’d like, but it certainly proves precise and accurate, and you can always increase effort levels by choosing Dynamic mode. Slowing is almost as fun as going, as the A5 Sportback’s brake response is flawless.

So, does the new Audi A5 Sportback have what it takes to keep up with something like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is its conceptual doppelgänger? For all intents and purposes, only the most particular drivers are likely to establish a dynamic preference between the two.


Final Impressions
The 2018 Audi A5 Sportback is one vehicle that I was bereaved to see leave my driveway, and for good reason. Audi has masterfully synthesized the passenger friendliness of a sedan, the functionality of a hatchback, the performance of German sport sedan, and the indulgence of a luxury car, all wrapped up in a gorgeously rendered vehicle.

Audi supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 A5 Sportback review.

Article source: http://www.jdpower.com/cars/articles/new-car-reviews/powersteering-2018-audi-a5-review

Shaali Motorsports N360 is a no frills, all thrills sports car from Dubai, for Dubai

With the amount of wealth and the sheer number of supercar-crazy driving enthusiasts in Dubai, you’d think someone would’ve thought of a homegrown hardcore sports car before. A handful of small-volume specials have been assembled in the city, but according to the folks at Shaali Motorsports, their N360 roadster will be the first car to be thoroughly developed and built in this market. 

The N360 is Shaali Motorsports’ first car, and this startup’s minimalist trackday weapon made its debut at Tuesday’s Dubai Motor Show, right alongside cars like the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. And while the N360 shown here is still rough around the edges, it already has the sort of hardware that should make the hair on the backs of driving enthusiasts’ necks stand on end. 

Right now, the car is a track-only proposition, but the company is investigating what it will take to make it street legal.

Shaali Motorsports N360 roadsterEnlarge Image

Shaali Motorsports claims this is the first car to be so comprehensively developed in Dubai.


Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Weighting in at around 1,400 pounds, the N360 is powered by a custom-built 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that utilizes the head from a Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle and features a purpose-built block. The US-made engine is supplied by John Hartley (he designed the tiny V8 found in the bonkers Ariel Atom 500), and it’s paired to a six-speed sequential Hewland gearbox. Output is quoted as 360 horsepower at a sky-high 10,000 rpm. In other words, this thing ought to be seriously rapid. 

(Shaali officials say a Ford-sourced 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder shared with the Mustang will also be made available at lower cost, but it weighs twice as much as the Hartley engine).

The N360′s chrome-moly chassis is fabricated locally, as is the fiberglass composite body that clothes it. The whole car appears surprisingly large compared to something like a Caterham 7 or a KTM X-Bow, but those cars are notoriously tight inside, and Shaali’s car looks comparatively roomy inside. Weight distribution is pegged at 40/60 front to rear.

Shaali Motorsports N360 roadsterEnlarge Image

Minimalism extends to the cabin’s race-ready detachable wheel and shell seats.


Chris Paukert/Roadshow

The interior is as spartan as you can imagine, with a pair of racing shell seats with five-point Sparco belts, a digital instrument cluster and a screen to keep tabs on the side cameras, which act as rearview mirrors.

As is typical for an early-development small-volume car, the N360′s fit and finish isn’t particularly pretty at this stage, but I spoke with Shaali Motorsports co-founders Rashid Alshaali and Dr. Mostafa Al Dah at their show stand, and they seem to understand that more work needs to be done.

In fact, this is the second bodywork iteration for the N360 — the first prototype featured headlamps borrowed from Chevrolet’s C7 Corvette, as well as a markedly different rear-end treatment. This iteration features smaller two-piece headlights and a rear exhaust and light package heavily influenced by the Ford GT. 

Shaali Motorsports N360 roadster

Development of the new body is ongoing — it looks like it could use additional cooling vents for Dubai’s scorching heat, and the company is developing an optional windshield as well as a roof configuration.

Shaali Motorsports is certainly not skimping on components — commissioning their own engine had to have been very costly, and components like the Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes aren’t exactly inexpensive, either. 

Production is planned for early 2018 and pricing is pegged at the equivalent of $120,000 US. That feels steep at this stage of the game, but it may not by the time the car is fully developed. Besides, in a country where driving enthusiasts routinely spend more than that to modify their cars, it probably won’t seem like a crazy asking price for the uniquely patriotic opportunity to purchase something built, marketed, and sold by Emirati nationals. 

Article source: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/shaali-motorsports-n360-from-dubai-suzuki-hayabusa-engine/

Here’s why I still don’t trust Tesla Autopilot

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Tech

CNBC reviews Tesla's Autopilot feature

Tesla seems a bit nervous about its Autopilot autonomous driving technology and now I know why.

When I first engaged Autosteer in the settings menu, I was greeted by a wall of legalese explaining the responsibilities I have as a driver while operating the system. In case that wasn’t enough, Tesla also insisted that I first try Autopilot with a communications executive in my passenger seat ensuring I was ready to operate it safely and correctly ahead of my Model S P100D review.

You can’t really blame Tesla.

The company has encountered serious backlash for the system. Some have blamed it for crashes, others have criticized the cavalier marketing strategy and allegedly misleading name. Elon Musk has also declared his intention to one day morph Autopilot into a fully-autonomous system, and he’s already selling cars marketed as having the hardware necessary for full self-driving capabilities.

Typically, when I review cars with semi-autonomous capability, I add a few sentences under the “driving” section to critique the systems. But as you can see, there’s far too much to unpack with Autopilot. I decided to do a separate article, focusing on what Autopilot does and what it fails to do.

