Review: Diesel suits 2016 GMC Canyon pickup

The GMC Canyon midsize pickup is a conventional-wisdom slayer. Before the Canyon and its corporate cousin, the Chevrolet Colorado, went on sale in 2015, conventional wisdom said the market for midsize pickups was as dead as the VCR.Customers disproved that the moment they saw the new pickups. The Canyon and Colorado sold beyond expectations, won a slew of awards and made General Motors’ product planning department look like the smartest kids in class. GM sold 84,430 Chevy Colorados and 30,077 Canyons in 2015. It’s looking for ways to boost production this year.The ★★★ 2016 GMC Canyon diesel faces a new challenge. The fuel-efficient technology’s thrifty and environmentally friendly image has been smeared by Volkswagen rigging millions of diesels to cheat emissions tests. A Google News search for the word "diesel" delivers headlines including words such as “lawsuit,” “cheating,” “failed emissions tests” and “worst yet to come.”The only vaguely positive headlines are for reports that Vin Diesel will appear in “Fast and Furious” 8, 9 and 10, perhaps the lowest bar anything ever had to clear to be considered good news.Can the Canyon turn the tide?Good fuel economy, drivability and practicality say "Yes"; a high price quibbles, “Maybe.”Canyon prices start at $20,995 for an extended-cab rear-drive model. I tested a loaded 4x4 short box SLT crew cab that stickered at $43,440, a $4,125 premium — $3,730 for the engine, the rest for goodies like lane-departure alert and an integrated trailer brake — over a gasoline version of the same truck. An automatic transmission comes standard with the diesel.At that price, the diesel is for committed fans, particularly since prices for the fuel in the U.S. vary widely from one part of the country to another and are often higher than those for the regular gasoline other pickups use.The Canyon and Colorado compete Continue Reading

Review: 2017 Hyundai Elantra packs advanced features

Small-car shoppers who’ve been out of the market awhile are in for a shock. A new generation of compacts is bringing extraordinary levels of technology and safety to the segment once dominated by ill-equipped cars from the bargain basement. The latest is the ★★★  2017 Hyundai Elantra, which offers features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot, cross-traffic and lane-departure alerts.While the Elantra is at the forefront with those technologies, its fuel economy and power trail other new compacts like the Honda Civic and 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. Other competing compacts include the Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Kia Rio, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta.Elantra prices start at $17,150. All Elantras come with a 147-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automatic raises the base price to $18,150.I tested a top-of-the line Elantra Limited with plenty of options, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, touch screen, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and audio, heated front and rear seats, power sunroof and more. It cost $26,875. All prices exclude destination charges.Elantra prices are competitive with those of other compact cars.The Elantra’s new exterior design is more restrained than that of its emotive predecessor, which grabbed attention with an abundance of lines and creases.  A large hexagonal grille and slim headlights give the 2017 a face that’s consistent with Hyundai’s Sonata midsize sedan. The Elantra’s wheelbase is unchanged, but the body is slightly longer, wider and taller. Passenger space increased very slightly. The trunk is a smidge smaller. Both capacities are in the middle of the compact pack.The Elantra’s interior has plenty of storage, with a big bin in the center console and plenty of other cubbies. The controls are simple and easy to use, with dials and buttons for voice Continue Reading

