In the course of just a few short weeks, the coronavirus (COVID 19) has had a devastating effect on daily life in America, as well as each of the automakers that builds cars here. Tens of thousands have been infected, hundreds have died, many are permanently or temporarily unemployed, and most of us have been advised to stay at home except for occasional runs for essentials like groceries and medications.
In this post we’ll take a look at what actions U.S. automakers are taking in response to the constantly evolving coronavirus situation and how these actions are affecting the millions of people earning a paycheck directly or indirectly from companies like General Motors (GM) and Ford.
Plant Closures: US Automakers
Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus and growing concern from employees, GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) formed an agreement on March 17 to throttle down production while also focusing on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, such as providing 6 feet of distance between workers, increasing the frequency of workplace cleaning, and allowing eligible employees to work from home. That plan was scrapped just one day later; on March 18, the three companies, often collectively referred to as the Detroit 3, announced they would suspend production at all their U.S. production facilities until March 30. Since then, Ford has reported that it will monitor developments daily but delay reopening its plants. FCA has informed the UAW that it now tentatively plans to restart operations on April 14.
Plant Closures: Foreign Automakers
Several other car companies also build vehicles in the US. Toyota, with factories in Texas and other states, planned to close between March 23 and 25 to deep-clean all workspaces, but later revised that to a complete shutdown until April 20. Honda, which has factories in Ohio and elsewhere, stopped production on March 23 with hopes of restarting April 7. Nissan, with a large manufacturing presence in Tennessee, sent workers home on March 20 and, like others, plans to get things rolling again April 7.
Some folks may not know that Hyundai builds some of its vehicles here in the U.S., specifically in the state of Alabama. That plant was closed on March 18 and is due to reopen on March 31. Volvo has a relatively small production setup in South Carolina, which closed March 19 and isn’t due to go back online until April 14. Mercedes-Benz, another player with plants in the southeast, has sent its workers home until at least the end of March. Tesla shuttered its California factory March 23 with a restart date to be determined, though the company’s massive Nevada facility continues production. (Tesla’s partner in that plant, Panasonic, has idled its operations.) BMW, Volkswagen, and Subaru will all put a halt to their US production on March 29. Those closures are expected to last at least two weeks.
Assisting Employees and Communities
In an effort to support people affected by the coronavirus, automakers are taking various approaches to help. GM, for example, is offering $1 million in grants to non-profit organizations in areas where it operates, and Hyundai is donating $2 million to children’s hospitals.
To assist employees through this difficult time, Honda announced it would provide full pay during its shutdown, which is expected to last until March 31. For companies with UAW contracts, workers will receive a combination of union and unemployment benefits.
Supplying Critical Equipment
Perhaps most significant is the role automakers can play in the development, production, and distribution of scarce medical equipment that will be needed as the coronavirus spreads. President Trump has activated the Defense Production Act, allowing him to direct US manufacturers to build essential supplies, but he has yet to force any companies to do so.
GM didn’t wait for the call, as it initially announced that it would assist Ventec Life Systems increase production of much-needed ventilators. More recently, GM suggested it was looking at ways it could assemble those machines in its own factories. Hospitals need tens of thousands nationwide, and GM’s vast production capacity could help meet that demand quickly.
Ford is also stepping up to the plate with its own plans. In conjunction with 3M and General Electric (GE), the maker of Mustangs is using some innovative engineering solutions to address several shortages. Among them, a fan used to cool F-150 seats has been repurposed for use in an air-purifying respirator, 3D printers are being transitioned away from building car parts to creating components for medical equipment, and clear plastic face shields have been designed and are already being tested. Additionally, like GM, Ford is working with an outside company to expand the production of ventilators.
Everything Is Subject to Change
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned about life with the coronavirus, it’s that plans and forecasts are fluid and may be better described as hopes and guesses. The automakers, many of which operate in states closed to all “non-essential” businesses for at least the next couple of weeks, may not have the power to determine when their plants will reopen. On the other hand, conditions may improve, with switches turned on and people back to work sooner than anticipated. Time will tell.
For more auto news, check out these articles:
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At first glance, the Mercedes CLA-Class looks frivolous. Too small to chauffeur and too expensive to truly be considered “entry level,” the CLA has primarily been viewed as the Mercedes-Benz for drivers who value style over substance—and who can’t afford to pony up for the larger and more expensive CLS-Class.
Yet after a week driving a CLA 250 4Matic around the traffic hellscape that is Boston, Massachusetts, I was anything but eager to send the car back to the fleet. The CLA may fill a small niche for Mercedes shoppers, but it does so beautifully, combining style, poise, and technology in a gorgeous package.
Looking Good in the Neighborhood
The CLA’s sloping rear deck may not be the most practical design—just ask the passengers in the back—but damn, does it look good. Few cars on the road look as sharp as Mercedes’ little 4-door coupe. With the diamond-block grille and Mercedes-Benz’s new headlamp treatment, the CLA showcases a sharp and sophisticated look from both the front and the rear.