A Tesla Autopilot sensor

First off, let’s nail down the raw capabilities of Autopilot. The system groups traffic-aware cruise control — or adaptive cruise control, radar cruise control, whatever you may call it — with a technology still in beta, called Autosteer. That means the entirety of Autopilot is technically a beta product, which is an important if often-overlooked disclaimer.

Traffic-aware cruise employs radar and ultrasonic sensors to detect other motorists. Autosteer, meanwhile, uses stereoscopic cameras to read lane markings. All of this is stitched together by the car’s computers to map out what’s going on and where the car should go. Throttle, brakes and steering are applied automatically to ensure that the car stays safely centered in its lane and maintains a reasonable following distance from the vehicle in front.

On multi-lane highways, the system can also execute lane changes, without the driver having to turn the wheel, if the adjacent lane is clear and the driver activates his turn signal.

All together, Tesla’s Autopilot then functions more or less like traditional airliner autopilot. The car won’t change lanes by itself or swerve to avoid obstacles, but will simply maintain course.

Tesla’s system is at no time responsible for the vehicle. The person behind the wheel still has full legal responsibility to closely monitor the situation and take control should anything unforeseen occur. Don’t expect to be taking any naps.

An Autopilot sensor on the Model S P100D

Autopilot should only be used on divided highways, as it isn’t yet capable of responding to perpendicular traffic. Responding to cross traffic requires a lot more decision making than Tesla may want to take responsibility for.

It’s also only designed for usage in areas where lanes are clearly marked. The company warns against construction zones, especially after a viral video showed a Model S on autopilot slamming into a wall due to unclear lane markings in a work area.

And because it’s worth repeating: Autopilot is driver assistance technology, not driverless technology. Vigilant and constant supervision is required.

Using Autopilot during a drive to Detroit

First, an objective measure. On a ride from Columbus to Detroit, I found 35 miles of construction-free interstate — a damned near impossible feat out here in the Midwest — to try out the system. I recorded how often the vehicle told me to put my hands back on the wheel and how many mistakes it made.

At a speed of 70 miles per hour, the test took 30 minutes to complete. During that time, the vehicle asked me to put my hands on the steering wheel 19 times, or about once every minute and a half. In that thirty minutes, the vehicle made a grand total of zero mistakes.

At one point, I was cut off by a Highlander and the vehicle quickly and smoothly responded. Many adaptive cruise control systems panic and brake far too aggressively, potentially causing a rear-end collision; not the Model S, though.

At one point, the car did lose sight of the left lane marking. Instead of disengaging, the car simply clung to the right lane marking like a barnacle to a cargo ship. Losing one marking and clinging to the other sounds like a good idea, but it’s emblematic of a larger issue I had with Autopilot over hundreds of miles with the car.

Sitting in the front seat of the Model S P100D

Autopilot is overconfident. Had this been a fully-autonomous car, a best-guess approximation of the lane based on one marking would be the right decision. But it’s not fully autonomous, and it needs to stop pretending like it is.

See, a semi-autonomous system needs to be quicker to call the driver back into direct control. Waiting until both lane markings disappear is probably too late, so when you lose a marking, the car needs to tell the driver that Autopilot is out of its depth. That’s what I’ve experienced in Volvos, BMWs and Lexuses. But time and time again, the Tesla seemed more concerned with looking like it knew what it was doing than keeping me safe.

I continued to test the system on my ride back from Detroit. I went to test the auto-lane change feature, and as the car moved into the lane I noticed a black Tahoe coming up fast. I jerked the car back into the original lane of travel and avoided the incident, but the car never seemed to register it was moving itself into the path of a speeding, monstrous SUV.

Obviously, the car wasn’t getting a lot of good information from it’s rear-facing sensors. And it’s not hard to see why — Tesla uses ultrasonic sensors to detect vehicles in its blind spot, rather than the more ubiquitous radar. That means limited range and limited visibility.

If the car can’t see a Tahoe careening down on its keester, is it really fair to say it has all the hardware necessary for self driving? Maybe once Tesla turns on more of the auxiliary cameras the car will get a better view of what’s going on, but for now I’m skeptical.

It’s worth noting here that Tesla officially calls the lane change feature an advanced driver assistance system, and the responsibility to check for approaching vehicles is on the driver. Moreover, Tesla says the vehicle’s constant reminders to place your hands on the wheel emphasize that the car’s skills are supposed to add to the safety of your driving, not ever fully control the vehicle.

Pulled over for a shot of the Tesla Model S P100D

That, though, is the crux of it all. Skepticism, doubt, fear; these are the things that can kill any attempts at winning over the public and getting them into autonomous cars. Anyone who’s spent 10 minutes on research can tell you autonomous cars will eventually be better drivers than humans are.

But the honest truth is that right now, the commercially-available systems still have a lot to learn. Tesla’s car is flummoxed by bumps, sometimes can’t see lane markings and truly cannot be safely used outside of major highways. That’s not a bad thing, it’s technology in its infancy.

The bad part is that the car refuses to acknowledge its shortcomings. Even when it clearly should, it seems reluctant to tell the driver, “I can’t handle this! Snap out of it and start driving!” Because of this, I never trusted Tesla Autopilot. And I don’t think you should, either.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Our View

We liked the original Subaru Crosstrek — an Impreza-based, butched-up, soft-roader hatchback — enough that it won our Subcompact SUV Challenge in 2015. Now, a second-generation Crosstrek has arrived, and while it may look similar to the outgoing one, it is indeed an all-new car. Sitting on the new Subaru Global Platform that will form the basis of nearly all of Subaru’s future cars, the 2018 Crosstrek is more than 95 percent new. Again based on the Impreza, it’s a compact hatchback with exceptional interior room and standard all-wheel drive.

