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Ford Doesn’t Want the Transmission it Planned to Borrow From GM

4 hours 8 min ago

Several years ago, we reported that Ford and General Motors had agreed to work together on a pair of next-generation transmissions. GM was tasked with developing a nine-speed automatic for front-wheel-drive vehicles while Ford worked on a 10-speed for rear-drive applications. In theory, they’d be able to use the other’s transmission and each save money. In reality, things went a little differently.

Automotive News reports that while GM has been happy to use Ford’s 10-speed in several vehicles such as the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Cadillac Escalade, Ford has yet to use GM’s nine-speed. Instead, Ford developed a modified eight-speed version that will appear in the 2019 Focus, as well as several other 2019 models. It began work on two additional eight-speed automatics—one for performance use and one for smaller engines. The reason? GM’s nine-speed didn’t provide enough of a boost in fuel economy.

The GM Hydra-Matic 9T50 nine-speed automatic

“The small efficiency benefit did not justify the added weight and cost of an extra clutch and gear,” a Ford spokesperson told Automotive News in a statement.

But GM says the transmission’s refinement makes up for the fact that it doesn’t significantly improve gas mileage. The nine-speed Chevrolet Malibu only beats the eight-speed version by 1 mpg on the highway, and the nine-speed Buick Envision’s highway mileage dropped slightly, but GM believes the better driving experience is worth the trade-off.

“We’ve engineered our nine-speeds for even more refined shifts,” a GM spokesperson told Automotive News in a statement. “Smaller steps between gears in a nine vs. an eight-speed enable smoother shifts for customers.”

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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Infiniti to Build Platform Based on Q Inspiration Concept

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 23:00

When Infiniti debuted the Q Inspiration concept at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, it billed the sleek sedan as a preview to its future design language. Now, we also know it will be the basis for a new electrified platform that Infiniti will launch within five years.

The platform will underpin a new electrified vehicle that will be one of five new cars Infiniti will build in China in the next five years. Infiniti has not yet detailed this model.

Infiniti’s original Q Inspiration concept was designed with a VC-Turbo internal combustion engine in mind. The compact nature of the VC-Turbo unit opened up new design possibilities, including giving the model a short hood and elongated body. Now, it looks like the Q Inspiration concept previews future electrified offerings. It’s unclear whether the new vehicle based off the Q Inspiration platform will be fully electric or partially electric.

Infiniti wants to triple its sales in China over the next five years. Eventually, it wants to sell around 150,000 vehicles annually. And EVs will be a huge part of the automaker’s long-term plans. By 2025, Infiniti hopes that more than half of its new vehicles sold globally and in China will be electrified.

Source: Infiniti

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Next-Gen Ford Focus ST May Only Offer a Manual Transmission

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 22:00

The Ford Focus ST isn’t the newest or most refined hot hatch you can buy, but it’s still quick and fun to drive. And despite its relatively affordable $26,045 base price, it’s only available to a relatively small group of drivers in the U.S. That’s because the Focus ST is only available with a stick. From the sound of it, Ford has no plans to change that on the next-generation Focus ST, either.

Autocar reports that based on what it’s heard, the redesigned Focus ST will be manual-only. The report doesn’t cite a source or quote anyone from Ford, so it should be taken with a huge grain of salt. It it’s true, though, the Focus ST will be one of the only cars in America that doesn’t offer some sort of automatic transmission option.

The report also suggests that previous rumors of a three-cylinder Focus ST were inaccurate. Instead, the redesigned car is said to use a modified version of the 2.3-liter turbo-four used in the current Focus RS. The 1.5-liter three-cylinder was reportedly considered, but getting it to make the necessary power would have supposedly posed reliability risks.

As with the Focus ST’s transmission, Autocar didn’t cite a source for its engine claim. Still, it makes sense that Ford would use a four-cylinder instead of an inline-three. A 275-hp turbo-three sounds great in theory, but we’re not sure such a highly stressed engine would offer many real-world advantages. A detuned Focus RS engine would also probably come with a lot more tuning potential.

Ford hasn’t officially confirmed the next-gen Focus ST, but with the standard global Focus now revealed, look for the hotter ST version to debut sometime next year, perhaps ahead of the Geneva Motor Show.

Source: Autocar

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Volkswagen Hopes to Break the Pikes Peak EV Record With This Car

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 21:00

As part of Volkswagen’s push toward electrification, the German automaker will attempt to capture the all-electric car record at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. VW already showed off renderings of its purpose-built I.D. R Pikes Peak race car, and now we get to see the real thing.

Like other Pikes Peak entrants with record-setting ambitions, the I.D. R looks a lot like a sports car prototype, complete with a sleek composite body, a bubble canopy, and an aggressive aero kit. The fixed rear wing extends beyond the width of the bodywork, as does the front splitter, to provide maximum downforce. VW says the car weighs less than 2,500 pounds and makes 680 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque from two electric motors. With that kind of power on tap, the car is estimated to hit 60 mph in 2.25 seconds.

The race car’s lithium-ion batteries are said to be similar to production EVs, but won’t have enough juice to get to the top on a single charge. The I.D. R will have to produce roughly 20 percent of the energy it needs to complete the 12.42-mile uphill course from regenerative braking, according to VW.

If Volkswagen wants to claim the EV record at Pikes Peak, then 8 minutes, 57.118 seconds is the time to beat. That record was set by Rhys Millen in a custom-built 1,595-hp eO PP100 back in 2016. Luckily for VW, it will have overall record-holder Romain Dumas at the wheel of the I.D. R.

The 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place on June 24.

Source: Volkswagen

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Watch the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Hit 212 MPH

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 20:00

As we found out when we rode shotgun in the new Corvette ZR1, the model is not just quick, it’s ferocious. Don’t believe us? Watch this video that shows the car hitting an average of 212 mph on a test track in Papenburg, Germany.

The Corvette makes two runs on the track, one against the wind and one with the wind. By taking the average of the two, Chevrolet comes out to a top track speed of 212 mph. According to Chevrolet, that’s enough to make it the fastest production Corvette ever.

As we know, it’s also the most powerful. Its 6.2-liter V-8 engine produces 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. That’s significantly more than the Z06, which maxes out at 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. When paired with the standard low rear wing, the ZR1 delivers its highest top speed, although an optional High Wing kicks up downforce to more than 950 pounds for increased stability.

Earlier this year, the Corvette ZR1 set a record at Virginia International Raceway. With a time of 2:37.25, it beat the Ford GT’s previous record by 1.37 seconds.