Painted a brilliant Polar White, the CLA wasn’t the easiest car to keep clean during a New England winter, but it shone like my own personal beacon of Florida’s South Beach every time the sun went down and the streetlights came on. This car oozes style.
A Technological Masterpiece
The Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX, serves as the CLA’s infotainment hub and the centerpiece of its impressive interior. While not quite as a large as the dual 12.3-inch screens we tested in the 2019 G-Class, the dual 10.3-inch displays that make up the CLA’s MBUX system are no less dramatic. Exceptionally customizable, MBUX takes a moment to fully understand, but once I found my bearings, navigating through the many menus and features was nearly effortless.
And it’s more than just information and entertainment. MBUX allows the driver to truly personalize the car’s interior environment. With the adjustable ambient lighting set to hues of pink and shades of blue, my test car didn’t just look like it would be at home in South Beach; inside, it practically felt like I was in one of Florida’s famous nightclubs.
Performance Made for the Urban Commute
As George Kennedy noted when he reviewed the 2020 CLA, the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder’s 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque feel great in a car this size, and the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic rarely stutters around town.
Moreover, the CLA is fitted with a near-perfect suspension for city drivers, managing to be both stable and composed through turns without getting knocked off its bearings when the inevitable pothole appears. Further, the CLA’s steering rack feels quick and direct. Like a good city car, maneuvering the CLA is a simple task of point and shoot.
Unfortunately, when you have the keys to a car this spritely, fuel economy often becomes a casualty. During this particular week, I drove the CLA exclusively in city-driving conditions—and quickly, at that. Despite the EPA’s estimate of 23 miles per gallon in those conditions (or George’s observed fuel economy of roughly 25 mpg in combined driving), I managed just shy of 14 mpg. Gulp.
The Weekday Warrior
At the end of the day, the CLA has its own specific time and place. It’s not built for long weekend road trips. Despite the available 4Matic all-wheel drive, you’re not going to take it on a ski trip, and if you need to carry more than one other person, the passengers relegated to the backseat won’t be happy. If these tasks are prerequisites for your next car, you’d do better looking further up the Mercedes lineup, starting with the marginally larger C-Class.
But if you’re in the market for a sharp-looking, luxurious, and tech-forward commuter car, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is without equal. The CLA looks and feels high-class, few competitors can hold a candle to the MBUX system in regards to functionality or style, and its driving dynamics will have you arriving at the office smiling—and can you really put a price on that?
For more auto news, check out these articles:
Photos by Elliot Haney.
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Land Rover needs little introduction to the luxury-shopping community. The famed British company owns nearly exclusive rights to the top of the luxury SUV mountain—at least for those with their eyes set below the two-hundred-thousand-and-up club dominated by Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The flagship, full-size Range Rover remains Land Rover’s crown jewel. However, the smaller Range Rover Sport model remains the best-selling Land Rover in the United States.
Plenty of Power, Plenty of Posh
Like most vehicles in the Land Rover stable, the Range Rover Sport comes in a wide variety of trims. And before we start talking about “value,” it’s worth noting: All Land Rovers are expensive. At the bottom of the totem pole lives the SE, with prices starting at $68,650. There’s the HSE above that, starting at $74,250, and the fire-breathing SVR at the top of the pile, coming in at $114,500. Shoppers can choose among a range of engines—gasoline, diesel, and hybrid plug-in—although 4WD comes standard (this is a Land Rover, after all).
Tucked away in the upper-middle section of the lineup lives the HST trim. Fitted with a spruced-up version of Land Rover’s homegrown Ingenium inline 6-cylinder engine, the HST delivers 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Land Rover augments that power with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system designed to save gas and pump fewer emissions into the atmosphere. Starting price? A Goldilocks $82,950.
The HST clearly delivers the goods under the hood. Maybe it manages that a bit less excitingly than an SVR, but it certainly does it with more decorum. Inside the cabin, it’s all Range Rover, too. Red leather upholstery covers the dash, and interspersed black swaths add a racy flavor that will almost certainly appeal to Land Rover’s celebrity customers.
A premium Meridian sound system delivers crisp sound, and your tunes are easily managed whether you opt to use Land Rover’s infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto. The dual-screen setup in the Range Rover Sport takes barely a minute to learn, and after a week of driving, we thoroughly preferred it to many competitors’ single-screen designs. In particular, it was nice being able to use Android Auto’s Google Maps feature on the top screen while still managing our Spotify choices on the lower screen.
Despite Land Rover’s reputation for technological troubles, our test car never faltered. The only annoyance came from Land Rover’s perplexing Adaptive Speed Limited. Rather than working like traditional cruise control, the default setting pegs the car at the posted speed limit. You can ask it to keep the speed a few miles per hour faster or slower than the road signs request, but it requires an extra step.
