Featured Reviews
Pure EV has 124-mile range and can recover 80 percent of full power in 23 minutes.

Ioniq gives Hyundai advanced EV and hybrid

Hyundai shot high with its new Ioniq, aiming for the most efficient electric vehicle, as well as the top-mileage hybrid and plug-in hybrid. EV with quick-charge recovery and 124-

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Jeep Compass still here, finds bold new path

In Jeep's array of successful SUVs, the Compass seemed forgotten. The new model, however, makes a giant stride to challenging siblings like Cherokee and Renegade.

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Looking more "mainstream" than Subarus normally do, the 2017 Impreza is entirely new.

New Impreza hidden in plain view

The Impreza has been a loyal soldier for Subaru, and its reward is an all-new platform, body, interior, and overall impression for 2017. The Impreza 2.0 Sport starts at $23,000.

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Atlas handled swollen rivers of Texas Hill Country with ease.

Atlas more than a shrug as VW's large SUV

Volkswagen's array of vehicles ranged from compact cars to midsize SUVs, but the company's dealers and customers wanted a large, 7-seat SUV -- so the Atlas was born.

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Mazda's CX-9 for 2017 has a sleeker and more luxurious demeanor.

As biggest Mazda, CX-9 fills key niche

As a small car company, Mazda can alter its course swiftly, and while revising its engines to Skyactiv potency and improving its sedans, it also heightened the technology of its

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Rugged exterior of Ram 2500 Power Wagon looks imposing, and fulfills that image.

Ram Power Wagon lives up to lofty image

It doesn't matter if you realize that Dodge made a rugged military truck called the Power Wagon during World War II, or even that you recall the first production version. The 201

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Mercedes Metdris vans offer reasonable size for cargo or riders.

Metris offers new reasons to tour auto show

Driving a new Mercedes Metris cargo van added to the curiosity of checking out the passenger version at the Twin Cities Auto Show.

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If it is intended to replace the late and beloved Taurus SHO, the Fusion Sport looks the part.

New Fusion adds flair with Sport model

Ford's Fusion has been a stalwart member of the growing midsize segment for years, but without fanfare the car's revision for 2017 has various upgrades -- including a Sport model

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Irregularity of winter blizzards are nothing to the allroad with its venerable quattro AWD.

Audi allroad returns with all-road perfection

Audi followed through on the idea of discontinuing its allroad wagon a couple of decades ago, but it is back for 2017, and it is lower and sleeker but still over-built for this e

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Toyota's diminutive C-HR could steal customers from the RAV4.

Compact crossovers rule auto-show world

High-profit large SUVs are manufacturers' favorites, but consumers prefer small compact crossovers, such as Toyota's new C-HR and an auto-show-full of others.

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Ram Power Wagon lives up to lofty image

March 31, 2017 by · Comments Off on Ram Power Wagon lives up to lofty image
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Rugged exterior of Ram 2500 Power Wagon looks imposing, and fulfills that image.

By John Gilbert

All right, we’ve established a few ground rules for large pickup truck wars, which have escalated to the point where the full-size trucks are so huge, the new breed of midsize trucks seems more than large enough. But if we did have to have a monster truck truck-off, so to speak, what would we pick to win?

That’s pretty impossible to say, because truck wars have such indelibly inscribed sets of favorites you’re sure to offend somebody when you pick something different. More likely, everybody makes their contribution.

Having previously reported on the Ford monster dualie F350, it’s hard to find anything bigger or bossier. The F250 Super Duty, meanwhile, is a monster that could be a candidate for king of the reasonably-sized monster trucks. And Ford’s Raptor is a specially built performance king for serious off-road duty with an ultra-macho on-road presence.

None of that prepares us for today’s topic, however. Which would be Dodge. Now Dodge, for example, gets no choice any more because Dodge trucks are no longer Dodge trucks; they are Rams. We will accept as a valid candidate the newest and most monster-like Ram of them all, the “Ram 2500 Power Wagon Crew Cab 4X4.” Got all that?

If a Power Wagon needs power, how about a 6.4-liter Hemi V8? This is the basic engine that powers the Hellcat Charger and Challenger models, with 707 tire-screeching horsepower, only this one is normally aspirated, and it is beefed up for heavy-duty trucking.

If you’re taking a group to see, for example, a Monster Truck competition, the Ram Power Wagon would be the ideal conveyance.

Neatly stowed inside the front bumper is a 12,000-pound winch.

