2018 Honda Odyssey Elite Review

Friday September 8th, 2017 at 9:99 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Hypes: Lively Drivetrain, Well Crafted Interior
Gripes: The minuscule Tachometer reads like a Fever Thermometer

If any race sanctioning body comes up with a series for vans, the Honda Odyssey Elite will win hands down. Just look at the list of performance goodies the all new 6th generation Odyssey brings to the table: 280hp V6 engine? Check. 10-speed automatic transmission? Check. Paddle shifts? Check. 19 inch alloy wheels? Check. High Performance Bridgestone Turanza EL440 235/55 R19 radial tires? Check. Granted, potential customers will not be buying the 8-passenger Odyssey for its speed potential. But thanks to the foregoing list of standard performance attributes, the Odyssey is no slouch in the go department.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Although the Japanese nameplate reads Honda, this is really an American built product. Four generations of Odyssey vans have been constructed in Lincoln, Alabama. The V6 engine, which produces 32hp more for 2018 than it did in 2017, is also built in Lincoln, while that all-new 10-speed gearbox comes from nearby Georgia. Four levels of Odyssey will be available for 2018. The price pyramid starts with the EX model at $34,760, the EX-L at $38,260, and the Touring at $45,410. At the apex stands the model we test drove for a week, the Elite, with a base sticker of $46,670. All Odyssey models for 2018 get the uprated 3.5 liter V6. Our Elite carried an out-the-door price of $47,610, which included $940 for destination and handling, but not a single optional package.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

In truth, the Elite requires no further lily gilding since it includes a monumental number of standard features. Both side doors are powered, and respond to buttons located on the cabin’s B-pillars for open/close actuation. Or you can use the keyfob remote to duplicate these commands. The rather complicated keyfob pad also actuates the rear lift-gate. Or you can open and close the tail door with a button under the left side of the dash. After easily folding flat the rear most bench seats, I was able to slide a mountain bike into the storage area created by flattening those back seats. The lift-over threshold is low, which facilitates loading and unloading chores. This is one of the few vehicles which will carry a bike inside the cabin without the need to fold the second row of seats. Space utilization here is excellent, with up to 61 cubic feet of space available if needed.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

The Elite is the only Odyssey with standard ventilated front seats and a wireless cell phone charging pad. However, we could not make the charger work with our LG phone. Chrysler has taken direct aim at the Odyssey in recent ads showing a Honda van owner struggling to remove the heavy second row seats while the Chrysler van owner simply folds them flat with the flip of a lever. “Don’t Be That Guy” intones the ad, referring to the Honda owner. The second row seats in the Odyssey Elite boast a “Magic Slide” feature that requires removal of the center cushion. Be advised that the center seat cushion, with its flop-down beverage armrest, weighs well north of 30 pounds. I didn’t actually remove it, or undertake second seat removal, however, because I didn’t want to “be that guy.”

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Acura had equipped most of its passenger car fleet with an annoying gear selector mechanism that is floor mounted and requires you to eyeball it when operating it. In those Acuras which use the system, it is a major annoyance. However, Honda has moved this button farm to the center of the dash in the Odyssey, where it is much easier to see, and thus operate. In this application, the system works well enough to justify elimination of a floor-mounted lever. Relocation to the dash of gear shift duties frees up precious center console floor space for pair of lidded storage bins.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Those of us with sporting proclivities will simply have to face the fact that there will never be a race series for minivans. In fact, Honda introduced the model with a whimsical nod to Disney and a pink wrap of the 2018 Odyssey as a “Minnie” van. In that familiar family context, the Odyssey Elite is a home run. You can thank a bevy of family friendly innovations, including an 8.5 inch rear entertainment screen with wireless headphones, “Cabin Talk” which allows parents to address offspring via a PA system, and the unique Cabin Control App which allows the driver’s cell phone to access and adjust many Odyssey functions remotely. Though you might be able to put the athletic Elite on pole position, don’t forget you’ve got the whole pit crew with you back there on every lap.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

  • Engine: 3.5 liter VTEC V6 with Variable Cylinder Management
  • Horsepower: 280hp
  • Torque: 262lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $47,610
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD Review

Thursday September 7th, 2017 at 9:99 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

Hypes: Strong Acceleration, Excellent Fit and Finish
Gripes: Hard-to-Read Lower GUI Screen

New for 2017 is the Hybrid version of Acura’s popular MDX. This addition to the model line boasts four engines – 1 gas powered, and 3 electric. The gas powered V6 displaces 3.0 liters, and features 24 valves managed by Honda’s patented VTEC camshaft technology. In consort with the triple electric motors, the MDX V6 produces 321hp and is capable of towing a 5,000 lb. trailer. If you forego the Hybrid’s electric motor complexity and opt for a straight gas-powered MDX, Acura will sell you a 3.5 liter V6 good for 290hp. Despite the fact that the Hybrid weighs more than 4,200 pounds, it still produces laudable economy figures of 26MPG in town and 27 MPG on the highway, with an overall rating of 27 MPG. The 3.5 liter V6 manages only 21 MPG overall. Regardless of engine choice, all MDX variants transfer power through a 7 speed dual clutch gearbox. Our top line Hybrid also included all-wheel-drive which continuously fed torque through all four Continental Cross Contact tires (245/50R20).

