LaCrosse Feels Younger

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The Buick LaCrosse has an all-new design for 2017 with lots of nice features and one big mystery.
Maybe you can solve the riddle: Why does a Buick need 20-inch wheels?
The obvious answer is because younger customers demand it. They see cars with wheels massive enough to have their own gravitational pull at auto shows, then walk into their local dealerships expecting to buy the same thing.
Little do many buyers know — or care — about the challenge that creates for engineers who have to make the real-life cars drive smoothly with their mega-sized shiny disks wrapped in low-profile tires that look like tightly stretched rubber bands.
On the stage, a car just has to look pretty for cameras. On the street, it has to actually be a car.
The fact that my 2017 LaCrosse handled its oversized wheels so competently speaks to the skill of General Motors’ brainiacs, and it also sums up the challenge of making Buick seem young and hip.
While it’s still firmly planted in America’s stodgiest category, the full-size sedan, the new LaCrosse is taking clear steps toward being a better contemporary fit. Its optional rapper wheels are just one part of that.

A sleek hood and aggressive character lines on the rear fenders make the 2017 Buick LaCrosse look more dynamic than before, a good match for its livelier handling.

A sleek hood and aggressive character lines on the rear fenders make the 2017 Buick LaCrosse look more dynamic than before, a good match for its livelier handling.

Its new structure is a whopping 300 pounds lighter than the previous generation, which is better for fuel efficiency but also more rigid thanks to the increased use of special high-strength steel.
The weight reduction and stiffness help its handling, which gets crisper and sportier. It’s a good match for the new 310-horsepower, direct-injected V6 and eight-speed automatic, making this the liveliest LaCrosse ever for spirited driving.
At the same time, it retains the classic Buick signature of a quiet cabin and reasonably smooth ride.
Gas mileage is impressively miserly for a roomy, powerful car, with a 31-mpg highway rating on front-wheel-drive models. Even the all-wheel-drive version gets a respectable 29 mpg, according to the government tests.
As for pricing, the new LaCrosse starts at $32,990, including the brilliant new engine and transmission. It’s a good option for someone who wants a smooth-riding, entry-level luxury car, but it’s missing some of the key features that would make it more competitive in today’s premium market: lane keep assist, blind zone sensors and massaging seats, to name a few.
To get those things, you’ve got to step all the way up in price to the Premium trim level at $41,990. All-wheel drive will add an extra $2,200 on top of that, plus $1,690 for adaptive cruise control and the ability to park itself, plus another $1,300 if you want Jay Z’s 20-inch wheels with an adaptive suspension.

The all-new LaCrosse has a well-built cabin that competes well against the Japanese and German brands that have long set the standard for luxury interiors.

The all-new LaCrosse has a well-built cabin that competes well against the Japanese and German brands that have long set the standard for luxury interiors.

The end result is that you can choose between two different Buicks. On the one hand is the base LaCrosse, the Buick of yesterday, which is very competent but hardly competitive with someone shopping for an Audi, let’s say.
On the other hand is a product that Audi buyers might actually consider, assuming they’re not blinded by the badge.
Yes, the LaCrosse Premium is a big leap in price, but it’s still a relative bargain compared to German and Japanese brands that offer the same level of sophistication, Silicon Valley technology and performance for even more cash.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD ($43,265). Options: Dynamic drive package ($1,300), driver confidence package ($1,690). Price as tested (including $925 destination charge): $47,180
Wheelbase: 114.4 in.
Length: 197.5 in.
Width: 73.5 in.
Height: 57.5 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 282 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 21 city, 31 highway

RATINGS

Style: 9
Performance: 8
Price: 9
Handling: 5
Ride: 9
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
It’s completely redesigned for 2017 with gorgeous new styling and a much more engaging driving feel. A tech-packed, luxurious Premium trim level lets it compete in a higher class than ever before.

