New elongated Tiguan springs from VW for 2018

July 26, 2017 by · Comments Off on New elongated Tiguan springs from VW for 2018
Filed under: New car introductions, Autos 

Tiguan remains in the VW family, but 2018 brings new and larger Tiguan.

DENVER, Colorado

   Just west of Denver, the Rocky Mountains rise from the Mile High City’s 5,280 feet to peaks jutting more than 10,000 feet into the sky. They can be traversed by twisting roads up to and along the Continental Divide, but you do it with care, and you’d best have a vehicle that handles with great precision.

    What better place for Volkswagen to introduce its new 2018 Tiguan? After all, a Tiger, or an Iguana, could make that climb with ease, and legend has it that back in the days when VW assigned real-world elements to its vehicles — Golf for gulf wind, Jetta for jetstream, Scirocco for desert wind, etc. — somebody decided that the first stubby and squarish sport-utility vehicle might best be named by combining the stealth of the tiger and the lizard-like maneuverability of the iguana.

   Far as we could tell, there were no tigers, nor iguanas, out cavorting in the 98-degree heat during our wave of the global launch of the all-new Tiguan. But that’s OK; the new Tiguan handled every road-challenging turn and switchback with great poise and delivered impressive power and fuel economy both on the way up and coming back down to our base at the Halcyon Hotel in suburban Cherry Creek.

   My driving partner was a fellow we’ll call Wayne, an incurable devotee to fuel efficiency. He slows down a block away when he sees a street light turn red ahead, so that he can avoid gas-robbing stop-and-goes, where moderate speed can allow him to continue forward. He also doesn’t exceed the speed limits on suburban steets, causing others in our group to line up behind us in frustration.

   But when we partner, I find myself driving more rationally, and trying to also maximize fuel efficiency even while using more burst of power to exercise a vehicle’s handling capabilities. We both like to stop and shoot photos at scenic spots. So this was a good match.  

At ease along the Continental Divide or the streets of Denver, the new Tiguan impresses.

   The night before our drive, we gathered at the hotel’s penthouse suite for a buffet dinner that was outstanding. It was there we heard some other journalists who had just finished the previous wave grumbling about the Tiguan’s lack of power and boring ride characteristics. We were not anticipating anything outstanding, but the Tiguan delivered exactly that in surprising quantities.

   I never disliked the original Tiguan, stubby and square though it is, it just seemed to lack the style brought about by the new explosion of compact crossover SUVs.

   After all these years, this will be the first renovation of the Tiguan, and the old Tiguan will continue to be built for the near future as the Tiguan Limited. Every company making SUVs are now caught up in the craze to make smaller and more compact models, and here is Volkswagen, already with a reasonable compact, choosing to build a larger one.

    The new one is 10.7 inches longer and it fits on VW’s excellent new MQB platform, a modular chassis that can house every car and SUV with a transverse engine design. The side-mounted engine at the front of the new Tiguan is the familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, except it is entirely new. VW’s engineers are always creating new concepts in engine building. They have made a 2.0 for decades and it has served the company well in all manner from efficient to the screaming powerplant of the GTI. More recently, VW added a 1.8-liter engine that was a downsized derivative of the 2.0.

   And one year ago, VW came out with a superb new 1.4-liter turbo that is the first of an entirely new high-tech family of engines. So when I learned the Tiguan would have a 2.0, I had to ask Mark Gillies if this one was an enlarged version of the 1.4 or a redone version of the old 2.0.

    “It actually is a revised version of the EA 888 — the old 2.0,” said Gilles, senior manager of production and technology for Volkswagen of America. “It is called the ‘Butack’ engine, named after the engineer who designed it with a revised Miller-cycle system that closes the intake valves early, increasing combustion time, and allos the variable cams to open longer and wider when you need more power.”

   There is another example of VW engineering genius. With new engines seeming to aim at replacing old ones, VW keeps the old ones around back in the laboratory where an engineer named Butack might find the time to extract a whole new future for it. Read more

Versatile Elantras even challenge Sonata

July 26, 2017 by · Comments Off on Versatile Elantras even challenge Sonata
Filed under: New car introductions, Autos 
As Hyundai makes the midsize Sonata larger, the Elantra grows into a versatile array of fun and sporty hatchbacks.

Compact Elantra Sport GT grows into sporty competitor with midsize entries.