Go-Anywhere Looks

The change from Impreza to Crosstrek starts with the parts you can see. The Crosstrek’s sheet metal shares some panels with the Impreza, but gray plastic wheel arches, bumper covers and rocker panels add some durability to the look. It sits visibly higher than the Impreza, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

All the changes, like them or not, really do set it apart from the Impreza; it looks like a very different animal, and this is part of what its customers find appealing, according to Subaru. A lot of customers like that outdoorsy, rugged look — even if far more Crosstreks are sold in urban markets than in rural ones. But that higher ride height helps when dealing with broken pavement and the travails of the urban jungle, as well, such as curbs and potholes. And for buyers who are genuinely outdoorsy, the low overall roof height helps when loading things onto the roof rack.







Fun, But Not Fast

Along with the new platform comes a new engine, although its specs will be familiar. Like the last Crosstrek, the new one comes with a 2.0-liter flat-four engine, this one making 152 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. That’s up slightly in the horsepower department from the past model. Though not turbocharged, it does now feature direct injection. It can be mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission (one gear more than last year’s five-speed) or a continuously variable automatic with a stepped-gear function meant to make it feel and sound more like a traditional geared automatic. All-wheel drive is standard for both transmissions.

I sampled both transmissions and have come to the rare conclusion that the CVT-equipped model is the one to have. This is odd given my penchant for enjoying shifting on my own, but the problem here is the engine, not the transmission: My biggest beef with the old Crosstrek was that it couldn’t get out of its own way — it was woefully underpowered with both the manual and automatic. This has not been solved with the new vehicle, as the 2.0-liter engine is still anemic. The engine is just gutless; merging onto a swift-moving highway will be challenging, and don’t even think of attempting to pass anyone on a hill or with a full load of passengers or cargo.

From a standing start, it feels like acceleration can be measured with a calendar. If you’ve already got some momentum built, it’s not quite so bad; the Crosstrek responds quickly when you power through a corner. The CVT is well-matched to the engine, always keeping it on boil if you’re driving aggressively, but you’ll need to be prepared for it to rev its heart out as it tries to deliver what little power it has. There’s little oomph below 2,500 rpm, and it seems to run out a little after 4,000 rpm. If you opt for the manual transmission, you’ll be shifting it like mad to try and keep your speed up even on slight grades. Save yourself the angst and go for the CVT; it’s a much more pleasant experience.

The upside of the underwhelming acceleration is top-of-the-pack fuel economy. The Crosstrek is EPA-rated 27/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined with the CVT, 23/29/25 mpg with the manual. Its 33-mpg highway rating is tops for the AWD class, even besting competitors’ front-wheel-drive models. I question whether anyone will get those numbers in practice, however, as they’ll all likely drive with a heavier foot than normal just to keep up with traffic.

The engine performance is the only blemish on what has become a polished, quiet and surprisingly refined vehicle. Base and Premium trims come with 17-inch wheels, and if you plan on doing any rough-road driving or off-road exploring, this is the combination to have (though you can skip the larger 18-inch wheels, whose lower-profile tires aren’t nearly as bump-absorbing, especially off-road). It’s remarkably compliant on two-track rough roads, soaking up bumps and not transmitting any unpleasant vibrations through the steering wheel. Credit the dramatically stiffer structure of the Subaru Global Platform, which has allowed Subaru to get more creative with its suspension and steering tuning.

On-road or off, the Crosstrek’s steering is excellent. It uses a quick, 13:1 ratio — much sportier than most vehicles in its class and closer to the BRZ sports car than anything else in Subaru’s lineup. This gives the Crosstrek entertaining handling: It’s eager to turn into curves, communicative when it’s in them and easy to control when you get a little over-eager on dirt roads. Just like the BRZ, it’s slow, but once you build some speed, the car’s handling characteristics make it highly entertaining. Maintain momentum in spirited driving, and it’s actually fun to drive.

Maybe You Don’t Really Need a Jeep?

The Crosstrek is surprisingly capable off-road. Subaru included its X-Mode low-speed off-road feature on the Crosstrek for the first time (it’s already on the Outback and Forester). When activated at speeds below 13 mph, X-Mode changes throttle, stability control, traction control and all-wheel-drive settings to let you get out of sticky off-road situations, or descend slippery slopes with electronic hill descent control. I climbed some steep quarry slopes and descended them again with the computer controlling much of the car’s powertrain and braking actions.

It was an impressive performance for a vehicle that’s not really an off-road machine. It has no underbody skid-plate protection, no true creeper gear and no locking axles, plus it wears all-season on-road tires. But if you have to cross some rough terrain to get to your favorite trailhead or river entry, the Crosstrek will be perfectly capable of getting you there.

Bigger and Better Inside

The new Crosstrek’s cabin is bigger than the last one. Nearly every dimension has been increased, and while it looks familiar, it’s all-new and much improved. The traditional benefits of Subaru interiors remain: a very low beltline and slim pillars, meaning outward visibility is outstanding in every direction. This is helpful on the highway but also useful off-road, as it allows you to see over the hood easily when negotiating tricky terrain.

The Crosstrek is exceptionally roomy compared with competitors like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. It’s far more comfortable, especially for backseat passengers, but newer competitors like the Jeep Compass and Nissan Rogue Sport are starting to really challenge it in this department.




Traditional Subaru benefits remain: a very low beltline and slim pillars, making outward visibility outstanding in every direction.

The same thing is true when it comes to cargo space comparisons. The Crosstrek features 20.8 cubic feet of cargo room, expandable to 55.3 cubic feet with the backseat folded. That’s less than the Honda HR-V, which features 24.3/58.8 cubic feet, but the Honda pays for that with decreased backseat space. The new Nissan Rogue Sport and Jeep Compass both outgun the Crosstrek in cargo space, offering 22.9/61.1 and 27.2/59.8 cubic feet, respectively. The Crosstrek’s advantage is in backseat passenger room, where its width gives it a comfort advantage over any of these competitors.



