By on August 15, 2017

2017 Buick Envision Preferred AWD - Image: © Timothy CainGeneral Motors apparently believes you’ll pay a genuinely lofty price for the 2017 Buick Envision precisely because it’s a Buick.

A basic 2017 Buick Envision, upgraded with Preferred trim in order to select the $1,850 all-wheel drive system, costs $38,645. That’s correct: the least costly AWD Envision is priced from $38,645. General Motors will sell you a larger, V6-engined, AWD GMC Acadia for only $445 more.

But that’s a GMC. A generic, garden variety, menial GMC. The Envision seeks to mercilessly trample on the Acadia’s blue collar status.

Who would want a spacious GMC when you could own a Buick; a smaller, less powerful, China-made Buick with cloth seats, no sunroof, blank switches at the front of the center console, and no advanced safety gear? Evidently, the person who’s willing to pay a premium for the Buick tri-shield badge. You know, the buyer who places a value on supposed Buick prestige over and above any accompanying equipment that may (or may not) accompany this alleged luxury SUV. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2017

2016 Volvo Concept 40.1 - Image: VolvoThere’s no denying the Volvo 40.1 concept that previewed this fall’s production XC40 appears both to be sufficiently Volvo-like and sufficiently unlike anything else.

If the actual Volvo XC40 maintains this relatively unusual design, Volvo will have a viable, eye-catching alternative to the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Infiniti QX30, and Mercedes-Benz GLA before most luxury auto brands.

As for the Q3, X1, QX30, and GLA, Volvo isn’t entirely sold on their merits. (Read More…)

By on July 14, 2017

2018 Jaguar E-Pace - Image: JaguarNot to be confused with the electric Jaguar I-Pace crossover, the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace was unveiled July 13 with a blend of F-Type and F-Pace styling cues.

Set to challenge the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, and Infiniti QX30 when it goes on sale in the United States in January 2018, the Jaguar E-Pace will be marketed with standard all-wheel drive, a nine-speed automatic, and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplants generating either 246 or 296 horsepower.

Globally, the E-Pace will quickly become Jaguar’s best-selling model. In the United States, Jaguar expects the E-Pace to, at the very least, sell just as often as the larger F-Pace, which has generated 19,575 U.S. sales for the previously struggling Jaguar brand since going on sale in May 2016. (Read More…)

By on July 7, 2017

2018 BMW X3 - Image: BMW“We created that segment,” BMW CEO says of the sector in which the BMW X3 arrived before Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo.

“The No.1 approach and target I clearly have is, there shouldn’t be anyone besides us who is No.1,” Krueger told Automotive News Europe.

In the U.S., where Krueger’s goals (expectations? demands?) for the South Carolina-built BMW X3 are lofty, the X3 ranked a distant fifth in the category in 2016.

But Krueger ain’t kiddin’ around. (Read More…)

By on June 30, 2017

Mag-X Lexus RX Three-Row Tokyo - Image: Mag-X via AutoguideThe Lexus RX is, by a massive margin, America’s top-selling luxury utility vehicle.

Through the first five months of 2017, Lexus had already sold 38,329 copies of the RX350 and RX450h in the United States. Most competing luxury crossovers won’t produce that many sales in all of 2017.

But Lexus wants more, and with car sales plunging — Lexus car sales are down 29 percent so far this year — there’s no better means of adding volume than by expanding the utility vehicle division. Lexus has already introduced the NX to sit below the RX, and it’s a verifiable hit. But the GX and LX at the top of the Lexus SUV/CUV heap add only incremental volume.

Thus, Lexus is readying a three-row version of the Lexus RX, a natural fit given the RX’s connections to the three-row Toyota Highlander. This much we knew.

Now, based on reports from Japan’s Mag-X, we also know the seven-seat Lexus RX will debut at the Tokyo in late October 2017. (Read More…)

By on June 8, 2017

2017 BMW SAV lineup - Image: BMW USALittle more than 18 months from now, BMW’s utility vehicle lineup will be dramatically altered, primed to absorb rising SUV demand in an increasingly anti-car market.

According to Australia’s Motoring, BMW will expand its entry-level utility vehicle lineup — BMW calls them SAVs — in early 2018 and the top end of the brand’s SAV lineup by late 2018.

