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After my first endeavor with the all-new BMW X7 earlier this year, I was intrigued and nearly convinced that BMW had conjured up something that’s been lacking in today’s crossover-craved world in America. Having already had some time with the BMW X7, it was exciting to get one to drive for a full week and finish the experiences that I started some time ago. After my time with the X7, I’m almost ready to buy one considering it is essentially the larger version of the X5 that’s been wanted to comfortably seat more than five people in the lap of luxury with the expected performance from BMW.
The new BMW X7 comes to us as a 7-Series in crossover form but mostly builds upon what the X5 has to offer – abet larger and more accommodating in a true three-row crossover form. The new X7 gets two engine choices initially, either a turbocharged 6-cylinder with 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque in the X7 xDrive40i or a potent twin-turbo V8 with 456 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque in my X7 xDrive50i test vehicle. Both engine choices get mated to a direct-feeling 8-speed automatic transmission. Power is delivered to all four wheels and my loaded up X7 xDrive50i benefits from rear-wheel integral steering that virtually shortens the wheelbase to give better maneuverability and steering response at all speeds.
The new X7 has a unique character. The X7, fundamentally, is very different from the X5 but in a good way considering it has an extra heft to carry around and does so gracefully, especially with the turbocharged V8 power. The control of the body is kept in check from its adaptive dampers and air suspension system but feels to loft around a bit more for my tastes in the default Comfort drive mode. I found myself utilizing a customized Sport Individual drive mode most of the time to put the suspension into its sport mode that lowers the vehicle for a lower center of gravity and more of stable feel all without diminishing the ride quality. Surprisingly, the ride quality was still smooth in the sport suspension mode. The full-on Sport mode was a bit too much for the drive management where the transmission mapping was too aggressive for everyday driving.
The BMW X7’s demeanor is plush as is most of its driving character until you push the vehicle hard. The BMW X7 reacts well to being flogged – but not too much – for such a big crossover utility vehicle. At times, it seems to tackle tasks that you wouldn’t think it could, such as launching to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds or carve up twisty roads with confidence. While the X7 is undoubtedly big and heavy at 5,617 pounds, it hides some of that weight with a graceful driving attitude to keep it nicely planted on the road, where you want it to be. For those who like to go exploring, if they dare, the X7 has a few tricks to literally rise to the occasion with its air suspension system and crawl through rough terrain. Though, the X7 has its limitations considering trims like my test vehicle are shod with large 22-inch rollers wrapped in beefy run-flat performance tires with a 315-width out back and 275s up front.
Adding to what I experienced a few months ago with a quick spin of the new X7, it is apparent that BMW wanted to make a statement and they have done such in many ways with its largest vehicle yet. The new X7 exhibits an almost comically-large front kidney grille with active shutters. The grille demands attention visually as it acts to capture additional air to feed the thirsty twin-turbo V8 engine. The power surges strong without any apparent turbo lag. The only drama experienced from the drivetrain is utilizing the almost-useless launch mode, which brings about unwanted bucking and lumpy shifts, which don’t do much to improve upon its already-great acceleration.
Inside of the new BMW X7 is a plush interior adorned with plentiful luxury amenities, all that you would want up front with seat heating, ventilation, and massaging functions. The latest climate controls with a dedicated color display has several zones for passengers while the latest iDrive infotainment unit and wireless Apple CarPlay are welcomed changes. The recent change noticed was the wireless Apple CarPlay appears to have been updated to utilize only Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi, which now allows your iPhone to access the Internet through your cell service without interruption. Before, in previous iterations of iDrive, the wireless Apple CarPlay would take up the Wi-Fi signal of your iPhone and interfere with apps having Internet access making apps like Waze nearly useless.
The new iDrive system, with a short learning curve, becomes a good companion in your journeys in the X7. There are many hidden features, such as the “Hey BMW” voice command that somewhat mimics the one found in new Mercedes vehicles. Other aspects of the iDrive system remain to be remarkably responsive and redundant in their control from either iDrive controller and physical buttons or the high-resolution touchscreen that is within easy reach.
Seating areas in the X7 are smartly designed with plentiful space for tall passengers and offer power adjustments in the second row to accommodate most. One disappointing fact is the second-row captain’s chairs do not offer seat ventilation, a feature that is now available on three-row crossovers half the price of the new X7. The third-row is decent for space, and you could get away sitting back there for a few hours without issue.
BMW’s new X7 is a good answer to Mercedes and their GLS. The two are close competitors in a landscape that closely critiques SUVs. Though, with new luxury three-row crossovers, you must pay to play and in the realm of Z-Germans, the BMW X7 isn’t cheap with a starting price of $92,600 and my nearly loaded test vehicle having a price of $117,945. However, you would be hard-pressed to find a better three-row crossover at such a price without moving to body-on-frame SUVs.