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

All MDX models this year, regardless of engine choice, are fitted with the AcuraWatch suite of safety measures, including Adaptive Cruise control, Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist. During my week with the MDX, I experienced one false positive with the Forward Collision Warning which blinked brightly to warn of an impending crash despite the fact that there was nothing in view to trigger the alert. I also found that it was easier to control the throttle on long freeway drives with my own right foot than it was to depend on the Adaptive Cruise Control which over managed acceleration and deceleration.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

The interior of this loaded MDX lives up to expectation in a vehicle priced at $58,975. Four lavishly padded captain’s chairs occupy the front two-thirds of the cabin, with a useful but restricted third row bench completing the 6 slot interior layout. The rear most bench easily folds flat to increase storage room. The rear captain’s chairs also fold flat with the pull of a lever, opening up the MDX interior to 34 cubic feet of storage space. A low rear lift-over threshold eases insertion and removal of bulky bike-size items like a bike. The keyfob activated tailgate assures ease of cargo insertion. A fixed button on the tailgate does the same for electric closure.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

This SUV is perfectly configured to provide a high level of comfort and roominess for a quartet of family members on holiday. The “Sport” seats are handsomely done, with contrasting stitching and perforated premium leather trim. Nor does Acura skimp on the back seats, which are every bit as comfortable and inviting as the pair up front. Matching center consoles front and rear offer a huge amount of deep storage.; Our test sample’s interior, finished in a delicious shade called “Espresso” also featured insert panels of real wood cleverly patinated to resemble reclaimed barn wood.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

The dashboard’s central column displays two separate screens. The lower screen is dedicated to HVAC settings, fan control and SiriusXM pre-sets. The upper screen carries some of the same infotainment information, plus maps for the Acura Navigation System and real time traffic reports from the AcuraLink communication system. Because the upper screen is shielded by an effective visor, it remains easy to read in broad daylight. The unshielded lower screen, however, is impossible to decipher when sun shines directly on its surface. At that point you only see dust and fingerprints.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

The MDX in Hybrid form is an exceptionally useful transportation module. It serves the needs of large families with the peace of mind that only Acura (Honda) products bring to the table. Since the MDX model line starts at about $45,000, the $58,000 base price of the Hybrid is significantly more expensive than an entry level MDX. But in the long run, this Hybrid’s excellent fuel economy and luxury appointments will pay for themselves over time. And you simply can’t get the kind of acceleration boost out of the gas-only V6 that the Hybrid provides. All in all, the Hybrid is the best version of the MDX you can buy. This MD is just what the doctor ordered.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

  • Engine: 3.0 liter V6, SOHC, 24-Valve, Variable Cylinder Management
  • Horsepower: 321hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 26 MPG City/27 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $58,975
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T Review

Wednesday September 6th, 2017 at 9:99 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

Hypes: Phenomenal Cornering Grip, Zinger Motor, Slick Manual Gearbox
Gripes: Flat Bottom Steering Wheel Mounted Too High

Hyundai has comprehensively redesigned the Elantra sedan for 2017. In particular, the Sport model we drove features a package of visual enhancements that distinguish it from all lesser models. Hyundai stylists have cleaned up the front end by better integrating new HID headlights into streamlined fender caps. They’ve also added a model specific Sport grill featuring a large one piece hexagonal opening. New LED driving lights meld into slits flanking the central radiator intake. The sedan’s side profile gains sleekness from a higher, more prominent character line that stretches from front to rear wheel wells. At the tail end, a lower valance diffuser enhances both the appearance and aerodynamics of the Sport model. The valence incorporates a pair of chrome tipped exhausts on the passenger side of the panel. New LED tail and stop lights complete the rear redo.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

But the Sport’s attributes are much more than skin deep. Stunning 20 spoke 18 inch diameter alloy wheels mount Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2 tires measuring 225/40R18.

