Displaying items by tag: Test
Has a class leader gotten even stronger?
Being a segment leader is hard work, especially in a segment as hot as subcompact SUVs, which continues to grow rapidly. Subaru already has a solid foundation to stay on top, and now, the Forester's 2.5-liter flat-four engine is finding its way under the Crosstrek's hood in Sport and Limited trims. Will a more powerful engine be enough to keep this crossover relevant and fend off new rivals? We got a 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport in to find out.
Does The Subaru Crosstrek Drive Better With More Power?
We've been begging Subaru for a more powerful Crosstrek since it made its debut as a 2013 model. Seven years later, the automaker finally obliged. So does the 2.5-liter's 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque make a noticeable difference over the base 2.0-liter's 152 hp and 145 lb-ft? Oh yeah. Passing, merging, and climbing steep inclines are a cinch; the Crosstrek moves promptly thanks to the bigger engine. In comparison, models with the 2.0-liter feel excruciatingly sluggish, especially on the freeway. Put your foot down at highway speeds, and the CVT immediately puts the engine in the sweet spot. However, from a standstill or at parking lot speeds, the transmission gets jumpy when you ease into the throttle, causing some head toss.
At the track, the Crosstrek Sport hit 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 87.7 mph. Our departed long-term Crosstrek 2.0i Premium took 1.2 seconds longer to reach 60 mph before finishing the quarter mile 0.9 second slower at 83.4 mph. Road test editor Chris Walton noted linear power delivery in Sport mode when launched with pedal overlap. If you just mash the accelerator, the CVT simulates shifts, resulting in slower acceleration. The Mazda CX-30 offers similar straight-line performance to the Crosstrek Sport. Turbocharged versions of the Kia Seltos are quicker, hitting 60 mph in 7.3 to 7.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.7 to 15.9 seconds.
As with most subcompact SUVs, the Crosstrek prioritizes daily usability over outright performance. When driven sanely, this lifted hatchback possesses good high-speed stability and stable handling. Ride comfort remains a highlight thanks to the suspension's ability to absorb road imperfections and harsh impacts without getting floaty. Accurate steering, which testing director Kim Reynolds appreciated, makes the Crosstrek easy to maneuver through corners and tight spaces. Body roll, while well-controlled, is noticeable because of the car's comfort-minded tuning.
On the skidpad, the Crosstrek Sport generated 0.79 g of lateral acceleration and finished the figure-eight course in 27.9 seconds with a 0.60 g average, which is in the same ballpark as the Mazda CX-30 and Kia Seltos. Surprisingly, our old long-term Crosstrek 2.0i Premium was quicker through the figure eight (27.3 seconds) but provided similar road-holding capabilities as our Sport trim test car. Even more surprising: The plug-in Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid lapped the figure eight in 27.3 seconds at 0.62 g average. Reynolds noted excessive understeer at the limit along with a noticeable lack of grip. Blame the latter on the standard all-season tires, which give up before the chassis does. Stopping from 60 mph took 124 feet, which is on par with most subcompact SUVs. Walton observed good initial bite but found that the Crosstrek dives a lot and the rear gets light during hard braking.
What's The Subaru Crosstrek Like To Live With?
Despite its small exterior footprint, the Crosstrek is supremely practical. Four adults fit comfortably, and the cargo area easily swallows bulky items, especially with the rear seats folded. Big windows provide an airy atmosphere and excellent visibility. The Crosstrek's solid materials will easily handle daily commuting and hauling your outdoorsy gear. It could use more sound insulation, though, because there's an excessive amount of engine and tire noise entering the cabin. Mazda's CX-30 has a quieter, more premium-feeling interior, but you sacrifice practicality and space as a trade-off.
The Crosstrek uses a version of Subaru's infotainment system that doesn't include the 11.6-inch display found in the Legacy and Outback. Our test car had the optional 8.0-inch touchscreen (a 6.5-inch unit is standard) complemented by physical shortcut buttons and knobs. This means you'll figure out how to use the interface in seconds, not hours like the new setup in other Subarus. You won't be digging through submenus in this iteration because most of the frequently used apps and features are one or two inputs away.
