FEED - MotorWeek
In Podcast 185, John Davis and the MotorWeek crew discuss the new Nissan Leaf and the new Jeep Cherokee. Then, FYI reporter Stephanie Hart talks about her recent drive of the new Lexus ES and her upcoming stories for the season 38 of MotorWeek. Last, the panel helps a viewer with questions about getting odors out of a car interior
Road Test: 2018 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet
Goss' Garage: Brake Caliper Maintenance
Muscle Car Memories: Chevelle Laguna Type S3
Quick Spin: 2019 Honda Insight
Quick Spin: 2019 Hyundai Kona
Road Test: 2018 BMW X3
Engine: 3.8 liter
Torque: 516 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 2.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 10.8 seconds @ 129 mph
EPA: 19 mpg city / 24 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 15.7 barrel of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 7.1 tons/yr
When summertime arrives here at Motorweek, convertibles become very popular. Add the fact that our latest drop top was a Porsche 911 Turbo S, and well… the keys, as well as the car, always seemed to be “gone missing”. Fortunately, we were able to get some work done with it too. So, here’s our latest sun burned jaunt, Porsche style!
There may be more race-ready 911s that you can buy, but the Porsche 911 Turbo S is still the top dog in a lineup that now consists of some 20 911 variants. And this 2018 Cabriolet body style not only allows you to get in touch with nature while you’re streaking around your favorite back roads, but it make sure everyone knows who’s behind the wheel too. Whatever your motivation, you’ll find plenty to love here.
Of course one of our favorite things about any 911, is launch control. It’s equal parts brutality, simplicity, and rocketry; allowing you to leap off the line no matter where you are, with maximum effect.
The pure visceral experience starts when you release the brake and slingshot off the line. All-wheel-drive traction gets you going in a haste; but prepare to do some quick steering, as depending on which wheel is getting the most grip, things can get interesting rapidly too.
60 miles-per-hour arrives in just 2.9-seconds; stupid grins on your face, even quicker. And it all happens with intake, exhaust, and engine noises creating a harmony of awesomeness; as the turbo-6 pushes you down the track like a frightened gazelle.
No matter how many times you rip off sub-eleven second ¼ miles, it never gets old. This 911 Turbo S can do it in 10.8-seconds at 129 miles-per-hour.
After coming down from that adrenaline high, you can appreciate that all of this happens because of the 580-horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque that pours from the 3.8-liter twin-turbo flat-6. Last year saw new turbos added, as well as a Dynamic Boost function that maintains boost pressure even when you ease off the throttle, or when the 7-speed PDK triggers a shift.
Amazing brakes are nothing new to 911s or Porsches in general, but the way these 6–piston calipers grab the ceramic brake discs that are standard on the S is truly epic. Stops from 60 take just 90-feet.
Running through a simple slalom course at our drag strip, is truly no test for this 911; but you do get a small taste of the insane grip, sharp turn-ins, and ultra-flat handling that the Turbo S has to offer. Does the fabric roof overhead compromise anything? Perhaps, but not that we could tell here.
And we all know the Turbo S is no one trick pony; once you’re done seeking low e.t.’s, or slicing up the slalom like a Ginsu knife, it’s just as rewarding heading to your favorite far off place.
Seeing 911s on the road is not exactly a rare occasion; yet our Guards Red Cabriolet still garnered its fair share of attention. People may not always know why, but they can sense there’s just something special about this 911.
Top or no top, the look is all classic Porsche; round headlights, smooth body, wide hips, the whole package. This Turbo S of course, rides on 20-inch center-lock wheels.
Not surprisingly, top operation is as speedy and efficient as the rest of the car.
Sitting inside, everything just feels right, with all of the important stuff falling readily to hand.
The up-sweeping center console still hosts plenty of physical buttons. Meanwhile, Porsche’s touchscreen interface has steadily improved…it’s now quite intuitive.
Seats have a “business first” feel, with that business being keeping you in place at high speeds on a road course; yet they are plenty comfortable for leisurely-long drives through the countryside.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are not painful at all for a car with this much performance; 19-City, 24-Highway, and 21-Combined. We averaged 22.1 miles-per-gallon of Premium. So that’s an only slightly worse than average Energy Impact Score of 15.7-barrels of yearly oil use, with CO2 emissions of 7.1-tons.
And then of course there’s the matter of pricing. While the 911 Turbo starts at $162,850, stepping up to the 580 horse S Cabriolet will cost you $204,050.
But, be still that racing heart, as you can get the 911 Carrera Cabriolet…with only 420 horsepower…for about half that.
Still, the 2018 Porsche 911 Turbo S remains our aspirational vehicle, and it has managed to stay relevant despite a new upstart supercar arriving almost weekly. There’s still nothing else on the road quite like it.
Tesla is a car company unlike any other; doing business more like a tech startup than an automotive brand. That’s served them well for their high priced S sedan and X utility. But, things have not gone smoothly for the entry-level Model 3. Still, they are coming out of the factory in decent numbers now, so its high time to find out if it’s a must have gadget, or truly the car of tomorrow…today.
