Saturday, November 18, 2017

2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Arrives, Most Powerful Accord Yet

Expect to see the new Honda Accord 2.0T on dealer showrooms very soon. Honda says this Accord variant is “more powerful and engaging” with a new 2.0-liter VTEC Turbo under the hood. The Accord lineup continues its diversity with the 2.0T, which follows on the heels of the 1.5T released just a month ago. Early next year, the pair will be joined by the Accord Hybrid, featuring the 3rd generation of Honda’s two-motor hybrid technology.

Power & Performance

The Accord 2.0T is powered by a VTEC Turbo inline-four with direct injection and a dual overhead cam setup. With 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque, the engine is related to the one in the Civic Type R; both share similar design principles. The Civic Type R may be the most powerful Honda in production at the moment, but believe it or not, the Accord 2.0T actually employs a smaller, low-inertia turbocharger for improved low-end response.

Overall, the Honda Accord lineup features two new i-VTEC Turbo engines, a more rigid, lightweight sealed body, and an entirely new chassis. The latter was benchmarked against luxury-class D-segment competitors during development.

Safety & Security

The Accord 2.0T features the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety technologies, including Traffic Sign Recognition. Likewise, Honda is expecting high safety marks from the New Car Assessment Program, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Honda Accord Sport 2.0T. Photo: Honda North America.

Interior Treatments

Inside, Honda goes for simple connectivity and functionality. The Accord 2.0T includes wireless charging, a 6-inch heads-up display, 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and the next generation of HondaLink Assist, the automaker’s connected-car technology. An 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen interface with sharper graphics and more user-friendly features, like hard buttons for frequently used functions, is also available.

Pricing & Availability

Expect to see the 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T on dealer lots on Monday, November 22nd. We have included a handy pricing and fuel economy chart below. All 2018 Accords for the U.S. market are manufactured at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio plant. Its three new engines are produced at the nearby Anna, Ohio facility, the automaker’s largest engine plant in the world.

Carl Anthony in Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.  

2018 Accord 2.0T Trims, MSRP & EPA Ratings

Trim / Transmission MSRP MSRP Including $890 Destination EPA Fuel Economy Ratings
(City / Highway/ Combined)
Accord 2.0T Sport / 6MT $30,310 $31,200 22 / 32 / 26
Accord 2.0T Sport / 10AT $30,310 $31,200 22 / 32 / 26
Accord 2.0T EX-L / 10AT $31,970 $32,860 23 / 34 / 27
Accord 2.0T EX-L Navi / 10AT $32,970 $33,860 23 / 34 / 27
Touring / 10AT $35,800 $36,690 22 / 32 / 26

Photos & Source: Honda North America.

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Tesla Roadster Revealed (And It’s Powerful)

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold up, hold up … Tesla just rolled out a new version of the Roadster out of nowhere. They were just supposed to debut a new, all-electric semi truck, then boom, here’s this gorgeous, new, completely unexpected electric sports car. Sure, sure, the truck is interesting, but at this point, who cares? I don’t. Although the information I have is rather thin, the performance specs are shocking. I mean jet fighter going up against a prop plane shocking.

Ground Rules

Before I dive in here, let’s get a few “minor” quibbles out of the way. First off, this is not really a roadster and it stretches the definition of “sports car.” What the new Tesla Roadster is, form-factor-wise, is a targa. There’s a large-ish removable roof panel – made of glass, which is kind of trick – that stores in the trunk (nice!). Tesla says this gives you “an open-air, convertible driving experience.” No, it won’t. I like targas, but don’t confuse them with convertibles. In a convertible there’s nothing behind your head but beautiful wind turbulence, a sonorous exhaust note, the tarmac you were just on, and the sighs of those jealous souls you just passed. And, more to the point, roadsters are not even convertibles. Roadsters don’t convert. Roadsters have no tops at all. Roadsters are four-wheeled motorcycles. You are out there in the elements, come rain or come shine. Ah, roadsters.