Review: 2017 Kia Sportage adds flash to compact SUV

Kia separates from the pack with the sporty and striking ★★★  2017 Sportage SX AWD crossover, which has the looks, power and personality to be a leader in the white-hot market for compact SUVs.The Sportage cranks up Kia’s design mojo, confronting the world with the visage of a bionic wasp and a profile that wouldn’t look out of place on a Porsche. The nose features the latest iteration of Kia’s “tiger nose” grille. The front lights have 18 lenses by my count, giving the Sportage a cold, hard stare that’s part machine, part multifaceted insect-eye.The Sportage competes with compact SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan. These are some of the most popular vehicles on the road. They’ve replaced compact sedans as the first car of choice for many young buyers.The class is broad enough to cover a wide range of powerplants, from a 3.6L V6 in the Equinox to the Tucson’s 1.6L four-cylinder turbo. The SUVs’ sizes also vary widely. At the large end, the Equinox is 187.8 inches long and the CR-V claims 101.5 cubic feet of passenger space. The Tiguan is more than a foot shorter, at 174.5 inches, with 95.4 cubic feet of passenger room. The segment will become a little more cohesive when the next generation of Equinox and Tiguan get a bit smaller and larger, respectively.The Sportage falls in the middle, at 176.4 inches long. Prices start at $22,990 for a front-drive model with a 181-hp 2.4L four-cylinder engine. Moving up to AWD raises the starting price to $24,490. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Sportages.I tested a top SX AWD with a 240-hp turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine. It had leather seats, navigation, Harman Kardon audio, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and audio compatibility, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot alert and more. It stickered at $34,000. All prices Continue Reading

Review: Sky’s the limit for Buick Cascada convertible

“Man, beautiful car,” a passerby says after a double take. “That’s a Buick?” a passing bike rider asks. “Cool Buick,” “Sweet,” call out a couple of kids bouncing a basketball.Then again, maybe it’s not an alternate reality. Perhaps this is reality.It’s 2016. Buick is cool, sweet, beautiful and possibly about to become one of the auto industry’s hot brands.The Cascada compact 2+2 convertible exemplifies a lot of what’s going right for Buick. It’s essentially a twin of a car General Motors’ European Opel brand began selling in 2013. Buick is a major beneficiary of the globalization of GM’s engineering and vehicle-development processes. Opel developed the Cascada using GM’s global architecture, which also underpins the closely related Opel Astra and Buick Verano compacts.If GM hadn’t allied Buick with Opel a few years ago, the U.S. Cascada wouldn’t exist. The convergence of the brands’ design, engineering and personalities has helped both enormously. Buick gets cars with sharp handling like the Cascada, Verano and Regal. Opel benefits with vehicles like the Mokka subcompact SUV, an adaptation of the Buick Encore that got Opel into one of Europe’s hot-selling segments ahead of the competition.China also played a huge role in Buick’s resurgence. Buick’s vehicles and reputation had deteriorated badly in the U.S., but Chinese buyers remembered when Buick built great, powerful, stylish cars. They expected Buicks to be great when GM sought to do business in the world’s most populous country. GM complied by building great Buicks for the first time in decades, and that ethic fed back into the U.S. Buick model line.Buick sold 1.23 million vehicles last year — 900,000 in China. It’s GM’s second-biggest brand globally behind Chevrolet. Add Opel’s 1.1 million, and the twinned brands are a global powerhouse, Continue Reading

Review: Chevrolet Traverse High Country is high in price, features

If you’ve wondered why automakers are canceling redesigns of cars and adding more SUVs to their lineups, let me enlighten you: $53,085. That’s the sticker price of the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse High Country I recently tested.It’s also $16,665 more than the most expensive version of Chevy’s Impala, the slow-selling sedan that used to be the brand’s top offering for family buyers.Do the math. This is the textbook definition of a sweet spot. The new Traverse rides the crest of a wave that’s changing the auto industry as people flee conventional sedans for taller SUVs that are the functional equivalent of a station wagon, with the added benefit of better sight lines and all-wheel drive.It’s also a golden goose for General Motors, with the potential to deliver the kind of profit Chevy hasn’t earned in decades from the family vehicles that are the brand’s lifeblood.For consumers, the Traverse offers room, features, comfort and — surprisingly, given its hefty price tag — value.The 3.6-liter engine gives the Traverse more power than all competitors except the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 Ford Explorer Sport and Platinum and Dodge Durango R/T’s much larger 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The auto-stop feature, which shuts the engine off when idling to save fuel, is one of the smoothest in the industry. I wouldn’t have noticed the engine shut off at all, if not for a slight decline in ventilation when the air conditioning was not set to max.A 255-horsepower turbocharged 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine will be available in the upcoming RS model. Chevy hasn’t announced its price yet. More: Review: Lexus LC 500 offers stunning looks, impressive power More: Review: Ford adds more to its F-150 pickup for 2018 More: Review: Hyundai Ioniq Electric can't quite go the distance A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.I tested a loaded High Country. In Continue Reading