In the current state of our economy, automakers have been afforded the ability to toy with a few things within the spectrum of crossover utility vehicles. BMW has shown us that they aren’t afraid of being a little different with the X2 crossover, which comes in a couple of different flavors and one being quite the little pocket rocket that has graced my garage this week.
The BMW X2 M35i, a vehicle that has honestly surprised me with its daring performance all wrapped up in a slow-slung sub-compact crossover package, was a surprising experience for a vehicle that I would have otherwise never given a second glance.
After spending some quality time with the BMW X2 in its top-level M35i trim I will not pay special attention to the X2 every time I see one on the road.
The BMW X2 is somewhat of a new entrant into the lineup filling a space where the BMW X3 may have resided when it was much smaller a couple of generations ago. Now, every vehicle has literally grown up making way for the X2 and even smaller X1 crossovers, vehicles that were birthed to fill the growing demand for crossover utility vehicles.
The new BMW X2 is normally powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque for the base front-wheel-drive X2 sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive xDrive28i variation. For my test vehicle, the X2 M35i, things get a bit spicier with the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine being tuned to 302 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque sending power through an 8-speed automatic transmission to power all four wheels. The X2 M35i manages to do all this while getting just as good fuel consumption as the less-powerful engine in the all-wheel-drive X2 xDrive28i to get 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.
The little spicy Bavarian wagon, as I like to call it, is rather eager in its ability to dash to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds and do it all in nearly the same fashion as something like a VW Golf R. Yes, the BMW X2 M35i is reminiscent of a hot hatchback even though it exhibits more of a crossover look. Having such a low roofline may do wonders for attracting those who may cross-shop something like the Golf R. However, the BMW X M35i remains to be more of a unique offering that BMW didn’t mind bringing to the table just because they have the chops to do it. It’s almost one of those cases of throwing something extra against the wall to see if it sticks – something it does well to the ground despite is surprising heft of just over 3,700 pounds.
BMW’s characteristic thrill ride theme is well alive in the X2 M35i where the vehicle pops and burbles in its Sport mode and gives you a little kick in the back when you demand power. Apart from performance, the small stature and nimble feel of the X2 M35i put it almost in a category of its own when pitted against many other BMW vehicles considering how big some of them have become. Therefore, the BMW X2 M35i is a refreshing entity for the brand.
Inside the BMW X2 M35i is a cabin that’s almost comparable to some of the largest MINI vehicles you can find but with more true-to-BMW equipment that’s been somewhat shrunken to fit the smallish cabin. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces and the proper instrumentation to stay true to the BMW theme and hardly ever diminish its value. The sporty red-accented leather seats add a nice sporty charm to the interior as the latest iteration of BMW’s iDrive infotainment unit with a touchscreen all come together to complete what you expect out of a vehicle that costs as much as the X2 M35i. Speaking of price, the X2 M35i isn’t cheap, and my nicely loaded-up test vehicle came to a surprising figure of $55,020, which puts it well ahead of something like Golf R – a vehicle that it delicately reminds me of when I put my right foot down.
While there is no shortage of equipment on the new X2 M35i, there is a lack of cabin space and cargo volume, sometimes smaller than that of the X1 crossover. With such, the X2 M35i is sometimes disappointing but makes up for it with its surprising performance attributes, active safety features, remarkable build quality, unique style, and connectivity features like Apple CarPlay.
There’s always anticipation surrounding the latest and greatest in the automotive world when there is a looming new vehicle release. The Lincoln brand has had its fair share of newfound fans with the introduction of the Navigator, and such a trend has found new life with the release of the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator. Fortunately, for me, I was able to get my hands on a new 2020 Lincoln Aviator in the Reserve trim with the Reserve II package, which combines a long list of the desirable features made available on what is pitted to give the Lincoln brand yet another injection of consumers flocking to see what the latest American-made three-row luxury crossover is made of.
Thanks to my local North Florida Lincoln dealership, they gave me the chance to take the new Aviator for a quick spin (please forgive the iPhone photos quality due to time constraints). Driving the new Aviator there was a hidden sportiness to its character that showed its face from time to time. The latest iteration of the brand’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine, one that may be somewhat familiar to some Lincoln MKZ 3.0T AWD owners, is eager to spin where it has a linear powerband with ample pull throughout the RPM range. The Aviator never felt like it needed extra power – it was more of what I expected with the 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque figures on paper with no noticeable turbo lag out of the hole. The weight of the Aviator, said to tip the scale just under 4,900 pounds, was somewhat apparent when demanding full throttle. Though, the suspension system of the Aviator Reserve that I drove without the optional Dynamic Handling Package (air suspension system with a road preview function), was up to the job of balancing a smooth ride but at times felt like it was attempting to pull off a trick to isolate you from the road. I expect the Aviator to get up to 60 mph from a standstill in about 5.6 to 6.2 seconds, a hair slower (due to its extra heft) than its distant relative, the new 2020 Ford Explorer ST, which shares the same powertrain.
