Showing posts with label Auto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Auto. Show all posts

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

First Drive: Ford updates the 2018 Expedition with more power, features, room, and fuel economy

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First Drive: Ford updates the 2018 Expedition with more power, features, room, and fuel economy Onlinelatesttrends
 It’s a good thing everyone doesn’t drive full-size SUVs. Can you imagine the impact on traffic if even more of these tall, wide, view blockers were clogging our already overburdened roads?
But for the fraction of the 17 million new vehicle purchasers in the U.S. (less than 3% in 2016) who fill their driveways with one of these big rigs, nothing else would do. The 2018 Ford Expedition is one of just a handful of vehicles capable of carrying up to eight adults and gobs up their gear all while towing a big trailer—in the Expedition’s case one tipping the scales at up to 9,300 pounds. And it’s all new this year.

The first new Expedition in a decade breaks cover with fresh styling, a weight-saving aluminum body, and updated safety features.

(Ron Sessions)
The Expedition was last redone more than a decade ago, before the invention of the Apple iPhone. At the time, it offered such segment advantages as a smoother-riding independent rear suspension and power fold-flat third-row seats. Those features continue in the new Expedition, along with the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that arrived for 2015.

The total package


The 2018 Expedition carries up to eight people, unless these second-row captain’s chairs are installed. Maximum cargo space measures 104.6 cu.-ft., with the larger MAX version hauling up to 121.4 cu.-ft.

(Ron Sessions)
The 2018 Expedition continues to be available in standard and long-wheelbase series, but last year’s larger EL version is now dubbed the MAX. Available trims include a base XLT at $51,695; midlevel Limited at $62,585; and top-of-the-line Platinum at $72,710. These prices are $4,570 to $8,540 more expensive than the 2017 models they replace. For the extended-wheelbase MAX, you’ll pay a $2,600 upcharge and 4-wheel drive adds about $3,000 depending on trim level. There is also a fleet-only XL trim for police and other non-civilian duty.
The 2018 Expedition’s freshly chiseled sheet metal breaks no new ground but looks contemporary enough to fit right in at Ford showrooms, resembling as it does both the Explorer SUV and F-150 pickup truck.
Relative to the sales-leading Chevrolet Tahoe, the standard-wheelbase Expedition is half a foot longer, has 6.5 inches more wheelbase, provides 16 inches of additional third-row seat legroom, and offers almost 10 cubic-feet of added cargo space with second- and third-row seats folded, for a total of 104.6 cu.-ft.
Chalk up that third-row legroom advantage to the longer wheelbase, but also a new second-row seat design that slides and tips forward (even with a child safety seat safely belted in place) providing third-row occupants easier ingress and egress. Another benefit of the nearly five inches of second-row seat fore-aft adjustment is that it allows passengers to allocate second- and third-row legroom and cargo space according to needs.
About that cargo hold: uplevel Platinum models offer a hands-free liftgate that opens with a wave of your foot under the rear bumper. And all Expeditions have separate opening liftgate glass, which is handy for dropping items into the back without opening the whole liftgate in tight spaces, or for carrying long items.
As the Expedition EL did before it, the new extended-wheelbase Expedition MAX shadows the Chevrolet Suburban dimensionally. The MAX is just 2.5 inches shorter than the big Chevy, but manages to offer equivalent cargo space and, courtesy of that sliding second-row seat, more than six inches greater third-seat legroom.

Driving Miss Daisy


Standard fare on the new Expedition includes power adjustable foot pedals, push-button engine start, and infotainment technology including Bluetooth, satellite radio and voice command. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are also available.

(Ron Sessions)
Like other full-size SUVs, it’s a hike up into the cabin. Available running boards, power retractable on Limited and Platinum trims, present themselves the moment you open the door and then fold away once the door is closed.
Although the interior has some hard-plastic trim showing here and there, it’s handsome enough. The front seats are comfortable and reasonably supportive. Thoughtful touches include dual glove boxes and an available panoramic vista roof, standard on the Platinum, which with a wink Ford describes as making the Expedition feel like the world’s largest convertible.
There’s plenty of stretch-out space and room to stash odds and ends, and the center console bin will swallow a basketball. Even the reasonably large 8-inch infotainment touchscreen display that is standard on Limited and Platinum trims has a tip-and-slide feature, offering hidden storage behind it.
Infotainment usability is bolstered by the latest SYNC 3 platform with voice command, and by analog knobs just below it for volume and tuning plus a bank of easy shortcut buttons between them. Technology advances for Limited and Platinum models also include onboard Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices and wireless device charging.
Every 2018 Expedition comes standard with such safety features as a backup camera, trailer-sway control, and rear parking sensors. Limited models bring blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring and Platinum gains a lane-keeping system, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic high-beam headlights.
And listen up New Yorkers: An advanced active park assist system that can autonomously steer the big SUV into a parallel parking spot while you operate the transmission and pedals is also available.

Gearing up


A smooth-running EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 serves up 375-400 horsepower and is hooked to a new 10-speed automatic transmission. It delivers significantly improved fuel economy while offering trailer-towing capacity up to 9,300 lbs.

(Ron Sessions)
Mechanically, the big news for 2018 is the arrival of a 10-speed automatic transmission, standard on all new Expeditions and replacing last year’s 6-speed autobox. This new 10-speed unit, jointly developed with General Motors, ups the Expedition’s cog count by four, adding a super low first gear for quick launches and a few extra tall overdrive ratios for relaxed highway cruising. A rotary shift dial on the center console takes the place of the traditional PRNDL shift lever. Expect to see the 10-speed in GM’s own full-size SUVs very soon.
The Expedition continues to be the only big non-luxury-brand SUV with a twin-turbo V6 under its hood. It’s an elegant solution, but much more expensive to produce than the naturally aspirated V8 found in the competition. For 2018, Ford ups the 3.5-liter V6 engine’s output from 365 to 375 horsepower for XL, XLT and Limited models and squeezes out 400 horsepower for the range-topping Platinum. (We know there’s even more power to be had as the Expedition’s upscale Lincoln Navigator corporate sibling rolls with 450 ponies). Peak torque also gets a proportional bump from 420 lb.-ft. to 470 in the Expedition XLT and Limited, and 480 in the Platinum.
The new Expedition underwent an extensive lightweighting program with greater use of aluminum and high-strength steel in its construction. But new features such as the 10-speed automatic and sliding second-row seat, plus increased overall length, put most of the pounds back on.
That said, the overall impact of the tuning changes and extra transmission gears is significantly improved fuel economy. Ford says the EPA ratings are 17-mpg city/24-mpg highway for the Expedition 2WD, which is more than 10% better than the 2017 model and bests the estimates for the 2017 Chevy Tahoe. A standard automatic stop/start system that shuts off the engine at stoplights then restarts it when the driver lifts a foot off the brake is standard this year, no doubt contributing to the impressive numbers.

The strong silent type


Thanks to its twin-turbocharged V6 engine, this is the view many people will most frequently see of the 2018 Expedition.

(Ron Sessions)
Velvety at idle, with a turbine-smooth launch feel as boost builds quickly and seamlessly, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 allows you to pull out into fast-moving traffic and get the Expedition’s nearly three tons up to speed without breaking a sweat. There’s no V8 rumble as in the competition, just a very sophisticated and polite baritone melody.
The 10-speed transmission’s shifts are also barely detectable, the extra-wide range of ratios working with the turbo V6’s generous well of low- and mid-range torque to deliver satisfying thrust in all driving situations, from measured part-throttle in-town nudges to spirited foot-to-floor freeway merging and 2-lane backroad passing maneuvers.
The 2018 model is the first Expedition equipped with Ford’s Terrain Management System, controlled via a convenient rotary dial on the console. Two-wheel-drive versions offer Normal mode for your daily commute, Sport for when you’re feeling a bit more spring in your step, Eco for when your mother-in-law is aboard, Tow/Haul for trailering duty, and Snow/Wet for slippery roads. Four-wheel-drive models keep the Normal, Sport, Tow/Haul and Eco settings, but replace the Snow/Wet mode with the aptly named Mud/Rut, Sand and Grass/Gravel/Snow modes. New this year is an FX4 off-road version for XLT trim which adds suspension upgrades, a heavy-duty radiator and extra underbody skid plates.
On the highway, the new Expedition supplies stable and secure handling with rubber ranging from 18 inches all the way to 22 inches in diameter. Ride motions won’t send anyone looking for the Dramamine, and are improved with the optional air suspension. Body roll in corners is reasonably kept in check. Steering effort is well weighted, neither too tiring nor too nervous, with good precision too. The massive 4-wheel-disc brakes could offer quicker response at top of the pedal, but deliver reassuring stopping power from speed.
The 2018 Ford Expedition certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s big beyond the needs of most SUV buyers. But if you’re in that sliver of vehicle buyers who plays with boats or horses and has a lot of friends and family that would rather all ride together in one very capable hauler, Ford’s biggest SUV certainly won’t
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Family-style Review: As good as the new 2018 Volvo XC60 is, faults both real and perceived give cause for pause

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Volvo is halfway through its reinvention. Starting, logically, with complete redesigns of its flagship sedan, station wagon, and SUV models, the company is two years into a transformation of its existing model lineup. For 2018, Volvo’s most popular vehicle, the XC60, is all new, and it is impressive.
As is true of the larger XC90, the new 2018 Volvo XC60 is offered in turbocharged T5, turbocharged and supercharged T6, and plug-in hybrid T8 series. Within them, standard Momentum, sporty R-Design, and luxurious Inscription trim levels beckon. Prices range from an opening number of $42,495 to a loaded figure of $75,665, and that’s before adding any of the useful accessories offered at the dealership.