Posted in Buick

Wild Looks, Capability

Cargazing
By Derek Price

Just sitting in a parking lot, there’s an easy way to get a taste of what the Ram 1500 Rebel can do. Two buttons on the center console let you raise and lower its ride height on command.
Push it all the way down, and you’re all set to easily load cargo into the back of the bed or visit a drive-through window without craning your neck. Raise it all the way up, and you feel like King of the Forest, ready to tromp through the wilderness with nary a care.
The Rebel’s height-adjustable air suspension is just one feature that shows it’s more than a gaudy sticker package for the Ram 1500, but you’ve got to take it off-roading to get the full picture. This truck really starts to come alive when you leave the pavement.

The Ram 1500 Rebel shows its aggressive side with a blacked-out grille with silver “RAM.”

The Ram 1500 Rebel shows its aggressive side with a blacked-out grille with silver “RAM.”

The Rebel comes standard with grippy, 33-inch Toyo tires that expertly claw their way through mud and rocks. A tough skidplate protects the underside from boulders, and tow hooks are ready and waiting for when you — or more likely, your friends — get stuck and need some help in a pinch.
As capable as it is, though, the Rebel is equally adept at looking the part.
It’s not a truck for introverts, seeing how it’s got a blacked-out grille with silver billet “RAM” lettering. In a world where all full-size trucks are styled to look like they want to eat you, the Rebel is among the most ravenous. It’s going to snarf you down and enjoy every last crumb.
Inside, red and black seats are finished off with the same aggressive tread pattern seen in its Toyo tires. The seats are designed to be tough and durable, not just pretty, although the Radar Red trim sprinkled throughout the cabin gives it the air of a show truck in places. It’s a look that’s both flashy and legit, a challenging mix to get right.
Of course, you can’t mention off-road trucks without discussing the angry elephant in the room, the Ford F-150 Raptor. I’ve ridden in, but not driven, the new-for-2017 Raptor, and even as a passenger I can tell you it’s an absolute beast for high-speed blasts though cow pastures. Where the Rebel impresses, the Raptor blows your mind.
Why would anyone choose the Rebel over the wild competition at Ford? I can think of three reasons: the look, the price and the gas mileage.
The Rebel has such unique styling that, at least for the people who want this kind of outgoing, attention-getting scheme, there’s no comparison. It looks like nothing else.

Eye-catching Radar Red trim gives the Rebel a show-truck look inside, with cloth and vinyl seats designed to be as durable as they are stylish.

Eye-catching Radar Red trim gives the Rebel a show-truck look inside, with cloth and vinyl seats designed to be as durable as they are stylish.

Then there’s the price. While the Rebel is available starting at $43,270, the Raptor will cost you at least $5,000 more. In real-world transaction prices, with through-the-roof demand built up for the new Ford, that gap is likely even wider. Yes, you do get more off-road capability in the Ford, but I think it’s overkill for buyers who don’t plan to race in Baja or cross the Rubicon.
And then the Raptor will keep costing you more every time you fill it up, with an EPA highway rating of 18 mpg, compared with the 21 mpg rating in my 2016 Rebel 4×4 tester. Interestingly, both trucks get the same unappealing city rating of 15 mpg, which is no surprise since they’re both designed for the exact opposite of city driving.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 ($45,200). Options: Luxury group ($695), protection group ($195), remote start ($395), rear camera and park assist ($595), eight-speed automatic transmission ($500), anti-spin differential ($395), HEMI V8 engine ($1,150), rear window defroster ($195), automatic temperature control ($100), 7-inch instrument cluster ($195), 32-gallon fuel tank ($145), Connect 8.4 ($505), Alpine speakers ($345), Ram Box ($1,295), spray-in bedliner ($495). Price as tested (including $1,195 destination charge): $53,895
Wheelbase: 140.5 in.
Length: 229 in.
Width: 79.4 in.
Height: 77.5 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (395 hp, 410 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 15 city, 21 highway

RATINGS

Style: 8
Performance: 9
Price: 7
Handling: 6
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2016 Ram 1500 Rebel
bit.ly/16rebel

Why buy it?
It’s a highly capable off-road truck with attention-grabbing style. Its air suspension lets you adjust the truck’s height at the press of a button.