The heavy-duty grille rollbars add to the impression that you’re ready for some heavy use. And imbedded horizontally into the front bumper is a small cable with a little tag on the end. It is a 12,000 pound winch. Pull the tab and it uncoils. I figure you could use this thing to drive along after a blizzard and pull your neighbor’s semi out of a ditch, if necessary.

This monster is, indeed, a monster, and it even has a feature or two that puts it onto a higher monster plateau than the huge Fords. It is a “bad”-looking truck, in the manner of current vernacular where “bad” means “real good,” or, as humans used to say, “cool.” Only the Ford Raptor rivals the visual impact of the Power Wagon. Read more

Metris offers new reasons to tour auto show

March 16, 2017 by · Comments Off on Metris offers new reasons to tour auto show
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 


Mercedes Metdris vans offer reasonable size for cargo or riders.

By John Gilbert

When the Twin Cities Auto Show arrived on the same weekend as the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament, I knew I’d find a way to get to both events, even though they are separated by the 10 miles from the Minneapolis Convention Center to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center ice arena.

The Twin Cities Auto Show, scheduled through March 19, is not one of the nation’s major shows, more of a dealer-oriented and operated show with vehicles contributed by the regional dealerships, and without the Detroit-Chicago-L.A.-New York displays of concept cars and futuristic things. The theme is similar, however, with an emphasis on trucks and SUVs, and reflecting the nation’s sudden urge for compact crossovers (CUV), and electrified vehicles.

The “Car of the Show” was the new Chevrolet Cruze Coupe, and after strolling through the dozens of Chevrolets looking for a two-door Cruze, I asked somebody and learned that the “Coupe” term is in roofline silhouette only, which other manufacturers call “Four-door coupe” styling.

Chevrolet’s Cruze “Coupe.”

Aside from drawing the scorn of our new President Trump for having the audacity to build the Cruze Coupe in Mexico, instead of the United States, Chevrolet has designed a winner with the Cruze Coupe, which has a neat style and a fastback roofline that ends in a hatchback.

While I never tire of strolling among a lot of new cars at any auto show, I had a couple of specific reasons for my search at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I had been doing a test drive on a 2017 Mercedes Metris that week, and I was quite curious about that vehicle, spooky as it was handling a light snowfall on top of some serious melt-then-freeze ice in my driveway.

The Metris has a front engine with rear-wheel drive, which is not the right prescription for driving through Duluth, MN., in wintertime in any reasonably competent manner. But I made it.

Metris in the wild.

Metris seats.






Metris cargo hold.        

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New Fusion adds flair with Sport model

March 2, 2017 by · Comments Off on New Fusion adds flair with Sport model
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Fusion gets some restyling for 2017, but also adds an AWD Sport model.

When the Ford Fusion was first introduced, I thought it was the most appealing design ever slapped onto the sheetmetal of a Detroit sedan. It still stirs the senses when one drives by.

For 2017, it was time for a major revision and upgrading of the Fusion, and Ford has done the job well. Particularly well, in the case of the Fusion Sport, which is a high-performance version of the venerable family sedan.

As a member in good standing of the midsize segment, which has come under heavy pressure from the enlarging gang of compacts below and the larger crossover SUVs coming at it from above. But the best midsize cars hold their own well, including the Accord, Camry, Mazda6, Altima, Sonata, Optima, Malibu, and Passat sedans == and the Fusion is right in there.

The Sport, however, is something else. Not since Ford made a top-level Taurus in high-performance SHO form has the company made such a stirring everyday driver as the Fusion Sport.

The sweeping lines resembling 4-door-coupe style makes the new Fusion stand out.

In keeping with Ford’s concept of downsizing in the engine bay, to let V6es do the job of V8s, and hot 4s replace V6es, the Fusion Sport makes top use of its EcoBoost plan to replace a solid engines with an enlivened but smaller engine, turbocharged to jack-up performance.

The garden-variety Fusion comes with your choice of a 1.5 or 2.0 liter 4-cylinders, where the 2.0 can be turbocharged to meet EcoBoost standards, plus there’s a hybrid that adds an electric motor to the 2.0’s output. Or, you can move up to the Sport.

That gets you some subtle trim touches, a neat interior, slick wheels that are 19-inchers, sportier suspension, and two major features that should leave the more mundane members of the competition wheezing and looking at the Fusion Sport’s quad tailpipes.