A Bull in a China Shop
Despite its cultured cabin, there’s no getting around the Range Rover Sport’s size. While it doesn’t look particularly enormous sitting in a driveway, it feels positively massive on the road. Driving next to an Audi Q5, we found ourselves looking over and thinking, “What are they doing all the way down there?” Adjusting the Sport’s ride height to off-road mode only adds to this feeling.
Further, the Range Rover Sport has a nearly inexcusably large turning radius. Yes, we know we’re talking about a genuine, off-road capable SUV here. But at more than 20 feet, it’s significantly wider than a Toyota 4Runner’s. It was exhausting to wrangle this car through the narrow streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. You’d think an iconic British brand would know the merits of a nimble steering rack.
Regardless, the Land Rover badge still stands for something. Namely: luxury and capability. The Range Rover Sport’s HST trim fulfills those requirements at a (by Land Rover standards) reasonable price. Choose your options judiciously, and an HST can deliver everything you want out of a luxury SUV.
For more auto news, check out these articles:
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The 2020 Infiniti Q50 looks brilliant. So why do auto-industry doomsayers insist it belongs to a dying breed of sport sedans? Well, while BMW and Mercedes may still pepper your commercial breaks with enticing deals on the 3 Series and C-Class, you’re even more likely to see those brands selling their crossovers. After all, there’s plenty more money to be had building SUVs (even if there’s plenty more fun available behind the wheel of a sedan).
This reality is especially evident when looking at Infiniti’s current lineup of vehicles. While the car du jour may very well be the company’s most exciting model, it’s clear that a disproportionate amount of time and effort has gone into updating crossovers instead. So, with less attention being paid to it by Infiniti and fewer dollars being spent on it by shoppers, who is best served buying a Q50? And who should consider the sport sedan’s top-tier Red Sport 400 AWD trim?
Undeniable Good Looks
Well, this makes things easy. Want an incredibly stylish sedan? Buy a 2020 Infiniti Q50. The sculpted fenders swallow our car’s 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The gentle roll across the hood, peaking along the lines above the headlights, draws your eyes toward the length of the vehicle. And the character line within the side profile leaves you viewing the vehicle as a whole, rather than keying in on one specific detail. All-in-all, it cuts an impressive shape. While BMW and Mercedes may lean on their badges to instill awe, the Q50 thrives off of Infiniti’s relative obscurity. More than once, other drivers commented on my test car’s design, asking “Who makes that?” For the trend-setter and fashion-forward free-thinker, the Infiniti Q50 is a can’t-miss win.
Inside, the Q50’s design is comfortable and accessible, although the infotainment system would benefit from a “less is more” approach. We got used to the two-screen setup quickly but would have preferred to have had our needs met by one display.
And finally, it was nearly impossible to look at our test car and not commend its paint job. The Dynamic Sunstone paint catches the light beautifully. Unfortunately, it’s also exclusive to the expensive Red Sport 400 and Red Sport 400 AWD trims—and priced as an $800 option at that.
Making the Most of a Twin-Turbo V6
Credit Infiniti for apparently eking out every last drop of performance from the Q50’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine. It makes 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque in the Q50 3.0t Pure, Luxe, and Sport trims, but a whopping 400 hp and 350 lb-ft in the Red Sport 400s.
Generally, drivers with 300 horsepower on tap will consider their car to be fast. Tacking on 100 extra horses brings that estimation up to “very, very fast.” Heading up an onramp to the interstate, the Q50 Red Sport 400 will never need any additional freeway to get up to traffic’s pace. If anything, you’ll find yourself slowing down to merge. And with its 7-speed automatic transmission (no CVT in this car, thank goodness), the Q50 handles its power with ease. Just keep it in Sport mode. Doing so won’t hamper the car’s drivability on congested roads, and the Eco mode features an “Eco Pedal” that noticeably kicks back against your right foot when it feels you should be easing off the gas. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but we never acquired it.
Sadly, this doesn’t sound like a 400-horsepower car, even if it feels like one. While a Genesis G70 3.3T will roar, this one always sounded a little wheezy. Surely it wouldn’t have been too challenging for Infiniti to grab an engineer and ask them to tweak the exhaust note?
How Much Would You Like to Pay?
Did you know that Nissan—Infiniti’s parent company—offers one of the industry’s best advanced safety packages? Nissan ProPilot Assist won’t turn your Rogue into a self-driving car, but it will come nearly as close as any of its competitors.
With this in mind, imagine our surprise when we discovered our top-tier Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD’s $58,075 starting price doesn’t include Infiniti’s version of ProPilot. The Infiniti ProActive package does include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and other advanced safety technologies, but it also costs an additional $2,700.