By John Gilbert


    Hyundai has never gotten the acclaim it deserves for shattering convention in the placid realm of midsize autos, forcing all competitors to revise their concepts as well as their cars and powertrains. It was in 2010 that Hyundai brought out the 2011 Sonata, as its conveyance to elite status in the auto world

   It had dramatic new styling, with contours covering both sides and a sleek shape overall; a new 2.4-liter engine with an expensive and efficient direct-injection system that could attain 40 miles per gallon at freeway speeds; a body that, while shapely, was amazingly strong because of the predominance of high-strength steel; new house-built 6-speed stick and automatic transmissions; and all in a less-expensive package than more dominant midsize Accord, Camry, Mazda6, Altima, Malibu and Fusion.


Sonata gains new front, rear and overall refinement for 2018.

That car thrust Hyundai into a previously unattained status in the car business, and forced competitors to shake out of their complacent lethargy and realize there were better ways to build cars and engines. Several updates and revisions have followed, raising the segment dwellers substantially for their 2017 models, with more to come in 2018.

   While all of the midsize competitors have improved greatly in recent years, the smaller compact cars also have grown up and now boast remarkable improvements

   At Hyundai, that means the last compact Elantra that came out, in 2015, has moved up in station to challenge the larger midsize stalwarts.

   With that, we drop in out of the friendly skies to visit Torrey Pines Resort in La Jolla, California, .a suburb of San Diego that also includes a world-class golf course, along the Pacific coastline. It is a wonderful resort, and it is not far down the Coast from Hyundai’s U.S. base offices. That made it convenient as the site for waves of automotive media to experience the first  drives of both the 201 Sonata, and the 2018 Elantra Sport and GT.

Sporty from the front, the Elantra Sport retains the versatility of a hatchback wagon.

   Hyundai gave the Sonata the leadoff slot as the flagship of the company’s identity in the U.S. market, and we had to wait until the next day to examine and drive the Elantra Sport and GT. That was intriguing, because the Sonata, looking more luxurious than ever and with refined driving capabilities, is really a well-crafted mid-cycle update, with stylish new front and rear designs, while the Elantra Sport and GT are entirely new.

   We can introduce both of them together, but add the caution that you may be lured into the Hyundai dealership by the roomy and stylish Sonata, but do not overlook the equally flashy and conveniently sized Elantra, Elantra Sport, and Elantra GT.

   My preference always has favored midsize cars, but as midsize cars grow in size to now approach full-size vehicles in roominess and luxury, the compacts have slyly grown too, and now are pretty much the size you may prefer in your quest for a midsize car.


Stylishly sleek, the Elantra Sport GT is quick, handles well, and got over 40 mpg in the mountains.

The Elantra came out early in this calendar year, and the Elantra Eco, with a new-generation 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, followed in April. The Elantra GT comes next, available about November, and it will be the prize of the litter for folks who appreciate sporty driving and vehicles that respond well to sporty input.  At a base price of $21,650, the Elantra Sport is a strong value for bargain shoppers still craving some fun in their driving

   Any question of the Elantra GT’s credentials are eliminated by realizing it began life as the i30 in Europe, a sporty hatchback that likes to take on the Golf GTI and the hottest Ford Focus ST — with a sizzling turbo 2.0 that produces either 247 or 271 horsepower, both with 260 foot-pounds of torque.  The best way to get the Elantra GT is the GT Sport package, which takes a large step up from the everyday Elantra GT. The U.S. version of the Elantra GT has the 2.0 engine without the turbocharger and with 162 horsepower at 6,200 RPMs, and 150 foot-pounds of torque at 4,700. It comes with either a 6-speed stick or 6-speed automatic.

    The GT Sport parlays the 1.6-liter turbo 4 — my favorite — with a standard 6-speed stick or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and paddles. That package has 201 horses at 6,000 revs, and 195 foot-pounds of torque from 1,500-4,500 RPMs. The GT Sport also has multilink rear suspension and 18-inch wheels, compared to the torsion beam rear suspension and 17s in the Elantra GT.


Various Elantra interior choices include surprising luxury with a sporty flair.

Strangely, there are some items available on the GT Sport that are unavailable on the Elantra GT, such as blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic, lane change assist, lane keep assist, smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and high beam assistance. Both vehicles have stability control, traction control, hill-start assist brake assist and rearview camera.