Volvo’s most popular model, the compact XC60 SUV, gets a complete makeover for 2018.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
Sized to transport a maximum of five people, the Volvo XC60 is likely to be popular with families. That’s why Daily News Autos editor Christian Wardlaw and contributing writer Liz Kim, who are married with children, received this assignment. They spent a week with an XC60 T6 in Inscription trim, equipped with nearly every option, shuttling kids, running errands, and driving across the vast Los Angeles freeway network to partake in the best dumplings in the city.
The Volvo’s price tag came to $63,290 (including the destination charge of $995). Lunch at Din Tai Fung was almost as much. This is their story…

How it Looks


Volvo’s modern design language is plainly evident, both inside and outside.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
She Says:
Volvo has copied Audi’s playbook, which calls for simply designing one vehicle and then adjusting proportions to make bigger and smaller versions of the same thing.
From the front, you can barely tell the XC60 and XC90 apart. The headlamps, and how they integrate the Thor’s hammer lighting elements, differ slightly, as does the lower fascia. The side character lines vary slightly, too, leading the eye to the XC60’s rear tail lamps, which are perceptibly different from its larger sibling’s.
Good thing, then, that Volvo has done a bang-up job in styling the latest batch of its handsome vehicles. Our 2018 XC60 test vehicle drew stares with its solid proportions, its extra-cost greenish-grey metallic paint job, and it’s 20-inch wheels that enhance its rather burly stance.
Step inside and you’re greeted by a Scandinavian dream. Our test vehicle had Blond leather, a cool, light hue applied to the headliner, door panels, and ultra-smooth upholstery. The lower door panels and sills soon became smudged with dirt, however, so frequent trips to the car wash will be a part of the cost of ownership if you choose this interior color.
A black dashboard, a light grey matte wood that Volvo calls Driftwood, and just the right amount of brightwork offset the Blond surfaces. Volvo’s big, vertically oriented infotainment screen punctuates this gorgeously rendered environment, completing your hygge fantasies. It’s just beautiful inside of this SUV.

If the XC60’s interior looks familiar, that’s because you’ve seen the same design in the S90, V90, and XC90. Here, it is scaled down to size. 

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
He Says:
Yes, the new XC60 does look much like the larger XC90, but it also resembles the outgoing XC60, especially viewed in profile. And Volvo isn’t going to make all of its vehicles look the same. As proof, look no further than the new 2019 XC40.
In any case, I think Volvo absolutely nailed the XC60’s exterior styling. This is easily the best looking vehicle in its segment, and Volvo gets not a single line, crease, or swell wrong. Plus, I loved our test car’s Pine Grey paint, and you can get 22-inch wheels as an option. They’re ridiculously expensive, but you can get them.
Inside, the XC60 looks just like the S90 sedan, V90 wagon, and XC90 crossover, but scaled down to size. Minimalistic to a fault, the high-contrast Blond over Black theme, accented with beautiful Driftwood trim, chrome detailing, and piano black surrounds, is a study in attention to detail.
The only downside is that owners are forced to use the Sensus infotainment display screen to access nearly everything. Which is fine when the XC60 isn’t moving. While driving, it is a problem.

How it Feels


When equipped with the optional Luxury Seat Package, it is quite possible that no direct competitor is more comfortable than the 2018 Volvo XC60.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
He Says:
Don’t drum your fingertips or rap your knuckles on the plastic covering the XC60’s glove box or the sides of the center console. It looks good. It is properly textured. But it sounds hollow, and that translates to cheap. Aside from these missteps, everything within the XC60 Inscription’s cabin exudes quality.
Seat comfort is excellent, too, especially with the optional Luxury Seat Package. Perforated Nappa leather upholstery is wrapped around heated and ventilated front seats with power adjustable thigh supports and side bolsters, and they come with several massage functions. A heated steering wheel and heated rear seats are included in this package, too, which costs $3,000 but might just be worth it. If you disagree, the heated steering wheel and rear seats are available for $750, but then you give up the perforated leather, the ventilated front seats, and the on-board masseuse.
The XC60’s rear seats are roomy enough for adults, but hard front seatback trim might prove bothersome to longer-limbed members of the species. Our test vehicle also had separate climate controls for rear seat occupants. Oddly, though, given this SUV’s likely appeal to young families, Volvo does not offer an integrated center booster cushion for the second-row seat, which is available for the XC90.

Featuring seat belts for five people, the new Volvo XC60 is easily large enough to accommodate a family of four.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
She Says:
As the saying goes, real beauty is found within. If that’s the case, the new XC60’s true colors are revealed when you tap on some of the plastics around the cabin. Then you start wondering why you paid more than 60 grand for this SUV. The cabin sure looked great, but Volvo needs to improve some materials if it wants to sell top-shelf XC60s for this much money.
Still, such oversights might be forgiven as you settle into the supremely comfortable front seats and switch on the available massaging function, turning on the seat heaters to ward off a chill, blissfully basking in the tasteful ambient lighting and appreciating beautiful swells of music from the Bowers and Wilkins sound system. Just don’t forget to keep your eyes on the road!
The rear seats do have a good amount of legroom, but I think shoulder room would be really tight for three adults sitting abreast. Remember, this is a compact crossover, so families of five may want to consider something larger. Each of our two kids loved the rear climate controls and their own heated seats, though the lack of USB charging ports for rear-seat passengers was puzzling.

How it Works


Behind the rear seat, the XC60 supplies nearly 30 cu.-ft. of space. Note how a compact folding stroller fits between the liftgate and your luggage.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
She Says:
We were in Italy recently, where tiny little cars tootle around on tiny little streets. Here, a compact crossover seems like a leviathan hulk when faced with a tour bus on a vertiginous cliffside road, or when attempting to squeeze through alleyways between ancient buildings.
Stateside, a compact crossover is small, making sense only for families of four who don’t need a whole lot of cargo space but do need more utility than what a traditional sedan or hatchback can provide. The point is that everything is relative, and only you can decide what vehicle best fits your family’s needs.
Offering 29.7 cubic-feet of space with the rear seats in use, and 63.3 cubic-feet with the rear seats folded, the XC60 is perfect for people who live in cities or smaller dwellings and don’t make bulk purchases or have lots of sports equipment to ferry. For more robust assignments, the difference between this Volvo and the XC90 is profound, especially in advance of the holidays. One trip to a big-box store to prepare for celebrations, and the XC60’s smaller cargo area suddenly presents a daunting challenge.
When it comes to the infotainment system, Volvo’s big, vertically oriented display screen is beautiful, but the minimalistic approach means that you have to go through several menus and app icons to find what you want to use or adjust.
For instance, changing the cabin temperature requires you to touch the temperature part of the screen, and then touch the temperature that you’d like for it to be, and then touch the “X” to close the menu. That’s a lot of time with your eyes averted from the road. Alternately, you can use voice commands, but I found the Volvo’s voice recognition system to be a bit sketchy.
I’ve come to love head-up displays, like the one found in our test vehicle, as well as digital gauge clusters. The instrumentation in the XC60 isn’t as dazzling as what you might find in an Audi, but it sure makes for a pretty display.

