2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE Review

Friday March 18th, 2016 at 12:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

By David Colman

Hypes: Fantastic Performance/Mileage Balance
Gripes: What’s Not To Like?

If there’s a better buy in the compact sedan marketplace than VW’s turbocharged Jetta, I have yet to find it. The new 1.4 liter four cylinder turbo becomes the base model engine for 2016, replacing the 2.0 liter straight four of previous years. The new engine produces 150 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. These numbers compare very favorably with the discontinued base motor, which made just 115 hp. Although you can still option up your Jetta to GLI specification with a 2.0 liter turbo producing 210hp, the 1.4 turbo is such a gem of an engine that you have little incentive to do so. It produces all of its torque as soon as you level the throttle. There’s absolutely no turbo lag, and the standard 6 speed automatic hooks up power so quickly that there’s no need to shift gears yourself. However, VW does afford you the opportunity of prolonging up changes and performing earlier down changes by utilizing the “S” (for Sport Drive) quadrant of the gearbox. There’s even a full manual mode, should you so desire, which VW dubs “Tiptronic,” that allows full manual gear ratio selection with the console mounted stick. Paddles, however, are absent.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

The 1.4 liter turbo Jetta, which is built in VW’s Mexican factory, achieves a remarkable 39 MPG on the highway. In a full week of sustained driving around town, we barely dropped the fuel level gauge below the half tank mark. With a capacity of 14.5 gallons, including a reserve of 2 gallons, the range of the Jetta 1.4T on the open road stands at a stunning 565 miles.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

While the interior of the Jetta is not luxurious, neither is it plebeian. The seating surfaces are cloth, with bolsters done in a sturdy woven material, and inserts finished in high sheen, triangle patterned brocade. The front seats are heated, a bonus you don’t expect to find on a $20,000 car. Another nicety is the presence of a full size spare tire stored beneath the floor of the Jetta’s sizeable 16 cubic foot trunk. The roof of the trunk also provides pull releases to lower both folding back seats. There’s even a couple of tools included in the tire change kit. That’s more than BMW gives you in the $84,000 6 Series Gran Coupe.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

Inside the cabin, industrial grade, ribbed rubber floor mats are more practical than beautiful. Likewise, expanses of pebbled black vinyl that cover the dash, flat bottom steering wheel, and center console are serviceable rather than charming. But the Jetta offers undeniable practicality, from its exposed engine components under the hood to its easily accessible engine compartment battery location. Where other manufacturers strive to hide the location of the all important battery under the seat or in the trunk, VW is literally up front about the location of this important piece of equipment. Likewise, the interior designers are honest about the design and use of all HVAC (Heat/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) controls. On the center stack of the Jetta, you’ll find three large, simple dials. The left one controls temperature, the center operates fan speed, and the right one changes airflow position. This tried and tested system has evolved over years of automotive practice. It remains the best of all layouts, superior in every way to the current trend to bury HVAC options within layers of digital menus. You will never have an accident in this Jetta while searching hard-to-decipher menus, because VW refuses to succumb to the idiocy of such needless complication.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

Driving the least expensive Jetta turbo is a joy. Although its diminutive Bridgestone Ecopia tires may not look the part of performance rubber – with a width of just 205/45R16 – they definitely get the job done on twisty back roads. The Jetta SE strikes an intriguing balance between ride softness and buttoned down control. The key to the rarely achieved combo is perfectly calibrated shock absorber valving. When you accelerate this Jetta over pavement height changes, the snubbing of the shocks instantly compensates for pitch change. There’s absolutely no follow-on wallowing so typical of sedan’s with comfort biased suspensions. On snaky back roads, the Jetta SE is all business, but on pock-marked freeways, it’s all about comfort.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

The Jetta for 2016 constantly surprises you with amenities you would never expect to discover on a $20,000 car: electric window lifts with automatic up and down, heated front seats, push button start and stop, and standard 6 speed transmission containing real gears rather than funky CVT belts. If you’re searching the sports sedan market for an ultra high mile-per-gallon candidate that’s still fun to drive, the eminently affordable 1.4 liter Jetta SE turbo is your number one choice.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4, DOHC, turbocharged, direct injection
  • Horsepower: 150hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 28 MPG City/38 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $20,915
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4 Review

Thursday March 17th, 2016 at 1:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4

By David Colman

Hypes: Fetching Appearance, True Jeep Genes
Gripes: Rear Visibility Poor

The Jeep-Chrysler-Fiat merger has resulted in engineering collaboration responsible for this Italian Jeep. Based on the platform of the Fiat 500L, the Renegade is built in Melfi, Italy and presents Jeep customers with the company’s first ever compact crossover SUV. In the Trailhawk form we tested the Renegade, this Jeep provides true off road capability. First, it offers Jeep “Selec-Terrain,” which offers you the ability to select optimal performance in snow, sand, off-road and rock modes. Only the Trailhawk offers the rock mode category. Also, only the Trailhawk offers maximum ground clearance of 8.7 inches, 0.8 inches higher than the standard Renegade. The Trailhawk, with its generous angles of approach (30.5 degrees), and departure (34.3 degrees), is capable of fording water 19 inches deep. Finally, the perfectly geared Trailhawk also boasts a rear axle ratio of 4.33:1 for ultra low speed trail creeping. Other Renegades make do with a 3.73:1 final drive.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4

Under the taut little hood sits the model’s top optional engine, the 2.4 liter Fiat-based Multiaire (turbo) engine which produces 184hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque. This respectably powerful motor passes its energy to all four wheels through a nifty nine-speed 948TE automatic gearbox which offers good low speed dig and silent freeway cruising thanks to its wide variety of gear sets. The Trailhawk alone offers what Jeep calls “Active Drive Low” for crawling along rocky roads. The transmission also automatically disconnects rear-wheel-drive when unneeded to improve overall fuel economy. The Renegade 4 x4 manages 24 MPG in combined city/highway use and posts a moderate annual fuel cost of $2,200.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4