Under the hood of the Sport lies the most important component of the entire exercise: a 1.6 liter turbocharged in-line 4 mounted sideways, with double overhead cams and direct injection. This highly sophisticated engine produces 201hp and 195lb.-ft. of torque. That’s by far the most power available in the Elantra line, which consists of three other lesser engines (128hp, 147hp and 173hp). Our test Sport fed its abundant thrust through a 6 speed manual transmission that proved delightful to operate.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

The Sport is exceptionally quick in a straight line, with sub-7 second runs to 60mph from a standing start easy to achieve. The engine comes alive over 3000rpm, and can be safely twisted to redline at 6800rpm. 6th gear is well chosen for freeway romps, pulling just 2500 quiet rpm at 70mph. But the strong point of this Hyundai is not its ability as a drag racer, rather its utter composure as a twisty road master. The suspension is independent front and rear, with a sophisticated multi-link design in back that keeps the Hankook tires planted all the time. There’s a slight trace of torque steer from the front wheels when you pin the throttle wide open exiting a bend. But other than that predictable feedback, the Sport remains precise and predictable no matter how hard you thrash it through bends. The Ventus S1 tires are exceptionally sticky, belying their mid-range tread wear rating of 500. Overall, this car’s performance behavior is outstanding, with the added benefit of upsized disc brake rotors to help it stop extra short.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

You can comfortably order a base model Sport for just $21,550. As is the custom with press evaluation vehicles, however, our test Sport included a $2,400 optional Premium Package which added an 8 inch Navigation screen and system to the base car’s standard 7 inch screen without Navigation. This option group also adds a power sunroof, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, dual automatic temperature controls, and a boosted stereo system with 8 speakers and a center channel subwoofer. That’s 2 more speakers than the standard issue audio system, plus that thumping base to keep your ears vibrating.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

This is one sport sedan that lives up to its billing. Take the seats and steering wheel, for example. The wheel is a work of art, with its flat bottom, indented pistol grips, and red stitching. The front seats offer tremendous lateral support, and sport double red stitched bolster seams. Lately I have been driving a plethora of so-called “sport” sedans from various manufacturers that are sporty only in looks, not performance. Hyundai has taken the challenge of building a real sport sedan quite seriously here. This Elantra will run the socks off a wide variety of much more expensive Asian and European “sports” sedans.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

The Elantra Sport is without question the best of this pretender filled bunch when it comes to go and handling. In fact, the only real challenger for this car is the VW GTI, which is substantially more expensive and less reliable. Consumer Reports blesses the new Elantra with a “Recommended” check mark and predicts that its reliability will be “Better than Average.” So if you want to have your go-fast cake and eat it too, give this super bargain sleeper one hard long look.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport M/T

  • Engine: Inline DOHC 4-cylinder, turbocharged with GDI
  • Horsepower: 201hp
  • Torque: 195lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $25,010
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2018 Acura TLX A-Spec Review

Wednesday August 16th, 2017 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

Hypes: Greatly Improved Looks, High Quality Build
Gripes: Bouncy Back Seat Ride, Puzzling Transmission Controls

After years of motorsports inactivity, Acura is making a big push to gain race wins for the brand in IMSA GT Daytona class competition. In their first year of combat in this very tough class, the new Acura NSX posted back-to-back wins in the hands of Andy Lally and Katherine Legg over Audi’s R8, Porsche’s 911, Mercedes’ AMG and Ferrari’s 488. The corporate bosses at Acura are hoping the halo effect from NSX success will rub off on their more prosaic and much less expensive line of sedans, like the newly reconfigured TLX A-Spec we recently drove for a week.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

Acura thankfully revamped the exterior look of the old TLX, which has been steadily losing sales since the beginning of 2017. In a successful effort to freshen its appearance, they remodeled the tiresome bird beak grill which has marred Acura front ends since 2009. The new frontal look comes direct from the show circuit, where Acura presented a “Precision Concept” sedan in 2016 with a grill featuring hexagonal shields that appear to be moving when they are not.

The frontal redo is quite entertaining, and the rest of the redesign does not let you down. Outlined LED turn signals surround Jewel-eyed headlamps above the new grill. Intriguing power bulges surface the hood, and a conspicuous beltline crease rises from the front fender to a point just below the rear door handle. This character line imparts a fluid sense of motion to even a stationary TLX.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

If you opt for the A-Spec package, more goodies are in store. That kaleidoscope grill is blacked out, along with a lower valence that contains inset driving lights that look like they’ve been daubed with mascara. The dramatic effect continues at the back, where a lower skirt beneath the bumper contains a series of vanes to help evacuate rushing air from underneath the body. A quartet of prominent chrome exhaust tips underline the rear guard. Color keyed rocker skirts make the TLX look longer and lower than it really is, while tasty 19 inch alloys finished in gunmetal gray, mount 245/40R19 Michelin MXM4 Primacy tires at all 4 corners.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

Inside the cabin, Acura has spiced up the proceedings with their interpretation of sport front seats. These overstuffed lounge chairs are more Barca-lounger than Recaro, however. They aren’t particularly retentive under cornering duress, but they certainly look sporty, with their contrasting piping and multiple pleats. The rear seats lack any pretense at sportiness, and their flaccid belt receptacles make fastening you safety harness more of a challenge than it should be.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