Volvo’s smartphone-inspired Sensus infotainment system is instantly familiar, yet maddeningly frustrating to use when the XC60 is moving.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
He Says:
In the state of California, it is illegal to hold a smartphone while driving. That’s because smartphones are distracting, and driver distraction causes accidents.
The Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system looks and works like a smartphone. This makes for an intuitive interface when the SUV is sitting still. When you’re driving, trying to be precise about fingertip activation of virtual buttons or gently swiping from one screen to the next or scrolling through a list of radio station pre-sets, Sensus is a significant distraction.
This is where voice recognition comes in handy, right? Well, we tried using it to find our way to a different location of a favorite restaurant that was about half an hour away from home. It kept asking us to input a search area first. That is 100% unhelpful, Volvo. We finally gave up, whipped out an iPhone, and asked Siri. She got us the directions right away.
To be fair, when using the voice recognition system to place a call, it did so without a problem. Still, overall, the level of fussiness and distraction associated with the XC60’s controls, displays, and technologies makes it a good thing Volvo offers so many effective driving assistance and collision avoidance systems for this SUV. And they work with an impressive level of accuracy and refinement.
Furthermore, the optional Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system is nothing short of outstanding, as it should be for $3,200. The XC60’s available head-up display impresses, too, and remains faintly visible even when the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses.
As for cargo space, I’m more satisfied with the XC60’s roominess than Liz is. Full-size suitcases lay flat side-by-side, making it easy to stack four of them for a family road trip. Thoughtfully, Volvo leaves enough room between the luggage and the tailgate that relatively new moms and dads can stash a compact folding stroller there. Our test vehicle also had power folding rear seats and a hands-free tailgate function.

How it Drives


In T6 Inscription trim, the new Volvo XC60 is unexpectedly quick, but not terribly fun to drive on a writhing back road.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
He Says:
A Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription weighs 424 pounds less than a Volvo XC90 with the same specification. Both SUVs are equipped with a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 316 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to figure out that this makes the smaller XC60 all kinds of fast.
Talk about a sleeper.
No doubt, there will be drivers of competing compact luxury SUVs, their vehicle perhaps even dressed up in performance costumes, who will be taken aback by how rapidly the sensible Volvo in the adjacent lane can accelerate.
Dynamic mode produces the greatest response from the powertrain, which includes an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. Other choices include Eco, Normal, and Off-Road. With the standard suspension, the XC60 provides a generous 8.5 inches of ground clearance. With the optional air suspension, it drops to 8.2 inches, but in Off-Road mode that figure jumps to nearly 10 inches.
Our test vehicle had the air suspension, and in Normal mode, it provided a smooth, supple ride quality. This, in combination with effortless steering, easily modulated brakes, and multiple driver assistance systems that work in refined, subtle fashion, makes the XC60 terrific to drive in cities, in suburbs, and on the freeway. Add the T6’s rocketship acceleration capability, and the XC60 makes for a stylish, plush, and enjoyable vehicle to drive.
If, however, you are a driving enthusiast, I strongly recommend sampling the XC60 R-Design. I haven’t driven it, but this version is allegedly tuned for driving fun on a twisty back road, which is not the XC60 Inscription’s forte.
The optional air suspension isn’t the problem. Neither are the brakes. And, as I’ve mentioned, the engine delivers robust power. The light and lifeless steering, combined with all-season tires that fail to inspire confidence, a somewhat frenetic Dynamic driving mode, and a lack of paddle shifters, combine to limit the fun. But if you could care less about this, well, the XC60 is a delightful daily driver.
Fuel economy isn’t great, either, the test vehicle averaging 19.4 mpg on the test loop. That figure is far short of the EPA’s estimate of 23 mpg in combined driving.No wonder Volvo plans to electrify all of its powertrains within the next couple of years.

Our test vehicle returned 19.4 mpg on our standard testing loop. The EPA led us to expect 23 mpg.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
She Says:
I can’t believe that we only averaged 19.4 mpg. When you can’t even manage to get the expected city fuel economy on a testing loop that includes almost every kind of driving there is, that’s beyond disappointing, and treads into the realm of the unacceptable.
C’mon, Volvo. Especially now that our home state of California has raised taxes on every single gallon of already-expensive gas, and your SUV requires premium unleaded, people are not going to happy about the XC60 T6’s inability to deliver on this promise.
In my drives around town, I felt a little bit of flex in the XC60’s structure. Admittedly, it might have been a perception of flex caused by a subtle little rattle coming from the dashboard when going over bumps and the plastic on the center console creaking on occasion. And in the SUV’s Normal driving mode, the air suspension sure is soft, allowing some extra wallow.
Perhaps due to these initial impressions, my expectations for the XC60’s handling chops weren’t terribly high, but I thought it performed competently on my mountainous route, especially when placed in Dynamic mode. The steering doesn’t give much feedback, and the XC60 lacks the precision found in vehicles like the Audi Q5 or the Mercedes GLC-Class, but as you’ve said, Chris, not many people care about driving at even 7/10ths of a vehicle’s limits, so this is likely irrelevant to most XC60 shoppers.
No, this is not a vehicle to inspire driving enthusiasm, but it handled the curves confidently. More importantly, around town, the XC60 is a pleasure to drive, from its vivacious powertrain to the supple nature of the air suspension. I do miss Volvo’s oddball straight-five engines, though. Maybe that would have helped our fuel economy result.

Would we buy one?


As good as the new 2018 Volvo XC60 is, faults both real and perceived give cause for pause.

(Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)
Her Verdict:
Sure, our loaded XC60 T6 Inscription test vehicle was luscious and dripping with every possible option there is. It’s hard to believe, however, that a Volvo with a base price of $46,295 (for the luxury-oriented Inscription T5, including $995 destination) doesn’t come with a basic safety feature as a blind spot monitoring system. Instead, this safety-focused company makes it part of an option package that costs $1,100.
This is just one of many reasons that I find the 2018 XC60 a little too expensive, a little too precious, a little too small, and way too thirsty to fit my family’s needs. For more than $63,000 as tested, I expect a lot more.
His Verdict:
If I bought a 2018 Volvo XC60, I would need to get it in R-Design trim to maximize driving enjoyment, and this means I’d need to live with a black interior.
Ugh. I mean, the point of the XC60, aside from legendary Volvo safety, is its sumptuous design. And in black, with nothing but metal mesh interior trim as a decor choice, the R-Design’s cabin is too much like every other small luxury SUV.
Plus, a T6 R-Design with all the extras is priced at close to $65,000. That’s what a loaded Audi SQ5 costs, and that SUV is utterly brilliant to drive on my favorite back roads.
Therefore, the driving enthusiast in me rejects the new XC60. But that doesn’t mean this new Volvo isn’t worthy of your consideration. Few people will ever explore its maximum handling capabilities, which means that aside from the frustrations associated with the Sensus infotainment system and a few obviously inexpensive interior fitments, this is a terrific alternative to the usual choices in the segment.
I might not buy one for myself, but I would recommend one to most of the people I know.
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Mercedes-Benz ends first-generation G-Class production after nearly 40 years; three special edition models announced

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Mercedes-Benz ends first-generation G-Class production after nearly 40 years; three special edition models announced Onlinelatesttrends
 Mercedes-Benz’s G-Class is one of the company’s most iconic and recognizable vehicles. Thanks to its rugged set of capabilities and unique boxy design, the SUV has enjoyed nearly 40 years of production. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and such is the case for the decades-long run of the first-generation G-Class.
However, Mercedes-Benz is making the news easier to accept with the announcement of three special edition G-Class models. The new G-Class models are the G500 Limited Edition, G350d Limited Edition, and G350d Professional Limited Edition.
The G500 Limited Edition features a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine, generating 416 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque, while both G350d models utilize a turbocharged diesel 3.0-liter V6 engine, generating 241 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque.
Unfortunately for the United States market, neither of the diesel-powered models will be available, but 100 units of the V8 model, badged as the G550 Limited Edition, will make their way onto American shores around March or April of 2018.
Both the G500 Limited Edition and G350d Limited Edition are refined models, featuring subtle exterior modifications as well as interior changes to stitching, trim, and interior materials.
Conversely, the G350d Professional Limited Edition is more of an off-road oriented model, featuring a steel front bumper, fender-mounted turn signals with protective grilles, mud flaps, and a roof rack. Inside of the rugged G350d Professional Limited Edition is an interior made up mostly of fabric material, but features such as a navigation system and heated front seats are still present.
As a tribute to the Shockl Mountain in the Alps, where the G-Class endured capability testing, the entire run of special edition models have “Shockl proved since 1979” imprinted onto the center console. Each of the three models is limited to 463 units, a reference to the G-Class’ W463 chassis code, making for a total of 1,389 vehicles.
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First Look: Buick gets fancy with the new 2018 LaCrosse Avenir

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Buick on Wednesday announced plans to extend availability of its Avenir luxury trim to the 2018 LaCrosse sedan. Due out early next year, the LaCrosse Avenir is designed to bridge the gap between luxury and “near luxury,” creating a Buick-styled sedan that attempts to attract luxury buyers with strategically-selected features and equipment upgrades.
First Look: Buick gets fancy with the new 2018 LaCrosse Avenir Onlinelatesttrends

Buick brings big luxury upgrades to the LaCrosse with the Avenir trim coming early next year.

