Saturday Road Test – Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription – It Coddles You



              2017 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription

                     Want These Seats In All Cars

 By Ron Amadon

POINT OF ROCKS, MD. – A stretch break after a long day behind the wheel. As I walked around the classic old train station here I realized how great the seats were in this wagon.

 No big surprise really, since Volvo has had about the best seats in the business for years. But these 8-way adjustable, leather clad chairs with 3-position memory were exceptional. And if you want heat for your cold bottom on a frosty morning, believe me, you will not keep it on the highest heat setting for very long. Go quickly back to setting #1 of three. But they do test these cars in the Arctic.

 When it comes to comfort I gave this Volvo with the never ending name my highest rating – I would be ready tomorrow to take it cross country stopping for good only at that barrier known as the Pacific Ocean.

 And how times have changed. Remember when any hot Detroit iron had a big V8, in fact HAD to have a V8, if were to be seriously considered as a performance car.

 Remember the 1968 Chevy Nova SS with a 396 cubic inch V8 good for 375 horsepower and a 0-60 in 5.9 tire burning seconds?

 Skip forward today. Volvo has scrubbed its five cylinder engine in favor of a four. A 2.0-liter four that is both turbo charged and supercharged. A total of 302 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm and 295 lb-ft or torque at 2,100 rpm. A 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

 Today’s technology has given us a four cylinder engine that lags the Chevy by about a half second, with half the cylinders – something that would not even be a dream when the SS Nova was doing its thing.

 Matched to an 8-speed automatic, the Volvo felt quick in all aspects of driving. Particularly with a foot to the floor pass of an aging semi loping along a rural road.

 Of course the All-Wheel Drive would come in handy in areas where Old Man Winter is not ready to cede the turf to the sweetness of spring.

 Officials at EPA rate the combo at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 mpg combined. I think I was having too much fun with the turbos and came in at 19.6 mpg. It runs on premium unleaded.

 Was the Volvo perfect? No, but what car is? Some additional sound proofing would be welcome and perhaps a slight softening of the ride quality that was a tad on the stiff side.

 Also in keeping with Volvo’s reputation for safety, there was all the expected equipment on the test wagon including a $2,500 Advanced Package, with Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection, Distance and Driver alerts, a hyper Lane Departure Warning, and road sign information.

 No surprise that the XC60 received a top five star rating in government crash tests.

 The interior was easy on the eyes with elegant wood trim and an overall feel of Swedish Modern. A rather large sunroof was most welcome when there was a touch of warm weather. The rear seats were comfortable, but leg room was a bit on the short side if the front passenger reclines his or her seat.

 There is an abundant 67 cubic feet of storage space with the second row seats folded, or 30.8 cubes with them up.

 And Volvo is not done with the XC60 yet, despite the fact that it is the brand’s best seller. A new XC60 was introduced to the world at the Geneva Auto Show.

 Brand new is a plug-in Hybrid delivering 407 horsepower and a 0-62 mph in just 5.3 seconds. The turbo and supercharged four continues and picks up some horsepower to 320.  

 A semi-autonomous program, called Pilot Assist, is an option while Oncoming Lane Mitigation helps to avoid head-on collisions and Blind Spot Indication helps reduce the risk of lane changing collisions, Volvo said.

 FYI, Volvo does not call the new XC60 a wagon, but a “premium SUV.” That can’t hurt sales here in USA.

 Our test T6 was a top-of-the-line Inscription model with $6,210 worth of options that included Dual Outboard Two Stage Child Booster Seats and Interior Air Quality System.

 Add in $995 for delivery, and the MSRP came to $53,555.   

 Spacious and comfortable with an admirable safety record, the XC60 is well worth checking out if you are not ready to join the crossover/SUV crowd.

 If you are, then wait for the new one!









Auto News for March 24 – What Brand Tires Do You Buy?

 Owners that need to replace their tires are likely to purchase the same brand that was originally fitted on their new vehicle, according to the J.D. Power study. Sixty-two percent purchased either Michelin (21%), Goodyear (12%), Continental (11%), Bridgestone (11%) or Pirelli (7%), while 38% purchased other brands.

 Toyota is using a billboard to advertise its Mirai fuel cell vehicle that backers say actually cleans the air around it. The billboard uses a titanium dioxide coated vinyl to purify the surrounding air. When oxygen reacts with the energized titanium dioxide catalyst, NOx is converted to nitrate and removed from the air. The light-activated, smog-reducing billboards continue to purify the air as long as light, humidity, airflow and the titanium dioxide coating is present. Thirty seven such billboards are in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

 The limited edition Mirai combines hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity onboard, while emitting nothing but water vapor.  It has the highest EPA estimated driving range rating of any zero emission electric vehicle on the market, at 312 miles, and offers an EPA estimated 67 mpge city/highway/combined. Currently it is only offered in California.