   More curiously, while the Sonata has discontinued the very impressive panoramic sunroof for 2018, but the Elantra GT and Sport will offer it. The Sport has more bolstered bucket seats up front. The cars are built using 53 percent high-strength steel, leading to an 18 percent increase in the GT’s torsional rigidity, and the GT Sport is 22 percent more rigid and 61 pounds lighter than the previous model, with under-car cladding to improve aerodynamics to a 0.30 cd.

   Driving on a hot day in the California mountains, we appreciated finding ventilated front buckets with cool air coursing through the seats. And the Infinity audio system has seven speakers and a subwoofer with plenty of power.

   Along with all the contemporary connectivity devices and outlets, the remote start can be programmed into your smartphone, which can also turn on your rear defroster on cold mornings. The smart cruise has full stop-start, and there’s a driver attention assist as well.

    We drove pretty hard and appreciated the precise feedback and curve-tracking capability of the Elantra GT and Sport GT, which put its quick-revving 1.6 turbo to good use. Hyundai estimates its previous 40-percent stick shift sales might be reduced to 20-40 percent, but that’s still high these days. The company also projects 15 percent of Elantra buyers will take the turbo, leaving 85 percent the rest of the line.   

Smooth and open interior styling of the new Sonata includes large video screen.

Statistically, the Elantra GT and Sport will have to take on a crowded compact field. The Elantra GT’s 55.1 cubic feet of interior storage will handle that well, compared to the Civic’s 46.2, Chevrolet Cruze 47.2, Mazda3 47.1, Focus 43.9 and Golf 52.7. One other interesting stat: We drove hard over the mountain roads and registered a surprising 41 miles per gallon

   The Elantra is competitive enough that it might also challenge the larger and more profitable Sonata in overall room, as well as handling and performance. The lighter Elantra is 170.9 inches long compared to the Sonata 191.1; Elantra wheelbase is 104.3 inches to 110.4; width 70.7 to 73.4; and height 57.7 to the Sonata’s 58.1. That sounds like a big difference, but the Elantra Sport front and rear headroom is close to Sonata’s: legroom is 3 inches less front and 0.8 inches less in the rear, while shoulder room is also close, 56.2 inches front and 55.4 rear to the Sonata’s 57.9 front and 56.5 rear. The overall interior space is 121.4 in the Elantra to 122.4 in the Sonata.

Latest redesign of the Sonata’s nose shows subtle attempt at being sportier.

  Comparing designs of the 2018 Sonata and Elantra Sport makes it evident that the Sonata is intending to move upscale, and at that, it has the style, technology and roomy comfort to carry it off. The Elantra Sport, meanwhile, becomes a viable choice for a few thousand less, almost the same roominess, and the adventuresome look of the hatchback.

    The larger midsize cars seem the most squeezed by the current rush to SUVs. New models of Accord and Camry have tried to catch the superb Mazda6 and jacked up the segment, and now into the midst of it all comes the seventh-generation Sonata, as a 2018 model.

   When the 2011 Sonata breakthrough hit, it was very popular but drew criticism from skeptics who thought the curvaceous bodywork would be too trendy and might look old before its time. That was an erroneous theory, because while Hyundai scrambled to go back to more conservative designs in every revision, and it now looks quite generic — next to the still-distinctive 2011 Sonatas, which stand out as exclusive and readily recognizable.

   For the 2018 refreshing, Hyundai hired Edward Lee, a young designer who had been working at Lexus. He said his task was a mission statement, “to create an instant ‘Wow!‘ factor.” Lee added that, “We aimed for a striking design starting with the side, where the shape starts low, from the tension of the nose.

   “The front and rear have a new, upright athletic appearance. My favorite views are the front corner, where the contour lines come across the hood and angle down to the outer edges of our cascade grille, and a high view of the rear corner, which is much cleaner and emphasizes the car’s width and have a fresh, modern look, in what might be called horizontal elements in vertical arrangement. I like the way the lines, which connect the headlights and sweep back, all meet at the taillights.”

    Lee confided that he, too, liked the look of the 2011 Sonata, and while he stopped short of saying he was attempting to reverse the trend, he acknowledged his first assignment for Hyundai was to make the Sonata more exciting.

   John Shon, the senior product planning manager, talked about the signature cascade grille, which consists of horizontal bars aligned just right to amplify the hexagonal grille opening. With the broad horizontal top edge, then a short upper side bar, tapering down along longer lower side moldings to the bottom bar, the cascade term refers to the way molten steel flows out and downward. That, too, has meaning, because Hyundai is the only auto-maker that owns its own steel plant, which is why its cars are loaded with the costliest — and safest — high-strength steel.   