Also, like I said, Tesla is stretching the definition of “sports car” here because their new Roadster has four seats. It’s also unclear just how much room those two chairs in back offer. This could, effectively, be a 2 + 2. That would be tolerable, since some bonafide sports cars are 2 + 2s (Porsche 911s, for example), but if that back seat is actually usable for full grown adults (including fat, lazy American adults) rather than a coupe with dwarf-sized rear seating, then I’ll probably cringe a little bit more at the use of the term “sports car.”

But who cares about that stuff? Check out these specs!

Photo: Tesla Motors.

Power & Performance

Zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds! Zero to 100 comes up in 4.2! The quarter mile evaporates in 8.8! Top speed of “over” 250 miles an hour. The torque is 10,000 Nm … which is way, way more than seven-thousand foot pounds of torque. I mean, no wonder this thing runs a quarter almost a full second faster than a Kawasaki Ninja; I’ve seen bazooka rounds move slower. Shoot, I’ve seen pro-stock drag cars run slower than that. And this thing comes with a warranty.

Range? 620 miles. That is Detroit to Indianapolis and back with juice left over. Yeah, I know. Range numbers can be finicky, and yeah, I know, you won’t get 600 plus miles out of the thing if you’re blasting off a couple dozen quarter mile runs. But even taking that kind of stuff into consideration, “range anxiety” turns into “range reassurance” pretty quickly.

Oh, and the new Tesla Roadster is all-wheel drive. There’s no details on the drivetrain layout – or for that matter the batteries, where they’re located, weight distribution (shoot, all up weight either), controller specs, cooling needs, and the like – but Tesla has been motivating via all four wheels with both the Model S and the Model X, so my money is on some version of that drivetrain layout.

Photo: Tesla Motors.

Comparing & Contrasting

The Roadster has a curious resemblance to Porsche’s upcoming Mission E all-electric car. It has that same sinusoidal roof line and plunging roll-off from the front fenders and hood to the, uh, grill. There is a grill of some sort, low down and much smaller than a car with an internal combustion engine, and is most likely there to cool the controller and its subsystems, which can run hot.

The whole front end is much more aesthetically pleasing than the Porsche. Tesla’s Roadster doesn’t have the dubious headlights that the Mission E has, and although the Roadster’s lights are small and focused and downturned, they don’t come across nearly as squinty and angry as a lot of other modern cars that are dying to say, “look at me, I am a mean and purposeful performance car! Fear me!”

The rear of the Roadster has a very large central venturi tunnel, flanked by two smaller versions. This, undoubtedly, produces lots of downforce, but Tesla doesn’t give us any figures. Also undoubtedly, the underbody of the roadster is probably as smooth as a dolphin since there’s no stuff like drivelines and mufflers and all that. Going full EV must be such a joy to packaging engineers.

Photo: Tesla Motors.

Critical Questions

And now, a few inconsequential nit-pickings about those specs. Actually, I have only two. The first is that range number, which is honestly great. But we have to see how that will hold up in the real world, under real-world driving conditions. The other is that terminal velocity of “over 250 mph.” I’m not saying a road vehicle can’t do that, I just have some questions. Like, what kind of tires are you running? How many runs “over 250” can you do before you wear those factory tires down to the chords? How long can you sustain 250 mph before the batteries run dry? I’m not saying the Tesla Roadster can’t hit this speed, I just want to know a bunch about what goes along with that sort of V Max.

Elon Musk, head Tesla dude, personal friend of Tony Stark, very wealthy fiddler of rockets and maglev trains, implied during the roll out that one day, driving a gasoline car will be much less thrilling when compared to its electric counterparts. The crowd seemed very pleased by this. And I am too. The performance potential here, due in large part to the Roadster producing torque like an ocean-going tug, is the rolling definition of thrilling.

Tesla Founder Elon Musk reveals the new Roadster. Photo: Tesla Motors.

