Sorento Joins Features Race

By Derek Price

These days, there’s a new kind of racing in the automotive world. It’s happening on the features list for every vehicle on dealers’ lots.
Across all types of vehicles, but perhaps most noticeably in SUVs and crossovers that have exploded in popularity in recent years, car brands are rushing to roll out features faster and cheaper than their competitors.
Horsepower wars are out. Content wars are in.
The latest Kia Sorento seems to take content abundance to an extreme by offering more attractive technologies at a wider range of price points, including pushing itself farther into luxury-level pricing and polish than ever before.

The Kia Sorento gets a major refresh for the 2019 model year, including new styling and an expanded list of features and technology.

That’s certainly true of the version I tested, the high-end SXL trim with all-wheel drive and a price tag uncomfortably close to $50,000. It feels every bit as poised, refined and solid as the luxury-brand SUVs it competes with at that price, with the added benefit of an unusually long list of amenities for the money.
Nappa leather seats with heating and ventilation, spectacular Harman Kardon sound system, smart cruise control, lane keeping assist, a “hands free” power lift gate and spacious cabin with seating for seven all add up to a premium driving experience.
Even more impressive are the features Kia managed to pack into more attainable versions of the Sorento. A 7-inch display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay comes on every version, including the base L trim.
The EX trim, priced around $35,000, hits the sweet spot of the market with the content most buyers want in a new car, including lane keep assist that does a good job keeping the vehicle centered in the road as long as the stripes are clearly painted.
Three years after the all-new Sorento hit the market as a 2016 model, the 2019 version gets a thorough and noticeable upgrade. It looks sharper and more sophisticated both inside and out, and it now offers better performance thanks to an 8-speed automatic transmission and powerful V6 engine on the upper trim levels.

The Sorento now includes standard three-row seating for seven passengers on all versions. Its cabin is updated with a new steering wheel, shift knob, air vents and center console design.

Seven-passenger, three-row seating is now standard on all Sorentos, and wireless charging is available to conveniently power devices that support it.
The freshened interior delights the senses more than before thanks to a new steering wheel, shifter knob, visually appealing graphics, air vents and center console design. The changes combine to make the interior look and feel nicer than before.
Outside, new front and rear fascias and a more finely detailed grille make it look more sculpted and aggressive than before. While it rides with the softness and grace of a nice car, the body appears bulked up with a truck-like toughness.
Pricing starts at $25,990 for the L trim and ranges up to $46,490 for the premium-feeling SXL.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD ($46,490). Options: Snow white pearl paint ($395), cargo net ($50), cargo cover ($150), interior lighting ($450), puddle lights ($240). Price as tested (including $990 destination charge): $48,765
Wheelbase: 109.4 in.
Length: 189 in.
Width: 74.4 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Engine: 3.3-liter V6 (290 horsepower, 252 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19 city, 24 highway

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

Why buy it? 
It adds more features and sophistication, both in feel and style, with a major update for 2019. Its top-end trims move even more into luxury territory than before.

Posted in Kia

A Back-To-Basics SUV

By Derek Price

The Toyota Sequoia is designed for people who need real SUV capability, not just the look.
While America’s highways appear more like Jeep fan conferences every year as boxy, tough-looking crossover vehicles replace four-door sedans, in reality, very few of these newcomers — even the roomiest ones — can do what a Sequoia can.
That gives this tall Sequoia major advantages but equally important drawbacks.
The high points: Its tough-as-nails, body-on-frame design makes it a serious beast on trails, with ample ground clearance, torque from the engine and grip from its optional four-wheel-drive system. It can tow up to 7,400 pounds and has a rugged, versatile, roomy cabin that’s equally adept at hauling cargo as people.
In terms of SUVs, it’s the real deal, not a lookalike poser.
The low points: All that high-riding iron and V8 power make it thirsty. It’s rated for 13 mpg in city driving. And because the suspension is designed to handle trails to perfection, it feels a bit bouncier and rougher than some competitors — at least in the off-road-ready TRD Sport flavor I drove.

The Toyota Sequoia is a traditional, body-on-frame SUV with the rugged looks to match. Revised styling and standard safety features are among the upgrades for 2018.

The TRD Sport is a new trim for 2018, one of several changes that update this long-running SUV for the current model year. It features the blacked-out, sinister appearance that’s so popular on everything from cars to minivans these days, along with a sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein shocks.
A facelift helps the Sequoia look more contemporary, with a fresh grille, revised lower bumper, new LED lights and nicer trim on the body. Its overall impression, though, remains that of a built-for-utility box. There’s no mistaking its classic SUV shape.
Under the hood is a 5.7-liter V8 engine that makes ample oomph — 381 horsepower and, more importantly, 401 pound-feet of torque — but feels like an anachronism compared to the more fuel efficient, smaller, turbocharged engines in its competitors.
This real V8 feels more rewarding to drivers, though. It has the instant well of power, deep rumble and effortless acceleration that makes me mourn the fact that V8s seem to be all but disappearing from modern cars and trucks. They’re just spectacular to drive.
While its cabin may lack some of the sparkle and polish of its recently redesigned competitors from Ford and Nissan, it’s hard to argue with the basic functionality and toughness that Toyota engineered into the Sequoia. There are twice as many cup holders as there are seats, for example, and the cargo area has hooks for carrying grocery bags and the ability for the seats to fold flat for easy loading.