The production BMW X2, due early next year, was previewed by the Concept X2 at 2016’s Paris auto show. BMW’s long-awaited Mercedes-Benz GLS challenger, the BMW X7, is a late-2018 arrival.

But the expansion of the BMW SAV lineup is only part of the story, as new versions of the SAVs currently sitting at the heart of BMW’s lineup will arrive in short order, as well. (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2017

2018 Lexus NX front – Image: Lexus

Pretty? No.

Popular? Most definitely. In fact, the Lexus NX is twice as popular as Lexus anticipated.

The Lexus NX, a crossover you must never confuse with the Nissan NX, is marketed in the United States both in NX200t and NX300h variants. At the New York International Auto Show three years ago, Lexus revealed the brand hoped to sell around 26,000 NXs per year; roughly 2,200 per month. At that point, in the lead-up to the NX’s 2014 Q4 launch, there were two schools of thought. One, the NX was so ghastly to behold Lexus surely wouldn’t sell 2,200 per month. Or, because Lexus is such a luxury crossover powerhouse, even the NX — with a face even a mother couldn’t love — will be more popular than Lexus anticipated.

Dealers believed Lexus’ forecast was on the low side.

But could anyone have expected the Lexus NX would be more than twice as popular as originally forecasted; that the Lexus NX would be America’s fifth-best-selling luxury utility vehicle; that the NX would account for one-in-five Lexus sales in America? (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2017

2017 Audi Q3 Quattro Daytona Grey - Image: © Timothy Cain

Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointing fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.

Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, it’s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.

Then there’s this 2017 Audi Q3. Perhaps it’s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.

Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it only suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues? (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2017

2017 BMW 4 Series Convertible – Image: BMW

Choice is good for car buyers. But in the never-ending quest to produce incremental volume gains, the planet’s largest premium auto brands agree that certain niches are quickly becoming untenable.

Known for questioning in 2014 whether the global sports car market would ever recover from its post-recession collapse, BMW sales boss Ian Robertson told Car And Driver earlier this month that “some body styles will be removed in the future.”

Meanwhile, the head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche said at the Geneva auto show that the lack of Chinese uptake for specialty cars “makes the business case for these vehicles less easy.”

Yet long before a model cull returns us to the days of tidy luxury lineups — 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, and 8 Series as the 1990s intended! — premium German marques will first introduce a slew of new models. And the body styles destined for removal? Likely not the silly four-door coupes and impractical SUVs you love to hate. (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2017

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid - Image: Acura

At American Honda’s upmarket division, the Acura MDX is the lifeblood; the premium crossover that keeps Acura’s trains running on time.

In 8 of the last 10 years — including each of the last 7 — the Acura MDX has been Acura’s best-selling model. Fully one-third of Acura’s U.S. volume over the last decade has been generated by the MDX.

Honda knows best of all just how important the MDX has been to Acura’s fortunes, having watched as the brand’s passenger car volume was essentially chopped in half over the last decade. Honda is removing the interference caused by the Pilot, Odyssey, and Ridgeline at the MDX’s Alabama plant by moving production of the big Acura to Ohio.

And more importantly for consumers, the first hybridized MDX — the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid — is launching now with a pricing scheme that evidently makes the hybrid the best MDX of all. (Read More…)

By on March 7, 2017

rrvelar18my367glhdprlocationdynamic010317

Eager to fill a price gap in its Range Rover lineup, Land Rover has come out with a new midsize offering — the Velar. Positioned between the smaller Evoque and larger Range Rover Sport, the Velar is a tasteful and subdued example of automotive opulence. While it’s best to reserve final judgement until after fully experiencing a model, the design both inside and out represents something fresh, possibly signalling a new direction for Land Rover styling.

I speculated last month that the Velar’s teaser images might not be representative of the actual car, due in part to its ultra-modern-looking center console. However, that concept car interior stuck around, resulting in an incredibly spartan and contemporary cabin. It’s almost entirely devoid of buttons, replaced by minimalist design more elegant and clean than even what Tesla has on offer. Land Rover refers to the interior as a “calm sanctuary” for the Velar’s occupants. The majority of the contact points for non-essential functions occupy hidden-until-lit touch areas that, according to JLR, can be endlessly customized. (Read More…)

By on January 9, 2017

2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Look familiar?