Pricing & Availability

Expect to see the Tesla Roadster in 2020. Nothing further than that, but whatever debut date Tesla eventually gives will probably be short by 10 months or so. There is, however, an answer to the question of “how much?” Simple: $200,000, starting. Oh, I do agree. That is a lot of money. Even if this thing can blow you so far off the road that Rui Faleiro couldn’t find you, 200 large is, well, 200 large.

And that’s just the base price. It will cost you $50,000 up front to get the base reservation so you can wait in line for your Tesla Roadster to show up. If you want it quicker, and want to be ushered to the very front of the line, then you need to pay $250,000 for the Founders Series Price. And, if you’d like, you can pay it right now. Tesla is already taking reservations.

When you think about it, $250,000 is what big bore Aston Martins and Porsches and even Ferraris cost. And the Tesla Roadster is not “within range” of those mighty offerings, it surpasses them. Easily. The upcoming Tesla Roadster just moved the performance envelope up and to the right, and it moved it a lot.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

Photos & Source: Tesla Motors.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Toyota C-HR

As consumers continue to shun traditional cars, as in sedans, they are flocking to the various Crossover Utility Vehicle segments. The tiny little guys are arguably the coolest bunch of the segment. Not much larger than a four door hatchback, they ride higher and have a stance closer to that of an SUV than that of a car. Each entry into the segment offers their own brand of quirk, often creating polarizing reviews from viewers.

Toyota’s player in this space, which is made up of the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, is the plucky little C-HR. The Honda and Mazda models offer styling which can best be called mainstream conservative, while the Toyota joins Nissan at the more, umm, creative side of the spectrum. True, the C-HR doesn’t seem to have lit up the weird meter like the Juke does, it definitely seems to make onlookers scratch their head a bit.

The two-tone roof and body treatment, which seems normal for the MINI camp, created the most conversation with friends and family during our week with the test unit. I actually like the look, but I was the only one who was feeling the love.

C-HR boasts quite possibly the biggest roof mounted spoiler available today.

Entering the driver’s seat shows off a beef I have with a lot of small vehicles: seat height. While I am only 5′ 10″ tall, I have short legs and a long torso, coupled with a bad back that doesn’t bend too well. Even with the height adjustable seat in the fully down position, I whack my head off the roof edge unless I consciously duck my head under the edge before swinging my butt into the seat. My 5’2″ wife and daughter do not have the same complaint. Your mileage may vary.

Once inside however, the cabin is comfy and modern stylish. One rear seat passenger did comment that the space felt a bit claustrophobic due to the high line of the window sills which curve upwards to those funky outside door handles.

The first thing I noticed when heading onto the highway was how quite the little bug is at speed. Such a quiet cabin is impressive at this price point. That serenity vanishes when one mashes the right pedal to the floor.

As is becoming popular these days, Toyota has chosen to hang a CVT unit onto the end of its lovely 2.0L four banger. To simplify the description a bit, a CVT is essentially a larger version of a snowmobile transmission, which uses a belt that is driven via a cone shaped device to increase and decrease vehicle speed based on throttle position. There are no gears to change. If the driver applies full throttle, the engine will spin to its redline and stay there until the desired speed is reached and the driver lessens the pressure on the pedal. Regardless of how well insulated a cabin is, an engine at high revs is making some noise!

It is interesting to note that unlike the offerings from Mazda and Honda, Toyota has chosen to offer the C-HR in front wheel drive only, where the others have all wheel drive available. I suppose this won’t bother some buyers, but it seems like a bit of an odd contenting decision, especially for the Canadian market.

The cargo area is spacious enough for daily life with a young family and with the seats folded would easily swallow everything needed for a couple to go camping.

Careful attention should be paid to package content, as the $24,690 base price of the C-HR is substantially more than the base price of both primary competitors. The base price does however include Toyota Safety Sense, a bundle of active and passive driver safety aids that include Pre-Collision System , Auto High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (full speed), Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.