In all, with the adaptive dampers and drive mode set into the Normal setting, the Aviator would loft around a little more than I would like going over a road surface with a few rises and dips. Placing the vehicle into the Excite (Sport) drive mode the dampers seemed to have a subtle firming but still provided a decent ride quality. In Excite mode, the 10-speed automatic transmission never utilized the higher gears, but I didn’t have enough time to see if it would eventually hit a higher gear or even 10th gear on the highway. Moreover, the quick-shifting 10-speed automatic behaved like it should and didn’t fumble or hunt for gears when skipping a few cogs was necessary. It’s possible that Ford/Lincoln did some due diligence with the programming here. The transmission was very direct and often utilized a lock-up of the torque converter.
The steering wheel’s smaller size was apparent but didn’t bother me and was a welcomed trait and part of the Aviator being sportier than I thought it would be. The initial steering inputs were surprisingly sharp but hardly upset the feel of confidence in the Aviator tackling turns and highway exits. There was minimal body lean taking a few turns faster than I should where the adaptive dampers appeared to firm up momentarily.
Inside of the Aviator, the controls were well placed, somewhat mimicking that of the Navigator giving you a clean and tidy dashboard and 12.3-inch gauge cluster. The 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, despite its placement more like an iPad tilted in a landscape position, was never an issue for it being out of place, for me at least. The response of the on-screen controls and menu sets were a hair slower to respond than I am used to when compared to vehicles like my Focus RS or Shelby GT350’s Sync system. However, there are additional menus tailored to the Aviator such as the quick access button to bring up the Driver Assistance menu for disabling the auto engine start/stop future, auto hold, and traction control.
Up front, the seating areas of the Aviator look to take advantage of all usable space with an abundance of seat adjustments through use of the optional 30-way power seats with their massage, heating, and ventilation features. The second-row seating’s heated and ventilated captain’s chairs, with them adjusted all the way back, had just enough room for me to sit behind myself without my knees hitting the seatback of the front seat. Mind you, I’m 6-feet-3-inches tall, and I consider myself to have “long” legs. What is nice is to have some adjustability of the second-row seats forward and back. I didn’t bother sitting in the third-row, but next time I get the Aviator, I will put myself up to the task, which doesn’t look all that difficult with the pneumatic quick access fold that the second row performs at the press of a button. Though, a child’s car seat would need to be removed to fold the second-row and access the third.
The major drawback in my quick spin of the Aviator is not having enough time to really experience all that it offers. Comparing the Aviator Reserve to the 2020 Ford Explorer ST is a good basis, abet a little softer, for all of you who wonder about performance after viewing many review videos and reading the first drive reviews.
The new 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve that I drove, was missing the option of the Dynamic Handling Package but otherwise had a full list of desirable luxury amenities and features bringing the price to $73,210. Hopefully, I will be able to get a review vehicle and divulge many more details and findings very soon. Be sure to check back.
In the recent years each vehicle has literally grown up, and not just its size but in areas to entice new consumer demographics. Such a notion rings true with the Acura RDX, a crossover that was somewhat overshadowed by its larger MDX sibling for a while. With the redesigned 2019 RDX, Acura gives us a higher level of appointments where it almost serves as a two-row variation of the MDX, and that’s not a bad thing considering the remarkable sales of the MDX carried throughout nearly two decades.
The Acura RDX, first introduced to us in 2006, has had a consistent increase in popularity and its latest redesign for the 2019 model year has pushed the envelope for a compact crossover that is well worthy of being cross-shopped with two-row midsized luxury crossovers. After spending a week with the new 2020 Acura RDX adorned in its sporty A-SPEC SH-AWD trim, I am a firm believer of Acura’s boldness paying off well considering its lower price point when pitted against other luxury crossover competition.
There is no shortage of vehicle amenities for the luxury spectrum in the new Acura RDX A-SPEC, and with its sporty looks and a well-planted sporty edge for its driving character, I have no qualms about recommending the new RDX to just about anyone looking for a two-row compact to midsized crossover.