The styling of the Renegade is joyful Early Boom Box. The stunning shade of Omaha Orange which graced our Renegade does wonders for the slinky contours of this smallest Jeep. The $150 optional matte black Hood Decal added yet another intriguing complexity to the look of the Renegade. Jeep ingeniously carried the exterior orange into the interior trim, with bright colored rings surrounding the dash vents and shift console. These orange surrounds were designed to mimic latches, giving the interior an outdoorsy cachet that has long been the hallmark of Jeep. The twin removable “My Sky” sunroof panels (a $1,395 option), can be stored in their own tonneau cover ($75) in the trunk area. The panels detach via star bolts for which Jeep provides a special tool. This wrench, cast in aluminum alloy, replicates the classic 7 bar grill of the Jeep. This grill has been a trademark of the company since Willys built the first Jeep in 1941. In fact, the proud moniker “Since 1941″ appears above the TFT screen in the center of the dash.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4

The Renegade is surprisingly agile on paved roads, given its high center of gravity and off road capable Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires (215/65R17). These raised white letter Goodyears perform well when pressed hard on twisty roads. The little Jeep takes a quick set as you maneuver it through tight turns. All in all, its performance in these circumstances exceeds what you might expect when you first note its tall center of gravity. But if you’ve driven a Fiat 500L, you know what to expect from the Renegade in terms of tidy driving feedback. Although vision is terrific from the Jeep’s front seat to the front and sides, the Renegade’s beefy rear quarter pillars and bevy of backseat headrests conspire to make backing up a real pain. To ease the problem, you can equip your Trailhawk with the $1,395 optional “Safety and Security Group I” which includes Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection. The “Parkview” rear back-up camera is thankfully standard issue, and projects its image on a 7 inch TFT color display screen.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4

As if to confirm the bonafides of the Renegade, Jeep has equipped it with substantial fixed tow hooks (two front, one rear) painted international orange to match the exterior of the vehicle. There’s no mistaking the implication of these hooks. The Trailhawk carries a “Trail Rated” badge, and is meant to be used and sometimes abused in the outback. It looks the part because it has earned the part. Despite its engaging good looks and playful design, this is a trail rated Jeep through and through, making no concessions to a lesser role in life.

2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawak 4 x 4

  • Engine: 2.4 liter inline 4, SOHC, 16 valves, turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 184hp
  • Torque: 177lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 21 MPG City/29 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,690
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD Review

Friday March 4th, 2016 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD

By David Colman

Hypes: Beautifully Crafted, Ultra Comfortable Interior
Gripes: Unwieldy Suspension, Poorly Indexed Owner’s Manual

When Geely, the Indian automaker, took Volvo off Ford’s hands several years ago, many fans of the Swedish marque wondered what the future might hold in store for this revered, safety conscious label. Well, the future is here now in the form of the Volvo Inscription S60, a special lengthened version of the S60 sedan. At 185.6 inches in length, it stands 3.5 inches longer than the base model S60 four door. The Inscription is the first Volvo built in Chengdu, China, of parts that are 60 percent Chinese and 10 percent Japanese. This luxurious and expensive ($45,925) sedan carries a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine also built in China. Its 8-speed automatic transmission comes from Japan. In view of this disparate sourcing of parts, just how much Volvo DNA remains? Thankfully, quite a bit.

2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD

For starters, the Inscription has so many available safety features that its Swedish reputation for precaution remains strong. For example, “City Safety” – a low speed collision avoidance system – is standard issue on this car. Even the engine cover is made of dense, pliable foam. If you order the “Platinum” group of accessories ($3,000 extra), Volvo includes a “Technology Package” which provides collision warning with full auto brake, as well as pedestrian/cyclist detection with full auto brake. In a world replete with drivers more intent on reading their handheld devices than the road ahead, these safety features greatly improve your chances of accident avoidance.

Some of the other features of the Platinum group, however, are more annoying than useful. For example, the Lane Keeping Aid is helpful in the sense that warning lights on your exterior rearview mirrors illuminate when hidden traffic pulls alongside. But the same system goes overboard when you change lanes without using your blinker, something I prefer to do with no traffic nearby. Under these circumstances, the Volvo’s steering goes artificially light and the steering wheel itself wobbles gently in your palms. The feedback is similar to having your front tires aquaplane in heavy rain. It’s completely distracting and unnecessary, and thankfully Volvo provides a switch to delete this lane change punishment.

2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD

Although Volvo offers a number of more powerful engines in the S60 range (250hp inline 5, 302hp turbo inline 4, 345hp turbo inline 6), our test Inscription made do with the adequate but unexciting 2.0 liter turbo inline 4, which returns the best fuel consumption of the bunch at 29 MPG overall. The 8 speed gearbox compensates nicely for the underwhelming output of the 240hp motor by allowing you to stage your passing needs by selecting an appropriate gear before stomping the accelerator. You’ll need to plan ahead with this package for your acceleration requirements, because the engine must spool to 5600rpm for maximum thrust. Luckily, the 3,610 lb. sedan makes peak torque of 258lb.-ft. at just 1500rpm, so launch from a dead stop is decent. Volvo has incorporated an automatic start/stop system, ostensibly to save fuel while idling at traffic lights. This device shakes the whole car every time it re-fires the ignition. Although you can delete it, you have to do so every time you re-start the Volvo. It’s a design that should never have made production.

2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD

Inside the cabin, the Inscription will win over drivers accustomed to Audi/BMW levels of design simplicity and sophistication. The front seats are heated, but if you want heated rears plus a toasty steering wheel, you’ll need to pop $1,300 extra for the “Climate Package.” Lavish expanses of matte finished, open pore barn wood lend a country inn felicity to the Inscription’s interior environment. Glass area is immense, a bonus that leads to excellent vision in all directions. Such niceties as Park Assist and rain-sensing wipers come standard. The Platinum group includes a nifty grocery bag holder which flips up from the trunk floor to act as an anti-slide partition. I used it to keep a storage box from roaming the trunk on a twisty section of road.