Our test model included virtually everything Acura can throw into the TLX A-Spec mix. Along with all-wheel drive (or SH-AWD in Acura-speak) comes a creamy gem of a V6 motor attached to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The paddle shift equipped gearbox run through its gears in such short order that you barely realize it has shifted at all. Unfortunately, the piddling paddles look and feel like cereal box premiums. The 290hp V6 provides authoritative poke when you tromp the accelerator, and a very mellifluous soundtrack through those trumpets below the diffuser. Steering feedback from the low profile Michelins is solid and informative, and the ride and reactions of the A-Spec can be tailored to taste via a command control button on the center console for economy, normal, sport and sport plus modes of driving. If you chose sport plus, you will find the steering akin to rowing an oar in molasses.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

If you live where the roads are not always smooth, the TLX A-Spec will be the first to let you know their deteriorated condition. I spent too long pulling passenger duty in the back seat, where every crease in the pavement sent me bouncing aloft. The situation is much better in the front seats, where all that stuffing dampens the pogo pitch. Another source of irritation is the button farm Acura has decided to institute across their entire model range to control transmission shifts. Instead of the reliable, old-school stick with detents, the TLX requires you to evaluate a daunting array of slides, lifts and pushes every time you hope to effect a gear change. It’s completely unnecessary technology that doesn’t even save space on the center console for other purposes.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V-6
  • Horsepower: 290hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: N/A
  • Price as Tested: N/A
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Review

Tuesday August 15th, 2017 at 2:88 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

Hypes: Best Manual Stick Shift on the Market
Gripes: Impeded Sightlines

The new Mazda RF’s folding hardtop does Zero-to-Closed in just 13 seconds. The MX-5 itself takes somewhat less time than that to complete the Zero-to-60 MPH run in just 7 seconds. No matter what performance parameter you examine with this Mazda, the operative word is quick. It transitions through corners with a quickness that would make any Porsche envious. And it does so at a stellar bargain base price of $32,620. That’s less than the options alone cost on many new Porsches.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

The RF designation refers to the fact that this new model offers more than just a disappearing hardtop. RF stands for “Retractable Fastback” and the look of the car with the top up will leave no doubt about the “Fastback” part of the name. From the side windows forward, the RF looks virtually identical to the standard convertible version of the MX-5. However, on the RF, Mazda designers have appended a pair of flying buttresses to the sides of the cockpit which fare gracefully into the tops of the rear fenders.

This substantial modification lends an unexpectedly exciting visual twist to the Miata’s well known profile. In RF form, designers have exchanged cuteness for sleekness. From both side profile and rear view the RF looks substantially better than any previous Miata. In fact, first time viewers often fail to realize they are even looking at a revision of the world’s most popular roadster. I know that was my reaction when I saw an RF for the first time. To me, it recalls the caliber of design you once saw from Italian masters like Pininfarina, Bertone and Zagato. This Mazda looks so good it will transport you back to the classical Italian design period of the 1960s.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

The folding top not only improves the looks of the MX-5, it also adds a note of improved civility to your time in this car’s confined cockpit. With the top erect, the level of noise inside the cabin is less than you would experience in a top-up roadster. The RF allows you to enjoy all of the MX-5′s precision reflexes, pin point handling, and driving joy while affording you better protection from the elements. Even with the top down, those fastback wings and rear window remain in place, affording you an extra measure of wind-free quiet.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

But there is a one substantial price to pay for those protective buttresses. They inhibit side and rear sight lines. No longer do you enjoy the unmitigated 360 degree field of vision provided by the top-down MX-5 convertible. In fact, that immoveable structure next to your head prevents you from seeing what’s right next to you when you want to make a simple lane change.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

In terms of added security, the erect hardtop is infinitely preferable to the protection of a cloth roof. No one is going to break into the RF without a power tool. In terms of handling dynamics, the added weight of the roof and its motor raising apparatus have had no appreciable effect. RF exhibits exactly the same breed of lightning reflexes that have long made the convertible Miata the benchmark sports car for handling. Our test RF’s 17 inch smoked pewter alloys came with top drawer Bridgestone S001 radials (205/45R17) that never so much as chirped during hard cornering. This Mazda is without question one of the best handling cars available from any manufacturer today. Mazda like to use a Japanese phrase in reference to the MX-5 that translates into English as “The rider and the horse are one.” The fact that our test sample was finished in Soul Red Metallic paint added to this mystique, since Mazda has chosen that same shade for its #55 IMSA Prototype racer which recently scored a podium finish at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

For those of you who have grown tired of the Miata’s long standing proportions and appearance, the RF offers a fresh take on this sports car icon. I acquainted myself with the exceptional subtleties of the new design by slowly washing my test MX-5. It provided a great opportunity to appreciate the subtle beauty of the car’s carefully integrated design. Mazda calls this design dynamic “Kodo” or the “Soul of Motion.” That explains why you will never see an unnecessary scoop, louver or crease appended to any Mazda. Consequently, the appearance of their vehicles always matches the purity of their design creed.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC
  • Horsepower: 155hp
  • Torque: 148lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 26MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $33,885
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport Review