One of those is a twin turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. The 2.7 gets twin turbochargers to boost — literally — power up to 325 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. All that power makes great use of the other major feature — all-wheel drive. Read more

Audi allroad returns with all-road perfection

February 22, 2017 by · Comments Off on Audi allroad returns with all-road perfection
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 


Audi’s allroad is lower, sleeker and still has more ground clearance for versatility.

By John Gilbert

A couple of decades — and an SUV craze or two — ago, a good friend of my younger son asked me how wise it would be to buy a used Audi allroad, which was a very nice and svelte station wagon-type vehicle that you could actually take off the road because of some armor-plating underneath.

Now, I’ve always been a big fan of Audi’s technology, and I’ve visited the Audi home plant in Ingolstadt, Germany, a couple of times, but I issued a word of caution to my young friend, because the word behind the scenes at that time was that Audi was going to discontinue the allroad because of slow sales. So he bought something else.

Flash forward a few years, and I saw an allroad and I realized that the drivetrain and all the mechanicals were all fine in the car, and my advice was premature for a young family in St. Paul. Now it is 2017, and while Audi is at the top of its game in competing with BMW and Mercedes for fine German car sales, I paused in my favorable impression of a new Audi A4 sedan because my test car for a mid-February week was (trumpets, please) a 2017 Audi allroad.

Irregularity of winter blizzards are nothing to the allroad with its venerable quattro AWD.

After this review gets filed, I’m going to notify my son’s friend and apologize for my hasty suggestion years ago, and advise him that maybe he should look anew at the allroad. Incidentally, at Audi’s insistence, allroad is spelled with a lower-case “a” just as its quattro all-wheel-drive system is spelled with a lower-case “q.” In fact, it’s amusing to note that Motor Trend, Car & Driver, and other auto publications insist on spelling it with a cap Quattro, as though that distinction makes them superior in some fashion.

The new allroad is all-new, and it is a superb vehicle, with, of course, quattro, which made confronting a Northern Minnesota snowstorm and its below-zero after-effects a simple matter, both for traction, stability, and exercising those seat-heaters.

It is based on the platform of the new A4 sedan, which has grown up in recent years with its price rising with its sophistication. It is now Audi’s base compact/midsize sedan, pushing the larger A6 and A8 up a couple of price categories. Read more

Compact crossovers rule auto-show world

February 14, 2017 by · Comments Off on Compact crossovers rule auto-show world
Filed under: Features, Autos 

The EcoSport, smaller than the Escape, is Ford’s new compact SUV.

By John Gilbert

CHICAGO, ILL. — The available shelf-life of an auto show is brief, but for Midwesterners who can get to the fine city of Chicago before February 20, there is a chance to turn a short trip to enjoy countless fine restaurants, nightclubs and blues joints into the chance to see all the newest stuff available from the top automakers of the world.

This may not be the most scintillating season for new vehicles, because Los Angeles and Detroit have already run their car-show course before the annual Chicago Auto Show hits McCormick Place, and most new cars have been shown already. But the nation’s best exhibition hall has a lot of things consumers will find of great interest. Mainly, the current upsurge in interest in small crossover SUVs is evident everywhere.

Ford brings back the huge Expedition to capture large-SUV profit.

You can range from Ford — featuring the return of the gy-normous Expedition for large family and trailer hauling, but also tipping off its mini EcoSport, just a bit downsized from the populsr compact Escape. And the tiny but roomy C-Max which is nothing if not electrifying, remains.

The Mustang has been revised again, but its various recent styling twitches and tweaks have reached the point where a variety of them might prove impossible to discern from the others. No more V6, however, as Mustang goes from stalwart V8 to EcoBoost 4s.

Toyota’s diminutive C-HR could steal customers from the RAV4.

KIA is showing off the all-new Stinger luxury/sports sedan in all its South Korean sleek splendor, but it also has the intriguing new Niro Hybrid compact SUV.

Toyota displays TRD sporty versions of the Tundra and Tacoma pickups and Sequoia large SUV, but finds it difficult to hide the swoopy little C-HR that starts out south of the popular RAV4 in both size and price. Its upscale Lexus display features the LS large sedan, which has taken on a much sportier demeanor, and a couple of SUVs that also play to the small but high-performance concept.

When the 2017 Mazda CX-5 hits the streets it will have style upgrade and G-Vectoring.