The 2019 Corvette ZR1 is arriving in dealerships this spring. Although production will not be limited, GM expects to make only 2,000-3,000 copies.

Check out the video below to see the 2019 Corvette ZR1 hit its top speed.

Source: GM

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The 2019 Toyota Avalon Starts at $36,395

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 19:00

When Toyota originally revealed the 2019 Avalon, the massive grille got a lot of attention. But as we found in our first drive, the redesigned Avalon also offers a luxurious interior and a long list of standard features. Now, we also know pricing.

The base model, the Avalon XLE, starts at $36,395 including destination. For buyers who want more features while keeping the XLE’s comfort-focused ride, the Limited model costs $42,695. For a sportier driving experience, Toyota offers the Avalon in XSE and Touring versions. The former starts at $38,895, while the latter will run you $43,095. A hybrid drivetrain is an option on all but the Touring trim and costs an extra $1,000, rather than $2,000 more on some previous-generation Avalon models.

The outgoing Avalon XLE starts at $34,395. The Touring trim, however, costs $38,795, and the Limited is $42,195. Interestingly, the Limited Hybrid version’s pricing stays the same. The lack of an XSE model also highlights the fact that Toyota adjusted its trim strategy for the 2019 Avalon, making it difficult to directly compare pricing between generations. Compared to the full-size sedan competition, the 2019 Avalon will be the pricier option. The Kia Cadenza starts at $33,190, and the Nissan Maxima starts at $34,155. Meanwhile, the cheapest V-6-equipped Chevrolet Impala starts at $29,865.

As we mentioned above, the redesigned Avalon also uses high-quality cabin materials and comes with its fair share of standard equipment. That includes a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, hands-free keyless entry, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and blindspot monitoring.

Interested buyers won’t have to wait long to purchase the 2019 Toyota Avalon, either. It goes on sale next month.

Source: Toyota

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Kick Back and Enjoy the Northern Lights in the Volvo S90 Ambience Concept

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 17:45

Many automakers attempt to enhance the sensory experience on their top luxury cars with features like cabin perfume atomizers and ambient lighting, but Volvo is kicking it up a notch on a special S90. Although just an interior concept for now, the Volvo S90 Ambience Concept is a preview of features that will come to production.

Based off the three-seater S90 Excellence sedan, the concept was created primarily for China. Using a smartphone app, passengers can pick between seven visual projections for the ceiling. These include Northern Lights, Scandinavian Forest, Swan Lake, Archipelago, and Rain, in addition to a Nocturnal theme to help passengers rest and a Freedom theme that’s said to boost energy. Volvo has synchronized the visual themes with special audio from the car’s Bowers and Wilkins sound system as well as scents that come from a dispenser in the center console.

The concept is debuting at the Beijing auto show that starts this week. It will eventually come to life on future S90 Excellence cars, Volvo says.

It’s unclear if we’ll see this concept make its way to production in the U.S., but it makes sense for China. Not only is China the world’s largest auto market, it’s also Volvo’s biggest market overall and the largest for the S90 sedan.

Source: Volvo

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How to Add CarPlay and a Reverse Camera on the Cheap

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 17:24

I drive new cars every day, so I’m spoiled by the latest gadgets, gizmos, and safety gear. My other half doesn’t care a lick about cars (opposites attract!), but appreciates the finer features rolling out in the new cars I drive—especially Apple CarPlay and reverse cameras. So when we purchased an extremely high value (read cheap) six-year-old Smart car last November, I promised to at least bring it up to 2018 specs on those two fronts.

Weeks later at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, I discovered a new entry-level stereo on the lavish Pioneer stand featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and rearview camera compatibility, with a big, bright, high-def 6.2-inch capacitive-touch screen. Priced at $349 on popular catalogue sites, it’s not the cheapest way to get these features. A Korean-made Dual brand unit at Walmart sells for $184 and matches most features with a bit more power output than the Thai-manufactured Pioneer (240 watts versus 200), but the Dual lacks an Aux-jack input—still a useful feature for connecting the oldest devices like a Walkman, Discman, vintage iPod, or our portable SiriusXM player. So I ordered a Pioneer MVH-1400NEX head unit, a Pioneer ND-BC8 rear-view camera ($100), and the requisite installation kits to adapt the head unit to the dash and to the stereo’s wiring and antenna to the Smart’s wiring (sites like sell these separately for $15, $13, and $8 but they typically throw them in for free when purchasing the stereo).

Watch the Video

Step one is to locate videos online illustrating how to remove the factory stereo. Without these I’d never have guessed that the only fastener securing the bezel surrounding my original Bosch radio was accessed by removing the switch panel beneath the radio, and that it had a TX20 Torx head. Of course, in the video the guy removed the switch panel by simply grabbing it and pulling. When I tried this, the switch faces broke free of their backing electronics. Yikes! Happily it all snapped back together after I used a putty knife to pry the back part out of the dash.

Read the Instructions

Every man reading this just did an eye-roll, and yes, I too skimmed this typical English-as-a-second-language safety-first document. Said skimming would come back to haunt me, but I heeded the most critical notes warning “don’t power up until you’ve done X or risk grave bodily harm or a voided warranty!” These included disconnecting the battery (always via the ground terminal), which prompted a hunt for the Smart’s, which I discovered lives under the passenger footboard.

Solder and Heat-Shrink

With the instructions open for both the install-kit wiring harness and the new stereo, I determined which stereo wires matched up with which Smart harness adapter wires. Happily, most were the same or similar color. Lots of folks use crimp connections or (worse yet) twisting and tape, but the truly anal retentive among us know that the best way to join two wires for good is to slip a piece of heat-shrink on over one wire, slide it way back, strip the insulation, point the wires at each other twisting each around the other. Then apply flux paste and solder them. When they cool, slide the heat-shrink over the solder joint, applying heat from a lighter or match to seal it to the soldered joint like original insulation.

Mic Drop

The MVH-1400NEX supports Bluetooth hands-free calling, as did the factory radio, so it needs a microphone connection. Sadly, the YouTube consensus was that there’s no connecting the factory mic wiring to an aftermarket radio. So I clipped the new microphone to the sunroof-shade track and tucked its wiring behind the A-pillar trim (using a broad putty knife), routing it up and over the steering column, securing it so that it never touches anything that moves, and plugging it in to the radio.