According to Buick, the LaCrosse is the second model (after the Enclave) to receive the additional package; it’s due to what the brand sees as strong demand for the more expensive LaCrosse trim levels. The automaker claims that nine out of ten LaCrosse buyers reportedly choose the Essence and Premium models – perhaps a sign that buyers want more luxury content within the Buick design language. To that end, Avenir adds more choice and luxury for buyers, with upgrades inside and out.

Avenir Design, Features and Options

2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir Rear Left

The LaCrosse Avenir marks the second model in Buick’s sub-brand line-up, joining the 2018 Enclave Avenir that went on sale last month.

Design-wise, the Avenir adds subtle highlights, including a revised chrome mesh grille, Avenir badging on the front doors, and exclusive 19-inch Pearl Nickel or available 20-inch Midnight Silver wheels. Inside, the Avenir boasts a pretty chestnut interior color theme, embroidered first-row headrests, and Avenir-badged sill plates.
Standard features available on the 2018 LaCrosse Avenir include the model’s top powertrain choice, a 310 horsepower V6 engine and new 9-speed automatic transmission. There’s also a moonroof, navigation, and Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio among additional features.
2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir Dashboard

Standard goodies include navigation, Bose premium surround sound system and a panoramic moonroof.

But if you think the Avenir is everything a LaCrosse can be, you’d be wrong: there’s room for additional options to be added, such as a black interior, all-wheel drive, and Buick’s Dynamic Drive Package, which offers 20-inch aluminum alloys and adaptive suspension.
Buick says additional add-ons include safety tech such as automatic emergency braking. Seems to us that the Avenir would tilt far more to the “luxury” side of the equation if it added things like advanced safety technology, all-wheel drive or adaptive suspension to the standard list.

Avenir in the Wild

Pricing was not announced, but expect the LaCrosse Avenir to top the sticker price of the existing Premium trim. To see what it looks like in the wild, head on down to your local Buick dealership and check out the Enclave Avenir, which rolled out to buyers in October. The SUV pretty much offers similar enhancements.
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Monday, 30 October 2017

Flash Drive: The power of technology and the thrill of the drive come together in the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400

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Flash Drive: The power of technology and the thrill of the drive come together in the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Onlinelatesttrends

Technology is a good thing. It enables the advancement of ideas, propels evolution, and pushes forward efforts around innovation. At its best, the pursuit of technology turns the imagination of dreams into real and actual things you and I can use to create a better experience.

So it is with the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. This is an enthusiast’s car, one enhanced with technology to be better, and to go faster, than ever before. To that end, I drove a luxed-up Q50 Red Sport 400 around a short loop of select corners and with plenty of space to run. As with all Red Sport 400s, the all-wheel-drive test vehicle was powered by a sweet 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine making 400 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD provides technology-driven performance.

The engine is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission, with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The Q50 Red Sport 400 wears 19-inch alloys with run-flat tires, and sport brakes wearing racy red calipers. Additional features that come as part of the $53,000 sticker price include special exterior and interior design cues, and Red Sport 400 exhaust tips.

My ride also came with two optional packages: a Sensory Package featuring the Bose Performance Series 16-speaker surround sound system, and the Nissan Proactive Package featuring electronic helpers like a lane departure prevention system, adaptive front lighting, and distance control assist. All in, the sticker price of my test vehicle was $61,710.

Quilted seat bolsters and black leather throughout help to make the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400’s interior a comfortable place to be.

And it feels like a lot, as well, when you’re sitting inside the cabin. The seats are comfortable and snug, with quilted bolsters that hold you in place during aggressive driving. Black leather abounds, with chrome trim and with double red stitching throughout, including the shifter. Overall, the materials have a substantial quality feel to them, from the buttons and door panel inserts to the headliner and newly revised steering wheel.

All this creates a distinctly luxurious feel to the interior. The only relatively significant drawback is noise. Though Infiniti says it took pains to improve noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), I found the cabin’s ambience compromised by road noise and tire chatter coming up from the 19-inch run flats.

That’s okay, though, for one reason…or make that 16 reasons, as in the Bose Performance Series 16-speaker surround sound system with aluminum grilles. A part of the Sensory Package, the sound system creates an ambience all its own and takes passengers with it, through deeply rich and crisp audio quality.

Additional and notable tech includes the Infiniti Dynamic Digital Suspension, which adjusts body and ride rigidity in order to better optimize cornering. This system can assess body roll and other factors in order to give the driver a customized ride and handling character. Standard mode is meant for comfort, while Sport and Sport+ modes are, well, for a sporting drive.

You will enjoy thunderous power and nimble performance with the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD.

There are three things to love about the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400.

First, that sound system. It’s amazing, and gives ample reason to sit inside the cabin, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and enjoy the audio before hitting the start button.

Second, the Q50 Red Sport 400 is, to my eyes, the embodiment of a beautiful, taut and athletic performance sedan. The tight lines, strong shoulders and sporting stance depicts an in-motion, sprinting vehicle with an aggressive vein evidenced by the blackened wheels and revised mesh grille.

Finally, exercising the engine is like jumping into the mosh pit of a Viking slam dance poetry concert. It’s powerful, crazy, yet still refined. Step on the 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine’s accelerator, and all 400 horsepower get up and gallop – quickly. Hit the throttle while merging onto a freeway and you’ll be treated to a powerful surge that puts you back into the driver’s seat with a big fat grin.

Yep, highway noise and tire whine is a drawback for a car that costs over $60,000, but heck, just turn the radio up and dig into the powerplant a bit more. Problem solved.

Steering, on the other hand, felt a little distant, without what I would expect to be a stronger connection to the road. Granted, my drive was probably too short to provide a full opinion of Infiniti’s second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering. Also known as steer-by-wire, it uses electric signals and removes the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and tires.

Technology is, most of the time, a great thing. It pushes us forward, creates opportunities to evolve and grow in new and unexpected directions.

But sometimes, too much technology can disguise the beauty and power already built into a car. One wonders, in fact, if the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 would be a better performance sedan with good old-fashioned rear-wheel drive, mechanical steering and fewer electronic nannies guiding the car down the road.

Strip those elements out of this car and what you have is a sexy sports sedan with a great engine that handles well and has an awesome sound system. Does it really get any better than that?
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The 2018 Buick Enclave offers these 8 strengths... as well as a significant weakness

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The 2018 Buick Enclave offers these 8 strengths... as well as a significant weakness Onlinelatesttrends
  Luxury cars are as good as it gets, but not all brands aim to scale this lofty pinnacle of automotive excellence. At the same time, while mainstream brands like Honda and Toyota have a lot to offer, some marques seek to provide shoppers with an experience that's a tad more exclusive.

The Buick brand lives in this space between traditional luxury and mainstream practicality. Buick models create an environment that's more upmarket than the norm. Still, the marque doesn't quite reside in the same high-dollar ZIP code as models from nameplates like Audi and BMW.

The Enclave is one of Buick's entries in the ever-burgeoning crossover sphere, and this three-row midsize vehicle seats up to seven passengers. For 2018, the Enclave benefits from a roof-to-rubber redesign that sharpens its appeal and ups its luxury quotient.

A lower roofline gives the 2018 Enclave a look that's sleeker and more elongated than that of its predecessor. New active noise cancellation measures work to create a much quieter cabin. Overall interior space increases by 10 percent, and available active safety features have been added that give you the tools you need to avoid accidents.

A new Avenir trim debuts for 2018. Comparable to the Denali trim offered by GMC, Avenir models present the Enclave at its most luxurious. Enclave Avenir crossovers benefit from upgrades such as a three-dimensional mesh grille, a wood-accented steering wheel, and unique interior and exterior treatments.