2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD

Speaking of the twisties, the S60 is not particularly well acclimated to such driving usage. Granted, it rolls on 18 inch alloy rims bearing 235/45R18 Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires that uphold their end of the contact patch bargain. But the S60′s suspension is calibrated for comfort over handling, so the Inscription tends to bottom its shocks over mild depressions. Push it hard enough and the suspension hikes itself into the air as you try to make quick transitions on a curvy road. This Volvo offers a great freeway ride, but you won’t be blowing off any BMWs or Audis on the back roads.

2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged, direct injected
  • Horsepower: 240hp@5600rpm
  • Torque: 258lb.-ft.@1500-4500rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 25MPG City/37 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $45,925
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic Review

Thursday March 3rd, 2016 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

By David Colman

Hypes: The Only Non-Clown Car Hybrid
Gripes: Electric Range Disappointing

Audi’s bread and butter car is the A3, which is available in a stupefying number of iterations. The newest and greenest of the bunch is the Hybrid “e-tron” version which debuted as a prototype almost 3 years ago at the Frankfurt Auto Show, reappeared at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2013, and is now finally in production. The Hybrid offers two modes of propulsion. The first is a small displacement (1.4 liter) inline 4 making 148hp and 184lb.-ft. of torque. This advanced design engine features double overhead cams and 16 valves. The second motor is electric and produces 55hp and 243lb.-ft. of torque. These engines feed their combined output of 201hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque to a 6-speed twin clutch automatic gearbox. The e-tron model is offered as a five door hatchback, with comfortable seating for 4 adults plus a spacious storage area behind the rear seats. Fold those 60/40 split back seats down, and you’ve got enough storage for a mountain bike.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

Inside the trunk you will discover a large zippered bag containing the recharge apparatus for the electric motor’s 661 pound battery pack. This kit consists of a heavy oblong charging unit which plugs into a receptacle hidden behind the Audi rings in the front grill. Included in the kit are alternate plugs for 120volt and 240volt applications. A guide light implanted in the grill throbs green as the unit recharges the battery, then turns solid green when the procedure is complete. At 120volts, a full charge on an empty battery takes about nine hours. At 240volts, the same process takes about three hours. We left the charge unit fastened overnight in order to insure a full charge at 120volts. We then headed over the hill from our home on the coast to a point just 10 miles away. At that point the battery charge indicator read empty. Audi estimates 33 miles per full charge, but does add a disclaimer that your charge mileage may vary.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

Regardless of such limited battery utility, the A3 Sportback is a still delectable German hatchback that provides stunning good looks allied to excellent handling. Although Audi has staked its reputation on the virtue of Quattro all-wheel-drive, the power train layout of the e-tron does not allow room to install all-wheel-drive in the Sportback. Thus, you must make do with front-wheel-drive only. However, the traction offered by front wheel pulling power is excellent, so good in fact that you’ll be hard pressed to determine that the rear wheels are not also driven. Helping control the A3 through turns and switchbacks are a set of grippy 225/45R17 Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires mounted on special 15 spoke “Turbine Design” alloy rims. These tires and wheels are part of the optional $4,100 Premium Plus group which also provides heated front seats and full LED headlights.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

The fit and finish of the A3 has been improved over the years to the point that it is now indistinguishable from Audi models costing twice as much as our $46,655 test car. For example, the sport model front seats are works of art in terms of design, appearance and comfort. The dashboard features “3-D Optic” inlays which give this normally boring expanse of vinyl an alluring depth. High gloss aluminum window trim frames the side glass with handsome slashes of brilliance, while adaptive lighting in the cockpit casts a touch of Hollywood glamour on the entry and exit procedure. The dash and window treatment, along with the stage lights are all part of the Premium Plus package.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

If your obligation to save the planet requires ownership of a Hybrid, the Audi A3 e-tron is a worthy choice. Unlike so many awkward looking electric powered offerings (Toyota Prius, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf come to mind), Audi’s petite Hybrid makes no concessions to ugliness. While it is not 100 percent electric, it still qualifies you as a certified greenie – without having to look like a weenie. Indeed, the A3 enjoys all the attributes of its gas powered model line siblings: pleasing appearance, smart packaging, efficient use of energy sources, and unexpected comfort. Although the base price of the A3 e-tron looks steep at $37,900, this entry level foothold on Mount Audi is well worth your investment.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1.4T FWD S tronic

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 Valves plus Electric Motor
  • Horsepower: 148hp (gas) + 55hp (electric): 201hp (combined)
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft. (gas) + 243lb.-ft. (electric): 258lb.-ft. (combined)
  • Fuel Consumption: 83 MPGe (combined)/35 MPG(gas only)
  • Price as Tested: $46,655
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Coupe Review

Wednesday March 2nd, 2016 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

By David Colman

The 6 lost two front teeth this year. Not because it’s growing up, and certainly not because it fell on its face. Rather, Dingolfing dentists extracted one chrome incisor from each twin kidney grill in order to simplify the Gran Coupe’s gorgeous grin. Then, to complete the makeover, they embedded a six pack of eyeballs into a new front splitter. These fog lights, grouped three to a side, brighten the face of the 6 as well as the road ahead. In addition to cosmetic tweaks, the 6 Series has grown in iconic stature because BMW has chosen it to defend the company’s racing reputation in IMSA’s wickedly competitive GT Le Mans class. At this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, a spectacularly decorated M6 GTLM celebrated the company’s 100th year by placing 5th out of 11 class entries in its maiden outing.

Although the 640i Gran Coupe resides at the other end of the performance spectrum from the M6 GTLM, the DNA of both cars is virtually identical. As a result, even this least powerful 6 Series model is an outstanding high performance ambassador for BMW. At present, the 640i has yet to be fitted with the latest B58 turbo six found in the new 3 Series. The Gran Coupe still utilizes the outgoing N55 engine, since BMW has yet to complete the engine swap for all model ranges. Having recently driven the new 3 powered by the new 6, and the new 6 propelled by the old 6, I can say that the difference between the two engines is negligible from the driver’s seat. Output figures bear out this conclusion. In 640i tune, the N55 turbo 6 produces 315hp and 330 lb.-ft. of torque compared to the B58′s 320hp and 330 lb.-ft. of torque.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

What has not changed about the 640i is its exquisite level of refinement. Think of this BMW in human terms. Its elegant but sinewy patina reminds you of Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth. Its elegant insouciance brings to mind Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. Its effortless all court athleticism bears comparison to John McEnroe’s tennis game. But unlike McEnbrat, the 6 powered 6 never talks back. In a solid week of driving, there wasn’t a single command this beauty refused to comply with.