Over the years, Acura has more or less fell into a vanilla black hole where their vehicles went unnoticed in the crowd of suburbia transportation appliances. The MDX was the go-to for growing families who wanted something above what the mainstream market had to offer yet remained to be an exceptional value for the cost conscious. The new RDX picks up off of such a same concept but with a little excitement that’s a pleasure to drive for light-hearted enthusiasts.
Powering the new 2019 and 2020 RDX is a 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that’s good for 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Power in my test vehicle, the SH-AWD A-SPEC model, is cleverly sent where it is needed and adjusted on the fly to add additional power to the outside wheels when making a turn, which is a traditional part of the brand’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system (SH-AWD). All RDX trims (Standard, Technology Package, A-SPEC Package, Advance Package) get the same engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and can be had in either front-wheel-drive or SH-AWD configurations.
In my assessment, the overall performance feels more than stated on paper giving the RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC a welcomed feel out on the road. One trait to note about the power delivery, it comes on and stays on somewhat thanks to having 10 gears to play with where the RDX’s engine stays in its sweet power spots. The throttle positioning is a bit more advanced for my taste and is only exacerbated by placing the vehicle into Sport or Sport+ drive modes. However, the advancement of the throttle is fun after becoming accustomed to its behavior.
The Sport+ drive mode may be a little too smart for some where it is more desired for carving canyons instead of track duty – which is good because who’s going to take their RDX to the track? Hitting 60 mph from a stop takes about 6.2 seconds.
Driving the RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC eggs you on somewhat and I found my fuel consumption slightly suffering for it. I mostly matched the EPA estimates of 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 23 combined, which are not numbers to brag about for a vehicle of this class. However, if you’re making up for the sporty good looks and the respected price of admission for the new RDX, the lackluster fuel consumption can be forgiven.
Inside the new RDX is a nicely appointed cabin with somewhat of a cumbersome infotainment unit – at first. I will say, the infotainment system is downright frustrating until you spend a good two to three days with it. The use of Acura’s new True Touchpad Interface is interesting to say the least. Its initial use will be cumbersome to the point that you want to avoid use of the system altogether. However, once I figured out how the system is more of a predictive and “smart” way of navigating the high-resolution 10.2-inch central display, things start jiving. Fundamentally, the touchpad acts more like a touchscreen would by each area of the touchpad being a fixed representation of onscreen buttons. You touch the top left corner and the button in the top left corner is pressed. There’s no mouse courser for you to drag – only a swipe action to swipe to the next set of features or screen pages. After getting through a slight learning curve, you find out that the system is quite intuitive to a degree. Still, a touchscreen will serve much better, which is something many Japanese manufacturers are learning the hard way while the Germans have caught on and are offering new touchscreens after previous complaints.
The heated and ventilated front seating areas of the new RDX are cleverly positioned as are the rear seats making wise use of the interior volume that is more abundant than much of its competition. With the RDX A-SPEC trim, the perforated leather seats have sporty accents and are well bolstered up to the task of keeping you in place for all of the lateral forces that the RDX can muster.
Out back, the cargo room is plentiful and accessed by a hands-free power liftgate. With each trim level having a fixed set of features, the A-SPEC comes equipped with a decent number of amenities. Though, the Advance Package, which doesn’t have the sporty looks that I like in the A-SPEC, adds many additional desired luxury options, such as a 360-degree camera system, rear outboard heated seats, additional power adjustments in the front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and adaptive suspension dampers. Such options were greatly missed on my RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC test vehicle.
With a starting price of just $37,600, the new RDX is a welcomed update in the fray of luxury crossovers that are now trumping the sales of their sedan counterparts. The 2020 RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC tests out at a price of $46,795, which includes a destination and handling charge of $995.
There’s no denying that Mercedes-Benz has thrown many automotive creations against the wall to see what sticks. In such a quest, the C-Class has been moved up along the line no longer standing as an entry-level into the luxury brand. Now, there are many vehicles in the brand lineup that fall below the C-Class giving it a bit of room to “grow up” and captivate consumers with more upscale offerings for features and the overall feel of being a smaller iteration of the S-Class sedan.
For 2019, the Mercedes-Benz C300 gets a few updates in the form of offering more horsepower in the engine choices, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a departure from offering a hybrid version.
Since the redesign of the C-Class for the 2015 model year, it has successfully taken a page from the S-Class’ design, which has played well for what some may consider to be one of the most luxurious vehicles for its class. With that, the 2019 C300 is starting to stand out a bit more with the styling and color of my test vehicle adorned in its Lunar Blue paint, black-accented 19-inch AMG wheels, LED exterior lighting, and a panoramic glass roof.