EyeSight, Subaru's active safety suite, remains one of the more accurate systems. Lane keep assist does a great job maintaining the center of the lane, gently nudging you over when you get close to the dividers. Adaptive cruise control accelerates and brakes naturally, and the distancing isn't so conservative that another vehicle can cut you off. If only the system would stop making so much noise. EyeSight beeps to let you know when the lane keeping system's steering assistance component turns off and when the two stereo cameras don't see the lane lines. Yeah, it gets irritating quickly.
Is The Subaru Crosstrek Still One Of The Best?
The Subaru Crosstrek's multitalented nature has helped it become a best-seller in the subcompact SUV class. With more power available on the Sport and Limited trims, you get to have your cake and eat it too. No, this doesn't turn the Crosstrek into a lifted hot hatch. Instead, think of this as a drivability enhancement that makes the car even more compelling despite the arrival of new competition. Comfortable, practical, easy to drive, and efficient (EPA-rated at 26/34 mpg city/highway with the 2.5-liter), this little rig is a well-rounded package. We hope that the next-generation Crosstrek builds on this formula, and maybe—just maybe—a subcompact SUV will finally nab the Golden Calipers.
Lexus's updated IS350 F Sport has the looks to kill but it doesn't deliver sufficient thrills.
Sedans are dead, at least that's the conventional wisdom. The trend toward crossovers has seemingly placed four-door cars on death row, but while they're down, they're not out of appeals. New sports sedans are still being introduced. Lexus's updated 2021 IS350 F Sport is just such a sedan, but is it good enough to find enough buyers to save itself from the gallows?
First introduced for the 2014 model year, the third-generation Lexus IS has been reformed by a second mid-cycle refresh in an attempt to keep up with newer offerings like the BMW 3-series, Cadillac CT4-V, Genesis G70, and the still lovely Mercedes-Benz C-class. Designers went to work on the sheetmetal with a smoothed-out profile, squinty headlights, and following the trend, an even larger grille. It's a killer-looking sedan, especially when dressed in the IS350's standard F Sport garb and blacked-out trim.
HIGHS: Stunning curb appeal, tasteful interior, comfortable seats.
While the IS's looks will please your optic nerve, the segment is one that emphasizes performance. Beneath the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS350 F Sport is Lexus's familiar 3.5-liter V-6 producing a naturally aspirated 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Against turbocharged fours and sixes, the V-6 seems a step behind the times. The engine lacks the low-rpm shove that comes from most turbocharged mills, and the eight-speed automatic delivers lackadaisical shifts. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 5.6 seconds, and the quarter-mile is gone in 14.2 seconds at 100 mph. While those numbers would have been good a decade ago, today the IS350 F Sport finds itself competitive with the base turbocharged inline-fours offered in its class. For a sedan with such seductive looks, it deserves an updated V-6 with more power.
In an effort to improve handling, Lexus has also retuned the chassis. There are additional welds in the unibody to strengthen the structure, aluminum control arms replace steel ones, springs and anti-roll bars have been lightened, and a switch to lug bolts instead of nuts saves two pounds. Our test car arrived with the $4200 Dynamic Handling package that includes lightweight 19-inch BBS wheels that shave a claimed 16 pounds, adaptive dampers, and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential.
LOWS: A naturally aspirated V-6 in a world gone turbo, chassis shows promise but is held back by an overly vigilant stability control system.
All of the changes sound great on paper, but on the street there's still some structural flimsiness and the steering isn't as precise as the CT4-V's or the G70's. Lexus fits Bridgestone Potenza S001L summer rubber that seems tuned more for comfort than all-out grip. There's also the matter of a stability-control system that reactivates itself above 30 mph. This car's 0.89 g of stick on the skidpad is far from noteworthy. A Camry TRD outgrips the IS350 on the skidpad. Standing on the left pedal at 70 mph stops the IS350 in a competitive 155 feet, but the force of the stop seemed to trigger a low-oil pressure alert. This isn't something we've experienced with this engine before, so it may be a pre-production bug.
We found few problems with the tastefully appointed cabin. Supple leather and wood trim dress up the revised dashboard. The seating position and comfort of the bucket seats is spot on, but our enthusiasm wanes when we start using the infotainment system's touchpad. Though Lexus remains dedicated to fitting the haptic pad to operate the infotainment system, it's easily avoided by using the standard 8.0-inch or optional 10.3-inch touchscreen. Mounted nearly six inches closer than before, they're an easy tap away. Technophiles will find solace now that Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay compatibility are standard.
