2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD Review

Tuesday October 17th, 2017 at 9:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

Hypes: Does Everything Well
Gripes: Stickier Tires Would Improve Handling

You have to love an SUV with a list price of $35,650 that carries the notation “Included” 37 times on its window sticker. Unlike many other manufacturers, such inclusionary generosity is par for the course at Hyundai. On a cold and dreary week by the seaside in Northern California, my favorite “included” item was the heater for the front seats and steering wheel. That steering wheel warmer turns itself on each time you re-start the Santa Fe. It’s a small detail, but one that a lot of other car companies need to learn: you don’t have to reconfigure your car every time you restart it.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

Hyundai has quite an assortment of Santa Fe configurations available for 2018. There are two model lines, one with 3 seating rows providing 7 seats (Santa Fe) and one with two rows providing 5 seats (Santa Fe Sport). All 7 seat Santa Fe models use a 290hp V6, while all Sport models use either a base 2.4 liter inline 4 (185hp) or a turbocharged 2.0 liter inline 4 (260hp) fitted to our test Sport. All versions of both models utilize an excellent 6 speed automatic gearbox. Our turbo Sport proved exceptionally lively, with more than enough power to break the front wheels loose under full throttle acceleration from a standing start. If you need All Wheel Drive, the Sport is available with such a system which will tame the front axle wheelspin we experienced. The transmission features a floor mounted select lever which permits individual gear ratio choice and retention. Hyundai calls this very effective control mechanism “Shiftronic” and conjoins it to a Drive Mode selector that also tailors shift points to normal or sport oriented driving styles.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

At a curb weight of just 3,760 lb., the 5 seat Sport is significantly lighter than its bigger sibling, the 7 seat Santa Fe (4,210 lb.). This weight reduction contributes to the Sport’s solid handling on twisting two lane roads. 235/55R19 mud and snow rated Kumho Crugen radials, mounted on 19 inch alloy rims, with a treadwear rating of 440, yield good but not great traction while maintaining a comfortable ride. The airy cabin offers excellent sight lines to all quarters, and the standard panoramic sunroof exposes both front and rear seat occupants to plenty of sky and fresh air. Hyundai instituted several safety improvements to the Sport for 2017, which resulted in improving its IIHS small overlap crash protection rating from Marginal to Good.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

Our test Sport enjoyed further safety augmentation from a $1,600 “Ultimate Tech Package” that provided Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake, and swiveling head lights called Dynamic Bending Lights. The Electronic Parking Brake proved easy to use because it was well positioned on the center console between the front seats. The Lane Departure Warning proved more annoying than helpful because it chirped loudly and incessantly even when we were well clear of adjacent traffic.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

The rear seats split into a 40/20/40 fold pattern. You can drop them flat by lifting a large lever attached to their base, though you may have to slide the front seats forward to clear the back headrests. Doing so opens a vast amount of space for storage, with 35.5 cubic feet of cargo room available with the rear seats dropped. We managed to carry a full size bicycle back there, with plenty of room to spare for 6 bags of grocery goods at the same time. The rear hatch opens with the touch of a button on the remote fob, and shuts with the push of a button located on the edge of the rear liftgate.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport proved itself to be an adept and resourceful companion on a daily basis. It was plenty fast, economical enough, and ingeniously well thought out. All the cabin controls work so well you never have to give their design or placement a second thought. Clearly, the engineers at Hyundai are well versed in making the complexities of the modern SUV convenient, straight forward and intelligible. You really can’t ask for a more amenable beast of burden than the latest turbocharged version of the Santa Fe Sport.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

  • Engine: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged, gasoline direct injection
  • Horsepower: 240hp @6000rpm
  • Torque: 260lb.-ft. @1450-3500rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 20 MPG City/27 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $38,325
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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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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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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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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