Buick's Enclave is motivated by a 3.6-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 310 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. Gears are shifted by a 9-speed automatic transmission.

With the Enclave, you get admirable luxury at a reasonable price. But while this Buick is a captivating choice, it's not free of shortcomings.

Here are eight great traits of the 2018 Buick Enclave... along with a weakness you should consider before steering one into your driveway.

Yes, you're getting warmer. Heated front seats are standard fare on the 2018 Enclave.

An impeccably curated assemblage of convenience features can elevate your time spent behind the wheel. The drawback is that with many models, the most appealing amenities are offered as pricey options.

Buick takes a generous approach with its convenience features, providing many of the most desirable amenities as standard equipment. Base models coddle you with heated front seats, a hands-free power liftgate, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and keyless entry and ignition. And all models come with automatic tri-zone climate control that allows you and your passengers to have freedom of choice when it comes to selecting cabin temperature.

The Enclave's standard WiFi hotspot allows you to easily stay connected.

Technology provides benefits that can simplify and improve our lives. This is especially apparent when considering the useful technology content offered by today's generation of cars and crossovers.

Upgrading your vehicle with these features can be costly, but you won't have this problem with the Enclave. This Buick comes standard with an impressive lineup of technology content.

Standard features in this area include satellite radio, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and an 8-inch color touchscreen. Also, all models come with a WiFi hotspot that facilitates 4G LTE connectivity.

Thanks to its QuietTuning active noise cancellation, the Enclave's cabin is quiet enough to allow you to communicate without shouting.

Road and wind noise can put a damper on friendly communication during everyday commutes or road trips. Having to shout to be heard above the din caused by other vehicles on the highway can serve to discourage conversation.

Buick's Enclave comes with advancements that give the crossover a wonderfully tranquil cabin. The Enclave's QuietTuning uses active noise cancellation to ensure that the crossover's interior is as quiet as an SAT test center.

It's the kind of innovation that fosters peaceful travels.

The Enclave offers 97.6 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, and an underfloor storage area is also on board. 

"Bigger is better" has been a maxim in this country for some time now. This thinking has no doubt fueled our nation's current infatuation with crossovers and SUVs. These models deliver big rewards when it comes to cargo capacity, and this makes them satisfying choices for those who have lots to haul and carry.

You won't want for cargo capacity with the 2018 Enclave. This Buick provides 23.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row and 58 cubic feet with the third row lowered. With both the second and third row lowered, there's 97.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity on tap. The Enclave also comes standard with an underfloor storage area that provides 3.1 cubic feet of capacity.

The Enclave offers fuel economy that's road-trip friendly.

If you have a family, you likely need a vehicle that can accommodate everyone from toddlers to in-laws. The fuel costs associated with operating this kind of transportation can put a dent in your pocket.

This is why many families make fuel economy a priority when evaluating vehicles, and the Enclave delivers quite nicely on this front. Front-wheel-drive models have an EPA rating of 18/26 mpg city/highway. With all-wheel drive, fuel economy dips slightly, to 17/25 mpg.

Boats aren't a problem for the Enclave, and the crossover can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Sometimes families need to tow heavy things like boats and trailers. If this is the case for you, you'll need a vehicle with enough brawn to tackle the task.

With a tow rating of 5,000 pounds, Buick's Enclave is equipped with ample hauling power. And the Enclave remains an easygoing companion, even when there's something heavy hooked up to the back.

The Enclave is available with a full suite of driver-assistive features, from lane keep assist to rear cross-traffic alert.

Driving isn't what it used to be. Fifty years ago, the only help a driver could hope for when navigating traffic was judiciously angled exterior mirrors. Today, technology has marched to the rescue, offering amenities that help you make safer choices on the road.

The Enclave is available with a robust array of driver-assistive features. Available amenities include lane keep assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, blind zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.

A driver's rearward views are enhanced with the Enclave's rear camera mirror.

One of the Enclave's driver-assistive features deserves special mention. This Buick is available with a rear camera mirror that gives the driver an expanded view of the landscape behind the vehicle.

This feature allows drivers to use the rearview mirror either as a mirror or as a display screen that feeds images from cameras mounted to the vehicle's tail end. Thanks to these skillfully placed cameras, this feature works to broaden the driver's rear field of vision by 300 percent.
A fatal flaw

Some active safety features pack a potent punch when it comes to their ability to help drivers avoid tragedy. Forward collision alert issues a warning if the system detects that a front-end crash is imminent. And forward automatic braking will hit the brakes on your behalf if you fail to take the steps necessary to avoid a collision.

The Enclave is available with both of these life-saving features, but they're offered only on the most expensive trims. Forward collision alert is standard on Premium and Avenir models. Forward automatic braking is offered solely as an optional feature on the range-topping Avenir.

Their limited availability may make these features out of reach for many Enclave shoppers.

The Enclave gives up premium amenities at a down-to-earth price.

The Enclave provides the features buyers expect from an upscale crossover. It delivers a complete assortment of convenience and technology amenities. And drivers get lots of help from the crossover's broad array of active safety features.

This Buick also has a practical side to its nature. With generous cargo room, strong fuel economy, robust towing capacity, and a reasonable price tag, the Enclave is aware of what your needs are, and it works hard to address them.

Not everyone has the resources or inclination to invest in an expensive German crossover. The Enclave might be a good choice for you if you want sensible transportation that offers upmarket indulgences without the sticker shock.
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Daily Drive-Thru: Kia recalls Souls for second time, Mazda demos ‘Skyactiv-X’ engine and more

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Daily Drive-Thru: Kia recalls Souls for second time, Mazda demos ‘Skyactiv-X’ engine and more Onlinelatesttrends
  Remember yesterday’s Ford truck and van recall? Well, it looks like we have another recall on our hands today, and this time, it’s not FoMoCo. Instead, Kia had to issue a second recall to fix a steering wheel defect affecting roughly 340,000 Soul and Soul Evs.

We’ll discuss that story first, plus, we have a mesmerizing video showing how Mazda’s latest “Skyactiv-X” engine is going to work. And if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, we have a review of the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 and eight great reasons to consider the 2018 Buick Enclave as your family’s next upscale hauler.

Kia issues a second safety recall on over 340,000 Soul and Soul EVs over a steering defect that was improperly fixed during an initial repair.

It wouldn’t be Halloween without some good ol’ fashioned “Soul” harvesting. No, we’re not talking about ghouls and goblins. We’re talking about Kia’s funky econobox wagons needing a second recall to fix an issue that didn’t get fixed right the first time.

About 340,000 Soul and Soul EVs from the 2014-2016 model years are getting the callback to repair a steering defect.

Expected to find its way into the 2020 Mazda 3 compact, Mazda’s newest “Skyactiv” engine takes a unique approach to saving fuel.

The “Skyactiv-X” engine combines the spark-plug ignited power of a standard gasoline engine with the high compression efficiency of diesel into a brand new motor. To help customers understand how the engine works, Mazda released this demo video showing the inner workings of the cylinder. Be mesmerized as you witness the future of Mazda’s famous “Skyactiv technology.”

An enthusiast’s car through and through, the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is a raucous, tech-savvy speed demon ready to tear down any back road your heart desires to tread. We took a quick spin in one outfitted with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drive to find out how bright the future can look from behind the wheel of one of the most exciting sedans of 2018.

Considered the better-dressed sibling of the Chevrolet Traverse, the Buick Enclave welcomes a (much-needed) complete redesign for the 2018 model year. In it, the Enclave also welcomes a new top-trim level: the Buick Enclave Avenir. Considered the “Denali” of Buick trims, the top-notch Enclave boasts luxury and technology at a more affordable price range than you can find in more posh German competitors.

There are eight great reasons why you should put this handsome crossover on our three-row, family schlepper shopping list, and one flaw that should be taken into consideration before signing on the dotted line.

The internet’s favorite professional driver Ken Block released a trailer for his new upcoming Amazon Original series following the production of his latest Gymkhana entry. Expected to be released sometime in late 2018, “GymkhanaTEN” is already shaping up to be one hell of a ride from this sneak peak alone.

Check the Daily Drive-Thru every weekday evening to get a roundup of the latest news, reviews, galleries and more from the New York Daily News Autos.
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Friday, 9 June 2017

Two days at Cadillac’s V-Performance Academy turned me from a wannabe racer into a lap record chaser

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Two days at Cadillac’s V-Performance Academy turned me from a wannabe racer into a lap record chaser
 “First you’ve gotta learn to wrestle the bear, then you’ve gotta learn to dance with it.”