And that’s a major part of the Q50’s story. The 3.0t Pure trim offers a starting MSRP of $36,400, which sounds great. But asking for the 400 Red Sport will increase that MSRP by nearly 50%. So, who’s the Q50 best suited for? Well, despite the 400 Red Sport’s brilliant acceleration and stunning paint, its cost is a bit hard to stomach. The shoppers most likely to be satisfied by a Q50 are the trend-setters, the fashion trailblazers. Spend your money on the interior and the safety technology, and leave the 400 horses in the barn. In the Q50, looking good needs to be your number one priority.
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Let’s be perfectly clear: The 380-horsepower Jaguar F-PACE S has always been a fast SUV. Its supercharged V6 roars to life and will make the uninitiated’s hair stand on end. On this point, there is little argument.
The trouble is, performance SUVs like the BMW X5 M, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo redefined what shoppers can expect from a high-riding crossover, and Jaguar, a company with a long history in performance and racing, simply couldn’t compete with those rocket ships.
Don’t Wake the Neighbors
Luckily, in a true Cinderella story, Jaguar’s supercharged V8 is a perfect fit for the F-PACE’s engine bay. It’s with this engine that the F-PACE evolves from a fast, premium luxury crossover and heads toward supercar territory.
The 2019 Jaguar F-PACE SVR isn’t necessarily the best choice for early risers living in quiet suburban hamlets. Sure, our test car’s Ultra Blue paint would look spectacular against a green, manicured lawn. But depress the brake and punch the ignition, and the birds will almost certainly leave their nest and your peaceful neighbors will likely be writing strongly worded letters to the homeowner’s association.
The F-PACE SVR is loud—loud is kind of Jaguar’s thing these days. But it also comes with a little party trick for those who can’t get enough of blasting through tunnels and revving in parking garages. On the center console between the driver and passenger seats, Jaguar has installed a button that opens a set of baffles in the exhaust tailpipe. Hit this button, and the SVR’s engine note grows from a subtle (but noticeable) growl to an outright bark. The residents of your bucolic neighborhood might not appreciate the noise, but you likely will.
Watch Out for That Speed Limit
Once you’re off and running, the party’s just begun. The SVR’s 5.0-liter V8 engine puts out 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque, distributed to all four wheels and managed by a quick 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s not quite as quick as some competitors—namely the Porsche Macan Turbo—but with Pirelli Scorpion all-season tires, it raced away from stoplights and tore through corners. Despite the car’s 4,395 pounds, it never felt top-heavy.
Certainly, the SVR benefits from a few additional upgrades—at nearly $90,000, one would hope it comes with more than just a big engine. 22-inch wheels handle the wide tires, and the massive brakes house Jaguar’s electronic active differential, which helps the vehicle carve corners by applying light braking to the inside wheel during turns. Unfortunately, like a true supercar, it also chugged gas. Over 250 miles, we averaged 16.3 miles per gallon of painfully expensive premium fuel.
Stop for Groceries
What truly makes the F-PACE special, however, is not its sound or its speed or its handling chops. It’s that it provides all of these supercar elements while still being up to the task of day-to-day life.
Typically, you’ll hear critics praise the Porsche 911 or the Audi R8 as “everyday supercars,” because they’re relatively comfortable and easy to drive, while also providing top-tier performance. But next to an F-PACE SVR, those cars are garage-queen exotics.
The F-PACE gives you all-wheel drive. It gives you ground clearance. It gives you 63.5 cubic feet of total cargo space. It just so happens to also give you face-melting acceleration and cellular-disrupting braking. Packaged in gorgeously designed sheet metal and complete with advanced safety and technology features, the F-PACE SVR is the new daily-driving supercar.
For more auto news, check out these articles:
Photos by Elliot Haney.
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We’re coming to the end of another year. But with 2020 right around the corner, we’ve got plenty to look forward to. We ask our editors what they’re excited to see in the coming year. Feel free to add your own thoughts here or on our Facebook page.
Megan Hennessey, CarGurus US Editor
Next year, I predict we’ll see even bigger screens in our cars. Tech-focused companies, like Byton, have tested this idea in their prototypes; Byton has showcased a 49-inch screen in its M-Byte. Next year may be the year we finally see these massive screens in production-level vehicles. Cadillac kicked off this trend with a massive 38-inch screen in its 2021 Escalade. These bigger screens will likely mean the death of buttons and knobs, which several of our reviewers will certainly miss.
The other big prediction I have for 2020 is seeing more technology integrated into our driving experience. You can already use your phone as a key with Ford and Hyundai, for example. And Kia lets you sync schedules with other drivers, which you can see through a car’s infotainment system. I predict items like GM Marketplace will become more common across automakers. Soon, you may be able to shop, watch movies, and order dinner from the driver’s seat. Just make sure your data is secure!
Chris Knapman, CarGurus UK Editor
I’ve decided to go big for my 2020 preview—so let’s put to one side what will no doubt be a huge number of electric and hybrid cars for the (relative) masses, and focus instead on two top-tier contenders.