It rained heavily during most of that week, so xDrive proved the perfect adjunct to the Gran Coupe’s build sheet. At no time could I provoke it to lose its composure on rain slicked back roads. Even when I prodded the throttle hard in the middle of a tight, wet turn, the 640i ignored my indiscretion and just kept digging. Frankly, this resolute behavior surprised me because past experience with the Michelin Primacy HP tires BMW utilized for this Gran Coupe led me to expect middling performance.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

Standard 19 inch double spoke alloys carry radials measuring 245/40R19 front and 275/35R19 rear. To give you an idea how far off the high performance mark these tires are, their tread wear (TW) rating is 240, with a traction rating of A. That compares to a TW rating of 80 and a traction rating of AA for Michelin’s own Pilot Sport Cup tires in a similar 19 inch diameter. Previous track experience with Primacy HP tires on Toyota’s FRS and Subaru’s BRZ convinced me these Michelins degraded the otherwise fine handling of both cars. But in this run-flat BMW application, the Primacy HP proved to be king of the road in both wet and dry conditions. Nary a slip, nor a squeak.

The straight six in the Gran Coupe constitutes the entry level model. In this strata of the market, you climb a steep stairway to reach even that plateau. Financially speaking, base price isn’t base at all, at $82,500. When you’re said and done with the package premiums ($5,300 for the M Sport Edition, and $450 for the Cold Weather Package), the test coupe carries a total suggested retail price of $89,445, not including tax and tip. However, this amount is all you really need to spend for an optimal Gran Coupe. Yes, if you’re a fuel swilling swell, you can bump yourself up to the completely unnecessary 445hp 4.4 liter V8 650i xDrive for an extra $9,000. Or how about choosing the even more unnecessary 600hp Alpina B6 AWD for an additional $35,000? But you don’t need to spend a penny more than our test car’s $89,445 to enjoy first class rapid transit of the highest order. And besides, tradition dictates that a proper 6 Series should be powered by a proper 6. After all, the first E24 6 Series CS depended on the perfectly adequate M30 six-cylinder engine it borrowed from the 5 Series back in 1976.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

Of course, the prototype Gran Coupe, which debuted on the New York Auto Show in 2009 didn’t have a turbo six under the hood. Nor did it have a thumping V8, or xDrive for that matter. In fact, it didn’t have any engine under the hood at all. Rather, the first Gran Coupe – which met with rave reviews from the public – was a 100 percent electric powered dummy mock-up of the real thing. Substantial storage batteries provided just enough impetus to shift it from delivery truck to exhibit hall and back. A specially trained assistant would lift the roundel badge on the trunk, insert a massive electrical hook up cable, and walk behind the Gran Coupe, directing its movements via radio controlled servo motors. In other words, the first demo Gran Coupe was a full size R/C car.

Although the production version isn’t quite as green as that prototype, it is substantially quicker. In fact, with 8 well chosen gear sets to harness its power, the 640i sprints from 0 to 60mph in just 5.4 seconds and covers the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 96.5 mph (Motortrend.com). That kind of pop requires reasonably quick reactions from an attentive operator. No more umbilical cord now, no laggardly servo motors. If injudicious throttle application is your thing, the 6 cylinder Gran Coupe will get you in trouble with the law, if not the laws of physics, real fast. I lost count of the number of times I looked down at the speedo, stupefied by its unexpected reading of 80 mph. This body shell of the 6 is so streamlined that it eliminates wind noise as an index of speed.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

The anechoic interior is largely responsible for this sense of ethereal levitation. Let’s start with deliciously rich looking Cinnamon Brown Dakota Leather seats. Toast them with the standard three stage front seat heaters and your cushy Cinnabon muffin platform will lull you into lethargy. The Cold Weather Package adds heaters for the rear seats, plus a warmer for the steering wheel rim. I loved the fact that the rim heater remains activated as long as you want, since it lacks an auto-off timer. It also heats the entire rim rather than selected segments of it, so feel free to change your grip and stay hot. The front seats offer so many different adjustments – from thigh support to shoulder blade grip – that if you can’t get comfortable here, you won’t be comfortable anywhere. By contrast, the rear seats, while pleasing, lack any adjustments. Once you clamber through the small rear door and back your butt into place, you’re locked into a Singapore Sling designed for short trip comfort rather than long distance travel. Granted, there’s ample legroom since the Gran Coupe’s wheelbase is 4.5 inches longer than that of the standard Coupe. But the Gran Coupe’s sweeping roofline, though it stands 0.9″ taller than the standard Coupe, still restricts rear seat headroom to passengers no taller than 5’8″. And the lack of headliner grab rails means you’ll be free to flounder when the driver gooses the throttle in a turn. All in all, this Coupe is a bit more Gran up front than out back.

