Super Duty stronger than ever

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

With its aluminum body and all-new platform, the 2015 Ford F-150 is widely expected to dominate the truck world’s headlines in the coming weeks.
That doesn’t mean its big brother, the built-for-work Super Duty, is being ignored by the folks at Ford.
A stronger diesel engine and revised King Ranch trim package are among the biggest changes to Ford’s heavy-duty lineup, and I got to sample them both in a brawny 2015 F-350 this week.

The Ford F-350 is available with a more powerful diesel engine and an upgraded King Ranch trim package for 2015.

The Ford F-350 is available with a more powerful diesel engine and an upgraded King Ranch trim package for 2015.

The verdict? They’re nice improvements but still leave me longing for a more refined Super Duty, something buyers should anticipate now that the new, thoroughly modern F-150 will be hitting the light-duty market.
I have zero gripes about the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V8 engine, which makes more horsepower and more torque while gaining efficiency at the same time. A compacted graphite iron engine block, unusual exhaust layout and larger turbocharger combine to make it tougher than before — tough enough, in fact, to work in Ford’s bigger F-650 and F-750 commercial trucks.
It’s also an impressively quiet engine for this class. If you’re used to driving diesels that pierce your ears with their clackety-clack racket, this one is so silent — at least from inside the nicely insulated cabin — that it doesn’t sound much more harsh than a gasoline V8 does.
The new King Ranch trim package is also a sumptuous upgrade for people who like the luxurious, cowboy-themed cabin style. It has thick brown leather that would feel at home on a five-star Western resort.
Unfortunately, the spectacular King Ranch bits feel out of place in a cabin that is otherwise showing its age. Compared to the more recently redesigned heavy-duty models from Ram and General Motors, the hard plastics on the dash and overall fit and finish just don’t stand out.
Another slight drawback is the F-350’s driving feel, at least when unloaded.
When driving around town with an empty bed, the Super Duty’s suspension is rougher and noisier than the Ram and GM competitors. When pulling a trailer, though, the Ford’s suspension feels right at home and inspires confidence from the driver’s seat.

The thick, Western-style leather is the best feature in the luxurious King Ranch truck, lending a high-end feel to a thoroughly capable work vehicle.

The thick, Western-style leather is the best feature in the luxurious King Ranch truck, lending a high-end feel to a thoroughly capable work vehicle.

It’s clear that this truck is designed for work. That’s when it feels happiest.
While I haven’t driven it, Ford also made some changes to beef up its F-450 model for 2015. With commercial-grade, 19.5-inch wheels, new leaf springs, upgraded U-joints and bigger brakes, the F-450 now has a gooseneck tow rating of 31,200 pounds, which Ford says is the best in its class.
Pricing starts at $31,045 for the F-250, $31,940 for the F-350 and $51,720 for the F-450, which comes standard with the 6.7-liter diesel engine. The diesel is an $8,480 upgrade in the F-250 and F-350.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Ford F-350 4X4 Crew Cab with 6.7-liter Diesel ($63,375). Options: None. Price as tested: $63,375
Wheelbase: 156.2 in.
Length: 246.8 in.
Width: 104.9 in.
Height: 80.8 in.
Engine: 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel (440 horsepower, 860 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Heavy-duty six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: Not rated

RATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 6
Handling: 3
Ride: 3
Comfort: 6
Quality: 6
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2015 Ford F-350
http://bit.ly/2015F350

Why buy it? 
The 6.7-liter diesel engine is one of the best on the market. With a mind-blowing 860 pound-feet of torque and 440 horsepower, it’s not only eminently capable but also surprisingly quiet.

Posted in Ford

Sorento is solid, competitive

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

It’s not easy to stay competitive in the hotly contested world of crossover vehicles, but the Kia Sorento is managing to remain one of the best.
Of course, “best” is a relative term in a category where there just aren’t any bad vehicles these days. Most crossovers look and drive so much alike that only subtle differences set them apart.

Starting at $24,300, the Kia Sorento has all the strengths that make crossovers so popular: space, comfort and refinement along with decent fuel economy.

Starting at $24,300, the Kia Sorento has all the strengths that make crossovers so popular: space, comfort and refinement along with decent fuel economy.

On the 2015 Sorento, three things impress me:
— The direct-injected V6 engine and six-speed transmission make a perfect couple. Acceleration feels smooth, confident and sophisticated with 290 horsepower and crisp shifts. Highway fuel economy of 25 mpg is a nice bonus with all that power.
— Kia’s digital interface, called UVO, is ridiculously easy to use. Most of today’s cars come with touchscreen systems that can add needless steps to complete simple operations, but I found UVO to be simple and intuitive when linking up with my iPhone. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to read a book to learn how to change the radio station, you’ll love this system.
— Kia’s warranty coverage is awesome. With 10 years or 100,000 miles of protection on the powertrain and five years or 60,000 miles on the basic warranty, it’s some of the best “peace of mind” in the car industry.
While my V6-powered test car was wonderfully devoid of weaknesses, there’s one thing I wish could be improved in the lineup: the four-cylinder base engine.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder makes roughly 100 horsepower less than the six-cylinder does, but it’s only rated for 2 mpg better than the V6 at 27 on the highway. For that kind of power tradeoff, I’d prefer to get somewhere in the 30-mpg range, so the V6 seems like the much more appealing option to me.
Other than that, there’s just not much to complain about on this crossover.
The interior has a tight feel, comfortable seats and the kind of soft-touch materials that have become expected in this competitive class. Its body is attractive enough, if not particularly distinctive, and its steering and brakes feel spot on.
There aren’t many changes for 2015 because, frankly, this car doesn’t need them. It got a major update for 2014 that included a revised chassis and suspension, fresh interior and new powertrain, making it as close to an “all-new” car as you can get, really. All those improvements helped it remain a top contender.
For the 2015 model, the four-cylinder engine was tweaked to provide slightly better gas mileage — although still not as efficient as I’d prefer — and its UVO electronic system was updated to the latest version.