My partner and I drove a Sonata Limited with the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, and it handled the terrain and the curves of the mountain roads just east of La Jolla very well. After lunch in the mountain-area town of Julian, we switched to the Sport, with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. And proved conclusively that the quicker-revving engine, wider wheels and Michelin tires made a big improvement in handling and performance.

Sonata has a clean, classic style from the rear corner for 2018.

The range of Sonatas consists of the base SE 2.4 ($22,050 base price); the Eco 1.6-turbo ($22,650); the SEL 2.4 ($23,700); the SEL Tech 2.4 ($24,700); the Sport 2.4 ($25,200); the Limited 2.4 ($27,400); the Limited Ultimate 2.4 ($30,300); the Sport 2.0t ($27,600); and the Limited Sport 2.0t ($32,450).

   The 2.4 is naturally aspirated with direct injection — the engine that put Hyundai on the international map as the joint venture still used by Fiat-Chrysler and Mitsubishi — and delivers a solid 185 horsepower at 6,000 RPMs and 178 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 RPMs. The 2.0-turbo has 245 horsepower at 6,000 RPMs, and 260 foot-pounds at a steady flow from 1,350 to 4,000 RPMs. And the 1.6-liter turbo has 178 horsepower at 5,500 RPMs, and 195 foot-pounds from 1,500-4,500 RPMs.

    The 2.4 comes with a 6-speed automatic, built by Hyundai, and the 2.0 turbo comes with the company’s upgraded 8-speed automatic, and both have Shiftronic to allow manual overrides. The 1.6-turbo has a higher-tech 7-speed dual-clutch automatic in the Eco, which will be out later this year.  Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models will come out next year.

Sportiest Sonata models share the confluence of lines that all point towasrd the cascade grille.

   I liked the Sonata 2.0-Sport because it had paddles on the 8-speed automatic, and coming down from the mountains the paddles allowed me to drop down to fifth, fourth, or even third, and negotiate switchbacks without excessive braking. There was some excessive braking at one point, when a line of about 20 cars was stopped for a lengthy delay because of a rockslide that had come down from the bluff to our left and covered the two-lane highway. We didn’t mind pausing to let them clear that mess.

     The Sonatas are built mostly at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala., plant, and at first, we assumed that was the more newsworthy. But the smaller Elantra was bigger news one day later, and unless I miss my guess, it will captivate you the same way in the showroom.


Volvo’s new XC60 might prove less is more

July 10, 2017 by · Comments Off on Volvo’s new XC60 might prove less is more
Filed under: New car introductions, Features, Autos 

The midsize Volvo XC60 expands on the successful features of the XC90.

By John Gilbert


     Driving in Spain is a colorful adventure that I had experienced once before, so I felt somewhat familiar during the global auto media’s first opportunity to drive Volvo’s new XC60, the all-new midsize derivative of its superb XC90 SUV.

    Volvo stressed the quick and agile handling of the smaller and lighter vehicle with the same powertrain as the larger XC90, which collaborated with Spain’s freeway exits to  instantly become more concise than words could describe.

    On the North American side of the Atlantic, our freeway exits are usually pretty straightforward — you see the exit and veer onto it, heading for another freeway. In Spain, the freeway system was added to centuries-old cities and rural regions, so it’s a little trickier. Often, you head onto an exit and find it immediately splits right and left. I learned this on my first driving trip to Spain, for the splendid S90 Volvo sedan.

   On this trip, our total test drive route was programmed into the navigation setting of our T6 all-wheel drive XC60, so we were informed of upcoming moves by a “Nav Lady,” whom we shall refer to as a “Nav Seniorita” for the sake of geographic accuracy. I drove first, so my co-driver/passenger — a Californian who shall be called “Billy” — could check out the wonderful scenery along and just inland from the Mediterranean without worrying about directions.

Reduced length eliminates third-row seat, but the XC60 has adequate room inside.

   Our next exit was to the right and our Nav Seniorita said: “Prepare to keep right and take the next exit, then immediately keep left.” As I pulled into the right lane, she said, “Take the next exit.” Smoothly and at about 80 kilometers per hour I eased off onto the exit. Then with what seemed like urgency the Nav Seniorita said: “Now keep left!”