Wednesday August 2nd, 2017 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Hypes: Gives Real Meaning to “Sport”
Gripes: Puny Horn, No Dead Pedal, Poor Rear 3/4 Vision

Sport has to be the most misused term in the automotive realm. Manufacturers of the most prosaic products have managed to append the descriptor “Sport” to vehicles eminently unworthy of the appellation. On top of that, almost every two ton SUV these days comes with a magic button on the dash labeled “Sport” to convince you that a push of said button will somehow transform an elephant into a gazelle. Just like there’s no free lunch, there’s no free “Sport.” If you want to label your product “Sport” you better be prepared to back up that claim with some hard design and engineering work.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Honda’s newest Civic, is the product of just such hard work. It truly deserves the name Sport – a legitimate title earned through suspension excellence, engine performance, shifting precision, and overall driving feel. This is a front-wheel-drive, five door, family transport hatchback with the following features that define the concept “Sport” – 180hp engine, 6-speed manual transmission, multi-link independent rear suspension, 18″x8″ alloy rims with 235/40R18 Continental ContiProContact rubber, electric power assisted rack and pinion steering.

Honda has assembled these essential sporting ingredients into a rather spacey looking package that harks back to the company’s best Civics from the mid 1980s – the CRX and the Civic Si. Although updated in every way – especially from the safety standpoint -the 2017 Civic Sport responds to the driver with the same alacrity those early Civics did. I should know because I once owned a 1988 Civic Si.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Recently, Honda has been unable to reproduce the lightness and responsiveness of those early Civics. This time, though, they have turned the trick in spades, and done so for a very modest buy-in price of $21,300. Unlike decidedly tinny Civics from decades back, the latest compact Honda scores an impressive 5 star rating in all 5 aspects of the Government Safety Rating analysis. Honda’s “ACE body structure” and the inclusion of dual stage front airbags, side airbags, and side curtain airbags with rollover sensor all contribute to the 5 Star rating.

But the Civic Sport scores heavily as well in accident avoidance thanks to excellent acceleration, superb braking, and responsive handling. That 1.5 liter gem of an engine lying under the “Earth Dreams” valve cover shroud makes 180hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque fed through a 6-speed manual gearbox. This manually operated shift mechanism is increasingly rare in today’s automotive spectrum. The light touch required to move from gate to gate is a joy to experience. Clutch pedal take-up, however, occurs rather high in the pedal’s arc of operation, so coordinating your shifts can sometimes be a challenge.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

The engine itself is gratifyingly responsive, providing you with a VTEC-like boost when the turbo motor climbs on the boost at 6000rpm and snaps straight to 6500rpm. Car & Driver (April, 21017)tested the Civic Sport and recorded a sterling 0-60mph run of 7.0 seconds, and a quarter mile time of 15.2 seconds @ 94mph. Incidentally, the Civic Sport won C&D’s comparison test handily versus the Mazda 3, VW Golf and Chevy Cruze.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

At one stoplight, we were accosted by a curious woman driving a Lincoln Navigator who inquired what kind of car we were driving. Seems she just loved its looks. The latest styling effort from Honda is rather polarizing. Either you love it like that lady in the Navigator, or you shake your head in dismay. But either way, once you hunkered down in the Sport’s deeply contoured buckets, grabbing its fat rimmed leather wheel, and snapping real upshifts and downshifts with one of the last available stick shifts, it doesn’t much matter what the new Civic looks like to others. Because inside that cabin, the Hatch Sport provides driving nirvana anyway you look at it.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

  • Engine: 1.5 liter DOHC 16 Valve, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 180hp
  • Torque: 177lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/39 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $22,135
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD Review

Tuesday August 1st, 2017 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Hypes: Deftly Sculpted Shape, Refined Interior, Superb Handling
Gripes: Turbo Motor Would Be Nice

Unlike its flamboyant Japanese counterparts, Toyota and Honda, Mazda refrains from boisterous design in crafting their vehicles. They call their subdued style language “Kodo” which translates into “Soul of Motion.” Without getting too Zen about the concept, suffice it to say that Kodo style understatement infuses every aspect of the CX-5, from its sweeping and fluid side profile to its clean-lined dash and stark instrument binnacle. This integrity of design permeates the CX-5 crossover utility vehicle (CUV). The array of pleasing curves, lustrous finish and sublime comfort all go to define Kodo as the art of Speed Design.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Mazda has repeatedly shown the ability to build high quality, fun-to-drive vehicles at price points that defy logic. The CX-5 GT is no exception to that welcome tradition. With a base price of $29,395 and a delivered price of $32,785, the CX-5 provides substantial bang for the buck. Our test sample, finished in handsome, $300 optional Machine Gray Metallic – Mazda’s version of the Car in the Gray Flannel Suit – benefitted from a “1GT” Premium Package that added $1,830 to the base price. Included in this 1GT grouping are 2 position memory settings for the driver’s seat, 6-way adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear seats and steering wheel, active driving display, and wiper de-icer.