While the exterior style of the C300 sedan is classy and attractive, the interior keeps the same trend borrowing a smaller form factor of the highly praised S-Class. Much of the feature sets, infotainment unit, and controls are borrowed from the S-Class only fit in a smaller area. The traditional and recent iteration of Mercedes’ infotainment system is present but it is a version before the highly touted MBUX system. Making do with the dual 12.3-inch screens, one for the gauge cluster and the other as a fixed non-touch infotainment screen, the system remains to be somewhat cumbersome by using the central turn controller and/or touchpad. Hopefully, Mercedes will utilize the all-new MBUX system in upcoming versions of the C-Class following a redesign in the next couple of years departing from the central controller setup.
Just like my previous review of the C300 Convertible, the C300 Sedan features the same delightful turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent through a 9-speed automatic transmission before it goes through the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, making the C300 Sedan nicely planted on the road. The C300 Sedan also moves along the road quite well where there isn’t much turbo lag, and the transmission does well to keep with landing in the proper gear without too much hunting. The drive modes make a noticeable difference in Sport and Sport+ modes eliminating the 2nd gear start that defaults in Comfort and Eco drive modes. Zero to 60 mph comes in 5.5 seconds, which is just a tick slower than the Audi A4 2.0T Quattro hitting 60 mph in 5.2 seconds but faster than most of the other direct competition equipped with turbo 4-cylinder engines.
As you would expect, the C300 with its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine gets decent fuel economy for a luxury vehicle. I saw figures just one mpg below the EPA estimates of 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, 26 mpg combined.
The ride of the C300 Sedan due to the lack of adaptive dampers in my test vehicle was not as nice as it could be in higher trim levels of the C-Class. However, the addition of the optional AMG Line package beefs up the handling attributes with a Sport Suspension setup, Sport Steering, and upgraded brakes with cross-drilled rotors up front.
Available luxury amenities are strong in their numbers where nicely equipping the C300 Sedan can increase the price in a hurry. My nicely equipped and nearly-loaded C300 Sedan 4MATIC test vehicle came in at a price of $63,825. Mind you, the C300 Sedan starts at $41,400 before any options or fees.
The Lexus LS has been the one to shake things up in the automotive luxury sedan segment ever since its introduction. When the Lexus LS reached our shores it was first thought as a baby Benz, but the brand had more of a significance planned for the vehicle as it has continued on a steady path of elegance, prestige, and an undeniable quality characteristic to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the road of its kind.
For the 2019 model year, the Lexus LS 500 carries on its redesign from the 2018 model only adding the feature of Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa functions, and a semi-automated lane-change feature as part of the optional Lexus Safety System + package that already combines a bevy of active safety features.
While there aren’t any other changes to note, I can once again attest to the quality and relentless attention to detail in the new Lexus LS 500. After taking the LS 500 on a long family trip last year, getting it back in my driveway for the 2019 model year has fortified by delight for a vehicle that combines an ultra-quiet cabin, soft and supple ride quality, and a unique array of interior materials that set it apart from the competition. The only remaining downfall resides with the Lexus infotainment unit and use of the rather cumbersome touchpad interface. Here, once again, Lexus could take a page from the Germans to implement a control redundancy that combines a touch screen and an array of physical controls.
Unfortunately, the Lexus LS 500, among other new Lexus vehicles, is ever-so-slightly pegged with lower consumer markings because of its infotainment system. However, there is a bountiful number of features and customization options within the Lexus infotainment system, which shouldn’t be overlooked – because Lexus comes out strong with the proper luxury goods to keep the driver and passengers well entertained and pampered during the duration of their travels.
Powered by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine, the Lexus LS 500 moves with authority thanks to its smoothly-delivered 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque sent through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The combination of the wide powerband of the force-fed V6 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, and an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, the LS 500 is never in need of additional power. The transmission is the smoothest 10-speed I have experienced thus far and it does a good job to limit hunting for the proper gearing.
Overall, the handling aspects of the LS 500 are more tuned to the soft luxury side of things instead of anything remotely sporty. Sport and Sport + modes might as well be Soft and Just-A-Little-Soft while the Comfort mode more Ultra-Soft – all true to Lexus traits you would expect for the LS. There’s hardly anything sporty about the LS 500, and that’s okay. The F-Sport variation of the LS 500 is said to improve upon its sporty character if one can ever find it in such a plush luxury cruiser.
The styling of the LS 500 remains to be in-your-face from its 2018 redesign. The LS has substantial presence on the road and is quite demanding of your visual attention with such a large spindle grill up front, the largest ever in the scheme of Lexus’ late-model designs. The grille has depth and is somewhat elegant if not a stand-out unique trait that Lexus is proudly owning. Other aspects of the LS 500 fit the mold Lexus’ design language which may be an acquired taste for some, but over the past couple of years, it has grown on me and many others who respect all that the brand has to offer for a lesser price than its German competition.