Car review: 2018 Kia Stinger takes the Kia brand to a whole new level

Everything you think you know about Kia is wrong.Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I was wrong, too, until I logged a couple hundred miles in a 2018 Kia Stinger GT that was fresh from hitting 167 miles per hour on Germany’s famed Nürburging  race course.I had the bright red, 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged Stinger for 48 hours, and I want more. The test was too brief for a full review but more than long enough to know that the Stinger fulfills its corporate mission: change how people think of Kia with a car that handles like a top sport sedan and looks like nothing else on the road.The Stinger rolls into Kia dealerships later this year with prices starting at $31,900 for a base 253-horsepower rear-wheel-drive model with a 253-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. I tested a nearly fully loaded Stinger GT with a 3.3-liter, 6-cylinder twin-turbo that pumps out 365 horsepower, 376 pound-feet of torque and accelerates to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. It stickered at $49,500. A sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission is standard. All-wheel drive is a $2,200 option on all models.  That’s a lot of money for a Kia, the brand best known for commercials featuring spunky hamsters and the cute and boxy $16,100 Soul.It’s tempting to assume the Stinger, with its Euro-style looks and chassis, is Kia’s prelude to a premium brand. That’s the strategy Kia’s corporate sibling employed with Genesis, which debuted as a single sport sedan and morphed into a luxury brand.Kia executives swear that’s not the case. They say the Stinger exists to improve the whole brand’s image, ushering in other premium models and making everything from the Soul to sport-utility vehicles such as the Sportage and Sorento seem just a bit more special.The next step in Kia’s evolution is likely to be a luxurious and sporty SUV, possibly based on the classy Telluride Continue Reading

Review: Volkswagen Atlas carries its weight well

“Mainstream” isn’t synonymous with “average,” but the challenge of creating vehicles that are one, but not the other, has stumped some of the world’s leading automakers. The latest example is the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, a family SUV that bids to win drivers’ hearts and minds with seating for seven and plenty of features for the money.Atlas is VW’s long-awaited attempt to compete with SUVs like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. They’ve become the vehicles of choice for American families with multiple children who don't want a minivan.If the idea of a German interpretation of the American family SUV intrigues you, you’ll still be wondering after you see the Atlas. Its size and styling break no new ground. The Atlas was developed to fit in at the preschool, not stand out. Friends mistook my test car for an Explorer, and I repeatedly walked up to a Jeep Grand Cherokee in the same parking lot where I left the Atlas.Prices for the new 2018 VW Atlas start at $30,500 for a base front-wheel drive model with a turbocharged 235-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine.All other models are powered by a 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, starting with a $31,900 front-wheel-drive model and $33,700 model with VW’s all-wheel-drive system, which the automaker calls 4Motion. More: Review: BMW gets it right with 540i xDrive More: Review: Chevrolet Traverse High Country is high in price, features More: Car review: 2018 Kia Stinger takes the Kia brand to a whole new level All Atlases have an eight-speed automatic transmission.The Atlas’s acceleration is perfectly adequate, but there’s nothing sporty about this very practical SUV. Drivers who prize acceleration or invigorating handling should check out the Dodge, Ford and Mazda.I found the steering too light and numb in normal mode, but the sport mode suited me fine. The suspension Continue Reading