First up is the Ferrari Roma, pictured above, which is interesting not so much for its powertrain as the fact its styling represents such a break from tradition for the Italian firm. For in the Roma, there are generous swoops and curves that give it a softer, more elegant aesthetic than you’ll see in other modern Ferraris. Some have questioned if the Roma, as a result, looks a bit too much like an Aston Martin—but for me, it’s a gloriously individual piece of design that also happens to be home to a wonderful, sculpted interior and a 612bhp 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8. Sounds like a good recipe…
If the Ferrari is special, then the Mercedes-AMG One promises to be quite simply off the chart. What we have here is a Mercedes Formula One drivetrain reimagined to work in a road car. So that’s a 1.6-liter V6 with four electric motors that together make more than 1,000 bhp. There’s also an 8-speed paddle-shift gearbox, pushrod suspension, ceramic brake discs, and a steering wheel that looks like something Lewis Hamilton might use at the weekends. So, yes, it’s going to be a pretty serious bit of kit.
Production is limited to 275 units with the price for each running into the millions. But ownership isn’t what makes cars like this interesting. No, what’s fascinating is seeing just how far (and how fast) the humble motor car can be taken.
Matt Smith, CarGurus US Editor
Prediction: We’re going to get dirty in 2020.
First, the Land Rover Defender is returning to the United States. This might not be cause for celebration for our UK Editor, Chris, but on this side of the pond, it’s been over 20 years since Land Rover delivered a properly boxy off-roader.
The new 2020 Defender’s looks may be polarizing, to say the least, but it’s safe to expect this British bulldog will be a genuine mountain goat off-road. For the first time since 1997, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited may finally have some genuine competition. Maybe it’s time for a little CarGurus US vs CarGurus UK rivalry?
Of course, the new Defender can’t steal all the muddy spotlight. We fully expect Ford to pull the cover off the long-awaited and much-anticipated 2021 Bronco this year. It’s been a while since O.J. Simpson sent the last iteration of the Bronco to an early death, and off-roaders and soft-roaders alike have been hankering for a genuine SUV from the blue oval.
While The Juice’s Bronco was a full-size SUV based on the F-Series truck platform, this new one will be a bit smaller, and likely a bit more nimble, as it’s being built on the same platform as the Ranger pickup—sounds perfect for our favorite off-road course.
Steve Halloran, CarGurus US Editor
As one of my colleagues already mentioned, next year will no doubt feature a huge number of announcements regarding electric vehicles (EVs). Automakers have thus far brought more enthusiasm to the electric-car game than the average American driver, but car companies finally seem to be trying to figure out ways to market and build electric vehicles that should appeal not only to tech first adopters and “greenies,” but also to folks who like to drive.
Ford’s debut of the Mustang Mach-E, including prominent mention of its Porsche-beating 0-to-60 times, may mark a relatively new chapter in EV marketing outside the Tesla bubble. Porsche definitely called attention to its 918’s top-notch performance, but that car’s price put it in even rarer air than Tesla’s original Roadster and Model S. The Mach-E, expected to start at less than $45K, should appeal to a considerably more diverse pool of car shoppers than either of Tesla’s original models, and it will no doubt have company in its price range by the end of 2021.
Another relatively new development in the marketing of vehicles capable of running on electricity recently comes from Toyota, which has decided to make the plug-in hybrid version of its massively popular crossover, the RAV4 Prime, the most capable, and most exciting, version of that vehicle available to American buyers. Noting its sub-6-second 0-to-60 time and 302 horsepower in advertisements, Toyota hopes to make up for declining Prius sales with a wide range of hybrids, including sedan models that will face a narrowing pool of American competitors as Ford and GM execute their plans to focus more carefully on crossovers and SUVs in the future.
Whether vehicles running on electricity will ever be able to generate the excitement and sales that gasoline-powered automobiles have enjoyed in their first century remains to be seen, but we look forward to seeing new ads and approaches, as well as more exciting vehicles, next year.
For more car news, check out these articles:
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It’s no secret that trucks have gotten uncomfortably expensive. While the memory of $30- and even $20,000 pickups remains fresh in their minds, most modern pickup-truck shoppers will be greeted at the dealership by bona fide luxe trucks. The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 that CarGurus recently reviewed cost more than $66,000, and a new Ford F-150 can crest $70,000 before you add a single option. With that in mind, we drove a 2019 Ford Ranger across four of New England’s six states to determine just how much value a midsize pickup can provide.
The Ranger Offers Ruggedness and Value
First and foremost, despite a $24,110 base price, the Ranger won’t always come cheap. Our test car rang in at $41,595. But that price bought us striking Lightning Blue paint, the FX4 off-road package, and a range of safety systems, including lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.