Overall, the Toyota C-HR is a fun and funky little ride which is definitely worthy of a look while shopping the segment.

from The Garage
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nissan’s Midnight Editions Broken Down By Model

Nissan says for 2018, a portion of their lineup proves “black is the new black.” The phrase “the new black” originates from the fashion industry, meaning a given thing is suddenly all the rage. And saying black is the new back in the automotive industry is certifiably true, especially for Nissan. The automaker has moved 50,000 Midnight Edition themed vehicles this year alone.

Given the popularity, Nissan is expanding the Midnight Edition lineup to include Frontier, Titan, and Titan XD. Below is a breakdown of each Nissan Midnight edition by model.

“For 2018, we’ve developed a complete portfolio of the popular, blacked-out Midnight Edition look among nine of our most popular Nissan sedans, SUVs, and now pickups,” explained said Dan Mohnke, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing and Operations, Nissan Division U.S., Nissan North America, Inc. “These dramatic appearing Midnight Edition models reflect the popular aftermarket trend of blackout wheels and trim, but are ready to drive off the dealer lots with full factory quality and warranty coverage.”

Nissan Midnight Editions. Photo: Nissan North America.

Sentra Midnight Edition

Nissan’s small sedan gets rowdy with 17-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, black outside heated mirrors, black rear spoiler, black license plate finisher, and the black V-Motion grille. Available on Sentra SR.

Altima Midnight Edition

Available on the 2.5 SR, this Altima includes black 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, black mirror caps, black spoiler, black Altima and SR rear emblems, and a black rear license plate holder. Up font, Nissan’s signature V-Motion grille sets the stage for the Altima’s overall design. Inside, Prima-Tex heated seats and a navigation system are included.

Maxima Midnight Edition

One of our favorite Nissan cars, the Maxima in this variant (SR) receives a black sport spoiler, 19-inch gloss black aluminum alloy wheels with center caps, black Maxima and SR rear emblems, and a black V-Motion grille with lower surround. Other tech niceties include the Intelligent Around View Monitor and Intelligent Driver Alertness.

Nissan Maxima Midnight Edition. Photo: Nissan North America.

Rogue Midnight Edition

The Nissan Rogue Midnight Edition is like many of its SUV stablemates, sharing the signature black V-Motion grille, black roof rails, black rear license plate finisher, black cross bars, splash guards, and illuminated kickplates. Available on Rogue SV.

Murano Midnight Edition

Family-hauling won’t be boring here with 20-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, black outside mirrors, black roof rails, black license plate finisher, and black front and rear lower bumper accents. The V-Motion grille is front and center while black side body moldings, black splash guards, and illuminated kickplates finish off the appointments. Available on Murano SL.

Pathfinder Midnight Edition

Available on Pathfinder SL, this SUV features 20-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, black outside mirrors, black roof rails, black license plate finisher, and the black V-Motion grille. Further exterior appointments include black front and rear lower bumper accents, black rear spoiler, black splash guards, illuminated kickplates, and exterior approach lighting.

Nissan has expand the Midnight Edition package to include Frontier and Titan for 2018. Photo: Nissan North America.

Frontier Midnight Edition

The Frontier may be showing its age when compared to offerings from General Motors, Honda, and Toyota, but the Midnight Edtion treatments do dress the truck up. Expect to see a gloss-black grille, 18-inch gloss black aluminum alloy wheels, semi-gloss-black step rails, body-color front and rear bumpers, black outside rearview mirrors and door handles, and special floor mats.

The Midnight Edition Frontier is available in Crew Cab SV, 4×2 or 4×4, with an automatic transmission.

Titan & Titan XD Midnight Editions

The big rigs join the party with a special front grille, darker headlights, black fog light finishers, black outside rearview mirrors and door handles, step rails, and black exterior badging. There are 20-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, body-color front and rear bumpers, and charcoal interior trim. For the Titan, the Midnight Edition is available on Crew Cab SV and SL trims in either a 4×2 or 4×4 configuration. For the XD, it’s Crew Cab SV and SL grades, 4×4 only, and only with the available Cummins 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel.