The Mazda display is easy to overlook, because the stylish group of vehicles is familiar. But they deserve scrutiny. The large CX-9 has been out a while, and the Mazda6 and Mazda3 sedans look quite the same, too, as do the new small crossovers, the CX-3 and the CX-5. The CX-5 actually is all new, and if you look closely, the red one is a red that is exclusive only to the CX-5.  The true newness of all the Mazdas is something called G-Vectoring — an incredible new technological concept that gives all 2017 Mazdas the ability to tip off the driver to turn and swerve in a predictable manner that means the elimination of steering correction. The cars are beautiful, but beauty is “only” skin deep, so look closer!

Rogue Sport is a new and shorter version of the popular Nissan Rogue (left).

Nissan, on the other hand, is leading the way in using graphic design, such as solid paint schemes of white, grey, red or black, all with stark black trim, to promote a new Midnight fleet of virtually everything it makes, from the more powerful half-ton Titan XD pickup, on down to the Rogue and all the sedans, down to the Sentra. Yet the display might be stolen by the subtly downsize Rogue Sport, which is a foot shorter than the regular Rogue. The all-new Armada stands above the other Nissans in size and capability, and a new Pathfinder, which benefits from Nissan’s new engine upgrades.

General Motors is taking a similar route, coming out with a Red Line trim feature on a large group of its vehicles. It’s a familiar idea, to use paint schemes to disguise the fact that you’ve already shown most of your stable, but of course Chevrolet has the all-electric Bolt, which continues to wrack up assorted Car of the Year awards, even though it is not yet out on the streets, and may not be until mid-summer.

The Giulia is just arriving, and Alfa Romeo adds the Stelio as its partner.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have all sorts of new toys, featuring the Alfa Romeo Giulia — finally — and the Stelvio, which is a brother in arms with a crossover SUV so flashy that Alfa is pulling back its idea of a Giulia wagon. Also, yet another variation for the Challenger, which just introduced the AWD Challenger GT and now is hitting us with the Mopar Challenger with a giant 6.4-liter Hemi, and a Durango SRT hot rod SUV. Meanwhile, its Jeep arm displays its array and gives proper reason for why the compact Compass still exists by showing off the to-be-introduced new model with refined restyling that stays just north of the Renegade.

The Germans are not to be outdone, of course, with Volkswagen’s new Atlas large SUV as well as the Golf Alltrack and the elongated Tiguan — which will join and then probably replace the blunt but roomy-enough Tiguan, an under-appreciated vehicle that might have been well-sized for this current compact crossover trend.

BMW has its latest SUVs and also the new 5-Series, while Mercedes now has so many SUVs, crossovers and sports cars — many of them with added AMG potency — that it’s hard to find room to walk among them and identify the alphabetized nameplates that only a marketing whiz can remember.

Audi has a fine spread of Q-ship SUVs of all sizes, and sedans and coupes to seduce anyone with a tidy checkbook.

The F-Pace proves Jaguar can make SUVs as well as classic cars.

Jaguar also has a dazzling display, with its slinky coupes and new high-tech sedans, as well as the F-Pace, a hot-looking vehicle that indicates the folks at Coventry catch on when it comes to building a promising SUV. Adjoining the Jaguars is the off-road cousin Land Rover display, with new and fancy top-end SUVs and also the newly redesigned Discovery, which now has its name spelled out on the upper lip leading edge of its hood, where it used to say Land Rover.”

Subaru has a new Legacy, and it advances the company farther along the lines of being less quirky and more mainstream. Which is a good thing for Subaru, as it continues to make durable and strong flat-opposed engines that I wish would get better fuel economy.

Mitsubishi is another Japanese company that always seems to be seeking an upturn, and it now is being propped up by Nissan.Its new Outlander SUV is the only new thing, offsetting the elimination of the Lancer and its much-loved Evolution.

Hyundai GT has a new look with a big upgrade in high-strength steel and a 1.6 turbo..

Hyundai is about to introduce its new Ioniq, which may indeed be iconic — or iconiq — with a choice of all-electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Meanwhile, Hyundai added to its complement with the new GT version of the popular Elantra, its Civic-Corolla-Mazda3 sized compact, now with about double the high-grade steel, to 53 percent. It has a fresh new style with a hatchback-wagon theme that Hyundai designers have turned into a true sporty vehicle. So sporty, in fact, that I asked Hyundai folks why, since they offer the same 1.6-turbo 4 as the Tucson crossover, they don’t add the AWD platform under the Hyundai GT. All I got were blank stares.

But arming compacts with the very feature that is allowing compact crossovers to crowd small sedans to a lesser corner in the marketplace might be the one distinct way to fight back and change the all-out crossover SUV trend to trend of compact sedans that do the work of crossovers.

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