This was the phrase I repeated to myself over and over as I barreled down towards turn 5 at nearly 108 miles per hour, but among all of the track driving advice I’d received in nearly two days, instructor J.J.’s crazy grandpa-esque nugget of wisdom was the one that truly stuck with me.

For I was behind the wheel of the 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V, and all 4,000-plus pounds of it was hurdling towards a 90-degree corner at triple digit speeds armed only with a set of Brembo steel brakes and some properly warm Michelin Sport Cup tires to wrangle in the mayhem.

It sounds daunting, sure, but after spending nearly 16 hours on the track and in the classroom at Spring Mountain Motor Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, I felt more than up to the task. I was gonna wrestle that damn bear, and then I was gonna take it out for a night on the town.

The V-Performance Academy is permanently located year-round at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump,
If this sounds like your cup of tea – hot, extra caffeinated, stimulant-laced tea – and you happen to be the owner of a 2017 Cadillac V-Series model, well partner, you’re in luck.

For every buyer of a new 2017 CTS-V or ATS-V, Cadillac offers two nights at Southern Nevada’s finest motorsports country club, complete with a furnished condo, complimentary meals, and the shield-adorned weapon of your choice for two days of hands-on fun with some of the best driving instructors in the business. As long as you can fly or drive yourself out there, the experience is yours, free of charge.

To show us exactly what participants get, Cadillac brought a group of six journalists along with an equal number of V-Series owners for the program, and if I thought I knew squat about racetrack driving beforehand, boy was I mistaken.

Spring Mountain’s staff of instructors is well versed in teaching relative novices how to drive high-performance cars fast around a track. In fact, the multi-purpose facility has been home to the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School for owners of new Chevrolet Corvettes for almost 10 years, and Cadillac, seeking to further establish its reputation as a global performance luxury brand, wanted in on the experience.

In the past, owners could pay for the two-day program if they had bought a new V model – as a few of those attending the program had done – but for 2017, the experience is included in the price of every new V model. All you have to cover is the flights… and an insurance policy, but that goes without saying.

Of course, V-Series ownership is not cheap, with the cost of entry ringing in at $60,695 for the ATS-V sedan and climbing all the way up to $85,995 for the CTS-V, and that’s before you add all the go-fast goodies like carbon fiber accents and track-ready tools like the Performance Data Recorder and Recaro racing bucket seats. In theory, the cost of this program basically pushes six figures, but somehow it feels worth every penny.

Optional Recaro racing seats and carbon fiber trim might seem superfluous, but for track driving, they’re essential.

While other luxury performance automakers offer track driving experiences – think Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and the like – Cadillac is the only one to do it free of charge to the owners, and that puts them at a bit of an advantage when a potential buyer comes cross-shopping.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, the package includes two nights at a furnished condo right next to the track, catered meals at the country club facilities, access to a pool and several available watersports and leisure activities, and the chance to drive a stock version of your new Cadillac around a racetrack for the better part of 8 hours over two days. The club also maintains a fleet of new CT6 sedans and XT5 crossovers for you to use at your leisure when you’re not in class or on the track, just so long as you return it with a full tank of gas.

Plus, you get a hat, jacket, and a fancy carbon fiber plaque at the end of it all.

Did you know that there are 8 distinct steps to take when attempting a corner on a racetrack? I didn’t, but I’ll never forget them now.

Got it? Great. Now try remembering all of that at 108 miles an hour on a hot Nevada summer’s day.

Of course, the V-Performance Academy doesn’t throw you to the proverbial wolves right away… or I should say proverbial bears.

Each two day session starts with an intro and safety presentation from Rick Malone, the impossibly cheery-lead instructor of the V-Performance Academy, and arguably one of the few people in the world that could make something as unbelievably taken-for-granted as “looking where your going” feel like something you’ve never considered before

Complete with a sun-soaked skin, a grin the size of the Vegas strip (but who can blame him, this is his “retirement career”), and hand gestures that would make a Jersey deli owner blush, Rick is a wizard at ridding you of any butterflies in your stomach, mostly because it seems like he’s got ‘em too.

A quick introduction to the rest of his team of instructors – a collection of seasoned racing pros ranging from a current NASCAR driver to one of Formula Drift’s newest recruits – and it’s right down to business. Look where you’re going, don’t get too cocky out there, and “we’ve never had a car written off so don’t be the first to do it” about sums up the first classroom session, then it’s off to the skid pad for some driving basics.

Since the junket of journalists had our pick of which car we would wield throughout the program, I decided that the 467 horsepower ATS-V wasn’t hardcore enough for me, and strapped myself in to the supercharged CTS-V, if not only because I’d spent minimal time with the thing in the past, and wanted to see what a Corvette Z06 engine in a Cadillac felt like at the absolute limit.

After testing heavy braking and quick lane change maneuvers on a wet strip of tarmac and completing a slalom course with a giant sunshade on the windshield to get you to look out the side windows for where you should be headed, it was back to the classroom, and then quickly back out on to the track for some practice on a slalom in different driving modes (Tour, Sport, Track, and with various traction control programs turned on or off).

There was a lunch tucked in there somewhere, but most of us were itching to get done with the classroom session and out to phase three: controlling oversteer and understeer and a high-speed loop to teach you how to approach different kinds of corners.

Yes, the oversteer practice included full opposite lock drifting on a wet figure-8. And yes, it was righteous.

By the end of day one, you’re positively chomping at the bit to get some time on track, and that’s exactly what we did next, with groups of three student cars following one lead instructor for some warm up laps, and trading spots right behind the lead car to see how fast you were able to push the cars on day one.

A few low-speed laps and I was already sweating like a glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day… or rather, a nervous Northeast-bred journalist on a normal Nevada day.

Before I worked my way up to the front, I got the chance to see how my colleagues were doing with the instructor’s guidance, and got to marvel at just how competent these guys really are.

To put it in perspective, Rick’s team of instructors were leading a bunch of relatively experienced automotive journalists trying their damnedest around a track with one hand on the steering wheel, another on a handheld radio, and both eyes scanning every rear-view mirror for signs of a mistake.

“Watch your throttle coming out of turn 6 there.”

“A little too late on the brakes there Brian.”

“Nice work, way to get that weight over the front wheels and kiss the apex.”

Hell, I’m convinced these guys could put up a faster lap time around Spring Mountain’s track 1 in their sleep than I could after a full day of trying.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what I was attempting to do in my head that night while falling asleep.

Day two brought with it more involved classroom sessions and a full day of all-out track sessions. We would give it our all in the lead-follow formation out on track, come back in, and learn a little bit more about advanced performance driving techniques, like using trail braking to turn weight transfer to your advantage, being smooth and gentle with your throttle inputs, and braking the opposite of how you would when approaching a red light at an intersection.

For every session, though, it wasn’t just the instructors that were watching us like hawks. Cadillac’s V models offer a $1,600 option known as the Performance Data Recorder (PDR), which uses a windshield mounted camera and every sensor the car has to offer to take a video of your drive, overlay track-specific information like RPM, speed, selected gear, brake, and throttle pressure, and even lets you set a finish line point via GPS and draw out the racetrack so you can time your laps accurately. It’s an incredible tool for performance driving, and isn’t offered by any other automaker as of yet. Plus, you can use it to spy on valets and dealership service employees to make sure your car goes where it’s supposed to when you’re not in it.

Armed with a complimentary SD card with every lap of the last two days, I offered up my data to be used as the demonstration material for the class… for better or worse.

Using the Cosworth Toolbox software (unfortunately only available for Windows-equipped computers), we were able to see the racing lines I took on a satellite map of the track, my maximum tire, oil, and transmission temperatures at each lap, and where exactly I made up or (usually) lost time in relation to a pre-loaded instructor’s lap.

The demonstration lap, run by Blake, Formula Drift’s newest driver, rang in at about 1:21.00. My best lap of the day was over four seconds slower at 1:25.10.

I felt a pang of disappointment, and it showed on my face, but classroom instructor Rico quickly reassured that my lap time was among the best they’re able to coax out of V-Performance students, so with my head held high and my pride properly bolstered, I headed back out on track for the last two sessions of the day and promptly let overconfidence ruin my lap times. Womp, womp.

Having spent most of my time in the CTS-V, I took the ATS-V for a spin during the last session of the day, hoping to gauge the difference between the two hi-po Caddies. As it turns out, the ATS-V is much better suited for a technical track like the one at Spring Mountain, and with 400 pounds less weight and more responsive chassis, it instantly felt confidence-inspiring, at least more so than the grizzly in a Saville Row suit that is the CTS-V.