A chunky shifter and thick steering wheel add to the powerful, truck-like driving experience of the very capable Sequoia.

Also notable this year is the addition of Toyota Safety Sense as standard equipment, something the brand is rolling out across its entire lineup. It includes automatic braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, radar cruise control and automatic high beams.
Blind-spot sensors and rear cross traffic alert are standard equipment, too.
Pricing starts at $48,600 for the SR5 trim and tops out at $64,310 for the luxurious Platinum.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2018 Toyota Sequoia 4X4 TRD Sport ($54,340). Options: TRD Sport Premium package ($3,810), glass breakage sensor ($299), wheel locks ($80), paint protection film ($395), cargo cover ($245). Price as tested (including $1,295 destination charge): $60,464
Wheelbase: 122 in.
Length: 205.1 in.
Width: 79.9 in.
Height: 77 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter V8 (381 horsepower, 401 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 city, 18 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 9
Price: 6
Handling: 4
Ride: 6
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 7

Why buy it? 
It’s designed to do the real work of towing, hauling and off-roading. It comes with a massive V8 engine — a rarity among SUVs these days — and Toyota’s reputation for durability.

Posted in Uncategorized

Accord Enters 10th Generation

By Derek Price

The 2018 Honda Accord is a car of contradictions, starting with its premise.
This is an all-new, thoroughly re-engineered and freshly designed car intended to usher in a 10th generation of Honda’s popular family sedan. But it’s trying to do so without straying too far from the formula that made it popular in the first place: high quality, good fuel economy, smart cabin packaging and an engaging feel from the driver’s seat.
Honda managed to check all those expected boxes on the 2018 Accord while adding something surprising, too. It’s adventurously good looking now, shucking off the visual conservatism that’s long been a part of its history.
It also is a contradiction in the marketplace. While most car manufacturers are pouring their best innovative energy into ungainly but immensely popular SUVs and crossovers — leaving their sedans to languish and get stale in comparison — this new Accord feels like no expense was spared in making it more appealing.
It doesn’t take much time to see and feel the difference.
This is the first Accord to use structural adhesives and acoustic spray foam to make it quieter. An unusually large portion of its body — 29 percent — is made from ultra-high-strength steel, something that makes it more rigid and 42 pounds lighter at the same time.

The all-new 2018 Honda Accord breaks from this car’s long tradition of conservative designs. Its roofline is sleeker and lower, and its wheels are pushed to the corners like the best sports sedans.

Its suspension has been heavily revised and carefully tuned to make it feel connected to the pavement and nimble in corners, just like an Accord should.
The changes add up to a driving experience that makes the new Accord feel more like a premium car than ever before. It’s poised, refined and rock-solid over the road.
Its new look reinforces that premium perception.
A significantly longer wheelbase, along with slightly lower height and wider stance, makes its overall shape look more athletic. A sleek roofline, elongated headlights, horizontal grille and gaping air intake complete the “contemporary luxury sedan” appearance checklist.
No flavor of the new Accord shows off its innovations better than the one I tested, a high-trim Touring version with the hybrid powertrain. It feels quick, sophisticated, spacious and immensely comfortable, all while achieving EPA fuel economy ratings of 47 mpg in both city and highway driving.
Other versions of the Accord give you a choice of 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter turbocharged engines. You can no longer get it with a V6, a decision that breaks my lead-footed heart.
I’m slightly soothed by the fact that the bigger turbo engine, based largely around the powerplant in the mind-blowing Civic Type R, makes even more torque than the V6 did.
Honda even managed to eliminate my consistent brand gripe — the sound system controls — by putting physical volume and tuning knobs back onto the radio. Hallelujah!

The Accord’s cabin is roomier and more upscale than before, with quality materials, tight construction and an easy-to-use layout for technology and controls.

The only thing that I found noticeably worse in the new design is rear visibility. The sleeker roofline and sportier rear styling make for smaller, skinnier windows, something that hurts when backing out of tight parking spots.
Fortunately, Honda addressed this drawback by making parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and a multi-angle rear camera all standard equipment, even on the base model.
They’re part of the no-extra-charge Honda Sensing package that includes lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition, something I found most useful for checking the speed limit when I hadn’t noticed a sign recently. The smart car would notice, even if the dumb driver didn’t.
Pricing for the Accord Hybrid starts at $25,100 for the base model and ranges up to $34,710 for the luxury-oriented Touring trim.
The base, non-hybrid Accord starts at $23,570.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2018 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring ($34,710). Options: None. Price as tested (including $895 destination charge): $35,605
Wheelbase: 111.4 in.
Length: 192.2 in.
Width: 73.3 in.
Height: 57.1 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder and two electric motors (212 combined system horsepower)
Transmission: Electronic continuously variable
Fuel economy: 47 city, 47 highway

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

Why buy it? 
It’s an all-new, re-engineered version of one of the world’s most popular mid-size cars. It looks and feels like a more premium product without sacrificing the things that make it a perennial bestseller.

Posted in Honda, Uncategorized