The Parchment leather trimmed interior seating surfaces, perforated to breathe, convey a richness beyond expectation in this price range. In fact, your initial positive assessment of quality never dissipates. The closer you look at the MX-5, the better constructed it appears to be. Consumer Reports (CR) corroborates this impression of sturdiness by conferring their coveted “Recommended” check mark on the CX-5. CR predicts this Mazda’s reliability will fare “Better Than Average.”

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

Since its founding as a cork maker in 1920, Mazda has always striven to ascend the next rung of the success ladder. Corks led to machine tool production, and finally to the design and fabrication of the company’s first motorized vehicle, the 3-wheel Mazda-Go in 1931. Since its inception, Mazda has been determined to make less do more than any other automotive concern. For example, they currently field a team of exceptionally fast prototype racers in the IMSA road racing championship that rely on small 4 cylinder power while the competition invariably resorts to large displacement V8 engines. At last year’s IMSA race – at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway no less – the company’s less is more prototype took pole position. That kind of put-up-or-shut-up performance inspires confidence in Mazda’s mantra that “Every Detail Matters. Because Driving Matters.”

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

While the CX-5 will never be an MX-5 Miata, there are enough uncanny similarities between the crossover and the company’s hallmark sports car to make you wonder just how they managed to infuse so much racy feel in a five-door, 3,435 pound station wagon on stilts. Start with steering feel. Most crossover manufacturers favor the kind of nebulous feedback that would have felt about right in a Buick Roadmaster from 1956. Mazda takes a different approach. The front wheels respond to the most incremental commands you issue through the electric power assisted steering. This precision control system defines your most basic interface with the CX-5.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

The reason steering response is so positive reaches far beyond the unit’s ratio or the number of turns from lock-to-lock. Rather, precision steering control depends on the fully integrated, top shelf components with which Mazda chooses to equip the CX-5: independent front and rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, 19 inch alloy rims with 225/35R19 Toyo A36 mud & snow radials. These are not inexpensive components. A lot of manufacturers feel that a crossover utility doesn’t need an independent rear suspension system or a front and rear stabilizer bar because of the extra cost. Mazda refuses to stint on such components because they know that only such an ensemble of the right stuff will satisfy customers who believe that driving does, indeed, matter.

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

2017 Mazda CX-5 GT FWD

  • Engine: Skyactive 2.5 liter inline 4
  • Horsepower: 187hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $32,785
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport Review

Monday July 31st, 2017 at 8:77 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

Hypes: Ultra Quick, Beautifully Detailed, Premium Ride
Gripes: No Printed Owner’s Manual, Separate “Park” Button Distracts

We’re barely half way through 2017 but since model year clocks run double time in Korea, we have already driven the 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport sedan. It’s a winner. This delicious looking concoction handles so well and accelerates so hard that it will plant seeds of doubt in anyone aspiring to buy a much more expensive BMW, Mercedes or Audi. Mid-size sedans from the German big three cost can easily double the price of the G80, which retails for just $56,225.

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

Hyundai hatched the Genesis line from their previous G80/90 luxury sedans. Think of Genesis as a newly positioned up-market brand, as Lexus is to Toyota, or Infiniti is to Nissan. With the advent of this 2018 model, the G80 moves into its second year of production with some notable changes to pique the interest of sporting drivers. The twin turbo 3.3T Sport is available for the first time as a separate model in 2018. High on the list of important features is its “Sport CDC Suspension with Intelligent Drive Mode.” Genesis engineers have endowed the G80 platform with a fully independent suspension system that covers all the bases of daily driving, from plush freeway ride to taut mountain pass precision.

In the “Eco” mode, the suspension swallows up road irregularities with relaxed imprecision. You’ll feel some float over bumps as the shocks damp inputs at the expense of precise snubbing. But if you slide the G80′s ride control switch into the “Sport” mode, the shock valving firms up instantly, the steering reacts with greater precision, and the throttle pedal requires less travel to spur the 365hp double turbo V6 into immediate action.

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

Tire choice also receives careful attention from Genesis. Top line Continental Conti Contact GT rubber blesses each corner. These tires, mounted on dark chrome 19 inch alloy rims, measure a hefty 245/40R19 up front and an even heftier 275/40R19 in back. The Continentals boast aggressively siped sidewalls for good rain dispersion, but they perform quite effectively in dry weather as well. The only negative is that they generate some queasy tramlining on grooved concrete pavement like you find on bridge roadways.

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

The G80 turbo V6 is extremely quick in a straight line. Quick enough to accomplish virtually any passing maneuver you care to attempt. However, bear in mind if you have locked the 8-speed automatic transmission in “Drive,” the turbo needs at least a full second to spool up to max power If you need more instant punch, press the gear “lockout” button next to the Shiftronic shift lever, then make your shifts via the paddles on the steering column. This routine locks the gearbox into the gear you have selected and thus eliminates the turbo lag factor. It also involves you more fully in the sporting operation of your G80 Sport.