However, a couple of mitigating factors do improve your state of mind when ensconced in the rear. One is the standard Moonroof. Although this dark tinted monolith does not actually slide open, it does provide a swath of comforting light when the interior shade is retracted. Secondly, the rear windows slide all the way into the doors for a welcome and unobstructed rush of outside air. Finally, all three backlights are fitted with electrically operated privacy screens, with individual controls for each mounted on both rear arm rests. The screens are inexplicably part of the M Sport Package. Perhaps famous M Style race drivers require anonymity for past sins. Additionally, a floor mounted ventilation unit provides twin A/C-Heat outlets for fine tuning climate control. But the bulky unit eats into back seat knee room.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

The 640i is an incredibly complicated symphony to orchestrate. Yes, you can just climb in and drive it the way is, in default mode. But the fun of owning this BMW lies in learning about its idiosyncrasies, in deciphering the secret handshakes lurking within the complex matrix of iDrive. For example, the Driving Dynamics program offers such a full range of options (EcoPro/Comfort/Comfort+/Sport/Sport+) that you will be hard pressed to differentiate the subtle differences between gradations. My first inclination was to select Sport+, a choice generated by memory of too many race track days. But after a couple of outings spoiled by turgid steering and punishing ride, it finally dawned on me that maybe Comfort or even Comfort+ would get the job of real world driving done with less drama. Although the Comfort settings aren’t quite laid back into suicide knob slouching territory, they do present an attractive alternative to Sport+ for the daily grind. Even when the road unfurls into a ribbon of switchbacks, the Comfort settings work just fine.

Out on the freeway, I even ventured a stint in EcoPro to see what that might be all about. What it primarily does is supplant your useful tachometer with a fairly useless, even comical, circular gauge divided into blue and grey zones. Moderate throttle use plants you in the blue zone. When you need to tromp the throttle, the gauge swings into the grey zone and an icon of a shoe on a pedal flashes in the gauge face. There’s also a sacrosanct area marked “Charge” that would lead you to believe the 640i is somehow Hybrid. Rather, EcoPro will decouple the engine and allow you to freewheel in certain situations. This only happened once, very briefly, on a long downhill run with no throttle applied. Even driving normally, without benefit of EcoPro nagging, the Gran Coupe managed a respectable 23 MPG in overall use, and nearly 30 MPG on the freeway. The highway figure benefits from 8th gear’s ultra tall ratio and the fact that the 3.0 liter 6 is churning just 1750rpm at 65 mph and 2000rpm at 75 mph.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

While BMW encourages you to play endlessly with the permutations of chassis and instrumentation set up, there are certain things they don’t want you to know about at all. Like the location of the battery. The manual demurs in this regard, suggesting you visit your local dealership for battery matters beyond jump starting (remote engine bay terminals are thoughtfully provided for that purpose). A little digging in the Gran Coupe’s vast 18 cubic foot trunk revealed a massive battery installation, complete with international orange wiring leads, beneath the trunk’s removable floor board. While you may be successful in locating this source of energy, good luck trying to remove it. The inside rear trunk panel, which overlaps the battery and partially obscures it from view, appears to require specialized knowledge for removal. Thus battery extrication and replacement is problematic. It’s not surprising that BMW only provides the Gran Coupe with the same two tools found in the half as expensive X1: a screwdriver and a tow hook. It must be said that the 640i’s tools at least come packaged in a snappy looking black fabric pouch with red trim. There are a number of unoccupied slots in this roll.

2016 BMW 6401 xDrive Gran Coupe

Converting a two door coupe to a four door Gran Coupe could have proved to be a mission fraught with pitfalls. Stretching the length of the existing 6 Series by 4.4 inches while raising its roof by nearly an inch promised to disrupt proportions disastrously. But BMW’s design team managed the task with aplomb, reinventing the 6 with a stiletto profile that looks even better proportioned than the Coupe. If you have any doubt about the success of the finished product, look no further than the sales figures racked up by the Gran Coupe in 2015. BMW sold a total of 8,150 6 Series variants all told last year. The Gran Coupe accounted for a whopping 5,400, or 66 percent of those transactions. The remainder fell to the convertible with 1,950 sales and the two door coupe with just 800 sales. In the brave new world of German four door coupes, neither Porsche’s big butted Panamera nor Audi’s pricey A7 offer substantive competition to BMW’s comparably affordable Gran Coupe. The fact that BMW is willing to test this car’s mettle on the race track against full blooded two seat sports cars like Ferrari’s 488 GTE, Corvette’s C7R and Porsche’s 911 RSR speaks volumes about their confidence in the consummate adaptability of the 6 Series platform.

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2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD Review

Tuesday March 1st, 2016 at 10:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

By David Colman

Hypes: Lovely engine/gearbox combo, All windows one touch up/down
Gripes: Heated steering wheel would be nice

Ford’s Escape moves into 2016 largely unchanged. If you are savvy, you will order your Escape with the most powerful engine available in the model range, the 2.0 liter EcoBoost motor, which makes 240hp and a whopping 270lb.-ft. of torque thanks to direct fuel injection and a turbocharger. This optional engine will set you back an extra $1,115, and it’s worth that much and more. Coupled to a 6 speed automatic transmission, with real gears instead of the CVT belts so often found in entry level SUVs these days, the diminutive Escape proves a very lively performer. In a solid week of driving, the EcoBoost motor always responded instantly to power demands with a satisfying thrust that belies its excellent fuel economy of 22 MPG City and 28 MPG Highway.

2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

If you also check the order form for the Titanium 4WD model, you will find yourself paying a premium of $4,085 over the less expensive SE 4WD model. But the extra four thousand dollars buys you a raft of worthy improvements including exterior rear view mirrors with built-in turn signals, remote trunk release and power lift back, premium sound system, HD radio, 10-way power leather front seats, mirror and seat memory, keyless start, leather steering wheel, multi-zone climate control and A/C, heated front seats with lumbar adjustment, and rear parking alert with cross-traffic warning. All of these features integrate seamlessly into the make-up of the Titanium Escape, upping your enjoyment of the vehicle without breaking the bank.

2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

In addition, Ford supplied our test Escape with a couple of pricey extras you could probably eliminate without discomfort. The $1,514 “Equipment Group 301A” improves headlight efficiency with HID units (versus standard Halogens), and also adds blind spot detection sensors to warn you of invisible obstacles. It also upgrades parking beepers to “Parking Assist” status front and rear. A navigation system boosts the bottom line a reasonable $694, and is unusual in that Ford makes it available as a stand-alone option. Finally, you’ll definitely want to invest in very handsome and useful 19 inch alloy “Luster Nickel Wheels” which are also bargain priced at just $607. If you opted for aftermarket 19 inch alloys, you would pay double this amount and they would never look this good. The intricately cast wheels are wrapped in Continental ContiProContact rubber (235/45R19) which proved tenacious in wet weather grip. Escape’s 4WD traction keeps these Continentals pointed in the right direction at all times.