That said, the Ranger XLT SuperCrew 4×4 we drove didn’t feel overly modern, either. Shoppers who want their truck to feel rugged and ready for work will love the new Ranger, but shoppers who prioritize comfort will tire of its enthusiastic but unpolished ride. After leaving the truck outdoors overnight in some of Maine’s famous single-digit weather, we woke to discover that the Ranger’s sliding rear window (part of the $2,800 Equipment Group 302A) rattled incessantly when the car was cold. It took roughly an hour of driving before the brittle-sounding frame holding the window warmed up enough to quiet down the ruckus.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine delivered great power: 270 horses and 310 pound-feet of torque. The selectable 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system handled snow marvelously, and the Ranger felt as capable cruising along the highway as it did while trudging through rutted dirt roads. The 4-cylinder constantly roared under gentle acceleration, and it returned a mild 21.4 mpg across 653 (mostly) highway miles. That sort of performance didn’t wow us when we got to the gas pump, but it wasn’t too far off the EPA’s estimate of 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 combined.
But an Even Better Option Is on the Way
Midsize pickups like the 2019 Ford Ranger and its primary competitors, the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, have become incredibly appealing for young, often urban-living, weekend warriors. They’re small enough to drive through a city but capable enough to load up with skis or bikes and take to the woods. Unfortunately, this segment has aged rapidly. The Colorado (and its corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon) debuted in 2015. The Tacoma was last updated in 2016. Even the Ranger, which arrived in the United States in 2019, has been on sale internationally since 2011 and was last refreshed in 2015.
Five years is a long time in the auto world, and that age shows, particularly inside these midsize pickups. The best-feeling option is likely the Honda Ridgeline, which can’t come close to the starting price of the better-selling Chevy, Ford, and Toyota.
Nissan is expected to reveal a refreshed Frontier in 2021 (the Frontier hasn’t been meaningfully updated for a whopping 15 years). Thankfully, competition breeds excellence, and we doubt Ford, Chevy, or Toyota will let Nissan run away with the segment. For now, the Ranger and the rest of the midsize pickup segment offer genuine usability and attractive prices. But if it were our decision, we’d hold out and see what the future brings.
For more auto news, check out these articles:
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Few could argue that 2019 has been a fascinating year in the world of motoring – but what are your automotive highlights of 2019? We’d love for you to tell us in the comments section below this article, or via the CarGurus Facebook page. To get you started, below our writers have put forward their own automotive highlights of 2019, from pickups to Porsches.
Chris Knapman, Editor, CarGurus UK
Will time show that 2019 was the year the electric car broke through? There’s certainly been no shortage of new products using battery power, from the Porsche Taycan and latest Nissan Leaf to the impossible-to-ignore Tesla Cybertruck.
Combine these new cars with an improving charging infrastructure and you’d expect the tide of public opinion might start showing signs of softening towards EVs. That was certainly the case according to our own research, which revealed that the number of consumers who consider themselves as likely to own an EV in the next five years jumped to 26% in 2019, up from 15% in 2018. This is most likely just the start, too: Who would bet against that number having grown significantly by this time next year?
Back in the world of internal combustion, my honorable mention for 2019 must go to the latest generation of Porsche 911, the 992. Not only does it masterfully update the legendary 911 format for this hi-tech age with its fabulous interior and ultra-sleek exterior, but in terms of performance, the 992 moves even the basic, non-GT or Turbo models firmly into supercar territory. In fact, if I had to narrow down my automotive highlights of 2019 into just one, fleeting moment, it’d be the surreal three-point-something seconds it took our four-wheel drive, PDK-equipped 911 test car to fire from 0-62 mph.
Electric vehicles might be coming, but internal combustion is still more than capable of taking your breath away.
Megan Hennessey, Editor, CarGurus US
I’m struck by the number of performance wagons and SUVs we saw introduced in 2019. Fans of the Audi S4 Avant rejoiced when the German automaker revealed it was bringing its RS 6 Avant to North America. It packs a 4.0-liter V8 that makes 591 hp and 590 lb-ft, hits 60 mph in about 3 seconds, and reaches a top speed of 189 mph.
Just as exciting was the introduction of the RS Q8, a performance SUV packing the same power as the RS 6 Avant. We had a chance to take a closer look at the 2020 RS Q8 at the 2019 LA Auto Show, and it adds plenty of features aside from the engine, like 23-inch wheels and an RS-specific gloss-black grille.
And in the EV space, electric trucks took center stage: Bollinger brought us a production-ready version of its B2 electric truck, Tesla unveiled its unique Cybertruck, and Rivian gets closer to its production-ready model of the R1T. But are truck shoppers willing to make the switch from gas-powered to electric? It’s hard to say. In our yearly Truck Sentiment Survey, we found that 70% of shoppers were willing to switch brands, which is good news for these startup truckmakers. However, their high prices may keep shoppers away.