Testing, Testing…

Before mounting a new stereo, always double-check connections, plug everything in, reconnect the battery, key the ignition on, and try everything out. For me, nothing functioned. Comparing the install kit’s harness against the end connected to the car, I discovered that both sides had several voids—in different locations. A big raspberry to the Metra Turbo Wire folks! Using a voltage meter, I determined which leads on the Smart harness supplied constant battery voltage, ignition-on voltage, and ground. Turns out a power lead and the ground were swapped, which blew a fuse. Moving these adapter-kit leads required using a super-skinny eyeglass-repair screwdriver to depress the retainer tang on the connectors that needed to move, clicking them back into their new spots. With the stereo up and running, the camera image still refused to appear on the screen. My skim of the instructions missed the explanation that to use a camera you must go into a settings menu and turn on the camera input jack. Oops.

Button it up

With everything functioning, it was time to mount the retaining brackets to the stereo, run the various USB and Aux jack cables to an accessible location (in my case, the glove box). The brackets and bezel fit perfectly, though the bezel was not an exact match of factory grain and gloss.

Camera Mounting

Mounting the camera is a bigger job. This being a Smart car, such installations involve removing the plastic OUTER panel in question, never the inner panel. They all come off easily (thanks to YouTube tutorials) using TX10 and/or TX20 Torx fasteners. Mounting the camera next to a license-plate lamp presented an opportunity to simply select a drill bit the size of my wiring cable and force said spinning drill bit into the corner of the lamp’s rectangular hole, creating a void for the cable to pass through next to the lamp bezel. The camera attaches with adhesive, though it is possible to drill tiny holes for small screws if the adhesive ever gives up. The camera cable includes a very small connecter, but it’s not quite small enough to fit through the rubber conduit containing the rest of the tailgate’s electrical leads, so I cut off the connector leaving enough wire to solder it back together. By shoving a rigid copper 8-gauge wire through the same conduit and taping it to the end of my cut cable, I was able to coax the camera wire through and into the vehicle interior. The head unit needs to know when the car is in reverse, and the easiest way to do this is to run a lead to a reverse lamp, so I soldered a 20-gauge wire to the wiring connector powering the reverse lamp. I then routed the camera wire and purple reverse lead together from there, under the cargo-area carpeting, along the sill plate, under the carpet and up into the dash to the head unit.

One more thing…

Once everything was done and we listened to a few different sources, we discovered the crappy factory speaker in the driver door was blown. Off came the door skins and in went two new 6-inch speakers. When the mounting screw locations on the door were farther outboard than those on the speakers, I simply cut the speaker paper and support structure away from the outer plastic mounting ring of the old speakers and used these rings to clamp the new speakers in place. I probably should have made a video demonstrating that hack…

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2019 Toyota Avalon First Drive: A Flagship Split in Two

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:00

Toyota’s past and future collide in the 2019 Avalon, a flagship full-size sedan that must regain the trust of buyers put off by the outgoing model’s stiff ride quality, yet Toyota must also attract younger buyers with a car that’s sportier than any of its previous four generations. So does the Avalon return to its roots as a mature, vaguely premium, comfortable sedan, or does it lean further toward the Nissan Maxima’s sporty side of the spectrum?


Toyota’s new Avalon strategy splits the lineup in two, and we aren’t referring to the 301-hp V-6 and 215-hp four-cylinder hybrid powerplants. If your definition of Avalon is a comfortable American-style cruiser, stick with the XLE and Limited grades. They place a higher priority on comfort than do the XSE and Touring trims (the latter is a V-6-only trim), which turn up the sportiness quotient in looks and driving experience.

All Avalons benefit from Toyota’s new TNGA platform, which helps improve handling, lowers the overall center of gravity, and reduces NVH in the cabin, Toyota claims. But before you experience any of those improvements, you’ll encounter the latest application of Toyota’s “I’M SO ANGRY” design language. With the XLE and Limited, the giant grille looks decent, but the sportier XSE and Touring variants wear black grille trim that doesn’t break up the enormous mass of space well.

The 2019 Avalon is longer (0.6 inch), lower (1.0 inch), and wider (0.6 inch) than its predecessor, and it rides on a wheelbase that’s 2.0 inches longer. Those tweaks coalesce to subtly reshape the car’s proportions, but you’re more likely to notice the C-pillar sliding down at a gentler angle than in any previous Toyota sedan. You can tell it’s a Toyota, yet no one with their glasses on will mistake a Camry with an Avalon, from the bigger car’s 3.2 to 3.8 extra inches of length to its rear quarter window to the central taillight reflector element visually connecting the two taillights.

On the road, the Avalon feels nimble for a 195.9-inch car, but the premium-ish sedan never feels like it deserves 4DSC badges (4-Door Supra-like Car). That’s OK, because all Avalons have accurate and well-weighted steering that’s not overly light. And if you stick with the XLE and Limited trims, the suspension will keep things comfortable. The same can’t be said about the Touring model, which, with its adaptive variable suspension and 19-inch wheels, connects you to the road in a noticeably different way compared to the comfort-oriented models. On winding roads and around corners, you’ll appreciate that trim’s sportier tuning—not to mention the guttural aural sensations of the 301-hp Touring model’s engine-sound enhancer. Once you get on the highway, however, the combination of tire noise and the way some road imperfections enter the cabin makes it clear the Touring (and the XSE to some extent) are not ideal road trip cars.

Other 2019 Avalon trims are quieter than their predecessors, whether you choose the V-6 or the available hybrid. The V-6 model uses an eight-speed automatic, and in our short time with the car, we didn’t notice some of the minor issues we’ve seen with this engine and transmission combination in the Highlander (specifically, upshifting too soon to the tallest possible gear). But as with the 296-hp Sienna, the 301-hp Avalon has trouble getting all of that power to the front wheels. If you’re taking off in the Avalon from a dead stop, consider being gentle with the throttle at first to avoid chirping the tires. After that, you’ll feel a surge of power as you accelerate to highway speeds. The 3.5-liter V-6 feels powerful in passing situations, taking just a moment to inhale before giving you the oomph you need.

GET REAL The Limited (shown here) features real wood trim. Real aluminum comes on the XSE and Touring.