Posted in Uncategorized

Affordable Technology

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The average price of a new vehicle in the United States currently stands at over $34,000, according to the folks at Kelley Blue Book who track that data.
This week I’m driving a vehicle with a sticker price under $29,000, making it a few grand less than average. Yet it can still, for brief times and under the right conditions, almost drive itself.
Self-driving cars have long been discussed as a thing of the future, but they’re rapidly becoming reality on the cars of today, including those priced below average like the 2017 Subaru Legacy in my driveway. To me, that marks a turning point in driver assistance technology as it transitions from high-priced, rare and clunky systems on luxury cars a few years ago, to affordable, common and more well-sorted solutions on the average car today.
Subaru isn’t alone in offering driver assistance features that allow the car to take control in certain limited situations. Many car companies are rolling out features that can automatically brake and accelerate to move with the speed of traffic and steer themselves if you accidentally start to veer from your lane.
But Subaru’s aptly named EyeSight technology stands out in two ways.
One, it’s impressively attainable. Many, if not most, car brands are using their driver assistance tech as a lure to steer consumers into their luxury trim levels, but Subaru makes it available on a wide range of trims.

The Subaru Legacy adds a 2.5i Sport trim level for 2017 that includes special 18-inch wheels, dark gray accents and silver mirror housings.

The Subaru Legacy adds a 2.5i Sport trim level for 2017 that includes special 18-inch wheels, dark gray accents and silver mirror housings.

On the Legacy, for example, EyeSight is available as a $1,495 standalone option on all but the base model. You don’t have to buy the fancy-pants, super-ultra-exclusive luxury editions to get it.
And two, EyeSight is more refined than many competitor systems that try to do the same thing.
Subaru was an early adopter of driver assistance tech when it rolled out its first EyeSight system on 2013 models. It used two specially developed CCD cameras to give the car a stereoscopic view of vehicles, obstacles and traffic lanes that would help the car react on its own to the changing conditions it saw ahead.
Four years later, the 2017 Legacy shows just how well this technology has progressed. It feels more seamless now, stepping in gently to help keep you centered in your lane and changing speeds less abruptly when you engage its adaptive cruise control in traffic.
It’s also added new features, like the ability to automatically brake if it detects an object behind you when you’re driving in reverse. That’s something that could potentially be life-saving.
Of course, every car is more than its technology package, and the Legacy impresses for its handling and grip thanks to its standard all-wheel drive. It’s comfortable, spacious and reasonably quiet on the highway.

Inside, the new 2.5i Sport has two-tone cloth seats with blue stitching. Some piano black and carbon-patterned trim pieces emphasize the sporty look.

Inside, the new 2.5i Sport has two-tone cloth seats with blue stitching. Some piano black and carbon-patterned trim pieces emphasize the sporty look.

I wish my test car had a bit more power, though, as the 2.5-liter engine felt merely adequate hustling up on-ramps. I also miss the solid, German-luxury-car-like feeling of the previous generation Legacy that I loved dearly. The new one seems more flimsy when you slam the doors shut.
However, there’s a good reason for those two gripes: gas milage.
The old Legacy used to get poor fuel economy being a heavy, powerful, tank-like car with all-wheel drive. The current generation is lighter and dramatically more efficient, though, with a highway rating of 34 mpg on my tester. That’s an eye-popping number when you consider how roomy this car is and how it still sends power to all four wheels, something that typically saps a lot of mileage from the government ratings.
If you, like me, want more power, Subaru will happily sell you a 3.6-liter six-cylinder Legacy for $31,640. It makes 256 horsepower from the same boxer engine layout that Porsche and BMW made famous.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Sport ($23,995). Options: Value package ($4,095). Price as tested (including $820 destination charge): $28,910
Wheelbase: 108.3 in.
Length: 188.8 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 59 in.
Engine: 2.5-liter four cylinder boxer (175 hp, 174 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Lineartronic CVT
Fuel economy: 25 city, 34 highway

RATINGS

Style: 7
Performance: 6
Price: 9
Handling: 9
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 8Video Review:
2017 Subaru Legacy
bit.ly/17legacy

Why buy it?
Its EyeSight driver assistance package is one of the best and most affordable on the market. It also gets surprisingly good gas mileage for a roomy car with all-wheel drive.

Posted in Subaru

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