New Tech, But Not Much of It

Like the Impreza, the new Crosstrek receives Subaru’s next-generation multimedia system. A 6.5-inch touchscreen display is standard and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Subaru’s Starlink suite of apps that you probably shouldn’t use while driving. Upgrade to a higher trim and you can get an 8-inch display and add navigation by TomTom, as well.

It’s finally a fully modern multimedia system, too. It no longer looks like it’s behind the times, but for a brand that’s going after millennial buyers, it’s curious that there isn’t more tech in this interior. There’s no 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot for passengers’ personal electronics, and there’s only one USB port in the whole car. Those seem like curious oversights in an all-new vehicle targeted specifically at younger buyers.







What tech the Crosstrek does have comes instead in the safety department, where the company’s EyeSight system is optional. It includes lane departure warning and lane keep assist, as well as forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking. All-wheel drive is also standard in the Crosstrek, as it is in every Subaru except the BRZ. There are also adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist available.

Prices Remain Appealing

The Crosstrek is sized like a compact SUV but priced like a subcompact SUV. Its starting price is just $22,710 (including destination fee) for a base 2.0i model with a manual transmission; opting for the automatic transmission adds $1,000. The mid-level Premium trim starts at $23,510, while the top Limited begins at $27,210 and is available only with a CVT. Add all the options, and you’ll top out at $30,655 for a loaded Crosstrek Limited with EyeSight and navigation.

Competitors used to belong just to the subcompact crossover category, including vehicles like the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Fiat 500X and Nissan Juke. They’re vehicles priced the same as a Crosstrek, but a little bit smaller — some much smaller. That’s starting to change as automakers expand their offerings. The Nissan Rogue Sport is now a very viable direct competitor in size, content and abilities, as is the all-new Jeep Compass. Compare some of them here.

As small SUVs go, this is a pretty good deal for a well-equipped, fun-to-drive, highly useful little machine. The fact that it’s painfully slow just isn’t important to the hundreds of thousands of buyers who’ve snapped it up in the past five years. Now, all the other attributes that made the Crosstrek so popular have only been improved.

Article source: https://www.cars.com/reviews/2018-subaru-crosstrek-our-view-1420697901366/

2018 Ford Mustang first drive: The most Mustang you can buy that’s not a Shelby

When was the last time you heard of a car company making improvements to both manual transmissions and V8 engines? It’s probably been a while. Not long ago, performance machines were commonly equipped this way. But today, as car buffs know, V8s and manuals are fighting for survival. A minuscule 3-5 percent of all cars sold in the US are built with three pedals. Similarly, V8 engines have been dropped from many car lines in favor of smaller-displacement engines. And existing manual gearboxes and V8s rarely receive any improvements.

Things are a little different when it comes to the Ford Mustang. A hefty 30 percent of all Mustang buyers seek out a standard transmission. Buyers of these machines also crave V8s too. And a full 60-percent of those Mustang GTs are ordered with a manual. Don’t forget about Ford’s most potent Mustang, the Shelby GT350. It only comes configured this way. So, when the Mustang team reimaged the legendary ponycar for 2018, they did what few companies do—improve both its V8 and manual gearbox. 

The new Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 now produces 460 hp at 7,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. That’s a bump of 25 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque. And it comes from increased compression bumped from 11:1 to 12:1, the addition of direct and port fuel injection, spray bore cylinder liners and larger valves, according to chief engineer Carl Widmann. And to shed a couple pounds, the team added a composite oil pan.

2018 Ford Mustang GT gauge cluster

On the inside, the smartest upgrade is the beautiful new 12-inch LCD instrument cluster that changes its display based on driver preference and normal, sport, and track drive modes.

To let everyone hear the glorious music coming from that upgraded 5.0-liter, there’s new $895 active valve performance exhaust for the Mustang GT. It allows the four-tip exhaust system provide varying levels of exhaust sound depending on mode and pedal travel from all open (and ferocious) in Track mode down to nearly silent in quiet mode—and settings in between. In fact, you can set the Mustang to start up each morning in quiet mode, so you don’t wake the neighbors and then have the system deliver the full exhaust note after a preset time period.

To handle the extra power and torque of the new V8 and to reduce shift effort, the Mustang team re-engineered the six-speed manual with a new twin-disc clutch, dual mass flywheel and more closely-spaced gears. The ratios are actually less aggressive than those in the old box, but because they are more closely spaced and use new synchronizers, Widmann says it’s a smoother experience.

Of course, the upgrades to the new Mustang go beyond the top performance model. For the first time, Ford has completely dropped its entry-level V6 engine. Base cars now come exclusively with the 2.3-liter turbocharged Ecoboost four-cylinder with 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. And that’s no bad thing. New engine code was written and calibrated with a new control strategy to provide a bump of 30 lb-ft of torque over the old Ecoboost.         

“We have back-pressure sensors from the exhaust system that help determine when to spool up the turbo and deliver torque,” says Widmann. “We now use overboosting technology too, something we learned from the Focus RS, so the turbo can run at maximum boost for a longer period of time.”

2018 Ford Mustang GT in magnetic gray

Every 2018 Ford Mustang leaves the Flat Rock Assembly Plant with monotube dampers and cross-axis joints (bushings with minimal compliance) in the rear suspension.