What hybrid-averse buyers might not realize is that the 215-hp hybrid is just as responsive with moderate throttle inputs. The weight difference between the hybrid model and the equivalent V-6 is well under 100 pounds, and the trunk is the same 16.1 cubic feet. The hybrid’s price premium over the V-6 is now just $1,000 and will make sense for those who want an EPA-estimated 43/43–44 mpg city/highway instead of the V-6 models’ 22/31–32 mpg. It’s not just about better fuel economy, though—you’ll also drive more miles between fill-ups. There’s also the coolness of cruising through your neighborhood in pure EV mode. The brakes almost feel like normal, non-hybrid car brakes, too, which means coming to a smooth stop isn’t the challenge it normally presents in a hybrid. Ford’s hybrids still offer more engaging information displays that can make driving more fun—but that’s only relevant for open-minded buyers willing to consider a midsize sedan such as the Ford Fusion Platinum hybrid. But in the full-size segment, the Kia Cadenza, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima, and Chevrolet Impala don’t offer hybrid variants.

A popular midsize sedan like the Fusion or Camry won’t cut it for buyers who seek something more exclusive. Toyota sold more than 10 times as many Camry sedans last year as it did Avalons, which is a startling comparison even when you consider that’s a mix of new Camrys against the last-generation Avalon. Beyond the added exterior size and updated styling, the 2019 Avalon elevates itself above the Camry with a uniquely styled and rich-feeling interior. The Avalon Limited’s redesigned interior—aided by cool Yamaha-sourced wood trim—earns every cent of its $42,695 price tag. However, all trims feature interiors filled with soft-touch surfaces almost everywhere, even on the $36,395 XLE V-6. Yes, $36,395, a base price that’s higher than the Avalon’s non-luxury-branded competition, a bit higher than two Lincoln MKZ models, and isn’t much lower than the least expensive six-cylinder Buick LaCrosse.

I’M RICH A soft leatherlike material stretches over the top of the center console’s armrest, around the cupholders, and above the Qi wireless phone charging area.

Even so, the Avalon’s standard features list is long. Every 2019 Avalon gets LED headlights, a 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster, and a 9.0-inch central touchscreen at the top of the dash that makes the also-standard Apple CarPlay’s type look huge. (Android Auto isn’t available yet.) You also won’t pay extra for hands-free keyless access with push-button start, fast-charging USB ports front and rear, two years or 25,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance services, and a full package of active safety tech. Available options include a surround-view camera system with a cool front wheel view mode, a head-up display with a 10.0-inch viewing projection, sequentially firing turn signals, real wood or aluminum trim, and a 14-speaker, 1,200-watt JBL sound system. But neither a power-closing trunk nor the Camry’s panoramic moonroof are available.

The Avalon’s standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking (the most important feature of the group), lane departure mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert; rear braking is optional. Full-speed adaptive cruise control is also standard, but more sensitive drivers might find the system comes to a stop just a tad too quickly and sometimes pulls away a little aggressively. It might be useful on long road trips, but it’s not at its best in stop-and-go traffic.

In a stagnating segment, Toyota is attempting to justify the Avalon’s reason for being. The car feels premium inside. If you pick the right trim, it’s comfortable, as well. Whether there are Touring buyers who want a big car with a less-than-plush ride remains to be seen—it’s worked for the Camry so far. Our feeling: A loaded Limited (instead of a base XLE or a sporty and loaded Touring) riding on hot 19-inch wheels maximizes its advantages with a more comfortable ride, a premium interior, and a decent driving experience.

2019 Toyota Avalon BASE PRICE $36,395-$43,695 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan ENGINES 2.5L/176-hp/163-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 118-hp front elec motor, 215 hp comb; 3.5L/301-hp/267-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; TRANSMISSIONS 8-speed automatic, cont. variable auto CURB WEIGHT 3,550-3,700 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 113.0 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 195.9 x 72.8 x 56.5 in 0-60 MPH 6.0-7.5 sec (MT est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22-43/31-44/25-44 mpg (est) ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 78-153/77-109 kW-hrs/100 miles (est) CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.45-0.77 lb/mile (est) ON SALE IN U.S. Currently

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PHOTOS! A Visual History of the Toyota Avalon

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:00

Entering its fifth generation for the 2019 model year, the Avalon has served as Toyota’s flagship sedan for more than two decades. Back in 1995, the Avalon nameplate was introduced to take the place of the Cressida, which had been discontinued a few years earlier. The Avalon was focused on comfort and even offered a front bench seat for a while to accommodate a total of six. Although most Avalons have been powered by V-6 engines (compare the original Avalon’s 192-hp output to the 2019 Avalon V-6’s 301 hp), more recently, hybrid four-cylinder variants have been available, too.

Take a trip back in Toyota Avalon history with our Avalon photo gallery below and read our 2019 Avalon First Drive review here.

2019 Toyota Avalon (Fifth Gen)

2018 Toyota Avalon (Fourth Gen)

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon (Fourth Gen)

2013-2015 Toyota Avalon (Fourth Gen)

2011-2012 Toyota Avalon (Third Gen)

2008-2010 Toyota Avalon (Third Gen)

2005-2007 Toyota Avalon (Third Gen)

2000-2004 Toyota Avalon (Second Gen)

1995-1999 Toyota Avalon (First Gen)

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2018 Subaru Crosstrek Long-Term Update 1: The Subaru Comfortable

Sun, 04/22/2018 - 09:00

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is appealing for a number of readily apparent reasons, ranging from its handsome and rugged looks to its competitive pricing and ample cargo and passenger room. However, what many won’t know without driving it is the amount of ride comfort the Crosstrek provides. This was a nice surprise—and one of my favorite qualities—because compact vehicles are not always known for ride quality. The Crosstrek’s is one of the best I have felt.

The raised hatchback does a superb job of ironing out rough patches of road and excels at not transmitting much vibration or noise into the cabin.

I recently drove our long-term Audi A4 Quattro for a few days, a Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring that I reviewed, and a Volvo XC60 T5 for a three-day weekend of SoCal cruising. The Crosstrek’s ride quality is on par with those three larger and more expensive vehicles, and surprisingly it also mutes out and absorbs much of the sound and juddering that accompanies road imperfections better than the above vehicles. It’s worth noting that those vehicles ride on lower-profile tires, but I would still expect the ride quality to be better than my $26,899 Crosstrek.

I am not the first editor to feel this way about Subaru’s latest compact. “The ride quality is downright plush with luxury car levels of suspension compliance and rally car–rivaling suspension travel,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said during a three-way comparison against the Jeep Compass and Nissan Rogue Sport, which the Subie won.

International bureau chief Angus MacKenzie summed it up best during his First Test review of the Crosstrek. “The little Subaru rolls down the road with the quiet comfort and dignified composure of a mini luxury car,” he said. “The ride is exceptional for a vehicle this size, the long-travel suspension calmly damping body motions while ably suppressing impact harshness where the rubber meets the road.”