Steve Halloran, Editor, CarGurus US
With one colleague celebrating electric vehicles and another performance wagons and SUVs, I feel obliged to mention one 2019 highlight they didn’t: Ford’s live-streamed debut of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E just before the LA Auto Show. Ford’s decision to put the name and badge of its mighty Mustang on an electric crossover generated controversy, of course, but a pony-equipped vehicle with up to 300 miles of range, usable seating for 5, almost 60 cubic feet of cargo room, and a 0-to-60 time of less than 4 seconds sounds great to me.
But my 2019 highlights came from two automakers CarGurus has found compelling for years, Mazda and Subaru, in the form of strong new versions of proven models. The redesigned 2019 Mazda3 earned rave reviews from almost everyone who drove it, including George Kennedy, and the updated 2019 CX-5, which we sampled in the snow at the end of last year, also earned praise from a wide variety of reviewers.
A new version of our favorite Subaru model also arrived in 2019. We got a chance to drive the 2020 Subaru Outback back in September and enjoyed it quite a bit. The new edition of this wagon/crossover finally offers a turbocharged engine under its hood, which drivers living at high altitudes should particularly appreciate. Our recently published review of the 2020 Outback found it strong from functionality and cost-effectiveness standpoints, which we consider hallmarks of the Subaru brand.
Matt Smith, Editor, CarGurus US
This time of year, everyone’s talking about electrification and progress and the hot new thing. But as anyone with their eyes open can clearly see, 2019 was the year of the throwback.
First, Chevy resurrected the Blazer as a stylish, sharp, and sexy crossover complete with nearly $1,400 worth of 21-inch tires. Sure, the new 2019 Blazer had its detractors, namely those bemoaning its lack of off-road performance, but I, for one, welcome our new crossover overlords.
And it’s not as if 2019 didn’t bring us plenty of rugged capability, either. Carrying on with the throwback theme, both Ford and Jeep returned legendary truck nameplates to the market, with the 2019 Ranger and 2020 Gladiator.
Finally, the highlight of the year for this writer was the long-awaited return of the Toyota Supra. Partnering with BMW gave the new coupe a brilliant Bavarian heart and soul (or engine and chassis, for our more literal readers) to pair with its stunning exterior styling. Sure, the 2020 GR Supra’s interior might feel a bit familiar, and the lack of a manual transmission will cut it off some enthusiasts’ shopping lists, but it’s safe to say that no other car on CarGurus’ 2019 test-drive review roster received as much attention at gas stations, grocery stores, race tracks, or anywhere else we drove it.
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It’s easier than ever for an automaker to stand out from the crowd. Before the proliferation of touchscreen infotainment systems and advanced safety features, luxury automakers relied on a car’s high-quality interior materials, high-end stereos, and exceptional performance characteristics to differentiate it from the competition.
Those elements are what helped give legacy stalwarts like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class a stronghold on the luxury compact sedan market. For better or worse, those cars benefit from a long history of success, and to their credit, both BMW and Mercedes have built impressive safety and technology offerings to weather the competition from automakers like Lexus, Infiniti, Volvo, and Audi.
But there’s an even more recent threat to the luxury-market leaders. Genesis, born from Hyundai’s flagship sedan lineup, arrived with the 2017 G90. Two years later, the company’s 3 Series fighter, the G70, debuted.
We had a chance to drive that 2019 G70 and found it to be startlingly great. With some recent experience in a 2020 G70, we’re left wondering if it’s truly better than the segment’s best, and if so, why? How?
Sport Mode Keeps the G70 Competitive—To a Point
First of all, the 2020 Genesis G70 is not as impressive a performer as a similarly equipped 3 Series. Despite being built upon the Kia Stinger’s platform (or perhaps because of it) and featuring a tweaked suspension, the G70 never truly feels like a dedicated sports sedan. Our car was equipped with the 3.3-liter turbocharged V6, and it absolutely ripped. While the Kia K900 coaxes comfortable, confident acceleration out of that mill, the Genesis approach seems to be more along the lines of dropping a sledgehammer out a window. Point the nose, punch the gas, and before you know it, you’re there. Thanks to the Brembo brakes that come standard on V6 G70s, you’re likely to stop quickly, too.
Unfortunately, the car becomes much more sedate—almost boring—when you switch out of Sport mode. And before you think, “Just keep it in Sport, problem solved,” heed these words: Sport mode turned aggravating as soon as we hit traffic, and our combined fuel-economy number of 15.1 mpg in testing (drinking premium fuel) had us looking to save gas at any opportunity.
The 2020 G70 Has a Price to Beat
Inside, the design is busier than the typically spartan German setups, but it’s incredibly well-appointed. And this, more than anything, is how the Genesis G70 stands out amongst the crowd. On its infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. The seats of our test car featured quilted stitching, which drew oohs and ahs from nearly every passenger. The backseat is tight on space, but the front passenger seat features adjustment buttons easily accessed by the rear passenger, like in the K900.