However, should you decide to lay back and trundle along at a less than interstellar pace, just dial up “Eco” on the Drive Mode selector, settle back into one of the most supportive sports seats you’ve ever occupied, and let the 17 speaker Lexicon audio system lull you into bliss with its “Quantum Logic Surround and Clari-FI.” Of course, it goes without saying that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are part of the infotainment system, along with a 90 day subscription to SiriusXM Radio. The cabin of the G80 Sport verges on palatial, with lavish spreads of real carbon fiber adorning the dash and doors. This extravagance, standard on the Genesis, would add thousands of optional dollars to the base price of a comparable German sedan. All the seats, door panels and instrument facades benefit from subtle contrast stitching to make the seams look elegant and tailored.

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

The Sport is also available with all-wheel-drive if that suits your needs, or with a truly earth shaking 420hp V8 that will not require any transmission tweaking to light off instantly. However, the 5.0 liter V8 produces just 7 more foot-pounds of torque than the turbo V6 in our test car (383lb.-ft. for the V8 to 376lb.-ft. for the V6).

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

In its first year of existence, the G80 immediately earned a “Recommended” rating from Consumer Reports. The allure of this fast, capable, handsome family sedan is reassuringly enhanced by the Genesis Warranty, which extends to 60,000 miles over 5 years. With the advent of this superb new sports sedan, there is less incentive than ever to cross shop the more famous and pricey European name brands in the mid-size field.

2018 Genesis G80 RWD 3.3T Sport

  • Engine: 3.3 Liter V6 GDI Twin-Turbo
  • Horsepower: 365hp
  • Torque: 376lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 17 MPG City/25 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $56,225
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Mazda6 Review

Friday July 14th, 2017 at 10:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Mazda6

Hypes: Faster Than It Looks
Gripes: Heavy Hood Needs Hydraulic Struts

The adage that you can’t tell a book by its cover also applies to cars. One glance at the Mazda6 will not leave you breathless in anticipation of driving it. The 6 is neither beguiling particularly looking nor palpitation inducing. Rather, it is handsome in a refined way, with pleasing proportions, sleek aero refinements, and a noble stance enhanced by 19 inch alloy rims. But this Mazda, which remains unchanged this year (after an interior facelift in 2016) is a top candidate for best midsize sedan honors. Everything about the 6, from value, to build quality to performance is top notch. If you can live without the adrenalin spike of a heart throb exterior, than the 6 will fill the bill in every other way.

2017 Mazda6

On the value front, the base price here is just $30,695. That buy-in gets you all the basics, including a big displacement 4 cylinder engine producing 184hp and 185 lb.-ft. of torque administered through either a 6 speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. While the Skyactive four banger’s output is not exactly earth shattering, you must factor in the 6′s comparatively light curb weight of 3,185 lbs to evaluate the car properly. Doing so reveals a lively power-to-weight ratio of 17.3 pounds/hp. When you flatten the go pedal here, the Mazda6 gathers speed with satisfying alacrity.

Our test car was equipped with the “Skyactive Drive 6-Speed Sport Mode” automatic, which utilizes a fat knobbed, floor mounted stick for control, plus a pair of paddles attached behind the rim of the steering wheel. You can manually control this transmission with either the floor stick positioned in the manual (left side) gate or simply bang your shifts via the twin paddles. In either case, the Mazda responds instantly to command inputs, making this sedan fun to operate with close supervision. The Sport Mode switch is found on the center console and when activated, transforms throttle response from average to instantaneous.

2017 Mazda6

It should come as no surprise that Mazda has honed the responsive suspension of the 6 to a sharp edge. The beauty of Mazda engineering’s “Driving Matters” motto is that this company favors handling over any other automotive attribute. This dictum is as evident in the Mazda6 as it is in the company’s iconic sports car, the MX-5 Miata. The underpinning goodies start with standard front and rear stabilizer bars for a flat platform in the turns. Suspension geometry is close to ideal thanks to independent design architecture front and rear. Mazda finishes off the package with standard 19 inch alloy rims, unexpected on a sedan in this price range. Those rims carry Dunlop SP Sport 5000 radials (225/45R19) well suited to carrying speed through apexes on twisty back roads. As a sports sedan, the unheralded Mazda6 is the real deal.

2017 Mazda6

But if you opt for the $2,500 GT Premium Package (Code ZPP), you can move the 6 into the near luxury class as well. In particular, the Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery upgrade converts the seats from utilitarian to plush. Our Machine Grey Metallic 6 ($300 extra color) looked particularly handsome with its Premium Package “Parchment Nappa Leather” seats. Both front and rear get the full treatment, with perforated seating and back support surfaces, set off by prominent side bolsters seamed in a contrasting shade of putty. The Premium Package also includes “Bright Finish Interior Trim” which is tastefully done alloy sheathing on the steering wheel spokes, door pulls, window button bezels, air vent surrounds and instrument rims. Also included in the optional package are a dark, soft texture headliner, plus a heater for the steering wheel and rear seats. Heated front seats are already standard.