So if you are considering a Subaru Crosstrek, add “premium ride quality” to the list of pros. It’s among the best in class.

Read More About Our 2018 Subaru Crosstrek:

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2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro Long-Term Update 10: Going Ultra

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 09:00

Calling it the “A4 Minus $4,500” probably wouldn’t be good for business, but that price cut is at the heart of the A4 Ultra’s appeal. Compared to the all-wheel-drive A4 I’ve driven over thousands of miles, the front-wheel-drive A4 Ultra is less powerful, more efficient, less fun, and—oh yeah—way cheaper. Now that I’ve driven the A4 Ultra base model, our long-term A4, and even the spiffy S4, I can speak to how much of our long-termer’s well-rounded package is retained in the more affordable base-engine A4 Ultra.

We tested the front-drive, 190-hp A4 Ultra accelerating to 60 mph in a respectable 7.0 seconds, compared to our all-wheel-drive, 252-hp A4’s 5.2-second time. The A4 Ultra is shown here.

First, know that you can load up the A4 Ultra with lots of options—Audi doesn’t restrict you to a basic set of features. The A4 Ultra model is offered with front-wheel drive only (unlike the RWD or AWD BMW 320i), so if you want all-wheel drive, upgrade to the regular A4 that is powered by a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four with 273 lb-ft of torque. The A4 also has a 2.0-liter turbo-four under the hood, but its engine is tuned to produce 190 hp and 236 lb-ft. The reduction in power comes with an increase in EPA-rated efficiency, from the all-wheel-drive 2018 A4’s 24/34 mpg city/highway (up 3 mpg highway from the 2017 model) to the 2018 A4 Ultra’s 27/37 mpg. That’s not a huge increase, but because the A4 Ultra uses the same 15.3-gallon gas tank, it means you’ll get a few more trips to work in before needing to refuel.

On the road, the A4 Ultra’s engine doesn’t feel underpowered—the car’s problem is the excessive wheelspin you sometimes get when applying full throttle from a stop. Although better tires would help (our A4 Ultra tester wore 225/50R17 all-season rubber wrapped around modest 17-inch alloy wheels), the car’s front-drive layout is limiting in this extreme situation. The 245/40R18 all-season tires with 18-inch wheels on the middle and top trims might improve steering feel, which didn’t feel as solid on the A4 Ultra as it does on our better-equipped 252-hp all-wheel-drive A4 long-termer.

Although Audi does a good job of making the A4 Ultra model look just as good as the pricier and more powerful all-wheel-drive model (pictured above), the real difference—and the reason I wouldn’t get an A4 Ultra—is the way the car’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission behaves at low speeds. I don’t like the way the transmission on my long-term A4 is tuned at low speeds, but it’s a minor issue. On our A4 Ultra tester over the course of multiple days of driving, I found the car was far too eager to accelerate from a stop with a moderate amount of throttle, and coming to a gentle stop was a bit rougher than I expected, too. I’ll admit I’m more sensitive to matters of transmission roughness, which is why if you’re considering an A4 Ultra as well as the 252-hp all-wheel-drive A4, I’d suggest doing a brief stop sign test in both cars. Find a residential neighborhood with stop signs, and take a few of them at moderate speeds, driving however you normally drive. It’s in those situations that our A4 Ultra tester didn’t pass my personal smoothness test, giving me a bit too much acceleration and not coming to a stop smoothly enough as it downshifted.

If not for that one fault, I could more wholeheartedly recommend the A4 Ultra to those who want an A4 on a budget. I can see how tempting it would be for some to save $4,500 for a car that looks exactly the same but doesn’t accelerate as awesomely quick as my 252-hp all-wheel-drive long-termer. If, like me, you’re on the more sensitive side when it comes to driving smoothness, consider paying attention to that part of the test drive to see if you notice it at all.

Read our 2018 Audi A4 Ultra vs. 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T  Touring comparison right here!

Read more about our 2017 Audi A4 2.0T:

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Refreshing or Revolting: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 23:30

Hyundai has few crossovers in its lineup, but all of them are getting a makeover. This year, the automaker began selling the new subcompact Kona and will bring out a face-lifted Tucson in the fall. Meanwhile, Hyundai is completely revamping the Santa Fe. Replacing the midsize, two-row Santa Fe Sport, the new Santa Fe seats up to five passengers while offering them more modern amenities than the old model. But has Hyundai made a more visually compelling crossover?

The Santa Fe’s front face is an attention-grabber because it’s so different than that of its predecessor. Taking after the smaller Kona, the new Santa Fe features a split light design. LED daytime running lights are positioned above the LED headlights, unlike traditional cars which put the two together. The grille takes on a new shape, funneling down from a silver bar that encases the top lights.

Although it replaces the Santa Fe Sport, the new model is actually a bit bigger. It measures 2.8 inches longer and 0.4 inch wider, and it has a wheelbase that’s 2.6 inches longer. You can sort of see the difference in size between the two models by looking at their side profiles. And while the Santa Fe Sport had a sloping roofline and wedge-shaped window profile, the 2019 model appears to have a more upright back end.

Moving to the rear, we can see the Hyundai Santa Fe has updated taillights. They’re not as droopy as before, and are connected by a silver bar. Once again, the back end appears a bit more upright, and it also features more character lines, one of which runs right below the rear window. Both models feature a spoiler that flows down from the roof.

New screens comprise some of the biggest interior updates on the Santa Fe. The instrument cluster display has been redesigned, and the new model also features a head-up display that projects key information on the windshield in front of the driver. Also notice a new center infotainment screen that sits on the dash. The array of buttons below the screen has been reorganized to take up less space. The cupholders are now positioned in a vertical fashion to the right of the shifter, unlike the old model that arranges the cupholders horizontally below the gear stalk.

In case you were wondering what happened to the three-row Santa Fe, Hyundai will keep selling the old-generation version under the name Santa Fe XL. Eventually, Hyundai will bring out a new three-row SUV, although we haven’t seen this model yet.

Do you think the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is refreshing or revolting? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook.

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Infiniti Hopes to Triple its Sales in China Over Next Five Years

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 22:30

Infiniti will launch five new vehicles in China as it prepares to triple its sales over the next five years in the world’s largest auto market, the automaker has revealed. The announcement comes ahead of the Beijing auto show which takes place next week.