There’s a lot to love about the 2020 Genesis G70. The car’s silhouette draws plenty of attention, and its LED head- and taillights look great, particularly at night. The optional 3.3-liter engine kicks like a horse, even if the chassis doesn’t carve corners like butter. But in today’s market, performance might not be necessary to win over fans. The brilliant interior design makes a statement, and the G70 is no slouch when it comes to safety or infotainment technology. And, at the end of the day, the G70’s attractive price—which starts at $34,900 and consistently lives nearly $8,000 less than a comparatively equipped 3 Series—may be all a conflicted shopper needs to make the decision.
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The Kia K900 debuted for the 2015 model year as a genuine competitor to established full-size luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Or, at least, that was the plan.
Despite an impressive spec sheet, Kia’s big cruiser failed to gain real traction in the luxury segment. With a total redesign for 2019, Kia is giving the K900 another go. To start, the V8 has been replaced by a more modern twin-turbo V6. The infotainment system pairs a euro-style rotary controller with a touch-sensitive screen. And all-wheel drive now comes on every K900. This all qualifies as what the auto industry likes to call “a good start.”
To see if the new K900 is truly a luxury competitor, we slogged through nearly an hour of Boston traffic before enjoying nearly 200 uninterrupted miles of highway on our way to Burlington, Vermont. After all, what better way to gauge a full-size luxury sedan than a road trip?
This Sure Doesn’t Feel Like a Kia
The first thing you’ll notice when entering the K900 is how it doesn’t feel like a run-of-the-mill Kia. Brown Nappa leather covers nearly every inch of the cabin, and the 20-way adjustable driver seat means anyone behind the wheel will be able to find a comfortable position. The backseat, in particular, fills the primary requirement of a luxury sedan: Sitting in the second row will make you feel like the most important person in the car, not like you’ve been relegated there because the front seat was taken.
The K900 feels smaller than it is, too. Don’t be surprised if passengers suggest it’s a midsize sedan, rather than a full-size. With the help of Kia’s surround-view camera, it’s as easy to park and maneuver as a smaller car, too.
That said, the second thing you’re likely to notice is the K900’s rapidly dropping fuel-gauge needle. Driving through traffic, the K900 was quiet and powerful, although surprisingly different than a Kia Stinger or Genesis G70, both of which use the K900’s engine. Rather than sprinting from stoplights like those two sports-oriented machines, the K900 swept us away with very little drama. All of that sweeping, however, takes a toll on fuel economy. Even with two fewer cylinders than the previous-generation K900, don’t expect this one to be a gas sipper.
Granted, things got better once we hit the highway. Silence is possibly the K900’s most noteworthy attribute. Smooth power delivery and a peaceful ride are requirements of any luxury car, and the K900 offers both. Combined with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, I finished a 3.5-hour drive to Lake Champlain astonishingly refreshed. Something as abstract as “quiet” is tough to notice when driving, but once you do, you’ll continually appreciate it. By keeping me alert and refreshed, the lack of droning road noise is practically a safety feature.
Safety Comes Standard
On the topic of safety, cameras and sensors are almost compulsory in a sedan as big as the K900. Kia’s suite of advanced safety features does make driving much easier, and the unique blind-spot cameras are particularly helpful. When the driver hits a turn signal, the K900’s instrument panel will replace either the left or right gauge with a digital video feed from a camera mounted under the corresponding wing mirror. The picture is predictably grainy during night-time driving, but still provides a clearer view of the K900’s blind spots than its wing mirrors do.
A Good Value… Today
Unfortunately, the K900’s appointments, performance, and safety can’t help it clear its current hurdle. Nor can the car’s 12.3-inch touchscreen or 17-speaker Lexicon sound system, as impressive as they are. On the surface, the K900 appears to be a great deal. Its sub-$65,000 price certainly makes it a financially pragmatic approach to luxury; this car offers 90% of what you can get from a BMW 7 Series at 70% of the price.
But developing a car takes a long time—years, at least. So, when Kia was designing the K900 for a 2015 model-year launch, a big V8 engine and rear-wheel drive fit the bill. But Kia quickly found itself behind the times with that formula, as shoppers showed greater interest in fuel economy and all-wheel drive. The resale values of those early K900s support this; take a look around, and you’ll find plenty of low-mileage first-generation cars priced well below $30,000.
Similarly, the 2019 Kia K900 has been developed to suit those 2018 desires, but the world of luxury is now pivoting hard toward hybrid and all-electric powertrains. As a result, the Porsche Taycan and Tesla’s Model S, Model X, and Model 3 look like the future of luxury, and even the more conventional 7 Series now offers a hybrid variant. Today, the K900 looks and feels amazing. But I can’t help but wonder if, tomorrow, it will have aged the way many older full-size sedans have: classically cool at best, outmoded and inefficient at worst.
All photos by CarGurus contributor George Kennedy.
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