   You don’t want to miss an exit in the Land of Roundabouts, so I abruptly swerved back to the left of the exit barrier, and as the XC60 easily cleared the barrier, but Billy said, “No! Stay right!”

   I swerved very abruptly back to the right, still missing the barrier with ease and getting back onto the exit, as the XC60 held its attitude with more poise than its driver, who might have been reflecting the adrenaline rush rising to max. I spotted the split immediately ahead and stayed left, making it smoothly.

   I was impressed that I had reacted instantaneously twice, with two very abrupt left-right swerves at highway speed, and more impressed that the XC60 got it right-on, even while our Nav Seniorita was a bit premature with her counter-direction. The vehicle carried out my impulses without any squeals of complaint or any hint of body roll.

   Inadvertent or not, it’s always nice to get a real-world example of a vehicle’s features rather than just to accepting marketing claims. We believed them when they talked about the lighter and smaller XC60 having better agility than the XC90, because in totally revising the XC60, Volvo took the XC90’s SPA — Scalable Product Architecture — shortened it, and installed the same high-tech powertrains from the XC90 with all-new suspension stuff. Read more

Ioniq gives Hyundai advanced EV and hybrid

April 24, 2017 by · Comments Off on Ioniq gives Hyundai advanced EV and hybrid
Filed under: New car introductions, Autos 

Ioniq offers stylish body on dedicated platform with buyers’ choice of pure electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid power.

By John Gilbert
If the Hyundai Ioniq came out as a stylish new compact car, its sleek and aerodynamic looks, roomy interior, quick and agile performance, and smooth ride would undoubtedly make it a big hit at a base price of $22,200.

But it’s not a mainstream car. Far from it. It has all those above attributes, but it becomes a truly unique vehicle by being offered in a choice of three alternative powertrains. After a brief chance to aggressively road-test two of the Ioniq models, the impression it leaves is — in a word — electrifying.

I asked Hyundai officials if we were all going to be driving electric cars in the near future, or are hybrids a viable alternative. The consensus is that we are headed for electric-powered cars, but it will be a number of years before they take hold, which means hybrids and plug-in hybrids might make the most sense right now. Taking no chances, Hyundai is offering all three alternative powertrains in the new Ioniq.

Apprehensions from preconceived ideas can get in the way of buying a hybrid vehicle, much less a pure-electric one, and while Hyundai officials are aware of all the reasons buyers have for not buying such an alternative-energy car, they have designed the Ioniq to conquer all of them.

The Ioniq is the first car with a dedicated platform — shared with the new Elantra —  designed to offer the choice of the most efficient hybrid in the industry, the most progressive plug-in hybrid in the industry, or the most environmentally sound and efficient pure-electric car in the industry.

That’s a lot of firsts, but ever since Hyundai made technical breakthroughs in engine, fuel injection, transmission efficiency, and design development nearly a decade ago, we shouldn’t be surprised by what those creative engineers in Seoul, South Korea, might come up with.

Pure EV has 124-mile range and can recover 80 percent of full power in 23 minutes, at $30,000.

“The best thing is it looks like a regular car, and it drives like a regular car,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president of products for Hyundai Motors America.

I beg to differ. When my driving partner and I took off on the twisty and not always smooth roadways near Ann Arbor, we drove the Ioniqs harder than a normal citizen might drive. We wanted to push the Ioniq to see if it was just another alternative-energy car or truly something special. My vote was the latter.

If I there was a conventional engine under the hood, I would have been impressed that the Ioniq swept around tight, even blind, curves, always with the car following dutifully and with precision to all steering inputs. The fact that it was pure electric made it all the more impressive when it stayed level, never lurched, and handled the numerous road irregularities we flew across with nary a hint of harshness, looking high-style from every angle.

When my turn was finished, I found the passenger bucket seat supportive and comfortable in all circumstances, and it gave me a better chance to admire the smooth and high-end look and feel to the seats, dashboard and numerous features. They use wood chips and bits of volcanic rock to make the soft and supple top on the dashboard, for example. And they found a way to mix soybean oil into the paint, as another example of making the car sustainable.

The basic Ioniq Hybrid starts at a mere $23,000 including destination, its 1.6 engine helping recharge the battery pack. The plug-in Hybrid next up the scale, while the top-end, pure-electric version starts at $29,500. The EV will have no gas-engine safety net, but it will have a range of 124 miles before needing a recharge. It has a larger electric motor system, and a potent version of the LG Chem battery pack that develops 88 kW, the equivalent of 118 horsepower and 218 foot-pounds of torque, which collaborate to send the car rocketing away from a stop with startling potency.