The first new vehicle coming to China is the redesigned QX50 midsize crossover that’s now on sale in the U.S. The model will enter production at Infiniti’s factory in Dalian, China, and all copies produced there will be sold in China. The model goes on sale in China later this year, and should help Infiniti reach its goal to sell around 150,000 vehicles on an annual basis.

Right now, infiniti produces just two vehicles in China, long-wheelbase versions of the Q50 and Q70. These vehicles are built at Nissan’s plant in Xiangyang.

Just like here in the U.S., crossovers are proving popular in China. Sales of SUVs and crossovers were up 11 percent in the first quarter, reaching 2.66 million units, reports Automotive News. This growth outpaces the overall market’s rise of 2.6 percent.

Electrification will also help Infiniti achieve success in China and other parts of the world. By 2025, Infiniti hopes more than half of its new vehicles sold globally and in China will be electrified. Infiniti’s Q Inspiration concept, which makes its Asia debut in Beijing, provides a glimpse into the automaker’s future electric offerings with compact powertrains and clean design lines.

Source: Infiniti, Automotive News (Subscription required)

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You Can Own This Original-Condition BMW 3.0 CSL “Batmobile”

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 20:45

Not all Batmobiles are black and driven by caped crusaders. This pristine 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL happens to be Chamonix Metallic White and is one of only a handful of 3.0s built with the “Batmobile” aerodynamics package.

The car will cross the block at RM Sotheby’s Monaco 2018 sale in May along with several other choice BMWs and other marques.

It appears to be in original condition and wears the optional aerodynamics kit that includes a front air dam, short roof spoiler, and a wild-looking three-piece rear wing.


The interior looks clean and features original black and red Scheel sport seats and the original three-spoke steering wheel. Also, to sweeten the deal, the engine numbers match and there’s just 39,072 kms (roughly 24,278 miles) on the clock.

Records indicate that it was built in the summer of 1973. The car spent much of its early days in Spain, but was not registered until 1975 by the first owner.

Ten years later it moved back to Germany and remained there until 2007. It was sold and returned to Spain once again and reportedly received a complete service in Barcelona by an expert racing mechanic. The auction house states that the auto was purchased by its current owner in 2013.

RM Sotheby’s estimates this rare bewinged bimmer will sell for 290,000-390,000 euros (roughly $356,000-479,000 U.S.), so if you’re interested, you’d better be as cash-flush as Bruce Wayne.

Source: RM Sotheby’s

Photos courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

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This Tiny Honda Hot Hatch Concept is the Definition of Forbidden Fruit

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 19:45

As far as mainstream automakers go, Honda’s current lineup is pretty darn fun to drive. You don’t even have to spring for the Si or Type R to enjoy driving the Civic, and it’s almost impossible to not have a great time behind the wheel of the 2.0-liter Accord Sport. Heck, even the Fit is pretty sporty. But despite all of that, we’re still going to complain about the fact there’s no chance Honda will bring this tiny hot hatch concept to the U.S.

Revealed this week at the Indonesia International Motor Show, the diminutive concept in question is called the Small RS. According to Autocar India, it’s most likely a lightly disguised version of the next-generation Honda Brio, a city car sold throughout the Asia Pacific region. But to our American eyes, it looks like the Civic Type R got put in the dryer and shrunk down to an adorable size. And while it’s still identifiable as a modern Honda, we think we like the styling even better than the aggressively in-your-face Civic.

According to a Google-translated release from Honda Indonesia, the Small RS “features a sporty, stylish exterior design in accordance with Honda’s DNA in a small car platform that can be used for everyday activities for young-minded consumers while offering a sporty driving experience.” It also “represents Honda’s vision of how a small sports car should be.” With its large wing, hood scoop, and aerodynamic body kit, we agree. This thing looks like an absolute hoot.

We haven’t been able to find what kind of engine the Small RS uses, but as a concept likely built to get potential customers excited about an upcoming city car, it may not have one. Still, we can only hope the local reception is positive enough to convince Honda to actually put it into production. Even if the U.S. won’t ever get the Small RS (or even a Fit Type R), enthusiasts in the Asia Pacific region deserve to enjoy this baby Type R.

Source: Honda, Autocar India

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Audi e-tron SUV Can Recharge in as Little as 30 Minutes

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 18:30

Audi is expected to bring out the production version of the e-tron SUV sometime this year. Ahead of the debut, we now know what to expect from the electric SUV in terms of range and recharging, at least for European markets.

Early press releases said the e-tron could travel 310 miles on a single charge. Now, Audi is placing range at 248.5 miles based on the new WLTP driving cycle, an update to the NEDC test cycle. It’s unclear how this rating would translate to the EPA cycle that’s used here in the U.S. Audi confirmed the floor-mounted battery can store an impressive 95 kilowatt-hours of energy.

The e-tron will be the first vehicle on the market capable of charging at stations with up to 150 kilowatts. An advanced thermal management system in the battery enables the SUV to safely charge up at this level at high-power charging stations that use the European standard Combined Charging System. Audi says it takes less than 30 minutes to juice up. There will be nearly 200 of these compatible stations with six charging points each by the end of 2018, with more to come in the following years.

The e-tron can recharge at AC and DC stations in public areas, or at home with a 230-volt household outlet or a 400-volt three-phase outlet, which takes 8.5 hours. An optional connect charging system will charge your car according to your home’s energy usage and can double the charging power to 22 kilowatts.

Perhaps to draw attention to the strides it has taken to recharge EVs quickly, Audi placed its e-tron prototype in a Faraday cage at the Siemens high-voltage test bay in Berlin. Here, where experts are researching the possibility of lightning-fast charging, Audi ran a test on its e-tron. In the middle of an impulse voltage generator the size of a house, the Audi e-prototype is targeted with a flashover voltage, creating a light show and a crackle over the roof measuring 82 feet tall.

In addition to the e-tron SUV, Audi also plans on introducing an E-tron Sportback in 2019. Both models will be built in Brussels, Belgium.

Source: Audi

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Watch the Porsche 911 GT3 RS Clock 6:56.4 on the Nurburgring

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 17:00

Porsche debuted the 911 GT3 RS, its most powerful naturally aspirated car ever, at the Geneva auto show in March. And already, the track beast has set a lap time of 6:56.4 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

The GT3 RS is one of only three production sports cars from Porsche to lap the ‘Ring in under seven minutes. The 918 Spyder recorded a time of 6:57 back in 2013, and the 911 GT2 RS became the quickest production car to hit the Nürburgring by achieving a time of 6:47.03 last year.