The six-speed manual used in four-cylinder models has also been upgraded. But the big transmission news is the addition of an all-new ten-speed automatic—a $1,595 option on all Mustangs. It’s a gearbox co-developed and shared with GM. The Mustang team has added a new drag strip mode. And using that program, automatic-equipped 5.0-liter models with the stickiest tires can run to 60 mph in under 4 seconds. That’s quick. And Ford says Ecoboost models can hit that mark in under 5 seconds. And that’s speedier than a V8-powered Shelby GT was ten years ago. Both models come with a standard line lock function too, making smoky burnouts a snap.

The new drivetrain is backed up by subtle but significant suspension and steering upgrades. All Mustangs now benefit from parts that were until now, only bolted to Performance Package Mustangs. Every 2018 ‘Stang leaves the Flat Rock Assembly Plant with monotube dampers and cross-axis joints (bushings with minimal compliance) in the rear suspension. The team also replaced the electronic power steering rack with a new one that has less friction and can support technology like lane-keeping assist.

The Mustang’s capability envelope swells as soon as the performance options are specified. And stepping up to the Ecoboost Performance Package ($2,495) brings a limited-slip rear axle, stiffer springs, a strut tower brace, fatter swaybars, 19-inch summer tires, larger brakes and unique tuning for every electronic performance system on the car from the steering to the stability control. The GT’s Performance Package ($3,995) has many of the same suspension upgrades but with its own tuning, even wider 19-inch or 20-inch tires, larger Brembo front brakes, a K-brace for added structure and more. And both packages replace many of the bushings in the front suspension with cross-axis joints. Magneride damping is a step beyond these packages for an extra $1,695. And the system is not unlike the one used in the Shelby GT350.


First Drive 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE is the ultimate track ready Camaro2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE

The Mustang’s exterior makeover is relatively mild with a new, more aggressive look up front thanks to a re-scultped facia and a hood that’s about an inch lower. In the rear, the taillights and wings are new as is a diffuser. On the inside, the smartest upgrade is the beautiful new 12-inch LCD instrument cluster that changes its display based on driver preference and normal, sport, and track drive modes. Don’t fret traditionalists—an analog gauge cluster is still available. The Mustangs cabin is now filled with more soft touch materials, cool bezels for the gauges that match the toggle switches and (thank you) a nice soft driver’s side knee pad. 

The Execution

The new Mustang GT is largely the same car as last year but the modifications have made it more refined and potent. Make no mistake, it’s still a beast of a muscle car. The added power and slicker-shifting manual transmission make the GT even more fun. The nearly $50,000 model we tested was equipped with the Performance Package as well as Magneride damping. And this setup inspires a lot of confidence in the driver. It makes the car feel organic and turns happen with more sharpness and grip than we remember any regular Mustang before it. This is an easy machine to drive very quickly and the expanded 7,500 redline means we actually didn’t have to shift that manual transmission quite as often on those extra-tight twisty roads. Plus, the sweet sounds of that V8 only get better as the revs rise—especially with the active exhaust in Track mode. The optional Recaro seats are worth spending extra for. They have aggressive torso bolstering but are a little more forgiving around the hips making them very comfortable.

The manual transmission and V8 engine may be the hottest setup. And it’s the one we’d put in our own garage. But you certainly don’t need either one to have an excellent Mustang. The upgrades to the Ecoboost combine with the ten-speed to make the base Mustang feel much quicker. As pleasant as the Ecoboost is around town, it just doesn’t sound very exotic or special when the revs climb. Still, the roughly $40,000 Performance Pack and Magneride-equipped cars we sampled were balanced, fun and supple over rough roads. Ecoboost Mustangs are about 170 pounds lighter, and most of that weight comes right off the nose. So, these four-cylinder cars feel agile on a winding road. We drive this car as well as the Mustang GT we tested in sport mode most of the time, which never became too stiff or harsh. It’s clear the folks retuning the Magneride suspension sweated the details.

2018 Ford Mustang convertible

The Mustang’s exterior makeover is relatively mild with a new, more aggressive look up front thanks to a re-scultped facia and a hood that’s about an inch lower.

“We look at throttle position, lateral Gs, steering wheel angle, how quickly you’re turning the wheel and we’re putting control in where you want it at each axle and from side to side on that axle, says vehicle dynamics engineer Mike Del Zio. “But we can affect each corner individually too. In track mode, we can allow the wheel to react more smoothly over a curb or have a car recover from a slide more smoothly.”  

The bump in torque to the Ecoboost is certainly welcome. But it’s the ten-speed automatic that transforms the experience. Widmann says his goal was to make that transmission shift as quickly as possible. And before our drive he tells us that it’s capable of skipping gears, dropping down from 10th gear to 4th. On the tightest canyon roads, pulling the transmission into “S” creates the most aggressive shifting. And it works well here. However, on longer sweepers, we put the transmission back into “D”. Selecting sport mode from the toggle switches not only brings more suspension control but also a sort of half-step more aggressive transmission tune that really matched these roads.

Similarly, the EPS has five personalities according to Del Zio—normal, comfort and sport in the steering menu and then unique tunes for both sport and track modes. The majority of our time was spent in sport mode and it felt a bit more natural and connected to the road than we remember the outgoing Mustang.


What you need to know about the 2018 Mustang GT with level 2 performance pack

The Takeaway

The 2018 Mustang may just be a mid-cycle refresh but it is a significant improvement over the old model. And after spending time in the performance package GT with Magneride dampers we wondered—does anyone really need more Mustang than this? Apparently, we do. This March the $6,500 Performance Package Level 2 will become available, slotted in between a regular GT and the Shelby GT350. The package adds stiffer suspension bits, standard Magneride dampers and huge 305/30R19 Michelin Cup Sport 2 tires at each corner. It also wears a unique aero package and Ford says has 40 percent more grip than the regular performance package. “It’s the nimblest Mustang we’ve ever built,” says Del Zio. And you guessed it, Performance Pack Level 2 only comes one way—with a V8 and a manual transmission.