I elaborate more on the new LS 500 in my extensive review from last year. The test vehicle of my choice this year is one that has all of the options on my test vehicle from last year except the Executive package pricing out at a total of $103,865. The new 2019 Lexus LS 500 starts at $78,420.
The Nissan Altima has long been a major staple for the brand since its conception in 1992. As part of a respected nameplate, the Altima has grown into its midsized dimensions and once held the crown for sales within the Nissan brand until today’s emergence of crossover utility vehicles took its dominance.
For the 2019 model year, the Nissan Altima gets a redesign and a slight change-up with its engine offerings where it retains the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine but adds a new 2.0-liter turbocharged unit replacing the once-offered V6 that light-hearted enthusiasts adorned. Making the change isn’t all a bad thing considering the new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (248 horsepower/280 ft-lbs. of torque) is taken from the brand’s up-market Infiniti bin, a groundbreaking powerplant as the world’s first production-ready Variable Compression Turbo engine. While my test vehicle was not equipped with the 2.0-turbo VC engine, it did have the latest iteration of Nissan’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes its 188 horsepower and 180 ft-lbs. of torque feel adequate having been mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
The combination of the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and the CVT has never been a favorite of mine. However, the 2019 Altima brings out the best CVT in the market in my opinion where the programming of its control unit to extract all it can from the engine is welcomed. The Altima SV scoots along pretty good for its power output figures often feeling like a bit more than on paper. The only drawback is the Altima’s relaxed initial throttle where CVTs naturally sap power being transferred to the wheels. Though, when things get moving up around 25 mph and beyond, the Altima picks up well with clever torque lock-ups from the transmission to save fuel and give the driver more of a direct feel. The virtual shift points have never been more defined than they are now with the CVT emulating gear ratios as you accelerate to act more like a traditional automatic transmission with gears. When put to the test, the Altima SV 2.5 FWD reaches 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. The optional all-wheel-drive Altima, which can only be paired with the less-powerful 2.5-liter engine, runs to 60 mph in about the same time.
Continuing the point of fuel savings, the Nissan Altima is known for being a trendsetter for a mainstream midsized sedan. Now, the Altima improves upon EPA figures to get 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, which is pretty good for a vehicle of its size.
Speaking of size, the new 2019 Nissan Altima makes clever use of its slightly enlarged interior space. Comfort remains to be at the forefront with the return of the NASA-derived zero-gravity seats, which feel to be the most comfortable seats for mainstream automobiles even when they’re wrapped in the base-level cloth as in my SV test vehicle.
The instrumentation along with the interior appointments have good functionality but lack any stand-out features other than the plethora of active safety features. The new Altima comes chock full of all that you expect in a modern-day vehicle for safety and advancements like AppleCar Play, Android Auto, and Nissan’s praised ProPilot Assist system, which slightly forwards driving autonomy but still requires driver attentiveness and hands on the steering wheel.
The overall driving character of the new Nissan Altima is greatly improved in my opinion. Even with the SV trim, which isn’t near as sporty as the SR trim, feels more planted. The steering feel is welcomed, too, with a nearly perfect weight. Ride quality is also a step above what it used to be with a nicely damped ride that does excellent to balance road feel, sportiness, and overall comfort when it is needed on rough road surfaces.
Nissan’s Altima has come a long way and the newly redesigned 2019 model year is its best yet, even if there isn’t a V6 engine available any longer. With as many as six defined trims, each with various sub-trims and AWD offerings for the trim levels that have the 2.5-liter engine, there’s something for many to choose. Moreover, the Nissan Altima remains to be a good value for a mainstream midsized car with a starting price of $24,000 and a price of just over $28,000 for my SV 2.5 FWD test vehicle, which is a sweet spot for getting many desirable amenities and the full suite of active safety and ProPilot assist features.
Hyundai has placed its mark deep into the foundation of today’s automotive market receiving many praised accolades. With the emergence of crossover utility vehicles, Hyundai has benefited well to bring newfound innovation for such a segment in vehicles that were once afterthoughts in the scope of American households. Today, crossovers like the new 2019 Hyundai Tucson have literally grown up and stand tall to show off their best assets found in a plethora off feature set offerings and class-leading warranties.
The new 2019 Hyundai Tucson in the top-level Ultimate trim has graced my garage this week with many surprising traits that start with the long list of features and amenities for a mainstream compact crossover. Mind you I have the Ultimate trim, which is at the top tier of seven trim levels offered (SE, Value, SEL, Sport, Limited, Night, and Ultimate). Hyundai attempts to give compact crossover buyers a little something for every need, but there’s one exception that I found in my week-long excursion with the new Tucson.