The 2017 Infiniti QX30, launched in the United States in late August, is the product of a now tenuous partnership between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler. There’ll be more such vehicles, most notably the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup truck that uses the Nissan Navara as its foundation.

That truck won’t come to America. But by procuring the Mercedes-Benz GLA’s architecture, Nissan now has an entrant in the rapidly growing subcompact luxury utility vehicle sector. Built in Sunderland, England, rather than the GLA’s German factory, the Infiniti QX30 shares its powertrain with the GLA250 and benefits from an Infiniti renovation.

Fittingly, there’s a meaningful discount available for a buyer who’s willing to consider the Infiniti variant instead of the original Benz. A fully optioned 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD enters the playing field with a haughty $45,495 MSRP, absent a number of features you’d expect on a much less costly car, lacking the space of a typical compact car, and deprived of the illustrious three-pointed star that adorns its twin. Yet this QX30 costs roughly $5,000 less than a comparably equipped Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic.

$5,000 less, but better. Marginally better. (Read More…)

By on December 16, 2016

2017 Acura MDX black, Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

With remarkable consistency, the Acura MDX has remained exceptionally popular for more than 15 years, through three generations, and in the face of increasing competition.

Vital to the fortunes of American Honda’s upmarket brand, the MDX is consistently Acura’s top-selling model, earning more than one-third of all Acura U.S. sales in four of the last seven years. No premium-badged three-row utility vehicle now sells more often in America.

But why is it so popular? And does it deserve to be such an automatic choice for nearly 5,000 buyers per month, for more than 835,000 American SUV buyers since its launch in 2000?

Refreshed styling for the 2017 model year joins key mechanical upgrades from the 2016 model year to create this fully optioned $59,340 Acura MDX: all-wheel drive, entertainment package, technology package, advance package.

With distinctly wintry pre-winter conditions and six occupants aboard, we spent one week with a 2017 Acura MDX and came away with few heartfelt compliments and few serious complaints. (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2016

2017 Cadillac XT5 rear

In 1999, GM altered the front fascia and slightly upgraded the interior of the GMC Yukon Denali to introduce the Cadillac Escalade. Although Cadillac was late to the Lincoln Navigator’s game, the biggest, baddest, boldest Cadillac quickly became an undeniable hit.

Now in fourth-generation form, U.S. sales of the regular-wheelbase Cadillac Escalade are on track to rise to an eight-year high in 2016.

Joining the Escalade in Cadillac’s SUV/crossover lineup in 2003 was the first-generation Cadillac SRX. With a two-row mainstream approach in generation two, the Cadillac SRX also became a huge success. Propelled forward in part by incentives, the SRX’s ability to claim its best ever U.S. sales total in 2015, its final full year, was nevertheless impressive.

Less than half a year into its run, the SRX-replacing Cadillac XT5 is likewise a formidable hit; yet more proof that Cadillac knows how to shake its moneymakers. Which makes you wonder why Cadillac hasn’t already brought to market more moneymakers for the brand to shake. (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2016

BMW 2-Series Coupe red

Forget last year’s record sales achievements in BMW USA’s showrooms. Through the first six months of 2016, sales at the BMW Group’s BMW brand are down 9 percent in the United States, a first-half pace which suggests BMW sales will fall to a three-year low even as the overall new vehicle market continues to grow.

Not only is BMW’s car division off last year’s pace by more than 20,000 sales, or 18 percent, the brand’s three most costly utility vehicles — X4, X5, X6 — are down 22 percent. Yes, the overall car market is fading, but BMW’s 22-percent car decline is far worse than the U.S. auto industry’s 8-percent drop in car sales. And the 24-percent decrease in, for instance, sales of the BMW X5 stands in stark contrast to the 8-percent increase in the overall SUV/crossover market.

There are nevertheless bright lights in the BMW lineup.

Among passenger cars, the one car that most clearly exemplifies BMW’s old Ultimate Driving Machine credo, the 2 Series, is the BMW car that’s growing fastest. By far.

Among crossovers, the BMW which most flies in the face of everything the BMW cognoscenti value about BMW, the X1, is the BMW SAV division’s fastest-growing vehicle. By far. (Read More…)

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