Large touchscreen offers choice of features for driver and occupants to monitor.

There are other dazzling EVs newly on the market, such as the Tesla, the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and BMW i3. The Bolt has a range of 238 miles, which is very impressive, and the Tesla also has excellent range. O’Brien, however, referred to industry standards for thermal efficiency, which take into account such things as the carbon footprint. Since 67 percent of our electric energy comes from fossil fuel or coal, the reality is that electric power may seem free, but nothing is free.

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to reduce our carbon footprint,” O’Brien said. “They call it an ‘MPGe’ equivalent, and by that calculation the Ioniq is the most efficient EV with a 136 MPGe, which beats the i3, the Bolt, and all other EVs on the market.”

O’Brien explained the assets of the three-pronged answer to all the alternative-energy challenges by first enumerating the challenges.

“While hybrid and electric vehicles have been around for awhile, it’s still a fact that 97 percent of buyers have not bought them,” said O’Brien. “That means only 3 percent are choosing hybrids or electric vehicles. We seem to be stuck on that number. The reasons consumers give for avoiding hybrids are: cost, lack of performance, boring, maintenance worries, not sporty enough, and insufficient passenger or cargo room.

“When you look under the hood of a Camry or Accord hybrid, you see all kinds of extra space, because the platform was designed for a larger engine. With a dedicated platform, and using a small engine with the hybrid, means we didn’t need all that space. So we moved the cowl forward, reducing the size of the engine compartment, and creating a much more spacious interior. Our hybrid has a total interior volume of 122.7 cubic feet, and our plug-in hybrid and EV have 120 cubic feet.”

In addition, Hyundai worked with LG Chem, the South Korean electronics giant that designed and built the battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt, and the new Chevrolet Bolt pure-electric, as well as for Hyundai, Kia and other hybrid car-makers. The streamlined design of the battery pack, with vertical plates, and a lithium ion polymer structure, make it lighter and smaller and able to be form-fit into odd areas. And lithium-ion-polymer battery packs generate more power, hold the charge longer, and recharge more quickly.


Battery pack location under rear seat provides mid-car weight balance, full 122.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

Other hybrid car-makers fit the battery pack under the trunk, which greatly cuts down the cargo room, and, being heavy, gives most hybrids an odd weight-distribution. Hyundai engineers designed the Ioniq with the battery pack under the rear seat, leaving full trunk space, and creating a lower center of gravity and a mid-engine feel that enhances steering and contributes to good handling.

Hyundai engineers also revised their well-proven 1.6-liter Kappa 4-cylinder, a dual-overhead-camshaft gem with direct injection that can make compact cars, midsize cars, and even the Tucson compact SUV perform admirably, with a turbocharger in some cases. In the Ioniq, it is altered with Atkinson-cycle technology that keeps the intake valves closed a bit longer, and delays the opening of the exhaust valves. That allows the air-fuel mixture more time to more fully ignite, resulting in greater thermal efficiency, and extra power. With the hybrid, the engine doesn’t need extra power, because the electric motor supplements any need for power.

In the Ioniq Hybrid, the 1.6 has 104 horsepower at a high 5,700 RPMs, and 109 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 RPMs. The electric motor adds 32 kW (43 horsepower) for a 125 horsepower maximum, and its 125 maximum added torque combines for a 139 foot-pound punch.

The biggest surprise to many traditionalists is that electric motor power is more efficient than a gas engine. It has 100 percent of its torque at zero RPMs, so stepping hard on an electric car’s “gas” pedal can snap your head back by surprise. In the Ioniq Hybrid, the electric motor’s instant torque aids low-end power, and if you need extra power at high speed, the electric power can continue to supplement the 4-cylinder up to 75 miles per hour.

Driver view carries out Ioniq concept of driving normalcy — with changeable gauges..

After being thoroughly impressed with the pure-electric Ioniq, we also drove the base-model hybrid, which also drove well, with quick acceleration, and good steering and handling. Unlike nearly all other hybrids, the Ioniq Hybrid does not use a CVT, the continuously variable transmission that uses belts and pulleys to seamlessly shift, but leaves the unsatisfying feeling of “motorboating” instead of tangible shift points.