It’s fitting that Tesla chose Model 3 as the name for their entry-level EV, as they are looking to do for battery electric sedans what the BMW 3 Series has done for sport sedans, become the new benchmark for others to follow.
Other than lacking an upper grille slot, the compact Model 3 bares a strong resemblance to the larger Model S. Its slick front end leads to a very big windshield; where the arching roofline flows hatchback-like to a very short rear deck and tall back end.
Body panel fitment is not as great as what you’d find in the typical luxury car, let alone a Hyundai Elantra; but we hear improvements are being made as production continues to ramp up.
The interior is surprisingly pleasant; new era minimalism at its finest. Just a long linear dash with air vents, a steering wheel with two stalks, and a horizontal touch screen jutting out of that IP. No buttons, dials, knobs, to be found, save for some programmable scroll wheels on the steering wheel.
All info is displayed on that 15-inch center video panel, and there’s a wealth of it; however, it is fixed and cannot be tilted towards the driver, requiring you to take your eyes off the road a lot. Making things worse, there’s quite often a glare on the screen that keeps you from seeing it clearly.
All seating positions are rather comfortable; and both rear and front trunks offer plenty of space for storage.
On the road, the ride is well composed, with a solidly tight but not jarring ride. It indeed drives much like a European sport sedan.
Our test car came courtesy of local owner Bill Clarke, and the excellent driving experience is his favorite aspect of the car.
BILL CLARKE: “The Model 3 is a great vehicle as a driving vehicle; it feels tight, responsive, very powerful. The handling is similar to a BMW in my opinion; I like that nice, tight German feel to a car. The power is almost as much as the Model S that I had previously, so a nice quick responsive car.”
JOHN DAVIS: There is a somewhat noisy rear suspension, mostly noticeable because of the lack of engine noise. But, Bill’s right on; with an output of 271-horsepower the Model 3 is quite fast. A typical 0-60 run takes about 5.0-seconds.
There’s also lots of windshield to look through, giving you a wide angle view of all that lies ahead. And, with our car’s Premium Package, the full length glass roof means everyone on board can sight see.
This rear-driver also had the Long Range battery pack, which is the only one available right now. Tesla doesn’t provide exact specs, but it is rated in the neighborhood of 70-kWh. Base 50-kWh models, as well as twin-motor all-wheel-drive versions, will be added into the production mix later this year.
There’s 310 miles of range with the bigger battery, so we’d go with that. Range for the base model is 220-miles.
Just as in its larger kin, the Model 3’s charging port is integrated into the driver’s side tail light cluster. Still cool, no matter how many times we see it.
We are definitely not sold however, on the no key aspect. We actually had an app snafu with our test car, and even the backup proximity card wouldn’t let us get the car started quickly.
The government gives the Model 3 MPGe Ratings of 136-City, 123-Highway, and 130-Combined. For a near perfect Energy Impact Score, responsible for just 2/10 of a barrel of oil use annually and zero CO2 emissions.
The $35,000 mass market Model 3 that garnered all of the original hype and down payments has yet to emerge. Only the bigger battery model is available right now. That means with other extras like the Premium Package and Auto Pilot, this “3” can easily top $50,000. So, it’s still mostly an early adopter proposition.
Still, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 is the best convergence of high technology and the practical automobile that we’ve yet seen. And, it does drive great! Yet, it remains to be seen if it truly is the game changing car of the future. But, one thing is for sure; it is here right now, and will be the populous EV benchmark for years to come.
Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV
Goss' Garage: Grease, Lube and Oil
Over the Edge: Alta Electric Dirtbikes
Motor News: Passenger Protection
Long Term Update: 2018 VW Beetle Convertible | 2018 Toyota Camry | VW Golf Sportwagen
Track Test: 2018 Lamborghini Huracan Performante
Part of the appeal of sport-utilities is the perception they’re safer because of their size and height. But it seems that level of protection varies depending on where you’re seated.
Recently the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted crash tests on midsize SUVs. But this time, they focused on front passenger-side protection. In their small overlap test, a-quarter of the front end on the right side hits a barrier at 40-miles per hour. Six of the eight midsize SUV’s tested earned a good or acceptable rating for passenger-side protection.
The 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, and 2018 GMC Acadia, took the top three spots with good ratings. The popular Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were at the bottom with poor ratings.
IIHS has been rating vehicles for small-overlap “driver-side” protection since 2012, and added the passenger side test last year. Earning a good or acceptable rating for the passenger side is part of its Top Safety Pick + (plus) requirement.
Electric cars don’t dominate the passing lanes yet, but there are clearly more of them.
The International Energy Agency counted over 3-million EVs on the road globally in 2017. That’s up 54-percent over 2016. The largest market for EVs is China, but Norway has the highest concentration. The IEA projects there will be at least 125-million electric cars by 2030.