Review: 2016 Mazda CX-5 Refines a Successful Recipe

Full Car Details More Reviews Consistency, over time, and with purpose, serves any organization well. Mazda understands this, especially as of late, and is hitting home runs with each time at bat. For the 2016 model year, a redesigned version of its iconic MX-5 Miata arrives, along with a new “Driving Matters” advertising theme. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. Additionally, Mazda gives two of its three best-selling models a styling and technology refresh: the Mazda6 sedan and CX-5 crossover SUV. Sitting on the smaller side of the compact crossover continuum, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is better than ever thanks to the addition of new Mazda Connect infotainment technology, upgraded safety systems, and numerous nips here and tucks designed to bring greater sophistication to the model. My test vehicle, equipped with Grand Touring trim and most available upgrades, included these new features and wore a sticker price reflecting that fact. Still, even loaded up, this CX-5 came in at $32,405, including the $880 destination charge, which is less than the average transaction price for a new vehicle sold in America. Mazda offers the CX-5 in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. A manual gearbox and a less powerful engine are standard in the Sport, while the Touring and Grand Touring add a stronger motor and an automatic. All-wheel drive is available for all three models, but to get it with the Sport trim you first need to buy the bigger engine and an automatic transmission. Prices start at less than $23,000. My test vehicle was nearly $10,000 more, but included leather seats, the new Mazda Connect infotainment system, a Bose premium audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless passive entry with push-button engine starting, a reversing camera with rear cross-traffic alert, a blind-spot monitoring system, a Continue Reading

2015 Lexus ES 350 full review and test drive

Full Car Details More Reviews As a person who loves to drive engaging cars, it is hard for me to admit that I genuinely like and would recommend the Lexus ES. Until the ES was redesigned for the 2013 model year, this was not the case. Now, however, it’s clear that this entry-luxury sedan is just about a perfect for most people, most of the time. The Lexus ES is among the best-selling models in the company’s lineup, and has been since Toyota launched its luxury brand 25 years ago. Emphasizing comfort, quiet, and premium design and trim details, the ES had always been different enough from the Toyota Camry (upon which it was based) that buyers didn’t notice, or care, about its humble lineage. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. With the most recent redesign, the ES moved from the Camry platform to the larger Avalon sedan platform. Lexus also wrapped the car in stylish sheet metal and installed a dramatically different interior with modern tech and contemporary finishes. Combined with that traditional layer of Lexus refinement, the new ES recipe virtually guarantees success among loyalists. Lexus wanted to broaden the car’s appeal by making the ES less of a rolling sleep aid, however. So in went Drive Mode Select with a Sport driving mode, quicker steering, and suspension revisions. Working in tandem with a stiffer body structure, the Lexus ES now accelerates and handles with something approaching enthusiasm. Great-looking 18-inch wheels join the optional equipment list, too. Collectively, these changes make the Lexus ES more attractive and engaging to drive than ever. It’s not a sport sedan, of course, but it’s a refreshing step in that direction. READ MORE ABOUT THE 2015 LEXUS ES 350. Combine this newfound style and driving enjoyment with supremely comfortable seats, bulletproof reliability, favorable crash-test ratings, and decent Continue Reading

Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic test drive and review

Full Car Details More Reviews In the crowded world of sport-utilities and crossovers, the GLA250 is the least expensive one you’ll find with a prestigious Mercedes-Benz badge on the nose. Positioned beneath the larger and more expensive GLK-Class, the GLA is classified as a compact and carries a base sticker price of $32,225 (including destination charge). That’s a bit of an allusion, however, since there are some important items that you’re going to want to add onto the GLA. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. Adding all-wheel-drive costs an additional $2-grand, for example. Optioning in extra safety equipment like a rear-view camera ($450), parking assist ($950), and the available Driver Assistance Package (which includes blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist) all push the price higher still. The Driver Assistance suite of options comes in at a cool $2,500. All in all, it’s easy to make this bargain Mercedes crossover a pretty pricey proposition and it brings about a moment of automotive déjà vu, considering we faced the same pricing dilemma during our first encounter with the CLA250 and CLA45 AMG sedan. Unlike the CLA, which we found was much a better deal when kept as close to stock as possible, the GLA becomes a more enticing package with a few carefully selected options. Before you start adding anything onto this crossover, the GLA is already arguably the more attractive of the two Mercedes vehicles. The taller stance of the GLA gives it a presence that’s lacking in the CLA sedan. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GLA250 HERE. The materials used in the GLA cabin – from the dashboard plastics, to the fit of the door panels – also feel a cut above what we experienced in the CLA. There are a few cheap-looking plastics here and there, but that’s a criticism you can toss at nearly every entry-level luxury sedan or crossover. Continue Reading