Hyundai engineers equipped the Ioniq with their own 6-speed dual-clutch transmission that shifts swiftly and with a decisive sportiness, whether you like paddles or just switching to “sport” to hold shift points higher. The “eco” setting upshifts earlier for better economy, and the Ioniq Hybrid comes away with everyday fuel economy of 59 highway, and 58 mpg combined city-highway. That beats the Prius and all other hybrids, as does the Ioniq’s thermal efficiency that means 40 percent of all its energy goes to its wheels, which are shod with specially designed Michelin tires.

We didn’t get to drive the plug-in hybrid, which is yet to be introduced as the third electrified system. That will move up from the Hybrid’s 32 kWh with 43 horsepower, to 45 kWh, and 60 horsepower. With more electric motor power in the mix, when fully charged it will go 27 miles on electric only, before the gas engine kicks in seamlessly to help.

Both hybrids share the 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. The plug-in Hybrid has a more powerful charger. You can connect to normal household outlets, but if you use the quick-charge system you can recover 80 percent of a full charge in 23 minutes, a fast charge that will let you cover another 99 miles.

All available safety items, including standard rear camera, and the availability of lane-change devices, are included, and the Ioniq also has all the latest in connectivity features.

Spacious room under hatch also houses optional quick-charge kit.

I am eager for a longer test-drive, but the first impression will be hard to shake. The Ioniq beats the tests of cost, sportiness, being not boring, being not sporty, and having insufficient interior room.

If maintenance worries still exist as the last concern, how about this: Along with Hyundai’s usual 10-year, 100,000-mile engine warranty, there is a lifetime warranty on the battery pack.

I kidded O’Brien that if the Ioniq doesn’t quite meet fuel-efficiency figures, they could come out with a Type R and insert a tiny “R” between the “I” and the “O” to make it an “Ironiq.” He didn’t laugh. After driving the car, I’m more inclined to suggest they might need to insert a small “C,” because the new car could indeed become Iconiq.

Atlas more than a shrug as VW’s large SUV

April 20, 2017 by · Comments Off on Atlas more than a shrug as VW’s large SUV
Filed under: New car introductions, Autos 
Volkswagen determined it needed a large, 7-passenger SUV, and in the Atlas, it appears to have a winner.

Volkswagen’s new 2018 Atlas handled swollen rivers of Texas Hill Country with ease.

By John Gilbert


Volkswagen needed a large SUV much more than the marketplace needed another large SUV, and that in essence, is why the Atlas came to be designed and built as an American demands.

If you were a fan of reading Ayn Rand, you could say that VW officials in Wolfsburg, Germany, decided, “We must have a larger SUV,” and Atlas Shrugged. Sorry about that.

The point is that if a consumer family loved its succession of Volkswagen vehicles, but grew past the point where everybody could fit inside a Golf, or a Jetta, or even a Tiguan or Touareg — which will seat four comfortably and five in a squeeze — then they would have to go off and buy a Tahoe, Explorer, Honda Pilot, any of several Toyotas, or any of a couple dozen other alternatives.

Thus it made sense that as a family outgrew its VW, the Atlas would give those customers a larger VW SUV to grow into. It has three rows of seats, foldable into various configurations depending on whether you need to haul people or luggage, or major pieces of equipment.

Atlas features three rows of seats and good cargo room no matter how you position the seats.

The Atlas is the largest vehicle Volkswagen has made, and it will be built in the new Chattanooga, Tenn., plant VW built for Passat sedans. But for the first media drives, Volkswagen decided to corral us in San Antonio, from where we were driven northward to the small town of Boerne, Texas, and stationed at the Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort.

It is a fantastic facility, with an 18-hole golf course, and enough space to hold various presentation meetings, as well as a full-scale Texas barbeque. (I like barbequed brisket, but I don’t bother with it when there are also ribs available; there were ribs available at our patio dinner, cooked as perfectly as you could want.)

After we looked over the large exterior of the Atlas, senior product manager Mark Gillies began his presentation by explaining why the company picked the vast expanse of Texas for the intro drive. “The Atlas is big, and it looks right at home with all the big SUVs down here,” he said. Other officials added that it is designed, tailored and built in the U.S. “to fit American families.”

The Atlas looks the part, but the secret of success in that hotly competitive segment is how the vehicle feels, how it drives, and how flexible its game plan is executed. The Atlas is built on VW’s MQB platform, which is versatility personified. The entire Golf family, Jetta, Passat and Tiguan all share versions of that underpinning. Read more

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