Porsche works race driver Kévin Estre piloted the GT3 RS to its impressive new lap time. The car came in 24 seconds quicker around the ‘Ring than its predecessor.

Packing a 4.0-liter flat-six, the GT3 RS makes 520 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired exclusively to a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, and according to Porsche, can hit 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds. Top speed is 193 mph.

The GT3 RS borrows its aero and lightweighting technologies from the standard GT3 while also tacking on a magnesium roof and carbon-fiber front lid and fenders. From the GT2 RS, it takes the larger front spoiler for additional downforce and NACA ducts in the frunk lid that aid with brake cooling. During the recent run, the GT3 RS was equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, which will be available for order at Porsche Centers and selected dealers and tire fitters. The sports car arrives in the U.S. this fall with a starting price of $188,550.

Watch the video below to see the 911 GT3 RS conquer the Nürburgring.

Source: Porsche

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2018 Ford EcoSport First Drive: Launch Control

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 09:00

“Dearborn, we’ve got a problem here.” We imagine the 2018 Ford EcoSport’s marketing manager paraphrasing Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert’s famous line upon discovering the full details of the hand-me-up subcompact cute-ute he or she was tasked with launching into one of America’s hottest and fast-growing sales segments. Swigert was reporting what turned out to be an oxygen-tank explosion that compromised the ship’s electrical and life-support systems. Ford’s marketing team faces the daunting if less critical task of peddling a “brand new” six-year-old vehicle optimized for emerging markets.

The EcoSport is based on 2011 Fiesta underpinnings and since mid-2012 has been produced in Romania, China, Brazil, Russia, Thailand, and (for our market) India. We bet it’s a peach in those places. But in the U.S., where it must lure customers away from Subaru Crosstreks, Kia Souls, Jeep Renegades, Honda HR-Vs, and the Chevrolet Trax, the EcoSport looks to us like a tough marketing challenge.

How have Ford’s “mission controllers” handled this dicey launch? By taking a page from Buick’s introduction of the Chinese-built Envision and quietly releasing the car into the market in January before ever formally inviting any automotive press to drive or report on it, thus bending the adage: “If they won’t have anything nice to say about it, don’t let them say anything at all.” So in March we finally drove two EcoSports that were on hand following a 2019 Ford Fusion backgrounder.

The mainstream 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost EcoSport (say eek-oh-boost echo-sport) engine produces 123 hp at 6,000 rpm and 125 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm. These numbers are lowest in the class, resulting in the highest weight-to-power rating, so it’s no shocker that this three-banger seemed to struggle with two adults onboard. It moans under hard acceleration and it vibrates the steering wheel when it’s working hard. Not even a brake-torque launch could elicit so much as a chirp from the front tires. Ford optimistically rates the 1.0-liter as capable of towing 1,400 pounds. Please don’t try this.

Opt for all-wheel drive and you automatically get the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four cylinder and an “intelligent” torque distribution system that lets you monitor where the torque is going via a dash screen. This engine produces a healthier and more class-competitive 166 hp at 6,500 rpm and 149 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm, earning a more plausible 2,000-pound tow rating. The only available transmission with either engine is a six-speed torque-converter automatic—a welcome upgrade from the little-loved dry dual-clutch box the EcoSport was born with. Ford claims the steering wheel shift paddles offered on the SES 2.0-liter we drove are a segment first (our Titanium 1.0-liter lacked them). Although the big engine greatly improves acceleration response, it still feels and sounds coarser and less refined than those powering the class leaders.

By the literal yardstick, EcoSport measures among the smallest in the class, measuring 1.7-14.5 inches shorter than the top six sellers, riding on the only sub-100-inch wheelbase in the bunch. It’s also narrower than everything in the class since the Nissan Juke’s departure. In fact, dimensionally it’s like a Juke that stands about 3 inches taller.

That short wheelbase and tall seating position give EcoSport a slightly squirrelly handling demeanor. Nothing dangerous, mind you (stability control comes standard), but we found it disconcertingly easy to induce oversteer—and instantaneous intervention from the nannies—when braking into some ess-turns in north-central Detroit. Ride quality is another area where the intersection of elderly underpinnings and a design optimized for third-world roads and expectations result in sharp reports and steering wheel judders from driveway curb-cuts and frost-heaved pavement slabs its competitors take in stride.

Inside, the segment’s top sellers are all larger in the front and back seats, though the EcoSport holds a narrow cargo-space advantage over the Trax and the Renegade with its seats up. There’s also an available cargo-management system with a movable load floor. Of course, if you find yourself needing to carry something a bit longer than the cargo floor, you’ll be better served by a top-hinged hatch you can tie down to meet it than by the Ford’s left-hinged, side-opening rear door. As unique selling propositions go, this is not a strong one.

Our EcoSport SES’ interior was trimmed in attractive black cloth with copper stripes on the seats and copper anodized-look accents on the dash, console, and door panels. And looking more closely at the pebble-grain plastic on the dash revealed it to feature a unique pattern of recessed circles inside raised squares. Ironically, the more expensive Titanium grade trim looked cheaper, with shiny “piano black” trim replacing the SES’ copper anodized stuff. Because nothing in this interior hints “Steinway,” this shiny black stuff comes off looking plasticky and contributes to making the black perforated leather seem more like vinyl. All EcoSports get Sync connectivity, with most getting the upgraded Sync 3 (on-screen Waze!) with a 6.5- or 8.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and available 4G LTE Wi-Fi that can connect 10 devices.

Finally, it’s hard to find any compelling news on the value front. EcoSport base prices span from $20,990 to $28,325, which only convincingly undercuts the Trax. If you don’t need AWD, a Kia Soul is better looking, way more fun to drive, and way cheaper ($18,695-$23,795 for automatic-transmission models); an HR-V ($21,445-$27,515 for automatic models) brings legendary Honda resale value; and a $25,905 mid-grade Subaru Crosstrek with the EyeSight option package gets world-class crash-prevention systems and adaptive cruise control not available on this little Bollywood Ford. We wish this EcoSport a safe and expeditious landing and hope its imminent successor reminds us more of Apollo 14.