  The first of what could be a new Buick has rolled off the assembly line in in Germany. The Opel Insignia, reports indicate, will replace the Buick Regal in hatchback and sports wagon form. Opel’s version is lighter by 400 pounds from the older model, and will feature all-wheel drive, and the expected safety features.

Auto News for March 23 – The Most Desired Dozen

 Autotrader said there are a dozen vehicles that shoppers simply “must see and experience to believe.” To be considered a vehicle must be of the current or next model year, and feature a base price of under $75,000. The winners are:

Audi Q7

Chevrolet Bolt

Chrysler Pacifica

Ford F-150 Raptor

Honda CR-V

Jaguar F-Pace

Kia Sportage

Lincoln Continental

Mazda CX-9

Nissan Armada

Porsche 718 Cayman

Subaru Impreza

 Fans of the Vespa Italian scooter will be delighted to hear that the world’s oldest scoot is currently up for auction at Catawiki, an online auction site. Catawiki’s experts say the scooter, with chassis number 1003, is the third Vespa ever made by Piaggio, the Italian manufacturer. The Vespa is from Piaggio’s “0 series,” which was comprised of 60 prototype scooters; the first two prototypes are no longer in existence. In 1953, the release of the Audrey Hepburn movie “Roman Holiday” – a movie that features the scooter in a prominent role – put Vespa on the path to today’s cult status. The selling price could be well over $300,000!

 It was 15 years ago that Mini came to the United States. The car not the skirt. Parent BMW said it has delivered more than 725,000 Minis in that time. The lineup has grown from a single hardtop to four models and a “fiercely loyal owner base,” BMW said.

 Ford announced this morning that earnings per share in the first quarter may not match Wall Street expectations. It may also report a lower pretax profit for the year. It cited lower fleet sales, and added spending for warranties, investments, and commodities. Ford shares moved lower following the announcement.





Auto News for March 22 – BMW’s Big Plans

  BMW announced it will launch 40 new or revised models over the next two years after it slipped behind rival Mercedes in worldwide luxury sales. Particular emphasis will be placed on the top end of the premium segment. By 2020, BMW is targeting significant sales volume growth in this area with the addition of a number of new models, including the BMW X7, a full size, three row crossover. A smaller X2 SUV will also join the lineup. Further, BMW is also promising more electric and plug-in vehicles.

 Anyone but me remember the Austin-Healey 3000 sports car of the 1960’s? A 1967 model, the very last off the production line, will be auctioned off in Great Britain next month. For the past 45 years, the 3000 has had just one owner. The right hand drive car has 56,000 miles on the clock and benefitted from a fresh restoration a year ago. It is expected to go for some big bucks. Or should I say pounds?

 Mazda Motorsports has for some time offered a pure racing model of its convertible MX-5. It now has added the hardtop to its competition lineup. Deliveries begin next month of the MX-5 Global Cup hardtop racer through Mazda Motorsports. Those who race can now compete in   SCCA and NASA Club Racing and in the Pirelli World Challenge TCA class.

 The redesigned Honda CR-V has received a Top Safety Plus crash test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That is the group’s highest award. To earn it a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating. IIHS said the CR-V headlights in the Touring model earned an acceptable rating.





Auto News for March 21 – Warts & All Owners Love Tesla


 Tesla will discontinue the Model S with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack saying most customers were ordering the car with an upgrade – the 75-kilowatt battery pack.

 A new J.D. Power study concludes that Q.C. problems associated with the Tesla Model S and the Model X have little influence on the affection owners have for these cars and the brand. “Spending $100,000 or more on a vehicle that has so many problems usually would have a dramatically negative effect on sales and brand perception. Right now, though, Tesla seems immune from such disenchanted customers,” said Kathleen Rizk, director, global automotive consulting at Power.

 Buyers see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology. Yet consumers who buy the lower priced upcoming Model 3 are expected to be less forgiving. “When consumers buy a mass-market car priced around $35,000 that will be their primary mode of transportation, the degree of expectation will increase immensely,” Rizk said. “We’ve seen that with other well-liked brands, whether or not it involves an electric vehicle.”

 Once again, AAA says gas prices have remained stable nationwide in the past week. The average pump price is now $2.29 a gallon. But if that doesn’t seem like a bargain you are correct. Drivers are paying 31 cents more per gallon on average compared to last year, AAA said.

 My eyes are always attracted to headlines that state the obvious. Here is one I just discovered. “Auto Insurance Discounts Are Useful for Saving Money.” Really?





