I always love a V8, so when the 2015 Dodge Charger RT Hemi Road and Track package arrived, I was quite excited. The Charger with the 5.7 Hemi is one of the best values in cars right now. The as-tested price is around $45,000, and for that you get a 370 horsepower 5.7 liter Hemi engine, a smooth shifting 8 speed transmission, heated and cooled suede seats, 20″ wheels, sport suspension, the list goes on. This car a $1500 black painted roof option, so let’s just take that one out and call it $43,500. Is it any good?
At just under $24,000, my 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI press car included most things you’d want as standard: bluetooth connectivity, pushbutton start, a 6 speed automatic transmission, good torque, and a fun character. There is an available 2 liter Jetta with a paltry 115hp, 4 speaker audio system, and basic features to get you by, but it’s special order and you probably won’t see it on any dealer lots, and you don’t want one.
The new 1.8 liter turbocharged direct injected engine is amazingly torquey and flexible and is just fun to drive. It sounds good too! The six speed automatic shifts well- it’s not a DSG box like in the GLI, but it does the job without fuss and is programmed well. The Jetta is pretty quick, and is definitely fun to drive. The suspension is a bit on the sporty side, but is still very comfortable over all road surfaces. It rolls a bit in corners, but in an engaging way.
The touch screen infotainment system is extremely basic and rather low resolution, but it gets the job done without fuss. The stereo sounds good, and Fender premium audio is available as an upgrade should you desire even better musicality. Materials are of good quality and feel well put together. The VW-tex seats look great and wear like iron. I had a similar seats in my 2001 Audi A4, and with one hundred thousand miles on them they still looked near new. The graphic display on the instrument cluster is a bit outdated, and there’s no coolant temperature gauge which I found a bit odd. The pushbutton start works fine, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t function to unlock the doors as well- you need to do this manually or with the buttons on the key.
Overall, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI is back to being what it always was: a fun, sporty, frugal daily driver. The 1.8t engine is so far ahead of the old 2.5 it isn’t even comparable. Torque is always there to pull you along, efficiency is up, and the Jetta is just plain fun. For those who want something more sporty, there is a GLI variant available with a DSG gearbox and upgrades like the GTI. Honestly though, this is all most people will need or want. It’s an engaging, affordable, quality car. Good job VW.
Vehicle provided by Volkswagen of America.
I’ve had a lot of Toyota hybrids over the years, and they’re quite good. This 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is no exception. While it’s similar to it’s Lexus cousin, the Avalon is more affordable, and slightly less luxurious. The suspension is soft and comfortable, the steering is light without too much road feel, but you’d expect that in a comfortable daily driver like the Avalon. The Avalon has room for 5 actual adults. Rear legroom is downright huge. The interior is quiet and supple, it’s just a really nice car.
The hybrid drivetrain is good as usual. I got almost 40mpg in combined city and highway, even in heavy traffic. The Avalon has a good amount of power, however it takes a while to access it. The CVT transmission is always smooth but can be a bit lazy. Power delivery feels like the CVT is “spooling up” for a few seconds. Instant response isn’t there, but when you need it the Avalon has more than enough passing power. The standard V6 in the Avalon is more responsive, but doesn’t get as good gas mileage. Whether or not the hybrid is worth the $2300 difference between it and it’s non hybrid sibling will depend on how much you drive.
Overall the Avalon Hybrid is a fantastic and comfortable 5 passenger sedan. I can’t really think of anything that competes with it. Most manufacturers are going for sport sedan attributes, and this car is geared towards comfort while getting fantastic fuel economy. If you’re looking for a relaxed everyday car, the Avalon is a great choice. It doesn’t really have any sporting credentials, but it doesn’t try to either, and I’m OK with that. Great all around car.
A 2015 Ford Fusion Energi came into my driveway one Friday, and I was immediately excited. I knew enough about it, that it was a plug in hybrid version of the Fusion, and naturally would have pretty good driving dynamics, but I had no direct experience. To be honest, its the first true plug-in hybrid car that I’ve spent any significant time in. The result of my time? The realization that things are changing, and that change is quite good. Electricity is here to stay.
The dreaded Sport moniker. Some manufacturers add it to an options package, some change driving dynamics, some ruin a perfectly good car. How does this Hyundai do? Quite well.
First of all, this Hyundai exceeded my expectations of build quality. It’s definitely up there with its midsize competitors, if not ahead. The infotainment system is far snappier than previous models, and the voice command works well. The seats are extremely comfortable and well padded, and this tester had orange piping, a nice touch. The only knock is the steering wheel, which has a material that feels artificial to the touch, but it’s a trivial qualm. Room for 5 and a good size trunk add up to a very capable daily drivable package.
What about the Sport part? Well, it’s a mixed bag. The firmer shocks and springs are definitely stiffer, and while not jarring, the car can get a bit upset over large bumps and road imperfections compared to the base car. It doesn’t seem to kill the body roll much either. The sport mode feels strange: the steering isn’t much stiffer, and the car doesn’t really feel all that different. The 2.0t engine is very good, but is held back by the conservative boost mapping. Even in sport mode, the engine just doesn’t give that low end grunt that turbo engines are famous for. While I’m sure ramping the boost on harder would give some wheelspin, I’d at least like to see a more aggressive sport mode. All-in-all, it’s a capable package, but the lack of quick boost onset left me wanting compared to some of the manual turbo Hyundais I’ve driven.
So the price. This car is a smidge under $30k all in, and that’s with the Sport package and a 2 liter turbo engine, orange piped seats and a nice interior, and all the bells and whistles you’d ever need including keyless start. It also has stylish 18 inch wheels, HID headlights, LED tail lights, quad exhaust, and an amazing amount of features for the price. I really enjoyed the Sonata Sport even with my small complaints. I have to say, value for money is definitely the Sonata’s strong suit. With all these features, comfortable driving dynamics, and good gas mileage, I can definitely recommend the Sonata 2.0t Sport to midsize sedan buyers looking for a quality option, but those looking for razor sharp handling and aggressive response should look elsewhere.
Infiniti recently changed it’s naming standards and the venerable G-series sedans are now known as the Q50. This particular model is a 2014 Q50S sports variant, which is powered by the newest generation of Nissan’s 3.7 liter VQ engine coupled to a 7 speed automatic transmission. With a new name, does the Q50S continue it’s performance heritage, or does the new name signal the end of the G-series sedan as we know it?
This review has been a long time coming. I was fortunate enough to meet the Lincoln MKZ exterior styling manager Solomon Song around a year ago at the Mandarin Oriental in South Beach. What a nice guy, and what a great car! I didn’t know how it drove because we only had pre-production prototypes, but the passion Mr. Song had for this car was apparent- and it shows. So how was the car to have for a week? And how is the hybrid? And how on earth is Lincoln offering this car for the same price as the non-hybrid model?
Long story short: This is the best Cadillac I’ve ever driven. The 2014 Cadillac CTS V-Sport takes a very good sport sedan and gives it a twin turbo pick-me-up along with subtle performance upgrades to make it one of the best sport sedan values on the market. So how is the rest of the package?
Lexus did it again. The 2013 Lexus ES350 is by far and away one of the most useful and comfortable midsize sedans on the market today. Why is this car such a great choice for the midsize luxury buyer? Read on and find out.