Pricing & Availability

The 2018 Midnight Editions are arriving at Nissan dealers nationwide, although some won’t be available until later in December. Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for the individual Midnight Edition packages are below. Do you have a favorite Nissan Midnight Edition? Let us know on Twitter.

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. 

Altima SR Midnight Edition $1,095
Frontier SV Midnight Edition $995
Maxima SR Midnight Edition $1,195
Pathfinder SL Midnight Edition $1,395
Rogue SV Midnight Edition $1,095
Sentra SR Midnight Edition $495

Photos & Source: Nissan North America.

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2019 Corvette ZR1: Supercar? Hypercar? Or Something Else?

“The 2019 Corvette ZR1, a supercar that pushes Corvette’s performance legacy with the highest power, greatest track performance, and most advanced technology in its production history.” That’s what Chevy says. Are they right? Oh yes. Oh my yes … mostly. It’s that “supercar” that gives me pause. Is this thing fast? Very much so. Quick? Senselessly so. Grip? Like a barnacle. Stops? Like a train hitting a bank building. Supercar? Hmmmm …

What’s In A Name?

Supercar is an interesting moniker. It used to be the top of the heap. The highest step on the ziggurat. It used to go like this: Car, sports car (which I still believe is one word) supercar, and now, hypercar. Cars are just cars, simple and utilitarian with enough “performance” to make their average owner wish for more convenient public transportation. Sports cars lode-stone toward the True North of performance at the expense of everything else (except style, if it’s an Italian sports car). Supercars are, or were, the best (of the best) a given automaker had to offer. Hypercars added another step to the pyramid (something within the rules in any technological game) and added enough high-velocity tech to the go/turn/stop derby to nearly keep up with an F1 car.

Interesting Perspectives

The problem with these demarcations is that, performance-wise, things are always shifting upward. Something as mundane and forgetful as a Toyota Camry probably could have sat on the pole at Le Mans in 1950. What passes for a good example of a sports car today, say a Porsche Cayman, could have won Le Mans outright in 1955. When the first modern Corvette ZR1 came out a while back, it was a near world-beater. If it could not outright defeat something like a Ferrari 458 Italia or the latest big gun 911 variant, it could at least run with them. Now? That “old” ZR1 has been pushed out of the supercar category and into the sports car class.

The new ZR1? Oh, it’s good. Very, very, oh so good. But the competition is fierce. Cars like the Ferrari 812 and Porsche 911 GT eat sharks for breakfast and wolverines as an afternoon snack. Can the 2019 Corvette ZR1 match that, let alone beat it? Dunno, since no one has driven the new ZR yet, but I swear on the grave of Zora Arkus-Duntov the new ZR1 looks, reads, and seems imposing. Dauntingly so.

Photo: Chevrolet.

Power & Performance

Under the huge composite clamshell hood of the ZR1 lives an LT5 6.2L V8 engine, delivering the highest output ever for a Chevrolet production vehicle. The mill and blower combo in this new ZR1 puts out 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft. of torque. That’s a significant gain for the Corvette, and it’s all down to a new, more-efficient intercooled supercharger system and a dual-fuel-injection system, which employs primary direct injection and supplemental port injection. In case you’re interested, those figures definitely put it in the ballpark with Ferrari and Porsche and Aston Martin, but being in the ballpark does not make you Joe DiMaggio. You might be Pee Wee Reese good, but not Joltin’ Joe good.

That extraordinary plant is mated to your choice of two transmissions: either a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed, paddle-shift automatic. Yes, one of them is a slush-box, but if it’s like the same unit found on “lesser” Vettes, (it is) it actually is a pretty good choice, although a full-blown semi-auto box should have been on offer.

Photo: Chevrolet.

Styling & Design

The 2019 Corvette ZR1’s appearance has been described as “aggressive,” which is sort of like saying a switchblade looks pointy. This thing is “aggressive” the way a gila monster is aggressive; like it’s going to champ onto your arm and never let go. The ZR1’s styling is largely driven by what the wind tunnel says it should be, which makes total sense, given the terminal velocity this thing can hit. The styling is, however, rather childish in its execution. It still looks like a Vette, that’s for sure, but one with a body kit Dominic Toretto would pick.