What you need to know about the 2017 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350


Ben Stewart


Ben Stewart

– Ben Stewart has spent the past two decades reviewing cars and reporting on automotive culture and technology.

See more by this author»

On Sale: Now

Base Price: $26,485

Powertrain: 2.3-liter turbocharged I4 or 5.0-liter V8, RWD, six-speed manual/ten-speed automatic

Output: 310 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm (I4), 460 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 420 lb-ft @4,600 (V8)

Curb Weight: 3,532 lbs. (I4 coupe), 3,705 lbs. (V8 coupe)

Fuel Economy: 21/32 mpg (I4 automatic) 16/25 mpg (V8 automatic)(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Pros: Potent, honest, beautifully tuned

Cons: Safe design, performance gets pricey

Article source: http://autoweek.com/article/car-reviews/2018-ford-mustang-first-drive-most-mustang-you-can-buy-thats-not-shelby

2018 Subaru Crosstrek – Our Review | Cars.com

We liked the original Subaru Crosstrek — an Impreza-based, butched-up, soft-roader hatchback — enough that it won our Subcompact SUV Challenge in 2015. Now, a second-generation Crosstrek has arrived, and while it may look similar to the outgoing one, it is indeed an all-new car. Sitting on the new Subaru Global Platform that will form the basis of nearly all of Subaru’s future cars, the 2018 Crosstrek is more than 95 percent new. Again based on the Impreza, it’s a compact hatchback with exceptional interior room and standard all-wheel drive.

Go-Anywhere Looks

The change from Impreza to Crosstrek starts with the parts you can see. The Crosstrek’s sheet metal shares some panels with the Impreza, but gray plastic wheel arches, bumper covers and rocker panels add some durability to the look. It sits visibly higher than the Impreza, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

All the changes, like them or not, really do set it apart from the Impreza; it looks like a very different animal, and this is part of what its customers find appealing, according to Subaru. A lot of customers like that outdoorsy, rugged look — even if far more Crosstreks are sold in urban markets than in rural ones. But that higher ride height helps when dealing with broken pavement and the travails of the urban jungle, as well, such as curbs and potholes. And for buyers who are genuinely outdoorsy, the low overall roof height helps when loading things onto the roof rack.







Fun, But Not Fast

Along with the new platform comes a new engine, although its specs will be familiar. Like the last Crosstrek, the new one comes with a 2.0-liter flat-four engine, this one making 152 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. That’s up slightly in the horsepower department from the past model. Though not turbocharged, it does now feature direct injection. It can be mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission (one gear more than last year’s five-speed) or a continuously variable automatic with a stepped-gear function meant to make it feel and sound more like a traditional geared automatic. All-wheel drive is standard for both transmissions.

I sampled both transmissions and have come to the rare conclusion that the CVT-equipped model is the one to have. This is odd given my penchant for enjoying shifting on my own, but the problem here is the engine, not the transmission: My biggest beef with the old Crosstrek was that it couldn’t get out of its own way — it was woefully underpowered with both the manual and automatic. This has not been solved with the new vehicle, as the 2.0-liter engine is still anemic. The engine is just gutless; merging onto a swift-moving highway will be challenging, and don’t even think of attempting to pass anyone on a hill or with a full load of passengers or cargo.

From a standing start, it feels like acceleration can be measured with a calendar. If you’ve already got some momentum built, it’s not quite so bad; the Crosstrek responds quickly when you power through a corner. The CVT is well-matched to the engine, always keeping it on boil if you’re driving aggressively, but you’ll need to be prepared for it to rev its heart out as it tries to deliver what little power it has. There’s little oomph below 2,500 rpm, and it seems to run out a little after 4,000 rpm. If you opt for the manual transmission, you’ll be shifting it like mad to try and keep your speed up even on slight grades. Save yourself the angst and go for the CVT; it’s a much more pleasant experience.

The upside of the underwhelming acceleration is top-of-the-pack fuel economy. The Crosstrek is EPA-rated 27/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined with the CVT, 23/29/25 mpg with the manual. Its 33-mpg highway rating is tops for the AWD class, even besting competitors’ front-wheel-drive models. I question whether anyone will get those numbers in practice, however, as they’ll all likely drive with a heavier foot than normal just to keep up with traffic.

The engine performance is the only blemish on what has become a polished, quiet and surprisingly refined vehicle. Base and Premium trims come with 17-inch wheels, and if you plan on doing any rough-road driving or off-road exploring, this is the combination to have (though you can skip the larger 18-inch wheels, whose lower-profile tires aren’t nearly as bump-absorbing, especially off-road). It’s remarkably compliant on two-track rough roads, soaking up bumps and not transmitting any unpleasant vibrations through the steering wheel. Credit the dramatically stiffer structure of the Subaru Global Platform, which has allowed Subaru to get more creative with its suspension and steering tuning.

On-road or off, the Crosstrek’s steering is excellent. It uses a quick, 13:1 ratio — much sportier than most vehicles in its class and closer to the BRZ sports car than anything else in Subaru’s lineup. This gives the Crosstrek entertaining handling: It’s eager to turn into curves, communicative when it’s in them and easy to control when you get a little over-eager on dirt roads. Just like the BRZ, it’s slow, but once you build some speed, the car’s handling characteristics make it highly entertaining. Maintain momentum in spirited driving, and it’s actually fun to drive.

Maybe You Don’t Really Need a Jeep?