2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

The Escape has come a long way since its introduction. Originally, this model looked prosaic, lacked flair and performed without distinction. But Ford has reworked the Escape to the point that it has become a legitimate contender in a tough SUV class containing such standouts as VW’s Tiguan, BMW’s new X1, and Subaru’s Forester. In this elevated company, the Escape now stands its ground, but only if equipped with the Titanium niceties, 19 inch wheels, and EcoBoost motor of our test model. In that guise, if you compare it to any other small SUV, you’ll discover Escape matches up so well you can save thousands of dollars buying the Ford.

We especially loved it for its 5 stage heated front seats, which permits more comfortable temperature adjustment than almost any similar product on the market today. The elevated seating position in the front row promotes excellent sight lines in all directions. Even though our test vehicle lacked the optional ($1,305) Panorama Roof, we never missed it because the interior is always bathed in light thanks to tall side windows, and a fishbowl of a windshield.

2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

Also, the optional blind spot warning devices provided by package 301A are much less obtrusive than those of most competitors. Instead of needing to shut them off at the start of each trip, we let them tweet their occasional alarm without ever feeling harassed. This minor feat of engineering accomplishment is characteristic of the Escape Titanium as a whole. Ford has achieved a commendable balance here between price, performance and livability. You would be hard pressed to improve on the Escape by looking elsewhere.

2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, direct injection turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 240hp
  • Torque: 270lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $36,655
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i Review

Monday February 29th, 2016 at 11:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

By David Colman

Hypes: Spacious and Airy Cabin, M Class Handling
Gripes: Chintzy Toolkit, Slow launch in “Drive”

In the new BMW X1, you sit much closer to the nose because the engine is now mounted sideways in the front compartment rather than lengthwise as in the previous X1. This reallocation of space has decided benefits for the driver, who now looks over a 9 inch shorter hood. Such a cab forward driving position promotes excellent frontal sightlines. The sidewinder X1 is also more responsive to changes in direction than the model it replaces, quicker to transition laterally, and altogether more rewarding for you to drive aggressively.

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

Once underway, the X1 surprises you with its dramatic rush of power. It instantly snaps and snarls its way from peak torque to peak horsepower. To extract maximum performance, however, the X1 driver must maintain close oversight of the Steptronic 8-speed automatic transmission. For such a small displacement, peaky power plant, appropriate gear selection is essential. What I most missed during my week with the X1 were paddle shifts, which are unfortunately not part of the standard equipment package. I repeatedly found myself tapping the back of the steering wheel, searching for non-existent paddles.

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

Even in this comparatively small 175 inch long SUV, back seat passengers fare very well. Their rear windows slot all the way into the rear doors, un unexpected pleasure for any claustrophobic rear seat occupant. The optional “Panoramic moonroof,” included in the $3,250 Premium Package, adds further airiness to the soaring greenhouse. And the X1 encourages you to maximize use of all that space by providing a pair of tail-mounted buttons to drop both rear seats flat. This gives you a loading platform good for 59 cubic feet of stuff. If you leave the rear seats upright, baby Bimmer still offers 27 cubic feet of cargo space.

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

Should such practicality leave you unimpressed, there’s always the promise of cracking performance to keep you enticed. This time around, the X1 offers just one power train for North America, the 2.0 liter TwinPower Turbo, which makes 228hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Tech addicts will enjoy monitoring engine output through virtual gauges called “Sport Displays.” Use the iDrive controller between the front seats to select Main Menu, then ping Sport Displays. Brightly illuminated gauges showing Power and Torque then appear on the 6.5 inch central dash screen. These provide real time value readings, with bugs set to record high values. You’ll be surprised at how frequently you reach peak torque (at just 1250 rpm), and how infrequently you max out horsepower (at 6500 rpm).

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

When a possible passing situation presented itself, I slotted the console mounted lever into the Manual gate, and bumped the shift stick forward as many times as it took to select 2nd gear from the 8 available ratios. Then the X1 was ready to do some serious traffic shredding. Especially athletic on rain slicked pavement, this petite sports utility leads the mini-SUV pack in all-weather traction. Mid-turn, lean on the power as hard as you can, and you’ll find it impossible to break either end of the X1 loose.

BMW has redesigned its xDrive system with new hardware that occupies less chassis real estate while providing improved fore/aft torque distribution. To be sure, the tall and boxy platform will pitch a bit when goosed in a turn. Though this characteristic requires minor horsing from the wheel, forward bite never disappears. Thanks to standard M-Sport suspension, intelligent all-wheel-drive, and standard issue 18 inch Y-Spoke light alloy wheels, the X1 is able to maximize grip from Pirelli’s run flat version of the legendary P7 Cinturato (225/50R18).

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

With a few notable exceptions, the cabin configuration of the new X1 is first class BMW. Bear in mind that our sample vehicle benefitted from the following 10 Premium Package upgrades: power folding mirrors, garage door opener, keyless entry, panoramic moonroof, auto dimming mirrors, lumbar support, ambient lighting, LED cornering headlights, and one year satellite radio service. The LED headlights hone in on back road apexes like a laser. Just the Panoramic moonroof and LED lights justify the $3,250 extra expense of the Premium Package.

2016 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder turbo
  • Horsepower: 228hp
  • Torque: 258lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22MPG City/32 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $45,220
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited Review

Friday February 26th, 2016 at 11:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

By David Colman

Hypes: Airy Cabin, Practical Load Capacity
Gripes: EyeSight Annoyance, Noisy Powertrain

Subaru pioneered the crossover SUV with the original Forrester. The 2016 model marks the fourth revision of that first model. This 3,370 pound mini SUV retails for $28,795 in Limited trim. With a wheelbase of 105 inches, it will comfortably accommodate five adults with room to spare under the hatchback for all their belongings. If you drop the rear seats flat, 68 cubic feet of cargo will slip through that back door unhindered. With its spacious and standard panoramic moonroof, the interior of the Forester is airy and habitable for long trips. Although it looks decidedly homey from outside, from within it feels just like home.