2018 Ford EcoSport BASE PRICE $20,990-$28,325 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINES 1.0L/123-hp/125-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 12-valve I-3; 2.0L/166-hp/149-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT 3,050-3,300 lb (mfr) WHEELBASE 99.2 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 161.3 x 69.5 x 65.1 in 0-60 MPH 9.0-10.0 sec (MT est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 23-27/29/25-28 mpg ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 126-147/116 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.70-0.76 lb/mile ON SALE IN U.S. Currently

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2018 BMW X5 Diesel First Test: Efficient Twist

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 09:00

The X5 was BMW’s first crossover, and it has since become one the automaker’s best-selling models. In its third generation, there’s an X5 for every taste, from traditional gas-powered models to a plug-in hybrid to the potent X5 M. We got our hands on the diesel-powered 2018 BMW X5 xDrive35d to see how it stacks up as an alternative to your run-of-the-mill, gas-burning luxury crossover.

See spy shots of the next-generation BMW X5 right here

Power for the 2018 BMW X5 xDrive35d comes via a 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6 rated at 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With an EPA estimate of 23/29 mpg city/highway, the diesel-powered X5 is the second-most efficient variant in the lineup, behind the X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid. After undergoing our own Real MPG fuel economy testing, we found that the diesel-powered X5 is more efficient than expected, yielding 26.0/33.2 mpg city/highway. With a 22.4-gallon tank, you have a luxury crossover that will do well over 600 miles before needing to refuel.

At the track, the diesel-powered crossover hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 91.3 mph. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said the engine has noticeable turbo lag off the line but that the transmission keeps the engine right in the heart of its powerband in Sport mode. Stopping from 60 mph took 125 feet; however, the ABS pulsates aggressively during hard braking, and the crossover dives when you suddenly hit the brakes.

The X5 xDrive35d finished the figure-eight course in 27.0 seconds with an average of 0.64 g. It generated 0.84 g of lateral acceleration on the skid pad. Road test editor Chris Walton was impressed that the X5 “hustles around the figure eight as a BMW should” but noted that the standard all-season tires causes it to understeer. Walton also noted that the steering needs constant attention and that the body rolls a lot in corners.

On the road, the diesel-powered X5 is pleasant to drive, and there’s plenty of power for passing slower traffic or climbing up grades. The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic provides quick, smooth shifts and snappy responses. Combined with its responsive throttle and torquey engine, the X5 is easy to drive quickly. The mushy brake pedal doesn’t give the driver much confidence, though. It feels like there’s not enough stopping power even though there’s plenty. Other than a rough start/stop system, which you can turn off, it’s hard to tell that the refined powertrain is a diesel.

For its size, the X5 handles well; it’s no sports car, but for a large crossover, it’s well sorted. The X5’s steering doesn’t feel connected to the front wheels, and the imprecise system makes the crossover feel as large as it is, especially on narrow roads. Ride comfort is excellent, especially with BMW’s optional Dynamic Damper Control system. In Comfort mode, the X5 soaks up road imperfections well. Sport mode stiffens the dampers, but it’s still compliant on bad roads. The standard run-flat tires produce some road noise, though.

Inside, the cabin features high-quality materials with soft plastics on the dash and plenty of padding where your arms fall. Hard plastics are nowhere to be found in the X5’s cabin, and everything feels well put together. On the road, nothing rattles or creaks, even when you go over less-than-perfect pavement. Engine noise is minimal even at full throttle, but wind noise is noticeable, especially from the A-pillar on the driver’s side. Passenger space is excellent for front and second-row passengers. There’s a third row option, too, but think of that small area as an occasional-use-only space for two kids—if you want a full-size BMW three-row crossover, wait for the upcoming X7. Front-seat comfort could be better, as the seat backs are flat and don’t have much side support, making the optional multicontour front seats worth the extra cost.

For hauling, the X5 has a generous 35.8-cubic-foot cargo area behind the second row. BMW includes 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seats as standard for improved flexibility, allowing you to carry long items and four passengers at the same time. Behind the front seats there’s 76.7 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty for a Costco run or Ikea shopping spree. (Our tester didn’t have the third-row seat.)

BMW’s iDrive multimedia system has seen continuous improvement, and in the 2018 X5 xDrive35d, it’s more user-friendly. With the addition of a touchscreen, you don’t have to rely on the knob to navigate through the system, and its layout has been simplified with the addition of reconfigurable tiles. A touchpad on top of the knob has a hard time recognizing letters and numbers, which means when writing the letter “A,” it will sometimes think it’s a “4.” The standard audio offers good sound, but audiophiles should opt for the Harman Kardon system or the Bang & Olufsen surround sound systems, both of which offer superior in-car listening experiences. Apple CarPlay is the only smartphone integration app available, and it can be operated wirelessly.

Our tester came equipped with the Driving Assistance and Driving Assistance Plus packages. The former adds active blind-spot monitoring (a visual warning is followed by a vibrating steering wheel if you start to drift), a head-up display, and lane departure warning. The Plus package adds adaptive cruise control and the Active Driving Assistant, which bundles forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. All of the active driver assistance features were mostly unobtrusive except for the lane departure system, which mistook the grooves on the road for lane lines, causing the steering wheel to vibrate because it thought the car veered off its intended path. Other features on our tester included LED headlights and a surround-view camera system.

As tested, our 2018 X5 xDrive35d checked in at $73,445 and was still many thousands of dollars away from being loaded. (The AWD-only diesel X5 is only $1,500 more than an X5 xDrive35i.) A Volvo XC90 T6 has a more elegant interior for about the same price as our tester, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 checks in just slightly above but comes with more features. A similarly priced Audi Q7 gets you more creature comforts, including massaging front seats, heated rear seats, and a 19-speaker Bose audio system, while a fully loaded Acura MDX will leave you with around $10,000 for a vacation.

Even though this generation of X5 has been on the market for years and comes with a hefty price tag, the diesel model remains a solid entry. You get a quiet, spacious cabin for five passengers with surprisingly good fuel efficiency for such a large vehicle. The X5 does its job as a family vehicle well, and when equipped with the diesel engine, it adds prodigious torque and good fuel efficiency for a big crossover—just make sure you keep an eye on the price when selecting options.

2018 BMW X5 xDrive35d BASE PRICE $61,995 PRICE AS TESTED $73,445 VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINE 3.0L/255-hp/413-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve I-6 TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,935 lb (51/49%) WHEELBASE 115.5 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 193.2 x 76.3 x 69.4 in 0-60 MPH 6.0 sec QUARTER MILE 14.6 sec @ 91.3 mph BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 125 ft LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.84 g (avg) MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.0 sec @ 0.64 g (avg) REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 26.0/33.2/28.8 mpg EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 23/29/25 mpg ENERGY EMISSIONS, CITY/HWY 164/130 kW-hrs/100 miles CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.88 lb/mile

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