The Crosstrek is surprisingly capable off-road. Subaru included its X-Mode low-speed off-road feature on the Crosstrek for the first time (it’s already on the Outback and Forester). When activated at speeds below 13 mph, X-Mode changes throttle, stability control, traction control and all-wheel-drive settings to let you get out of sticky off-road situations, or descend slippery slopes with electronic hill descent control. I climbed some steep quarry slopes and descended them again with the computer controlling much of the car’s powertrain and braking actions.

It was an impressive performance for a vehicle that’s not really an off-road machine. It has no underbody skid-plate protection, no true creeper gear and no locking axles, plus it wears all-season on-road tires. But if you have to cross some rough terrain to get to your favorite trailhead or river entry, the Crosstrek will be perfectly capable of getting you there.

Bigger and Better Inside

The new Crosstrek’s cabin is bigger than the last one. Nearly every dimension has been increased, and while it looks familiar, it’s all-new and much improved. The traditional benefits of Subaru interiors remain: a very low beltline and slim pillars, meaning outward visibility is outstanding in every direction. This is helpful on the highway but also useful off-road, as it allows you to see over the hood easily when negotiating tricky terrain.

The Crosstrek is exceptionally roomy compared with competitors like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V. It’s far more comfortable, especially for backseat passengers, but newer competitors like the Jeep Compass and Nissan Rogue Sport are starting to really challenge it in this department.




Traditional Subaru benefits remain: a very low beltline and slim pillars, making outward visibility outstanding in every direction.

The same thing is true when it comes to cargo space comparisons. The Crosstrek features 20.8 cubic feet of cargo room, expandable to 55.3 cubic feet with the backseat folded. That’s less than the Honda HR-V, which features 24.3/58.8 cubic feet, but the Honda pays for that with decreased backseat space. The new Nissan Rogue Sport and Jeep Compass both outgun the Crosstrek in cargo space, offering 22.9/61.1 and 27.2/59.8 cubic feet, respectively. The Crosstrek’s advantage is in backseat passenger room, where its width gives it a comfort advantage over any of these competitors.



New Tech, But Not Much of It

Like the Impreza, the new Crosstrek receives Subaru’s next-generation multimedia system. A 6.5-inch touchscreen display is standard and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Subaru’s Starlink suite of apps that you probably shouldn’t use while driving. Upgrade to a higher trim and you can get an 8-inch display and add navigation by TomTom, as well.

It’s finally a fully modern multimedia system, too. It no longer looks like it’s behind the times, but for a brand that’s going after millennial buyers, it’s curious that there isn’t more tech in this interior. There’s no 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot for passengers’ personal electronics, and there’s only one USB port in the whole car. Those seem like curious oversights in an all-new vehicle targeted specifically at younger buyers.







What tech the Crosstrek does have comes instead in the safety department, where the company’s EyeSight system is optional. It includes lane departure warning and lane keep assist, as well as forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking. All-wheel drive is also standard in the Crosstrek, as it is in every Subaru except the BRZ. There are also adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist available.

Prices Remain Appealing

The Crosstrek is sized like a compact SUV but priced like a subcompact SUV. Its starting price is just $22,710 (including destination fee) for a base 2.0i model with a manual transmission; opting for the automatic transmission adds $1,000. The mid-level Premium trim starts at $23,510, while the top Limited begins at $27,210 and is available only with a CVT. Add all the options, and you’ll top out at $30,655 for a loaded Crosstrek Limited with EyeSight and navigation.

Competitors used to belong just to the subcompact crossover category, including vehicles like the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Fiat 500X and Nissan Juke. They’re vehicles priced the same as a Crosstrek, but a little bit smaller — some much smaller. That’s starting to change as automakers expand their offerings. The Nissan Rogue Sport is now a very viable direct competitor in size, content and abilities, as is the all-new Jeep Compass. Compare some of them here.

As small SUVs go, this is a pretty good deal for a well-equipped, fun-to-drive, highly useful little machine. The fact that it’s painfully slow just isn’t important to the hundreds of thousands of buyers who’ve snapped it up in the past five years. Now, all the other attributes that made the Crosstrek so popular have only been improved.

Article source: https://www.cars.com/reviews/2018-subaru-crosstrek-our-view-1420697901366/

Chrysler 300C Platinum: Bold on the outside, luxurious on the inside

WASHINGTON — Big sedans were once the staple for American carmakers, but it seems that most have turned toward luxury or sporty — trying to chase after the Europeans. There is still one company, Chrysler, which will sell you a large, premium sedan with RWD. Is it still competitive with its old approach?

The short answer is yes, especially if you can spend the extra money on the top-of-the-line Platinum trim level. With an as-tested price of $48,855 and all the options, this is really a luxury car at a discount. Of course, leather seats are standard, heated and ventilated. They sit more like living room furniture with soft comfort rather than the firm, sport seats that some sedans have. The look and feel is enhanced with the premium leather-wrapped interior accents; more places you touch have leather than plastic.

There’s ample space for everyone inside. However, the back middle seat has a large hump on the floor that hampers foot placement. No complaints from me about the easy to use 8.4-inch Uconnect NAV system. The voice recognition works well, too. There are several USB hookups, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touch screen works easily just about every time.

The look is pretty bold for a large sedan that tends to be more conservative in appearance. The Chrysler 300C Platinum differs with a more muscle-car attitude and style. A large blacked-out grill up front sets the tone for this standout look. There are large, 20-inch wheels that set this 300C apart from other lower trim models. The body is more squared than the competition, and I really dig it. It might be the best looking 300C with this bold, but also well-sculpted look.

There is a lot of chrome trim on the Platinum trim level. The chrome is around the grill, side view mirrors and door handles and it fits the character of an upscale ride. This is a rather large car, but from a distance it really doesn’t look as large as it is. When you get close you get a better appreciation of what a large car it is.