A large touchscreen interface is one of the Sorento’s strong points. Kia’s UVO digital interface is wonderfully easy to learn.

A large touchscreen interface is one of the Sorento’s strong points. Kia’s UVO digital interface is wonderfully easy to learn.

Overall, this crossover does what it’s supposed to do. It’s powerful, refined, comfortable and reasonably spacious for hauling families and all their stuff.
Pricing starts at $24,300 for the base LX model and ranges up to $39,900 for the luxurious Limited trim.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Kia Sorento SXL AWD ($41,70o). Options: None. Price as tested (including $895 destination charge): $42,595
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 184.4 in.
Width: 74.2 in.
Height: 68.3 in.
Engine: 3.3-liter GDI V6 (290 horsepower, 252 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 25 highway, 18 city

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

Video Review:
2015 Kia Sorento
http://bit.ly/2015sorento

Why buy it? 
It’s one of many spectacular crossovers on the market today. Its long warranty coverage, great V6 powertrain and fully capable but easy-to-use electronics suite are its strongest points.

Posted in Kia

New Genesis aims for the top


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Hyundai has spent the past few years trying to prove it can build cars that are equal to anything else in the world.
Now it’s taking things to the next level by trying to build cars that are actually a step beyond anything else in the world.
That’s the impression I get after spending a week driving the 2015 Genesis, Hyundai’s next-generation premium sports sedan that throws down the gauntlet for Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.
This is a car that doesn’t just say, “I can hang in that category, too.” It’s saying, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” and it’s got the stats to prove it.
At 123 cubic feet, it has more interior volume than the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, Cadillac CTS, Lexus GS and Infiniti M. Same thing with its standard 311-horsepower V6 that outmuscles all of the above and its 420-horsepower V8 that either matches or beats the V8-powered versions of its pricey competitors.
This new Genesis does more than win the battle on paper, though. It also does a great job with the driving feel, the styling and the overall air it carries — those intangible, subjective things that are so hard for most cars to get right.

With an all-new generation out for 2015, the Hyundai Genesis has gone from being a luxury bargain to a luxury leader. It’s still value priced starting at $38,000.

With an all-new generation out for 2015, the Hyundai Genesis has gone from being a luxury bargain to a luxury leader. It’s still value priced starting at $38,000.

From the driver’s seat, this is clearly a sporty luxury car with a firm suspension and lots of feedback through the steering wheel and seat, unlike its more traditional big brother, the smooth-riding Equus.
Still, Hyundai does a great job smoothing off all its edges to keep it from feeling too rough. It’s immensely enjoyable in corners without being overly harsh or loud over the road, pulling off the same kind of delicate balancing act between comfort and sportiness that BMW has perfected over the years.
And in terms of cabin refinement, it’s as good as anything from Lexus or Mercedes.
The new Genesis has a feeling of authenticity on the inside that helps it carry the air of a true, high-end luxury car. The wood has a natural grain and matte finish, none of the shiny, plasticky, fake looking stuff that has plagued luxury cars for years. And the metal is real aluminum, not just gray colored plastic.
It feels legit, which is a rare and wonderful thing in today’s car world.
To my eyes, its styling isn’t quite the same home run that its cabin and performance are, but it comes close. Its side profile and rear end are pleasant but too generic for my taste — appearing a lot like any number of lookalike Japanese cars at first glance — but it shines up front with aggressive lines that draw attention to a bold grille that leans forward as if ready to pounce.

The new Genesis cabin uses authentic, luxurious materials, including real aluminum trim and real wood with a matte finish that shows off the texture and variety of its natural grain.

The new Genesis cabin uses authentic, luxurious materials, including real aluminum trim and real wood with a matte finish that shows off the texture and variety of its natural grain.

Technology is impressive, as it has to be in this class, with everything from a smartphone app to a voice-recognition search powered by Google. It’s a cutting-edge tech suite, easy to use at times, but also sophisticated enough that you could spend hours playing with all its little details.
While its luxury-brand competitors start in the neighborhood of $50,000, the new genesis is priced from $38,000. Yes, that makes it a bargain, but bargain pricing isn’t the reason you should consider buying it.
You should look closely at this car because it’s one of the best luxury sports sedans on the market, regardless of price.
And that’s entering new territory for the once-lowly Hyundai brand.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Hyundai Genesis RWD 5.0 ($51,500). Options: Ultimate Package ($3,250). Price as tested (including $950 destination charge): $55,700
Wheelbase: 118.5 in.
Length: 196.5 in.
Width: 74.4 in.
Height: 58.3 in.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 (420 horsepower, 383 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: 8-speed electronic automatic
Estimated Mileage: 23 highway, 15 city

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

Video Review:
2015 Hyundai Genesis
http://bit.ly/15genesis

Why buy it? 
It offers the comfort, space, amenities and premium feel of a name-brand luxury car. It also is priced considerably less than its competitors.

Posted in Hyundai

Reviews