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

The practicality motif extends to the engine compartment where a modest displacement four cylinder engine of 2.5 liters churns out 170hp and 174lb.-ft. of torque. This rather noisy power source feeds drive to all four wheels through a CVT transmission that offers only L (Low) and D (Drive) ranges. At full cry, the gearbox and the engine conspire to produce such a clatter that you will hesitate to use full throttle due to noise overload. The upside here is that during an extensive week of driving, the Forester’s fuel gauge never dropped below a quarter of a tank. The EPA rates this SUV at a respectable 27 MPG in overall city and highway usage.

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

The cabin of the Forester is tall enough to permit excellent visibility in all directions for front and rear seat passengers. Subaru has invested substantial effort in making the interior livable. Welcome heated front seats are perfect for cold morning drive-offs. The contoured door pockets hold a variety of oddments with ease, including drink bottles. The sun visors are thoughtfully elongated to compensate for the unusual height of the windshield. The tailgate door can be commanded to open with a nudge of the key fob remote control. A push button on the bottom edge of the rear door shuts it automatically. All these features make the Forester exceptionally handy and comfortable.

Handling of this Subaru is acceptable, but you won’t buy this SUV because it’s a road burner. The Limited model includes 17 inch alloy wheels shod with Yokohama Geolander S91 tires measuring 225/60R17 at each corner. These tires afford better inclement weather adhesion than dry weather performance. Consequently, the Forester adheres well on rain soaked pavement, but tends to understeer when pushed hard on dry road surfaces. Also, due to its high center of gravity, the Forester feels somewhat top heavy when directional changes are made. Ride quality is choppy over rough pavement.

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

Our test Forester’s all up price of $31,790 included $2,145 for a package providing navigation, harman/kardon audio, and EyeSight. The latter inclusion, EyeSight, brings together a number of autonomous features which Subaru hopes will increase your driving safety. I found most of EyeSight’s benefits to be of negligible use and would definitely not order the package for my Forester. The Lane Keep Assist is a nuisance which I turned off at every opportunity, the radar cruise control can be better accomplished by exercising your throttle foot, and the system’s collision avoidance warnings proved obtrusive and unwarranted. Subaru claims that EyeSight will go so far as to cut throttle or apply brakes when it senses an imminent collision. I would prefer to remain in charge of both those departments until further notice.

Of course, you can save yourself the extra $2,175, but you’ll have to do without the useful navigation part of the package, as well as the upgraded sound system. When it comes to dashboard layout, Subaru’s Forester could stand some revisions. For example, if you want to perform a task as simple as changing the direction of air flow from footwell to face, you need to access the “Mode” dial on the right side of the center dash panel, then search for a tiny pictograph located a foot away from the rotary Mode dial. The whole sequence is unacceptable and ripe for rethinking.

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

In sum, the Forester, despite its handling and ergonomic deficiencies, presents a good case for purchase if you’re looking for inexpensive city transport with a flair for all terrain travel. This SUV offers special X-Mode management of reduced speed off-road duty. Active torque split all wheel drive management is designed for trail running under 12mph. At 25mph, X-Mode’s electronically managed, continuously variable transfer clutch realigns itself automatically to normal all wheel drive settings. That’s a lot of technology for less than thirty grand.

2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

  • Engine: opposed 4 with fuel injection
  • Horsepower: 170hp @ 5800rpm
  • Torque: 174lb.-ft. @ 4100rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 24MPG City/32MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,790
  • Star Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Audi TT Coupe Review

Tuesday February 16th, 2016 at 1:22 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Audi TT Coupe

By David Colman

Hypes: Better and Lighter New Platform
Gripes: S tronic Up shifts Unbidden, Rear Wiper Needed

Welcome to your third helping of Audi’s bantam weight sports car, the TT, named after the Tourist Trophy race in England that Audi dominated back in the 1930s. The first TT made its debut in 1998, with spectacular looking inverted bathtub style coachwork. Ten years later, the second generation TT received a mild makeover that forsook some of the original design’s stubbiness in favor of a more streamlined silhouette. This third makeover for 2016 retains the current corporate trademark of a massive front grill, but leavens the heaviness of that big black snout with some very nice side panel detailing. In particular, the tooling around the pronounced fender arches is enticing. The redesign looks distinguished, if not as forceful or startling as the original.

2016 Audi TT Coupe

The largest deviation from tradition is the complete reorganization of the dashboard and instrument binnacle into a new life form Audi terms “Audi virtual cockpit.” Instead of physical dial faces for the tachometer and speedometer, Audi has introduced digital simulacrums for both gauges which can be resized from large to small at the touch of a button marked “View” on the flat bottom steering wheel. At full size, these virtual gauges occupy as much shelf space as those in the original TT, but when you hit “View,” they reduce to disarmingly small iWatch size displays. Audi has eliminated the central dash mounted display screen of previous TTs and relocated it to the space between the virtual speedo and tach. When you call up Google Earth from the Navigation system (part of a $3,250 “Technology package”), you can display the mapping on the panel directly in front of you. When you minimize the instrument faces with the “View” button, the entire instrument binnacle fills with the map display instead. This is both good and bad. The good is that the map gives you immediate information about your location, including which way the road turns next. The bad is that this information, which is constantly changing in front of your nose, is extremely distracting if you pay attention to it. Audi has managed to provide you with all the trappings of a self driving car here. The only problem is you still have to drive it.