The front end is entirely new and designed to channel cooling air for the drivetrain’s massive thermal loads. The 2019 ZR1 has four new radiators, bringing the heat-exchanger total to 13. The hood is open in the middle to clear the LT5 engine’s supercharger/intercooler assembly and made of carbon-fiber. This new bodywork/aero package plus that fire-breathing engine make for a top speed of over 210 mph.

The ZR1 comes with two aero packages: a standard rear Low Wing, which gives you the highest top speed (obviously) and an available, two-way-adjustable High Wing that offers maximum downforce (obviously X 2). The adjustable High Wing is part of the new ZTK Performance Package, which also comes with a front splitter with carbon-fiber end caps, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer-only tires, and specific chassis and Magnetic Ride Control tuning for greater cornering grip; plus an unending sense of regret that your Corvette has this hideous wing perched high off the back that would seem right at home on a slammed, stanced, totally rad, sick, and off-the-chain Honda Civic. Really Corvette people? Really? I know it makes (a ton of) downforce, but really?

Photo: Chevrolet.

Orange Fury

Speaking of questionable aesthetic choices: orange. Orange is one of those colors that few people are ambivalent about. Strangely, I am one of them, but boy howdy are the pictures of the new ZR1 orange. And I mean hit of Orange Sunshine LSD orange. Chevy calls the color Sebring Orange Tintcoat and it is, unsurprisingly, part of the Sebring Orange Design Package. The package also includes orange brake calipers, orange rocker and splitter accent stripes, orange seat belts, orange interior stitching, and bronze aluminum interior trim. No word on an orange-trimmed motion sickness bag.

The 2019 Corvette ZR1 goes on sale next spring and no, they didn’t mention the price. Would I buy one? Yes. A definite, hard maybe … with the low wing package.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

Photo: Chevrolet.

Photos & Source: Chevrolet.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Letter From The UK: The Workhorse And The Thoroughbred

In South West England, there is an area of outstanding natural beauty known as the Cotswolds. Nestling in bucolic countryside, ancient small villages built from honey-colored stone exist among hidden vales and byways where, at this autumnal time of year, Mother Nature is turning the trees from verdant green to rustic gold. Deep in the heart of this rural idyll lies Chedworth Roman Villa. This wonderful sympathetically restored house and grounds has given us an insight into how wealthy ancient Romans lived.

Visitors can see where the conquerors bathed and where they ate, how they heated their apartments, and can marvel at amazingly complete mosaic floors that all those centuries ago felt the slap of Roman sandals. We can truly walk in the footsteps of history.

Unexpected Outcomes

This is not all the Romans did for us. They also gave us roads. The UK was criss-crossed with cobbled arterial routes painstakingly built by Roman engineers and, no doubt, slave labor. Can you imagine what this was like? Britain was mostly forested in those days and those forests were filled with dangers; bears and wolves and angry, aggrieved woad-daubed Britons.

Some of these roads still exist today and one of them bypasses Chedworth Villa. The arrow-straight Fosse Way is today a two-lane blacktop. It is dangerous now for a different reason and regular users will often see the final resting place of cars in the adjacent hedgerows and ditches, usually because the driver’s determination exceeded his ability.

I wonder if those cohorts of Roman Legionaries, wearily tramping along the slick-wet cobbles, ever thought that, far into the future, an Australian and an Englishman could be seen nestled inside a blue missile, overtaking two heavy lorries at warp speed. The Australian is driving: his jaw set firm as his foot buries the pedal to the metal, grimly determined to coax out the blistering pace as meanwhile the Englishman sits quietly beside him and watches his past life flash before his eyes.