But while I derived the most confidence from the ATS-V’s driving dynamics, the satisfaction of coaxing a sub-90-second lap time out of a 640-horsepower midsize Cadillac was immense, and one of the most triumphant moments I’ve experienced in a long time. I had wrestled the bear, danced with it, and gone home without a scratch.

It’s often said that “speed kills,” and while I don’t necessarily agree with that statement in such a simplistic form, it’s undeniable that excessive speed can most certainly be deadly.

How many times have high-horsepower cars been spun out leaving a Cars and Coffee meet (we’re looking at you, Mustang drivers), or exotic Italian rental cars been wrecked because of general dumbassery (also looking at you, Justin Bieber)? Countless, it seems.

If you have the means to buy a car that can reach triple-digit speeds on public roads in less time than it takes to realize how incredibly idiotic you’re being, then you likely have the means to attend a performance driving school, even if it’s not included in the purchase of the car. Heck, I’m of the opinion that it should be mandatory experience for anyone who owns or operates a car with over 450 horsepower.

And if Cadillac wasn’t on your list for a high-performance luxury car before, allow me to be the first to tell you that it damn well should be, if not only for the experience available to you at the V-Performance Academy.

These ain’t your granddaddy’s Cadillacs, and this ain’t his driver’s ed. class either.
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Monday, 5 June 2017

NHRA drag racer hits 331 mph record, bursts into flames crossing finishing line

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NHRA drag racer hits 331 mph record, bursts into flames crossing finishing line
 Drag racing, though an exciting motorsport to watch, always has the potential to end poorly. However, while there are plenty of instances of ugly crashes, it’s not every day you see a racer’s engine explode.

During a qualifying run for the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway this past Friday, driver Courtney Force found herself in that scary situation when a fuel line burst on her Advanced Auto Parts Chevy Camaro Funny Car.

Force crossed the finish line first with a top qualifying speed of 331.53 miles per hour and a new track elapsed-time record of 3.842 seconds. As impressive a feat as that was, things quickly turned dangerous as almost instantly, her car exploded and ended up crashing into, and dragging along, the left side wall.

As terrifying as the explosion looks, Force easily walked away from this one, immediately hopping out of the car once it came to a stop. She didn’t seem too daunted by the accident, joking in a television interview with Fox Sports afterwards, “It was a burst of flames, and the next thing I know I was driving a Chevrolet convertible.” It wasn’t long before she was back on the track with a replacement car for a second qualifying round.
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The Spousal Report: Should you wait for the redesigned 2018 Camry, or get a great deal on the outgoing 2017 Camry?

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The Spousal Report: Should you wait for the redesigned 2018 Camry, or get a great deal on the outgoing 2017 Camry?
 Toyota is getting ready to roll out a completely redesigned 2018 Camry, one that it claims will be more fun to drive and stylish while raising the bar in terms of safety systems and technological sophistication. The company’s president, Akio Toyoda, even calls the new 2018 Camry “sexy.” Ever seen a sexy Camry?

At the same time, Toyota dealers are busily selling down remaining stocks of the “old” 2017 Camry, which remains the best-selling car in America through April of 2017. Honda quibbles with that claim, by the way, and Toyota’s rival has a point. The Camry is sold willy-nilly to fleet operators such as rental car companies, government agencies, local municipalities, and, as you may have noticed, city cab companies. Honda sells its vehicles to people like you, an everyday consumer, conjecturing that this distinction in how the cars are sold actually makes its Accord and Civic models the most popular cars in the country.

Either way, dealers are dealing on the 2017 Toyota Camry, so we thought we’d revisit this retiring model to help you decide whether you should take advantage of great deals now or wait for the allegedly sexy new 2018 Camry to arrive in showrooms.

As such, Daily News Autos editor Christian Wardlaw and his wife, contributing writer Liz Kim spent a week driving a 2017 Camry XSE with a power sunroof, a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, Smart Key entry with push-button engine starting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, an anti-theft system, and a carpeted mat set. The price tag came to $29,680 (including the destination charge of $885).

She Says:

Are you sure we had a 2017 Toyota Camry in our driveway for a week? Positive? Because I can barely remember the dang thing, it’s so bland.

It’s not so ugly as to leave an impression, and it’s not handsome enough to remark upon its angles or curves. The front fascia is shorn of any memorable sharpness, while the rear is unworthy of a second glance. I suppose that the mesh grille of the XSE is preferable to the horizontal slats of other trim levels, and the creases along the side of the hood are interesting if you’re looking at them from a low angle.

In short, the Toyota Camry looks like a midsize sedan, and that’s about it.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, especially for those who seek basic transportation and don’t want to stand out in a crowd. I think that a family touring an unfamiliar city would definitely prefer to drive an anonymous vehicle, and those working government jobs with government-issued vehicles would relish the relief from public scrutiny. But I’d prefer to drive something with a sense of style to it.

Inside, the Camry’s cabin displayed similar restraint, as the test vehicle was dressed in black on black, my least favorite vehicle color scheme. Still, the silver trim pieces are prominent enough to dress it up a little bit, the red stitching contrasted nicely with the black upholstery, and the overall build quality was very good, as was the quality of the materials.
You can tell that the Camry XSE is the sporty model by its rear spoiler. No, it doesn’t add downforce to improve high-speed stability.

He Says:

I agree that the Camry is utterly forgettable in terms of its design.

Last redesigned for the 2012 model year, the outgoing Camry was styled to maximize fuel efficiency. Remember, half a decade ago gas was expensive, and the economy was still in recovery from the Great Recession. The result was a slab-sided, crisply cornered automobile with all of the charm of a white refrigerator. A chrome moustache grille and pincer-style taillights were attempts at giving the car character, but Toyota’s approach to the 2012 Camry’s styling drove consumers to purchase the stiffly suspended Camry SE in record numbers for its sportier monochrome appearance and decent wheel designs.

For 2015, Toyota reskinned the Camry, adding Lexus-like drama up front, more dramatic character for the hood and flanks, and a reworked rear end. Though the roof and greenhouse remained unchanged, a visual trick aft of the rear door windows gave the Camry a sleeker appearance.

With that as preamble, the Camry is, umm, acceptable in the looks department. I really don’t have an opinion one way or another, except to state that the 18-inch wheels installed on the XSE model go a long way toward improving the car’s look. The bright blue paint, unusual for a humdrum family sedan, was the only exterior feature that elicited commentary from anyone. Our Gen Y nephews thought it was an odd color for a car like the Camry.

Inside, the Camry’s appealing dashboard appears to have a huge plastic waterfall of screens and controls tacked onto it, ruining to some degree the cabin’s cohesiveness. Ergonomically, though, large knobs and buttons combined with a logical control layout make operating the Camry easy. All Toyota needs to do is upgrade the infotainment system, which is happening for 2018.

She Says:

Right! The searingly bright blue paint. Totally WRX, and does not complement the Camry’s personality at all. The effect is not unlike Sir Ian McKellan in a romper (or romp-him). Totally jarring.
How it Feels
Apparently, the less you weigh, the more comfortable the Camry XSE’s front seats will be. (Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)

He Says:

At first, I find it easy to get comfortable in the Camry XSE. A multitude of power adjustments for the driver, combined with soft surfaces everywhere you’re likely to rest an elbow as well as a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, make a positive first impression.

After a few hours on the road, though, the seats start to feel hard rather than supportive, you become aware that the padding on the center console is just dense enough to mask the hard plastic beneath it, and that the leather wrapped around the steering wheel is neither as smooth or as supple as what’s offered in some competing vehicles.

I’m not a fan of the rear seat, either. It’s roomy enough, and the bottom cushion sits up high with decent support, but the backrests are too reclined for comfort and force occupants to slouch. Air conditioning vents definitely add to comfort levels, and can be shut off when a passenger gets too cold. The Camry lacks rear USB charging ports, though, an increasingly unforgivable sin.

Materials require an upgrade, too. The upper portion of the cabin impresses, but the lower part is paneled in plastic that is too obvious about its construction. The simulated suede seat inserts used in the Camry XSE look good, though, and help to hold a driver in place when tackling corners with enthusiasm.
Roomy and equipped with air conditioning vents that can be shut off when desirable, the Camry’s back seat is comfortable for some, but not for others. (Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)

She Says:

I found the driver’s seat to be very comfy, and I was easily able to find a great driving position, but I have consistently found that forward visibility out of the Camry is problematic. I like to sit up high, and the thick windshield pillars and low-mounted rear view mirror impede my view out.