To avoid keeping you in suspense, the one characteristic that I didn’t feel was up to par on the new Tucson is its power output, which comes from the brand’s 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. The Tucson has two engine choices to select grouped with the trim level where the SE and Value trims get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 161 horsepower and 160 lb-ft of torque. All other trims get the larger engine, which doesn’t feel adequate for the grown-up size of the new Tucson. While there’s a group of buyers who won’t mind the lackluster acceleration from the Tucson, such a characteristic goes unnoticed by even the lightest-hearted enthusiasts. From my tests, it takes about 8.9 seconds to reach 60 mph, if anyone cares to know. If there is any takeaway from the engine or positive aspect, it lies within its fuel efficiency and good management of power through the 6-speed automatic transmission.
The overall driving experience of the Tucson is easy, and it exudes a nice stability and handling trait for a compact crossover.
The new 2019 Hyundai Tucson gets 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. While these numbers are nothing to jump up and down about, they are mostly consistent and real-world figures from what I experienced.
The interior of the new Hyundai Tucson is nicely laid out with easy and clear controls and a welcomed user-friendly infotainment unit with an 8-inch touch screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both add to the infotainment’s experience as does the wireless phone charger, which are all bundled features as part of the top-level Ultimate trim. Otherwise, most trims make due with a 7-inch touchscreen lacking the built-in navigation system of the Tucson Ultimate.
Putting the Hyundai Tucson on a pedestal and nearly rivaling with some luxury compact crossovers is the long list of features included in the top Ultimate trim, such as leather seating surfaces, second row heated seats, ventilated and heated front seats, reclining rear seat backs, automatic LED headlights with highbeam assist, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control, and the bundled of active safety features that fundamentally allow the Tucson to track the road and steer for you where there are clearly marked lanes (with your hands on the wheel of course).
Hyundai is clearly on a mission to trump others in the mainstream of vehicles, mainly their lineup of new crossovers. The Hyundai Tucson has come a long way and has materialized into a respected offering in the high-selling market for crossovers. The pricing structure of the new Tucson also reiterates the value proposition of new crossovers with it topping out at the as-tested price of $32,730 yet starting at just $20,950 for the base Tucson SE trim.
Lincoln has set things in motion to somewhat reposition themselves in the spectrum of luxury vehicles, which is a good thing after seeing what new products are on the horizon. Moreover, Lincoln has already taken leaps to bring us better luxury-inspired products, such as the new Continental and Navigator. Refreshing their crossover utility vehicles has also done well to reemphasize their standing and forward momentum with an update to the Nautilus that we recently reviewed and now the compact MKC that we have in our possession this week.
Even though the 2019 Lincoln MKC will later morph into a redesigned Corsair for next year, the MKC gets the last-minute update to its front fascia to capture the new design language from the brand. With that, the MKC remains to be a competent form of transportation with just the right amount of luxury amenities for a vehicle of its size and class.
In comparing the Lincoln MKC to some of its competition, it does good to hold a standing line in the mix of so many new and emerging compact crossovers. When it comes to the luxury spectrum, the MKC falls a bit short with an interior that doesn’t put forth the best luxury efforts but attempts to pull off a magic trick with its top-level Black Label trim that adds just a couple of nice touches, such as a simulated suited headliner, panoramic glass sunroof with a power sunshade, and optional 20-inch wheels.
The black label trims of Lincoln vehicles have gained some notoriety in the collective of its concierge and convenience benefits. Essentially, black label benefits allow an owner to never step into the dealership again by receiving the service of vehicle pickup and delivery for all services and vehicle washes up to a 50-mile radius of the dealership. Moreover, there is included maintenance and other select conveniences built into the black label packaging.
Powering the Lincoln MKC is a choice of the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque getting the best fuel economy of the two engine offerings at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Optional, the larger engine, the 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder found in my test vehicle produces 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque. Both engines get mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with optional all-wheel-drive available for all four trim levels (Standard, Select, Reserve, and Black Label). My AWD MKC Black Label test vehicle with the 2.3-liter engine gets an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined.
On the road the 2019 Lincoln MKC Black Label is nicely planted on the ground and has a quick-responding adaptive damper setup that keeps the compact luxury crossover composed in most normal driving situations. For the most part, the 2.3-liter turbocharged engine is predictable and manages power well with just its 6 gears.
The Interior of the MKC falls slightly behind its competition with more hard plastics than you would expect. Otherwise, there is a nice contrasting look to the stitching throughout the soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard encompassing the mostly plastic center stack housing the push-button transmission selector buttons.
