Fiat expands lineup


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Fiat is best known in America for the tiny 500 that mixes fun handling with a heaping dose of cute Italian style.
Now its lineup keeps getting bigger. Literally.
After adding the 500L in 2013, a car that looked and felt a bit like a miniature delivery van when I drove it, they’re now adding the much better executed 500X as a 2016 model.
Based loosely on the same design as the new Jeep Renegade — although with much more adorable, less boxy body styling — the 500X is the car that Fiat needs to become a mainstream player in the U.S. market.
While it’s been a moderate success, cuteness could only take the little 500 so far. The 500X keeps the classic Italian looks but adds a lot more practicality to the mix, including having four doors and a bigger cargo area to make it a better fit for families.

The Fiat 500X adds cabin space, four-door functionality and a bigger cargo area that the original 500 lacks. It’s a more practical car but still has Fiat’s classic Italian cuteness.

The Fiat 500X adds cabin space, four-door functionality and a bigger cargo area that the original 500 lacks. It’s a more practical car but still has Fiat’s classic Italian cuteness.

While the front seats feel roomy and spacious, the back seats are a bit more cramped. You can fit two adults back there, but they may not be comfortable for super-long drives. For kids, though, it’s outstanding.
Driving it is plenty of fun, especially if you opt for the 1.4-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission. That’s my favorite pick in this car because a manual transmission would bring out its playful, fun side the most.
Most buyers will opt for the nine-speed automatic transmission and 2.4-liter engine, though. It makes 180 horsepower and, while I still think nine speeds is overkill and feels odd, this transmission does seem to get better with each car the Fiat Chrysler folks decide to put it in.

There is plenty of space in the front seats of the 500X, and even the back seats can hold a couple of full-size adults. The cabin is spunky and different, helping it stand out from several other mini-crossovers that have launched recently.

There is plenty of space in the front seats of the 500X, and even the back seats can hold a couple of full-size adults. The cabin is spunky and different, helping it stand out from several other mini-crossovers that have launched recently.

Another plus is that the 500X is available with all-wheel drive. It doesn’t have the same serious off-road chops that its Jeep Renegade Trailhawk cousin can brag about, but at least it can look the part with the adventurous Trekking style package. It adds unique design touches that make it look more Americanized, like an SUV.
I like what Fiat calls the Pop, Easy and Lounge styling better. Those trim levels make the 500X look clean and urban, which seems more honest to me. This is great, fun, easy-to-maneuver car for driving around the city, not a trail-ready Jeep.
The 500X offers a long list of available safety technologies for a value-priced crossover. Forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot sensors and rear cross path detection are all available.
Pricing starts at $20,000 for the base Pop trim and rises to $28,100 for the Trekking Plus. For people who like the styling of the original 500 but need a bit more functionality, this new 500X should be a perfect fit.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 FIAT 500X Lounge ($24,850). Options: Lounge Collection 6 with leather bucket seats ($5,350). Price as tested (including $900 destination charge): $31,100
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 168.2 in.
Width: 79.7 in.
Height: 63.7 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter Tigershark (180 hp, 175 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 22 city, 31 highway

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

Video Review:
2016 FIAT 500X
http://bit.ly/2016500x

Why buy it?
It looks as lovable as the Fiat 500 but has a more functional cabin design. It’s fun to drive and is available with a long list of modern safety features.

Posted in Fiat 500L, Uncategorized

A peek at Volvo’s future


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Volvo started making some of the best engines in the world last year.
This year, they’ve finally got a vehicle to match.
The Swedish maker of super-safe cars has just released the new XC90 for 2016, and it feels like a next-generation family vehicle in many ways. This is the first in a fresh lineup of Volvos that will be hitting dealerships in the next few years, and I love the direction it portends for the brand after spending a couple of days driving it.
For one thing, the technology in the XC90 is the most delightful I’ve ever experienced in a car. A huge center display looks and operates similar to an iPad, letting you pinch, click and drag your finger across the screen with an instant response to your touch. It’s not exactly the same as Apple’s interface, but it’s close — and becomes second nature after just a few minutes of playing with it.

The all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 offers a look at where this Swedish brand is headed. It focuses on user-friendly technology wrapped in modern Scandinavian good looks.

The all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 offers a look at where this Swedish brand is headed. It focuses on user-friendly technology wrapped in modern Scandinavian good looks.

It’s a touch display done right, an all-too-rare thing in today’s world.
This new XC90 gets a lot of other things right, too, including the cabin materials and design. It has the cool, modern Scandinavian vibe that I like to see in a Volvo, with an uncluttered look that makes tasteful use of  wood, leather and genuine crystal glass on the gear lever.
And the best part? Its seats put everything else in the world to shame. Volvo spent about six years designing the XC90 and about eight years designing the seats that go in it.
This is the first application of Volvo’s new-generation seating that is not only ridiculously over-engineered for safety, including a special mounting and bracing system that can reduce spinal cord injuries in off-road accidents, but also the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in. It beats my previous favorite seats, the cushy recliner-like chairs in the Ford F-150 Platinum, by a slim margin.

Volvo, always known for its cutting-edge seat designs, spent around eight years planning the new generation of seats that are first appearing in the XC90 for 2016. They’re meant to eliminate spinal cord injuries and are incredibly comfortable to sit in.