The good news for IS350 buyers, is that its $43,925 starting price is $2475 less than last year's IS350 F Sport. A looker inside and out, the low-stress V-6 could definitely use more muscle and the handling could be more engaging and fun. Add in our car's as-tested $55,200 price, and we were in a less forgiving mood. A new engine would go a long way toward helping the IS sedan stay off death row.
Not the fastest or most efficient, but its cost could pencil out.
Usually when you face a choice between a conventional gas or plug-in hybrid SUV or car, the PHEV struggles to save enough fuel to offset the cost of the battery, motor, and all that extra copper. For some drivers, the BMW X3 xDrive30e might just pencil out. But will it kill your soul while doing so?
How The BMW X3 XDrive30e Plug-In Hybrid SUV Can Pay For Itself
Changing the "i" at the end of that model designation to an "e" costs $4,600. For that, you get a 107-hp/77-lb-ft electric motor sandwiched between your engine and transmission, which boosts the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine's output to 288 hp and 310 lb-ft. (In the xDrive30i it makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft.) You also get a hefty 12-kWh battery pack capable of propelling the X3 on battery power alone for an EPA-rated 17 miles. When driving in that mode, the EPA rates it at an impressive 59/61/60 mpg-e on its city/highway/combined cycles, but the added weight of all this equipment (782 pounds on our scales) means that when that battery gets depleted, it gets the same fuel economy as the six-cylinder X3 M40i (21/27/24 mpg).
Here's how you can make the X3 xDrive30e pencil out in terms of fuel costs alone, using the five-year, 15,000-miles-per-year (41 per day) ownership model our partners at IntelliChoice developed. First, you need to plug in every night and drive at least 17 electric miles every day. Doing that, using national average costs for electricity and premium fuel of 13.19 cents/kWh and $3.08/gallon, the 17 daily miles add up to $2,292 over five years, and the remaining 24 miles/day will cost $5,808, for a total of $8,100—$783 less than IntelliChoice's $8,883 fuel cost for the X3 xDrive30i, and nowhere near our $4,600 target. But suppose you commute 17 miles each way to a generous, planet-loving employer offering free EV charging*? Now 34 miles per weekday (plus 17 daily miles on the weekends) costs your household that same $2,292, while the remaining 4,392 miles are gas only, costing $2,900, for a total of $5,192—a fuel savings of $3,691 relative to the xDrive30i. That's 80 percent of the cost difference. Drive it another year or two and you're there—less, if IntelliChoice finds the depreciation to be less for the PHEV model (full cost of ownership data is incomplete for this model).
This electrified SUV is "massive," but it's a low, road-hugging, rear-biased (43/57 front/rear percent) mass. The added electrification nearly maintains the xDrive30i's weight-to-power ratio (17.4 lb/hp versus the gasser's 17.1), but because of the electric motor's strong low-end torque (its peak lasts from 0-3,170 rpm), it accelerates considerably quicker. The 60-mph dash takes just 5.4 seconds en route to a 14.5-second, 98.1-mph quarter mile. That roughly lands the xDrive30e neatly between the non-electrified four and six-cylinder X3s. The xDrive30i's stats are 6.3 seconds and 14.8 at 92.6; the M40i's are 4.8 and 13.4 at 103.7. This result is particularly remarkable given that the hybrid's GA8P75HZ transmission features unique gearing that pencils out slightly taller (more efficiency minded) than the shared gearing of the gas models.
As with most BMWs, fiddling with the drive modes alters the mood of the vehicle substantially. Naturally, there's a fully electric mode that allows fuel-free motoring up to 84 mph; a hybrid mode can remain fully electric to 68 mph, while the EcoPro, adaptive, and sport modes ratchet up the driving fun as in the X3's sisterships.
Is The X3 XDrive30e Any Fun To Drive?