2017 Mazda6

Mazda thoughtfully provides a 125/70/17 Kenda spare time inflated to 60psi along with the basic tools you’ll need to perform an emergency roadside flat tire change. The enormous rear trunk (15 cubic feet) is covered with a useful, optional $75 cargo mat that is ribbed for package retention and waterproof as well. In the trunk you will also discover a pair of pull releases that allow you to flatten the rear 40/60 split seats for an even larger storage platform. In sum, the latest Mazda6 is not only entertaining to drive, but eminently practical and economical at 30 MPG in overall use.

2017 Mazda6

  • Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC inline 4
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/35 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,530
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Review

Wednesday July 12th, 2017 at 2:77 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Hypes: Double Hydraulic Hood Struts, Sweet Manual Gearbox, Sweeter Turbo Motor
Gripes: Poor 3/4 Rear Vision

Hyundai originally introduced the 3-door Veloster sports coupe with a rather anemic 132hp four cylinder engine that peaked at just 120 lb.-ft. of torque. Even with that handicap, the original version was a lot of fun to drive because of the car’s sporty design and ingenious packaging. Its pin point steering accuracy, racy seating position, and responsive manual transmission all coalesced into a spry and energetic combination that cried out for more horsepower. Unlike Toyota/Subaru – who have refused to turbocharge their sluggish 86/BRZ – Hyundai responded to the Veloster’s crying need by introducing a twin scroll Turbo version. This stunningly quick 201 hp upgrade of the base motor is also good for 195 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled to a slick shifting 6-speed manual gearbox, the Turbo transforms the Veloster into a genuine sports car. Its excellent acceleration and handling will match cars costing twice as much.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Hyundai’s racy intentions are evident the second you lay eyes on its curvaceous lines. At the front, company stylists have borrowed heavily from Audi design language with an elliptical six sided grill opening that makes the Veloster look predatory. Muscular bulging flares front and rear endow the lightweight (2,765 lb.) coupe with a muscular stance that will instantly attract fans of the Fast and Furious. Under those flares lie diamond faced multi spoke alloy rims that offer intriguing design complexity. Each wheel plants a mildly sticky low profile Kumho Solus radial tire (225/40R18) on the pavement. With its low slung stance, stiff springs, and excellent torque vectoring control system, the Veloster is capable of exceeding the grip of its Kumho tires, which issue audible chirps as they reach their adhesion limit.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Inside the cockpit, you’ll think you’ve been transported to the flight deck of a fighter jet. Our Veloster sported a stunning exterior shade called Vitamin C, an opalescent orange that is carried right through to the interior. When climbing aboard, the first item you notice are oversized, door mounted grab handles, painted to match the exterior finish. But instead of using gloss paint like the exterior, these handles are done in a grippy matte paint that makes them easy to grasp. This little touch reflects Hyundai’s exacting attention to detail.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Once seated, you appreciate that the deeply bucketed front sport seats feature side panels upholstered in Vitamin C to match the exterior. Finally, you notice the prominent “Turbo” notation embroidered in black on the driver’s outer orange seat bolster. The net effect here is entrancing, like a show car that somehow escaped its rotating display pavilion and actually ended up for sale. And how much outlay is required for this show winning display piece? If the Veloster had a German nameplate attached, it would easily retail for $40-60,000. Because it’s made in Ulsan, Korea, however, the base price of the Veloster Turbo is $22,600. Our test car, with its optional $2,700 Tech Package (Panoramic Sunroof, Navigation System with 7″ Touchscreen) checked out at $26,260. Call it the deal of the 21st century.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

But there’s more on offer here than visual cortex stimulation. More than the excitement of charging through the gears and peaking the turbo at 6800 rpm with each upshift. Because the Turbo Veloster is in many ways a remarkably practical package. Start with that ever-so-useful third door, which is so inconspicuously incorporated on the passenger side that you wouldn’t know it existed by looking at the flush exterior surface. But it makes packing the kids in back ever so easy. You can even shepherd a couple of adults through this portal for short hops. And when you do some shopping, tossing the goods into the backseat is thankfully simplified by the expedient of this third door. Then too there’s the fuel saving penchant of the Veloster’s efficient Turbo motor, which returns 25 MPG around town and 33 MPG on the highway, and 28 MPG overall. The base model, non-turbo Veloster only exceeds those numbers by 2 MPG. That’s hardly a savings worthy of foregoing the thrust of this affordable and enjoyable Veloster Turbo.

2017 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

  • Engine: 1.6 liter inline 4, twin scroll turbo , direct injection
  • Horsepower: 201hp
  • Torque: 195lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,260
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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