Also a little dismaying, the passenger’s seat didn’t have a height adjuster. Why manufacturers so often neglect this very basic accommodation is beyond me.

I do dig all of the thoughtful bins and cubbies that easily accommodate the accouterments of daily life, such as the covered bin forward of the shifter perfect for holding my phone and keys, and an open bin in front of the console for loose change or receipts. Unfortunately, the Camry’s Qi-compatible wireless charging pad is useless to our Apple-addled family.

I heard no complaints about the rear seat, as the Camry offers loads of room for even three full-size adults. There are bottle holders and storage spaces in the doors to hold this and that, and the rear air conditioning vents are especially appreciated.

I did find that the doors and trunk felt light and insubstantial when shutting them, a sensation accompanied by a tinny sound and shudder. But, light doors might be easier to use for those who lack vigor.

He Says:

I forgot to mention the storage areas...Toyota does a terrific job of providing places to stash your stuff. However, the trunk, measuring 15.4 cubic-feet, is on the small side of the midsize sedan spectrum.
How it Works
When it comes to a car’s controls, simplicity rules. Based on how Toyota lays out the 2017 Camry’s dashboard, the company understands this. (Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)

She Says:

Toyota gets it! The 2017 Camry gives you large volume and tuning knobs located in their rightful place on the center stack, along with separate secondary buttons and a climate control section underneath. It’s traditional, it’s familiar, and it’s the best arrangement.

Unfortunately, Toyota doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone projection for the infotainment system, but my test vehicle had plenty of apps to keep me informed and entertained through Entune App Suite.

Many modern cars have minimized the tachometer, or done away with them altogether, but with the Camry Toyota keeps it old-school, providing a tach as big as the speedometer. And I like that the driver information center between the gauges displays directional information from the navigation system.
Toyota will introduce a next-generation infotainment system in the new 2018 Camry. The old 2017 Camry makes do with this rapidly aging version of the company’s Entune App Suite technology.

He Says:

Oversized buttons and knobs, located where they are easy to see and expected to be, make the Camry simple and intuitive to use. In turn, this helps to minimize driver distraction. I’ll bet you can even operate them while wearing gloves, which cannot be said for many of today’s feature-packed vehicles.

As for the Entune App Suite infotainment system, well, it is looking just as dated as the Camry’s styling. The screen is small, it lacks a flush glass surface, and the stacked slivers of touch-sensitive radio station presets are hard to use with accuracy, especially given the Camry XSE’s stiff ride quality.

Plus, Toyota remains steadfast in its disinclination to add smartphone projection technology to its vehicles, so no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for you. Why? Toyota has cited concerns about data security, and feels that the 2018 Camry’s new Entune 3.0 infotainment system offers a superior user experience.

You can’t get a Wi-Fi connection using Entune, either. Siri Eyes Free is included, however, a feature that I find quite useful.
How it Drives
Stiff suspension tuning, bigger tires, heavy steering, and extra bracing are supposed to the make the 2017 Camry XSE more fun to drive. It is, but only when measured against a Camry LE or XLE.

He Says:

Our test car arrived with the popular 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rather than the excellent 3.5-liter V6 engine, putting a damper on the potential for fun. A Camry XSE with a V6 is genuinely fast. A Camry XSE with a 4-cylinder, not so much.

With 178 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque, and thanks to a 6-speed automatic transmission that is attentive about making the car as responsive as possible, my bet is that most people will find this engine satisfactory most of the time. Still, given that the V6 cranks out 268 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque, and is rated to get 25 mpg in combined driving rather than the 4-cylinder’s 27 mpg, I strongly urge people to consider the bigger engine.

Looking back at my notes from a drive in the 2015 XSE V6, I see that the car returned 22.9 mpg on my test loop. This 2017 XSE 4-cylinder averaged 23.6 mpg. This convinces me even more that the V6 is the way to go.

As far as driving dynamics are concerned, the Camry is definitely showing its age. In alignment with their sportier personalities, the SE and XSE trim levels receive structural enhancements and stiffer suspension tuning, while the XSE further gains handling potential through its set of 18-inch wheels and 225/45 tires. While this might have been satisfactory five years ago, the competition has surpassed the Camry with more robust vehicle architectures and deftly tuned underpinnings.

The ride is stiff when you’d rather experience compliance, and the suspension allows too much body roll when you’d prefer a flatter cornering attitude. The all-season tires don’t offer as much grip as is expected of a sporty sedan, and the steering isn’t particularly sharp. The worst thing about driving the Camry, regardless of the situation, is brake pedal numbness that contributes to difficult modulation.

Certainly, among all Camry models, the XSE possesses the greatest potential for showing you a good time. But in comparison to many midsize sedans with sporting intentions, it comes up short.
The Camry’s standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is rated to get 27 mpg in combined driving. The available 3.5-liter V6, which is far more powerful and enjoyable, is expected to return 25 mpg. Upgrade yourself. (Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)

She Says:

Toyota thinks that calling its sedan sporty will make it sporty. I am here to tell you that this is not so.

Acceleration from the 4-cylinder engine is decent, but again, nothing to get excited about. It just does what you think it should with no drama. Power delivery is fairly linear, lacking both swells of motive force and holes of unresponsiveness, and the transmission is predictable with regard to its shifts. I don’t like how clunky the shifter feels, though. Every time I took it out of park, I was thinking that the Camry would benefit from a rotating shift knob like the one inside of a Ford Fusion. I’m usually not a fan of novelty transmission shifters but the lever felt pretty junky.

Renowned for isolating its occupants from the road, which results in a quiet chamber from which to do other things such as listen to the radio, think about the upcoming peer review, or converse with your passengers, the Camry is not known for fostering driver engagement with the car and the road. The SE and XSE models are supposed to be different, and not just because they look sportier. Toyota actually takes steps to make them better at delivering a modicum of enjoyment.

This effort, however, is not successful. Overall, handling is a bit flaccid. The steering is light, although the tight turning circle is appreciated in parking lots. Brake pedal feel is mushy, and calibration needs to be improved. While the Camry didn’t exhibit too much body roll when tossed into a curve, it did show quite a bit of front to rear wallow.

Honestly, I did not enjoy driving this car. The Camry has never had a reputation for being a driver’s car, and this outgoing 2017 version won’t help to change that. What it does deliver is a mostly smooth, eerily quiet ride to endure your commute.

He Says:

I realize that we use different driving loops, but we’re pretty far apart on ride quality and steering heft. I find the car too stiff and the steering on the heavy side, but you cite a smooth ride and light steering effort. Why do you think that is?

She Says:

Different frame of reference and perspectives, I guess. That’s why everyone should read more than just a couple of reviews, and most importantly, test drive cars, preferably extensively, themselves.
Would we buy one?
The Toyota Camry’s trunk measures 15.4 cubic feet, which is mid-pack among midsize cars. (Speedy Daddy Media, Inc.)

Her Verdict:

The Toyota Camry made its reputation by delivering trouble-free motoring to millions of owners, a fact reflected in its Consumer Reports “Recommended” rating for the umpteenth time, its numerous reliability awards, and its high resale value. No, the Camry won’t make your adrenaline surge with excitement, but should your pulse be racing in an actual emergency, it’s nice to know that you can depend on this sensible car to start, get in gear, and get you out of trouble.

But our family wants something more. We want a car that we enjoy touting, and one that makes us smile every time we get into it. Mere practicality doesn’t cut it. I think that if we were in the market for a family sedan, the Camry would land pretty far down on our list.

If it came down to the top titans of the family sedan cage match, it would be Accord FTW.

His Verdict:

Affordability, reliability, and safety are among the primary reasons that people choose one car over another, and the 2017 Camry delivers on all three fronts. But if you want something more than that, this Toyota is unlikely to deliver it.

Personally, I want more. I want a greater sense of style. I want engaging driving dynamics. I want to drive a car of which I can be proud to own, and something that isn’t ubiquitous on American roads. While that last requirement makes for a lousy business case for any car company, the rest of this wish list is achievable. And it appears that Toyota will do just that with the redesigned 2018 Camry.

If you have an immediate need for a dependable set of wheels, a discounted 2017 Camry makes sense. Otherwise, take a look at my favorite in the segment, the Mazda Mazda6, or wait for the all-new 2018 Camry to go on sale.
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