The bevy of tech and safety features, including lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, active park assist, blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning with emergency braking all keep the MKC up to today’s expectations. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to set the MKC Black Label ahead of other luxury offerings other than its uniqueness in design and premium services offered through the black label program.
The pricing for the 2019 MKC remains respectable reaching as much as $55,730 for my loaded test vehicle, but you can have a base FWD MKC at a starting price of just $34,000 before any fees, making it an attractive offering for entry-level luxury in a compact crossover.
It’s been about twenty years since the last-generation BMW 8 series was produced and since then the lovely public who adorn GT cars have been developing a thirst that has now been quenched with the all-new BMW M850i.
The new BMW M850i has graced my presence in the form of a convertible where what some may see at first glance is somewhat of a redux of the BMW 6 series. Unfortunately, such a notion is inevitable considering how the 6 series held the throne for the 8 series’ long 20-year hiatus as the ultimate grand tourer driving machine. Now, the new 8 series is more of a low-slung road thrasher with the expected comfort and sport that we once adorned from the original 8 series. Fortunately, for us, the new M850i gets to benefit from today’s technological advancements and a potent twin-turbo V8 engine.
As a refreshing changeup, BMW keeps true to their roots and avoid introducing yet another crossover utility vehicle by taking up the challenge of bringing back the 8 series. After spending a week with the new M850i Convertible, it’s safe to say BMW has a winning formula for what the 8 series should in today’s world.
Sporting an even more powerful version of BMW’s mainstream 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, the M850i gets a potent 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 rpm up to 4,600 rpm. The engine is mated to the delightful ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission that fires off quick and direct-feeling shifts while the standard xDrive all-wheel-drive system seamlessly directs the proper amount of power to the wheels with the most traction. The driving dynamics, combined with the M850i’s rather aggressive rear-wheel-steering give a nimble feel to the vehicle mostly hiding its 4,736-pound curb weight, which is quite a bit more than the coupe version’s 4,478 pounds.
Surprisingly, despite the extra heft of the M850i Convertible over the Coupe, it never feels sloppy or reveals any structural deficiencies. Ultimately, the M850i Convertible has a stiff structure with no noticeable cowl shake or flex of the body, possibly thanks to a Carbon Core build structure where parts of the chassis are infused with carbon-fiber.
Even though the new M850i Coupe is considerably faster than the Convertible, my test car still covers ground quickly to reach 60 mph from a standstill in just 3.8 seconds while the Coupe does it in 3.6 seconds. There is always an abundant amount of power on tap and the force-fed V8 gets its job down so effortlessly. The use of the more aggressive Sport and Sport-Plus drive modes are only subtle changes mostly noticed with a popping exhaust note and more dynamic throttle control along with heavier steering through the latest electric-assisted rack. Even the adaptive dampers seem to remain more on the relaxed side to still give a desirable ride quality that is welcomed on trips that deplete a tank full of premium gas getting 26 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg city. The massive brake discs and 4-piston calipers up front do justice to bring the hefty Grand Tourer to a stop in a hurry.
Inside of the new BMW M850i is a familiar layout true to the brand’s new interior design language featuring the 12-inch digital gauge cluster along with a large iDrive touch screen for the infotainment unit. The iDrive system, as stated before in my recent BMW reviews, is the best iteration of the system thus far and even includes a “hey BMW” voice response system that has a merit of vehicle functions for control with your voice. My only dislike for the system is the pay-service of wireless Apple CarPlay, which disables your iPhone’s Internet connectivity basically rendering many of your apps useless. Wireless Apple CarPlay would be great but somehow BMW manages to completely ruin the experience through a hiccup that does not allow your iPhone to connect to the Internet use of apps like Waze, which otherwise require the Internet to use.
The seating areas up front are excellent with a low position to fit the mold of the low-slung roofline and cloth-top roof – but to keep you just high enough to see over the elongated aluminum hood. Out back the seats are on the smallish side but make do in a pinch for children and smaller adults – provided the front passengers aren’t’ as tall as me at 6-foot 3-inches where the front seat will intrude upon the already-limited rear seat legroom. Dare I say that you can almost think of the 8 series picking up from where the 6 series left off or bringing us the modern-day conception of the 8 series’ 20-year old predecessor.
All that the new M850i Convertible is about is what you expect out of such a unique segment and some. There’s plenty to justify the price of the new M850i testing out at $123,395, where most of the equipment found here is standard only adding a few grand to the base price of $121,400.
BMW has inspired many by making what is old all new again, and the new M850i is evidence of such. Now, the new BMW M8 will be a different story as to build upon the true “M” – Motorsport spirit of the brand. The new M8 will pick up directly where the new M850i leaves us and I can only imagine that it will be a beast on steroids because the M850i is already a monster.