2016 Audi TT Coupe

Now driving the TT is no chore, mind you, because it’s still a rather delectable sports car. The latest version, at just a tad over 3,100 pounds, weighs nearly 100 pounds less than its predecessor. In the scheme of present day sports machinery, the TT is a relative flyweight, especially when you consider its excellent power output of 220hp, and its 258lb.-ft. of torque. The turbocharged 4 cylinder engine will propel you to 60mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds, with a speed of 98mph @ 13.8 seconds in the quarter mile. Those numbers indicate the TT to be usefully quick in back road passing situations, though I found that the 6-speed “S tronic” twin clutch automatic tended to up shift prematurely, at about 5500rpm, from 2nd to 3rd gear – even though the gearbox was slotted in the Manual mode designed to prevent early up shifts. As a result, 2nd gear expired just when you most needed its punch. A possible answer to this quandary is to opt for the TTS version of this car, equipped with a 292hp turbo 4 making 280lb.-ft. of torque.

2016 Audi TT Coupe

The TT boasts full time “quattro” all-wheel drive. When you combine the grip of AWD with very sticky 245/40R19 Bridgestone S001 radial rubber, mounted on optional ($1,000) “5-arm star design” alloys, you’ve hit on a combo bred to attack back roads. Audi offers four “Drive Select” chassis settings which can be dialed up instantaneously from a paddle switch on the dash. Chose “Comfort” and the TT glides over bumps and leans a bit in turns, while its exhaust note remains unheard. Dial up “Dynamic,” however, and all the suspension settings stiffen to plywood resilience, the exhaust note becomes throatily audible, and the steering response tightens to micrometer precision. Even during heavy rain outings, it was almost impossible to dislodge the quattro T from its trajectory in tight turns. The grip of this newly improved and lighter chassis is simply unimpeachable.

2016 Audi TT Coupe

Yet you can turn the TT back into a boulevard cruiser in an instant by resetting the drive choice system to “Comfort.” In that mode, and with the S tronic gearbox slotted into Drive, the TT assumes a much calmer personality. In fact, it reminds me very much of our family’s Mercedes Benz 250SL, a rather stately and attractive boulevard cruiser entirely lacking sports car handling. The beauty of the newest TT is that you can have it both ways, at just the flip of a switch.

2016 Audi TT Coupe

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged, direct injection
  • Horsepower: 220hp
  • Torque: 258lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $50,600
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Buick Regal AWD GS Review

Monday February 15th, 2016 at 1:22 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

By David Colman

Hypes: Stealth Stalker of German Iron
Gripes: Ditch the Chrome Grill and Ventiports

What’s this? A Buick with 255/35R20 Pirelli P Zero tires? A Buick with Brembo brakes? You’re kidding me, right? Welcome to Buick’s second hundred years in the ever-changing car biz. This dynamite compact sedan will gleefully match any four door from Germany on a twisty road, despite costing half as much as the Audi A4, or BMW 3. How can it manage this feat with a base price of just $36,490? The secret sauce is that the Regal GS is a German design from the get-go, an Opel Insignia slightly re-tailored for American usage. In the past, that “American usage” provision involved softening ride, lessening steering feedback, and avoiding use of small displacement, high-revving engines in favor of big V6 and V8 motors. But General Motors recently chucked that path for Buick, because it invariably appealed to a customer base aging into insignificance. Hoping to trend younger, GM resurrected Opel’s Insignia as a Buick Regal, and moved production from Russelsheim Germany to Oshawa, Ontario. So they build this “American” sedan in Canada, comprised of 65% US/Canadian parts, and 20% Mexican pieces. However, the 2.0 liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic gearbox are both constructed in the USA.

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

Through a lengthy, ongoing advertising campaign, Buick has made a concerted effort to focus on the surprise onlookers experience when they discover their neighbors have bought – of all things – a new Buick. The company needs to lose this self-demeaning bit of image erosion as soon as possible because it doesn’t do justice to great cars like the Regal GS. I can remember when my parents brought home a new 1950s Buick Roadmaster. Back then, none of our neighbors were surprised or appalled by our choice of make. Rather, they gathered in our driveway to investigate and praise this latest wonder from Detroit. Given the excellence of the Regal Buick now sells, the neighbors in those ads should come to praise Buick, not bury it.

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

Let’s start with the Regal’s bullet of a power plant, the gas miser turbo 4, which makes 259hp, a stomping 295 lb.-ft. of torque, and still manages to return 22MPG in overall driving tests. This direct injection motor loafs along contemptuously in 5th or 6th gear, saving on fuel until you poke it into action by downshifting the transmission manually into 2nd or 3rd gear. With the rpm count thusly elevated, the petite four explodes into action, allowing you to accomplish any passing maneuver with an extra margin of safety. Likewise, the beautifully calibrated suspension settings afford a plush boulevard ride regardless of pavement inequity. But when you choose to put those fat Pirellis and stout Brembos to the test, the all wheel drive chassis of the Regal hunkers down like a cat ready to pounce. The variable assist power steering helps position the Regal with utter certainty, the short sidewall Pirellis never emit so much as a squeal of protest, and the Brembo brakes bring the works to a halt instantly. Though its outer appearance looks staid and conservative, this is really a driver’s car masquerading as a family sedan.

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

In its role as people mover, the Regal succeeds admirably as well. The 8 way adjustable front seats, heated to match the heated steering wheel, offer more side support than any Buick in memory. They’re also exceptionally comfortable under your thighs and beneath your lower back. Buick updated its IntelliLink infotainment system for 2016, and we found it to be logical and easy to manipulate. Nor is the dash bereft of all important knobs for critical functions like radio volume and station tuning. Most of these functions are duplicated on the spokes of the leather covered steering wheel.

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

The AWD Regal, with the optional turbo motor, is a stunning surprise of a sports sedan. Buick doesn’t need to resort to all the racer tricks festooning most contenders in the category. You won’t find embroidered headrests here, or aluminum pedal faces, or imitation carbon fiber trim strips on the dash. This one gets the job done with the goods you can’t see from the outside, like perfectly calibrated springs and shocks, a super productive motor, and well-spaced gearbox ratios. If you don’t want your family to know you just bought a sports sedan, you’re home free, because there’s no appearance group to hide. While this one may not look the part, it definitely is the part.

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

2016 Buick Regal AWD GS

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline turbo 4 with direct injection
  • Horsepower: 259hp
  • Torque: 295 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/27 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $38,610
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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