It’s all right. I didn’t die. I lived to tell you the tale of …

The Workhorse

The Mitsubishi Shogun is, at least in the UK, the last of its kind. An ageing dinosaur that has served, with distinction, many motorists and country dwellers in need of a true four-wheel drive automotive leviathan. It is huge and it has not changed for years, eschewing trendy features and swooping modern designs; it remains at heart a workhorse. It has all the aerodynamics of 1½ house bricks; it has a gruff 3.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 197 horsepower and a chunky 325 lb-ft. of torque.

I absolutely love it. If I offered a “Car Of The Year” award, it would win hands-down and I’ll tell you why:

If the occasion arose whereby you needed to take yourself, your family, a dog, a full-size grandfather clock, and your actual grandmother up the side of Mount Kilimanjaro in a blizzard, this is the vehicle you would need. In terms of off-road ability, it is up there with the best from the likes of Land Rover. It is robust yet simply engineered with a full compliment of high and low range gears and lockable differentials.

On the road, it has a modicum of pace and, on a drive around a tortuous country route, it surprisingly excels. I was able to maintain consistently high speeds. It is comfortable; sure, there is some wind noise from the massive mirrors but, at speed, the engine is hushed and the beast just eats up the miles. Despite the fact the rather thirsty engine is dated, Mitsubishi was able to lower the CO² emissions a bit – so there’s that.

We spent seven days with the mighty Shogun (and didn’t want to give it back) and one memorable day it took me to the outskirts of the quiet and peaceful Cotswold country town of Tetbury, where I was to be introduced to …

The Thoroughbred

A morning spent in the company of the McLaren brand is always something to look forward to. I was there to drive the new 570S Spider which, as you can see from my images, is stunning. Compared to the 570S CoupĂ©, the Spider adds a neatly integrated, retractable hardtop that when lowered and automatically stowed between the passenger cage and the engine, delivers an immense driving experience – if your hair can cope.

There are no performance compromises because the Spider has, at its heart, the McLaren fiber MonoCell II chassis. It does not suffer any reduction in strength or stiffness in convertible guise, or indeed require any additional structural actions. The 3,799cc V8 maintains the same electrifying pace, dynamic excellence, and impressive refinement shared by its siblings. With 562 horsepower (hence 570S), it is arguably the most affable and easy-to-drive of the McLaren range, and it is more than enough for British roads, I can confirm.

Not being a small fellow I fell into, rather than climbed into, the driving seat. The Australian, no lightweight himself, rode shotgun on the outward leg of our run. Astonishingly easy to get to grips with, the Spider and I were soon as one. The cockpit is snug but very comfortable once seated and the driving position is, well, perfect. The steering changes direction at the merest hint of driver input.

The Yearning

The Australian and I were both in awe of the performance, with 62 mph from rest arriving in a scant 3.2 seconds. Remember, this is the baby of the family. In-gear performance was even more startling and we could really feel the downforce at work, but we both agreed there was something missing from the experience. With the hard top in position, it is possible to lower the rear glass window for fresh air and to harken to the aural delights of the V8 symphony, but therein lies the disappointment.

Certainly it is loud yet strangely sonorous; it lacked that excitement, that thrill, you get when a powerful engine is truly on song. On the overrun and downshifts, where were the pops, crackles, and bangs that we get with, say, the Jaguar F Type? At a basic UK starting price equivalent to $218,000 USD, we just craved for more drama.

Exiting the vehicle was even more ungainly than the entry. Not being in the first flush of youth, I had to extricate my long, elegant limbs in the manner of a real spider trying to get out of a porcelain bath. It wasn’t pretty and I had to insist, with added dire threats, that no photographs were taken.

Personal Decisions

Without a doubt the McLaren 570S Spider is a remarkable automotive engineering achievement. It has beauty in spades and is one of the finest cars it has ever been my privilege to drive, and I’ve driven plenty. The performance defies description and yet the experience left me wanting that indefinable “something more.” For around $160,000 less, I could instead own a Shogun. So dated and outmoded in so many ways, it nevertheless offers a lofty view of the motoring world around us. It will go anywhere and do everything. A thoroughbred does one thing and does it really well, but when there’s a life to live, it’s to the workhorse that I would turn.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Review

Wagons are a hard sell in the United States because of the lingering images of those huge, boxy ones from the 60s with their rear seats facing backwards. We aren’t sure why American automakers ever thought that was a good idea. Volvo has introduced a new V90 wagon for the U.S. market with two rows and plenty of storage for families. It’s a rare breed with no competition.