Chinese backed startup SF Motors wants to help fuel the trend. They plan on building electric vehicles at a new plant in Indiana by 2020.
Hi-tech is coming to a low tech part of your car… the license plate.
Sacramento, California is testing digital license plates on the city’s fleet. Reviver Auto makes them and says the new plates can track the vehicles, issue alerts if they’re stolen, and display messages. But new technology isn’t cheap. They cost $699… plus a $7.75 monthly fee. If California’s pilot program is successful, they would be sold through car dealerships.
Reviver Auto says other states are also looking into the technology. That does it for this week’s Motor News.
Engine: 1.6 liter
Torque: 195 lb-ft.
EPA: 46 mpg Combined, or 105-Combined MPGe
Energy Impact: 3.4 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 1.5 tons/yr
We’ve grown quite attached to the Kia Niro hybrid during the 11 months it’s been in our long term test fleet. We’re averaging almost 43 miles per gallon in this roomy 5-door urban ute. So, we were glad to see when it’s bigger batteried plug-in brother finally arrived. So time now to see if more EV range jolts our opinion of the Kia Niro.
The Kia Niro Hybrid arrived for 2017, on the brand’s first dedicated hybrid platform. So, the logical next step was of course, this 2018 Niro Hybrid PHEV version.
Adding a bigger 8.9-kWh battery pack to Kia’s Urban Crossover Hybrid provides a 26-mile EV-only range; pretty typical for recent plug-in hybrids. So, if you have a short commute, you may only have to burn gas on weekend adventures.
And like most of the PHEV breed, it feels quick and smooth off the line. Like our long term Niro, it does fumble a bit as it searches for the appropriate power source, as well as the proper gear from the 6–speed dual-clutch automatic. At least it’s not a CVT.
The gas engine is the standard Niro Hybrid’s 1.6-liter I4. Rated at only 104-horsepower and 109 lb-ft. of torque on its own, boost from the electric motor is very welcome. That electric motor is larger for the plug-in, yet the combined output remains the same, 139-horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque.
Ever since the Toyota Prius rose to the top of the hybrid heap, multiple brands have attempted to chip away at their dominance. Granted, lower fuel prices have held them back; but since the Niro Hybrid became available last year, sales have been quite good.
At about 3,400-lbs., some 200 more for the extra hardware; the Niro PHEV does lose some of the base hybrid’s nimbleness. Still, steering is quite nice; with turn-ins that are quick, without the over-boosted feel of many small crossovers. That heaviness also gives it a very sold feel.
Again like our Niro Hybrid long termer, brake pedal feel is very natural for a regen system; but you do have to put your foot into it sometimes.
There’s a high quality look and inviting nature to the interior, as well as plenty of soft materials and above average seat comfort; putting it perhaps a small step up from the Toyota Prius.
Room inside is characteristic of the small crossovers that the Niro competes with; not plentiful, but adequate. Yet the wagon-like shape of the Niro, makes getting in and out, as well loading the cargo area, very easy.
You’ll be able to pack 19.4 cubic-ft. worth of stuff back there, and if you need more space, folding the rear seats will get you 54.5 cubic-ft. Both numbers unchanged from the regular Niro, as underfloor space for the larger battery was planned for in the original design.
Of course getting fuel economy in the mid-40s is certainly not common in the crossover segment. And Government Fuel Economy Ratings here are 46-Combined, or 105-Combined MPGe. Our average for this PHEV is right on at 46.0 miles-per-gallon of Regular, and better than the 42.9 miles-per-gallon we’re currently averaging in our long-term, non-plug in Niro.
There’s a great Energy Impact Score, with use of just 3.4-barrels of oil annually, with CO2 emissions of 1.5-tons.
While already having the advantage of being a better looking vehicle than the Prius, we love the subtle blue clues that have been added to separate this plug-in from the original Niro Hybrid. They seem to be just about everywhere, yet they’re not in your face screaming that it is a PHEV.
In addition, the grille is slightly modified, and of course there’s now a charge port in the front fender on the driver’s side. Charge time on 240-volts is about 2½ hours; closer to 9 with the standard outlet 120.
The Plug-in sticks with mid-level Niro trims, so no base FE or Touring Plug-ins are available. Thus, pricing starts with the LX at $28,840; about $4200 more than the non-plug in, and tops out with EX Premium at $35,440. For some, tax incentives may more than cover the upgrade.
As with most plug-ins, the more time you are able take advantage of EV power, the more they make sense. If you have a fairly short commute or can plug in often, then the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is worth the extra money. But, if you mainly drive longer distances or don’t have the opportunity to frequently charge the battery, then you’re better off sticking with the traditional Niro Hybrid, which itself is quite a fine vehicle. Plus, there’s a full EV Niro with over 200-miles of range coming very soon.
Bottom line, Kia continues to expand their portfolio to include more fuel efficient options. And that’s certainly a win for us, and Kia.