Our test sample was kitted out for peak driving fun, with the M Sport 2 and Dynamic Handling packages and shod in 20-inch Pirelli P Zero summer run-flat tires. As such, it smokes the braking and lateral-g performance of our last X3 xDrive30i (on 19-inch Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport all-season tires). It out-brakes our long-term M40i, doing 60-0 mph in 110 versus 112 feet, and even manages a bit more max-lateral grip (0.89 to 0.84 g), and that one wore 21-inch Bridgestone Alenza summer tires. Had we been able to perform our figure-eight test in Michigan, it surely would have logged a low-26-second lap. So yes, there is typical car enthusiast fun to be had at the helm. There's also geek-fun to be had paging through the many performance- and economy-oriented screens and displays available in the cluster, the central screen, and the head-up display.
How Does The BMW X3 XDrive30e Compare With Its Rivals?
Sadly, we have no official experience with this X3's obvious plug-in competitors—the similarly sized Audi Q5 55 TFSI e and the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e—so we're ill-equipped to compare them. The Audi and BMW are rated to tow 4,400 pounds, and the Mercedes can only manage 3,600 if that helps in the elimination process. Otherwise, on paper these two competitors cost more to start with—$52,995 for the Audi and $52,895 for the Benz compared to $49,545 for this X3—but their extra cost buys extra output and economy. Their electrified 2.0-liter drivetrains make more power and torque—362 hp/369 lb-ft for the Audi and 320 hp and 413 lb-ft for the Mercedes—so odds are they'll be quicker. They also get higher EPA ratings: 64/66/65 mpg-e (25/29/27 mpg on gas only) for the Audi and 67/70/68 mpg-e (23/28/25 mpg, gas) for the Mercedes. Those cars boast 2-4 additional miles of electric range, too. Of course, the premium you pay for the PHEV hardware is also steeper, so making the saved fuel costs pay off the premium might require an unreasonable amount of mooched electricity.
With striking style and an upscale interior, Kia's new mid-size sedan is some chassis refinement away from rivaling the leaders in its class.
Children don't sketch SUVs in study hall and car designers don't spend years in school working their way up to studio boss to figure out how to draw a grille and headlights on a potato. The designers we know dream of penning performance cars, and while the 2021 Kia K5 isn't exactly that, it definitely looks like one.
"Longer and lower with a wider track" sounds like a Chevy ad from the '50s, but those descriptors belong to Kia's mid-size sedan, too. Compared with the Optima it replaces, the K5 measures two inches longer and nearly an inch lower and has an extra 0.8 inch between the tires. The proportions and design yield a striking car that belies its front-drive layout, the $24,455 starting price. We drove a GT-Line model with an asking price of $27,955, but a mechanically identical EX went to the test track and that's where the numbers came from. Aesthetes who find the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry too common might not turn their noses up at the K5.
While the styling pleases eyes, the K5 is satisfying in many other ways. The base engine is a 180-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter four shared with the Sonata, and it's paired to an eight-speed automatic—no rubber-band CVT here. Shifts are smooth and quick, and the right gears are called up without any fuss. Low-end torque feels more abundant than its peak of 195 pound-feet at 1500 rpm indicates, and the turbo makes itself felt right away. Stomp it and the K5 gets to 60 in 7.0 seconds.
Venture beyond 5000 rpm and the engine moans, something you won't hear in an Accord. Driven more sedately, the K5 hums 67 decibels of sound into the cabin at 70 mph. All GT-Line and EX models have the same suspension tuning as the base K5, but they use 18-inch wheels with wider Pirelli all-season tires than the entry trim's 16s. Sharp impacts expose a lack of isolation. While not a deal breaker, it's worth noting that an Accord sops up the same hits with less coarseness. It's likely the shorter sidewalls of the 18-inch wheels and the one-size-fits-all tuning are to blame. The steering is both unerringly stable at highway speeds and deft and responsive when you're sawing through a canyon road or interesting on-ramp.
A radically angled windshield lends a sports-car mood to the driving experience, and the seating position is excellent. Rear-seat space is generous and comfortable. A 10.3-inch touchscreen is available on some trim levels, but the GT-Line comes with an 8.0-inch screen. Both sprout out of the dash and are flanked by physical buttons that make switching between functions easy. The instrument panel has a BMW-ness to it, and material quality throughout the cabin is good. Apple and Android phone mirroring is wireless on all models with the standard 8.0-inch infotainment screen, but strangely, you'll need a cable if you upgrade to the 10.3-incher.
The K5 inches closer to the Accord's ability to deliver everyday joy. A bit of suspension tuning to increase isolation and refinement would give it the manners to match its designer looks.