Volvo, always known for its cutting-edge seat designs, spent around eight years planning the new generation of seats that are first appearing in the XC90 for 2016. They’re meant to eliminate spinal cord injuries and are incredibly comfortable to sit in.

There are two powertrains available, both of which are world-beaters.
One is the T6, which straps both a turbocharger and supercharger to a small four-cylinder engine to make 316 horsepower while getting impressive gas mileage.
The other is the T8, which makes the XC90 the world’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle with three rows of seating. It makes a sumptuous, smooth 400 horsepower from a combination of electric motors and a gasoline engine.
And, being a Volvo, it’s got enough safety features to make you feel invincible behind the wheel. It’s the first car in the world that can automatically brake at an intersection if it senses you’re dangerously pulling into oncoming traffic, for example.
Pricing starts at $48,900 for the T6 and $68,100 for the T8.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription ($48,900). Options: Inscription features ($5,600), vision package ($1,600), climate package with HUD ($1,950), convenience package ($1,800), Bowers & Wilkins premium sound ($2,500), metallic paint ($560), second-row center booster ($250), 21-inch wheels ($750), air suspension ($1,800). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $66,705
Wheelbase: 117.5 in.
Length: 194.8 in.
Width: 79.1 in.
Height: 69.9 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter T6 (316 hp, 295 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 20 city, 25 highway

RATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 9
Price: 8
Handling: 8
Ride: 10
Comfort: 10
Quality: 10
Overall: 10

Video Review:
2016 Volvo XC90
bit.ly/2016xc90

Why buy it?
Volvo may have just created the best family car on Planet Earth. Its cabin, seating, technology and safety features are all top-notch, and the whole thing is wrapped in a layer of oh-so-cool Swedish style.

Posted in Volvo

The pony is back


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

I feel for the people at Ford who had to create a completely new Mustang for 2015. That’s like asking an artist to improve on the Mona Lisa.
Yet somehow, Ford has managed to get it exactly right, keeping the spirit and style of this car intact while moving it more fully into the modern age — something that would have been incredibly easy to screw up.
In fact, if any car deserves to be called iconic, this is it. The Mustang has been loved by generations of car enthusiasts and has as fanatical a fan base as any rock band. Get one thing wrong, and they’d let Ford know about it.
Mustang fans have been heaping praise on this all-new pony car, though, and I’m happy to add to it after spending a week behind the wheel of a V8-powered Mustang GT.

Even with an all-new design, the Ford Mustang is still instantly recognizable as the iconic pony car. It has better gas mileage and handling while keeping its classic, muscular profile.

Even with an all-new design, the Ford Mustang is still instantly recognizable as the iconic pony car. It has better gas mileage and handling while keeping its classic, muscular profile.

The way this car looks, sounds and feels gives drivers tingles in all the right places. It’s loud, fast and powerful, with a muscular presence on the road that could only come from America at a time when most car companies seem happy copying the Japanese and Europeans.
But this one is unabashedly from Detroit.
Granted, that doesn’t mean Ford could completely ignore the economic and political reality of today’s cars needing to be more fuel efficient. It’s rated for a whopping 32 mpg on the highway now with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and even the monster GT gets a respectable 25-mpg rating. It’s come a long way from its gas-guzzling days.
Styling on this car is spot-on perfect. Both inside and out, it looks exactly like a Mustang should, just dripping with 1960s testosterone and sex appeal while putting on a layer of slightly more contemporary makeup. It looks good from any angle.
I’m not quite as enamored with the interior quality, which has always been a weak point on this car. Compared to something more mundane like a Hyundai Sonata or Nissan Altima, the Mustang’s plastics and trim pieces don’t seem as tight fitting and solid as they should in 2015, even if they’re a dramatic improvement over the 2014 vintage.
Fortunately, Ford finally fixed the ‘Stang’s other obvious weak point: the out-of-date rear suspension design that made it feel jumpy and bouncy over bumps through last year.
Gone is the decades-old solid rear axle, and in its place is a fully independent suspension that makes it feel much more planted and stable in corners.

Ford did a good job combining new technology with 1960s throwback styling cues in the 2015 Mustang’s interior.

Ford did a good job combining new technology with 1960s throwback styling cues in the 2015 Mustang’s interior.

Pricing starts at $23,800 for the base model and quickly rises from there. My test car, with its 5.0-liter V8 and slick manual transmission, rang up at $45,885 including around $9,000 worth of goodies. Recaro leather seats and the GT performance package, in particular, were options that got my heart racing.
And a racing heart is what the Mustang has always been about. Thank goodness this new one still delivers.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Ford Mustang GT Coupe Premium ($36,100). Options: Shaker stereo upgrade ($1,795), security package ($395), adaptive cruise control ($1,195), GT performance package ($2,495), premier trim ($395), reverse park assist ($295), Recaro leather seats ($1,595), navigation system ($795). Price as tested (including $825 destination charge): $45,885
Wheelbase: 107.1 in.
Length: 188.3 in.
Width: 75.4 in.
Height: 54.4 in.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 (435 hp, 400 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Estimated Mileage: 16 city, 25 highway

RATINGS
Style: 10
Performance: 9
Price: 6
Handling: 8
Ride: 7
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 9

Video Review:
2015 Ford Mustang
bit.ly/15stang

Why buy it?
Its handling, gas mileage and styling are all improved without breaking the way-cool, classic American muscle-car feeling that the Mustang is known for.

Posted in Ford

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