Auto News for March 20 – Rockin’ With T-ROC!

 Spring! At Last!

 Volkswagen will add another crossover to its lineup in 2019 when it sends the T-ROC to the U.S., now that dealers have assured the company they will sell enough of them to make the venture profitable, according to Automotive News. Left unanswered for now is where the T-ROC will be assembled.

 Here’s what we know. It will be based on the Golf and roll out on VW’s new MQB platform. Some reports say the T-ROC, which will likely get a new name in the U.S., will make its European debut this summer. In the VW lineup it will fit in behind the Tiguan. Pictured is the concept car that first appeared at the 2014 Geneva show.

 Should there be another step in getting your driver’s license between the learner’s permit and full driving privileges? Backers of a Graduated Driving Licensing System are proposing an intermediate step that would “allow new drivers to build up their skills and experience over a period of time, using clearly marked stages,” said Neil Worth of GEM road safety. He maintains that 16-year old drivers in the U.S. who learned to drive using the graduated approach had 37 percent fewer crashes then those who followed other programs. But this would also include new restrictions on their driving that may not be terribly popular. .

 Dating back to the days of the legendary Colin Chapman Lotus has always produced light weight cars.

 The current Lotus Elite checks in at just 1,849 pounds, but Lotus has found ways to knock off another 90 pounds in the new Elise Sprint special edition. That allows Lotus to use a smaller engine, in this case a 1.6 liter four, good for 134 horsepower and a 0-60 its maker said of just 5.9 seconds. Lotus picked up 20 pounds by adding a lithium-ion battery, carbon fiber race seats reduced weight by 13 pounds and a new wheel design contributed to an 11 pound diet. Unfortunately, Motor Trend said the lightweight will not be available in the U.S. Too bad, since any Lotus is a lot of fun to drive in the realm of basic sports car.







Saturday Road Test – 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid



                            Kia Optima Hybrid

                           46 MPG Sound Good?

 By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Gas prices are stable these days much to the delight of commuters and travelers. But, warns AAA, those prices are likely to move higher when the spring travel season nears and refiners have to move to a summer blend of petrol.

 That may have consumers thinking about fuel economy again and there is always the matter of instability in the Middle East.

 Enter Kia’s Optima Hybrid carrying an EPA economy rating of 39 city, 46 highway, for a combined 42 MPG all on unleaded regular. Outside, there are some styling touches to smooth the air flow around the body to improve the numbers.

 How does it all work?

 There are two power sources at work here. A 2.0 liter four delivers 154 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm with 140 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm. The electric motor kicks in additional boost to raise the overall System Performance to 192 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 271 lb-ft @ 1,770 rpm. A six speed automatic is the sole tranny.

 For 99 percent of drivers who will scout out the Hybrid, the resulting acceleration will prove to be just right. No muss, no fuss integration on to the interstates, passing on mountain grades is sure bet, with a 0-60 in the low eight second range.

 A lightweight, high-density lithium-polymer battery pack with a 13-percent increase in capacity to 1.62 kWh fits underneath the trunk floor without encroaching into cargo space. The revised battery configuration results in a larger, more practical load area and allows the integration of 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Truck capacity of 13.4 cubic feet tops the competition, slightly.

 In the safety department you will find Autonomous Emergency Braking which, under appropriate conditions, will bring the vehicle to a complete stop to potentially avoid a collision or reduce damage. Also Blind Spot Detection, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning System and Front Collision Warning System.

 Handling was on a par with the competition and the ride on now pot holed Maryland roads was excellent.

 The Optima was what old New Englanders would say is a “Sunday go ‘a meetin’” car when it came to equipment.

 A $2,500 “Hybrid EX Technology Package” brought forth LED headlights, a huge sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, the above mentioned safety gear and, to keep away pesky photographers, rear side window sunshades.   

  Also indoors was an upgraded AVN 4.0 Navigation system combined with a Harman/Kardon Quantum Logic Premium Surround Sound Audio System, which included 10 speakers, and a 630-watt digital amplifier. Excellent!

 The system was friendly with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A large 8” touch screen houses an easy to use navigation system and rear camera display.

 All controls were an easy reach and equally easy to figure out. Kudos to Kia for that!

 The hybrid features its own model specific instrument panel gauges and more soft touch materials throughout the cabin.

 Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it five stars, its highest rating, in all crash tests.

 Prices start at $25,995 for the base model with the EX beginning at $30,990. With the technology package, floor mats, and transportation, the bottom line came to $34,385.

 Considering all the standard and optional equipment on the test car, its performance and excellent gas mileage, plus a long powertrain warranty, it was easy to give Kia’s gas sipper a strong recommendation.

2017 Optima Hybrid