If you’ve enjoyed driving large sedans in the past, the 300C will not disappoint. This is a bit of a throwback when compared to larger cars today. There is more cushion on the road; it may even be considered a bit floaty over some bumps. Relaxed driving is rewarded with a nearly silent ride that does a good job of coddling the driver and passengers. It’s a joy on longer trips when the luxury car comes out. If you push the 300C, it responds nicely but expect some lean in tighter, faster corners.

This 300C drives like a larger car, so getting used to parking in smaller spaces takes a few minutes. The rear visibility isn’t the best because the back window is rather small. Fortunately, the rear view camera and front and rear park assist pretty much park the car for you. The fuel economy for this large car is on par for this class. I managed 23.4 mpg in my 340 miles of mixed driving, a tiny bit better than the 23 mpg on the sticker. This tester has the V-6 engine which does a decent job of moving the big Chrysler. There is an optional V-8 I recommend you look at if you plan to have a full car on most of your trips.

If you’re in the market for a large sedan, the time to buy is now. With the market trending to crossovers, the premium sedan can be a smart buy with prices much lower than what the sticker reads. The Chrysler 300C Platinum is an intriguing car in the large sedan class with bold styling and a luxury interior. It’s what a large premium sedan should be.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.


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Article source: https://wtop.com/car-reviews/2017/11/chrysler-300c-platinum-bold-outside-luxurious-inside/

DVD reviews: Baby Driver, Cars 3, Office Christmas Party and more

Fast cars, glib quips, young blood and a marshmallow in place of a soul – yep, Baby Driver (Sony, 15) is on shelves this week, but so is Cars 3 (Disney, U), and, frankly, I could be talking about either. That won’t please the already large and ardent fan club for Edgar Wright’s bright, boyish, sherbety spin on Drive, which has all the right moves and tunes to secure the bro-classic status it so eagerly seeks. Steered by Ansel Elgort’s cupcake-faced but wickedly fast getaway driver – called, yes, Baby – it’s a neo-retro pile-up of sharp poses, Smartie-shell surfaces and perfect jukebox picks, from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas to T Rex.

Indeed, it’s practically more musical than action film, seemingly moulded around its soundtrack rather than the other way round, with car chases as its snazzily choreographed production numbers. (And I do mean snazzy: there’s road ballet here that makes the more recent Fast Furious films look galumphing by comparison.) The joyride’s fun to a point, but it doesn’t take long to see that Baby Driver’s about nothing more than its own self-impressed genre design: who is Baby when his headphones are off, and why should we care to know? As a thriller, it’s a bust, gradually succumbing to a strangely drab, nasty bullet fetish. As a sheer exercise in swagger, meanwhile, it hasn’t found in Elgort the movie star to carry it through.

Still, however recycled its pleasures, Baby Driver has a new car smell fresher than anything in Cars 3. Eleven years into its least endearing franchise, Pixar is barely attempting to mask the primary reason for extending it this far. It’s an elaborate action-figure marketing promo, assembled with vim and expertise in the animation department, and a script that still can’t make us invest emotionally in anthropomorphised engines. You can’t say it doesn’t do its job, but coming from a company that sells itself on its ideas, Cars 3 is dispiriting stuff.

The distributors of Office Christmas Party (eOne, 15) understandably waited nearly a year to bring this fratboy-ish festive farce out on DVD, though they might have held out a month longer. Even with the high-street Christmas lights ablaze and Mariah Carey already echoing down the supermarket aisles, November feels a mite early for seasonal silliness on the scale of Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s self-explanatory, hit-and-miss comedy. Jason Bateman, Kate McKinnon and Jennifer Aniston all gamely hit their marks; the film’s retrograde gender politics, not so much.



Jennifer Aniston gets to grips with TJ Miller in Office Christmas Party. Photograph: Allstar

It’ll do in a pinch, but you could just pop in Criterion’s shiny new reissue of The Philadelphia Story (Sony, PG) instead, and remember what it was like when Hollywood studios wrote comedies with equal interest in the sexes. With Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart this lithe and smart, how could they not? Seventy-seven years on, George Cukor’s star-dusted romcom of remarriage bounces and glides and sparks like a dream, light as pavlova but with the requisite slosh of vinegar. There may be nothing seasonal about it, but it feels like a holiday in itself.



Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story. Photograph: Ronald Grant

Now, a pair of low-key arthouse objects of intrigue. Tim Sutton’s humming, quivering mood piece Dark Night (Thunderbird, 12) is an elliptical prelude to real-life horror, stalking the disconnected residents of a summer-dried slab of Florida suburbia with what seems like idle intent. A late jolt brings its hazy perspective into focus, as an armed individual opens fire in a cinema. The title becomes a grim pun on the 2012 massacre in a Colorado screening of The Dark Knight Rises, and Sutton’s film emerges as a silent scream in response to America’s ongoing plague of gun violence.

Finally, I’ve lately been neglecting the obscure treasures of Festival Scope, a free streaming website dedicated to the kind of film festival discoveries that don’t have clear commercial paths forward – such as Clément Cogitore’s brain-needling debut The Wakhan Front, a fringe Cannes standout from 2015. Bringing an elegantly uncanny, semi-supernatural twist to its study of military ennui in Afghanistan, it subtly allows for a wealth of metaphorical possibilities in its central crisis as a French captain (Jérémie Renier) finds his soldiers vanishing, one by one, into thin, cold air. Call it the war zone meets The Twilight Zone; it deserves more visibility.

The Wakhan Front trailer – video

Article source: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/nov/12/baby-driver-cars-3-office-christmas-party-philadelphia-story-dvds-review