We recently drove the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD.

What’s New For 2017

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country wagon is an all-new vehicle. Volvo’s V90 Cross Country is basically the S90 sedan in wagon form. It gets an increased cargo area, a raised ride height, and standard all-wheel drive.

Features & Options

The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country ($55,300) comes with a lengthy list of standard features including adaptive LED headlights, a hands-free power lift gate, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 10-speaker audio system. Extras include full LED headlights, headlight high-pressure cleaning, aluminum roof rails, roof spoiler, skid plate, wheel arch extensions, hill decent control, blind spot detection, and cross traffic alert. 

As you would expect, the V90 is loaded with other safety features including a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, collision mitigation with emergency braking, and lane departure warning and intervention.

The Convenience package ($1,950) added an automated parking feature, a 360-degree camera, heated washer nozzles, and ambient interior lighting. A rear air suspension system ($1,200), a heads-up display ($900), and a premium Bowers & Wilkins audio system ($3,200) were separate add-ons. Total MSRP including destination: $64,640.

Interior Highlights

The interior isn’t much different from that of the S90 we reviewed earlier this year. The cabin offers quality craftsmanship and materials, an elegant design, and front seats that are among the most supportive in any class. A 9-inch touchscreen serves as the central command for the navigation, phone, climate control, and audio functions. We had a fall snow storm hit the mountains west of Denver this week, allowing us to fully experience the heated steering wheel, heated seats, and high-pressure headlight washers, which kept our view clear at night.

Our tester came with a dark brown interior with dark walnut wood inlays, complete with chrome and metal accents wrapped across the big dash. The cabin will compete with the rival’s best examples from Germany.

The seats in the V90 Cross Country are wrapped in fine Nappa leather with lots of support and adjustments. The power side support and cushion extension make it conducive for long trips. We thought the driving position was more upright than usual, allowing a better view of the road. The “Start” knob on the center console fires up the engine, while the Sensus Touch feature controls the 9-inch touchscreen.

Back seats are appropriately contoured and well-cushioned, providing excellent support, though our taller passengers this week said there wasn’t much head clearance. They also had issue climbing into the back, saying it wasn’t the easiest task. Seat backs fold forward, increasing the luggage area’s capacity from the sedan’s 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space to 25 cubic feet for the new V90 wagon.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

The V90 Cross Country is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. It produces 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque, and comes mated to an 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. EPA estimates come in at 22/30 city/highway and 25 combined mpg with the vehicle’s standard all-wheel drive system. 

Driving Dynamics

Like the S90 sedan, we didn’t think a smaller 2.0-liter displacement engine could move this big wagon, but the super and turbocharged engine had enough power for all driving situations. The V90 offers a satisfying experience and performance is adequate for a large family hauler. It offers up a comfortable and controlled ride, and when equipped with the optional air suspension, that comfort is maintained. The wagon also stayed level as we traveled twisty mountain roads this week.

Overall, the interior is a quiet place with its tight construction and active noise cancellation to keep any engine growl and city noise outside the cabin. The 8-speed automatic delivered a wide spread of gear ratios as we traveled up I-70 at elevation. At highway speeds, the V90 wagon delivers an efficiently relaxed experience. Finally, we put the all-wheel drive to use in about four inches of fresh snow that hit the mountains. The V90 powered through the slick mountain roads with complete composure and we didn’t detect any wheel slip.

Photo: Volvo Car Corporation.


The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country is better equipped than many luxury sedans, with plenty of cabin comforts and technical features. Safety is another reason to take a look at this family wagon as Volvo is known for safety. It also offers up all-wheel drive to make it an all-weather capable vehicle.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country Gallery

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Photos: Volvo Car Corporation.

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